Thursday, May 17, 2012

RV, or not RV? Cross country road trip!

Hi Road Trip USA !

My husband, three children (current ages 7,9,11) and our dog are hoping to take a cross country road trip next summer. We are trying to plan well in advance starting with our mode of transportation. We are considering either renting or buying a Class C motorhome for the trip. We really want the time spent together to be as an important part of the trip as the sights and experiences so we want a comfortable, not cramped, ride but like many families, we are not made of money. We are not planning to keep the RV if we purchase it but renting seems so expensive! Any advice in that department? Any other suggestions on how to travel?

My husband and I are both teachers so we have July and August off from school. We will have between 4-6 weeks for this trip. Does that seem like a reasonable amount of time? Looking at your road maps, I think we'll follow the Oregon Trail from our home in Massachusetts then follow the Pacific Coast Trail, then the Southern Trail and then head back home up the Atlantic Coast. Are we biting off more than we can chew? We do not take many vacations so this may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity as a family.

Any advice you have for our family is very welcome and appreciated. We will be buying your book. It looks great!

Thank you,

Kate and Scott


Hi there Kate and Scott --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope I can help you plan a great trip. With gas prices etc, cross-country trips are more of a challenge than they were when fuel was "free"; I still dream of filling tanks at 99ยข a gallon, like we did way back in 1999.

If you can find a spacious yet fuel-efficient RV, that sounds like a good way to go, especially with 3 kids along for the ride. But even with an RV you need to factor in the cost of overnight campsites, which can add $20 a night or more. (There's no real "free parking" anywhere, anymore, except for rare places in the wilds -- or at the occasional Wal-Mart...)

There are a number of alternatives to the 7,500-mile loop you describe (Massachusetts to California and back!), which could combine RV travel (great for the wide-open "Wild West"), with trains and planes and even automobiles. Amtrak is a blast for the cross-country long-haul: the train carriages are very spacious, and you can get a sleeping compartment, so you can kick back and relax without having to keep your eyes on the road. Alas, Amtrak seems to have a pretty strict "no dogs" policy.

If the trains doesn't appeal, you could fly west (to Salt Lake or Denver, for example), and pick up your RV or rental-car there.

In the shorter term, since you're not taking the "big trip" until next summer, maybe it would be good idea to take a practice trip, renting an RV for a week or so to explore New England -- driving the Appalachian Trail perhaps? And who knows, if you like it, you may decide to turn this "once in a lifetime" road trip into a family tradition.

I know this is not exactly an answer to your question, but I hope it helps gets you thinking about all the possibilities out there. I've got 990 pages of trip possibilities in my new book, Road Trip USA, so I hope you can check it out!

Let me know what you think, and

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen

Hey Jamie --

Thanks for the thoughts -- and the book. We love it!

We'll let you know where we decide to go...


K & S


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