I thought I’d share a post about our Cruise America RV road trip experience in case anyone out there is curious about how that all went or is seeking more information on a similar adventure. Note: this is not a sponsored post and we aren’t affiliated with Cruise America.
Route: Pike Road, Alabama to Minnesota Lake, Minnesota (and back)
Date: October 25-November 5, 2018. (12 days)
RV size: Standard (19′)
Why did we choose Cruise America? Simply because it’s what came up with I searched for “RV rental places in Alabama” on Google and after I did a bit more research, they really did have the best price and I loved that they offered 24-hour roadside assistance too. I tried to rent one from the closest location to us (which is actually about 2.5 hours away, in north Alabama) but they were all booked up, so we ended up renting one from a Cruise America location in Nashville.
Why did we choose the Standard model? Simply because they didn’t have any Compact models available.
We would have chosen the Compact if they had had one, but in the end, it was a good thing we were forced to go with the larger model because we ended up needing the full-size bed at the rear of the RV. The queen-sized loft bed didn’t end up working out for us, not because it wasn’t comfortable, but because there was a leak up there somewhere. It was a bummer because that’s where Steevenson had hoped to sleep whenever we spent the night at an RV park. We noticed it the morning after the first night of our trip. We parked at a KOA in Nashville, not far from the RV rental location and just down the road from Opryland. It rained very hard that night, and Steevenson woke up on top of a cold, damp mattress and with cold, damp blankets on top of him.
After that, we moved him down to the twin-sized bed in the dinette area. Here’s what the dinette area looked like set up as a table and benches…
…and here it is set up as a twin-sized bed:
It rained several more times during our trip and each time we noticed the mattresses up in the loft area were cold and damp, confirming our suspicions about the leaky ceiling vent. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it could’ve been a problem if we had needed to use that space to sleep in. I guess we could’ve called the 1-800 number or tried to seal the vent temporarily, but it wasn’t a big enough deal, so we just carried on and didn’t worry about it.
How much did it cost? About $100/night + gas. How did I figure that out? Well, we paid $1700 up front and after we got our $500 security deposit back at the end of the trip, we were charged $1200, and since we traveled 12 days, that breaks down to $100/day. We traveled about 1800 miles total and spent about $500 on gas. The standard model has a 55-gallon tank and I’m not sure what it would cost to fill it from empty to full because we never let it get under 1/4 of a tank and we never filled it above 3/4 of a tank. Kevin said he spent between $60-$80 every time he stopped for gas and I think we stopped for gas seven times total.
Next up, I thought I’d share my pros & cons, and some tips that will hopefully be helpful if you’re considering taking a trip in an RV.
- It was nice having access to our own toilet at any time. If you’ve ever traveled 1800 miles with by car, you know what I mean. 😉
- It was nice having a kitchen and our own food with us throughout the trip. Whether it was for a quick snack, or being able to keep leftovers from Cracker Barrel, or having access to breakfast the *second* I woke up (anybody else have to eat IMMEDIATELY after they wake up?)- it was really nice to feel like we were all set and saving money.
- It’s nice to not *have* to get a hotel room. Waking up in a picturesque campground and not having to lug all your stuff from the RV into a hotel (and back) was really great.
- Steevenson buckled up at one end of the twin-sized bed. I put a couple of pillows behind his back and covered him up with a snuggly blanket. We never drove more than 5 hours in a day, and to pass the time, he watched movies on the iPad, played with toys that I had packed into a medium-sized plastic bin, napped, and a few times I caught him staring out the window as we drove. I loved looking back and seeing him having imaginary conversations (complete with animated arm movements) about what was going on outside. It was so cute and I’ve locked that image into my mind for keeps. 🙂
- There were SO many compartments for our things. There was literally a place for everything and it made it very easy for everything to conveniently live in its own place. There was even a HUGE, lockable compartment inside the back end of the RV, and we kept a few large, plastic bins and our (empty) suitcases in there.
- It was very loud. The faster you go, the louder the (large) engine noise. Kevin and I could hear each other when we sat in the front seats, but Steevenson and I had to yell back and forth if we wanted to hear each other from the dinette area to the front seat. Also, many stretches of Interstate up north are in rough shape because of harsh winters, so there was lots of banging as we went over bump after bump. (Maybe the shocks weren’t in great shape?) Not a super big deal, but different from the smooth and tranquil ride I had envisioned in my mind. 😉
- This isn’t really a “con”, but I did want to mention that it was extremely windy one day while we were driving through Iowa and Kevin had to drive between 50 and 55 mph in order to keep the RV in our lane. It extended our travel time by a couple of hours, and it was something we hadn’t anticipated, and so I thought I’d include that info here too.
- It wasn’t always easy to find convenient parking. A lot of hotels in the Chicago area couldn’t accommodate us because the RV was 13 feet tall. Yes, we could’ve paid to park it in a lot within a block or two of each hotel I called, but that just felt like a hassle, so we pressed on to Indiana instead.
- We used one of these IKEA bags to keep our dirty laundry in. It came in very handy and we just kept it at one end of the loft bed area since it was waterproof and didn’t matter that it occasionally got damp up there. They hold a TON and it made it really easy for everyone to know where dirty clothes go. It was also nice to be able to “grab it and go” when we had access to a washer and dryer at my aunt and uncle’s house.
- Use Roadtrippers.com! It was an invaluable resource for us before and during the trip! I will share photos and stories about all the places we stopped in a future post, but I wanted to make sure to mention Roadtrippers here as well.
- We LOVED the KOA campgrounds we stayed at. After thoroughly researching many, many other options, I discovered that KOA seemed to have the best reviews overall and across the board. The Nashville one in particular was AMAZING. It’s just down the road from Opryland and the service and amenities were incredible. We will definitely stay at that one again! Each KOA we stayed at had owners that made it easy to check in and, although some were more fun than others, each campground was clean, had plenty of room to walk and explore, and made hooking up to electricity and wifi a cinch for us newbies. (We didn’t hook up the water because it wasn’t potable and all the KOA locations had nice private bathrooms with showers.)
- There wasn’t a trash can in the RV but obviously we needed a place to put it. Since we didn’t use the shower area, we just looped plastic grocery bags over the “hot” and “cold” handles in there and put our trash in the bags until they were full. We took them out of the RV to dispose of them and hung up new bags every time a full one went out.
- Bring extra rolls of RV-friendly toilet paper. We were only given one roll and the gal we rented our RV from was clear that we couldn’t flush regular toilet paper.
- At the end of our trip, we paid about $20 to empty our sewage tank and $20 to empty our water tank at a Yogi Bear campground near the Cruise America location we rented from. Bring gloves and hand sanitizer. It’s a dirty job and if you pull on the sewage hose too hard while you’re emptying it, it can disconnect from the RV, leaving sewage to spill out everywhere. Luckily, that didn’t happen to us until our tank was completely empty. Boy, that would’ve been gross! Another tip: we had an extra bottle of water in the RV when we emptied our tank, so we stretched out the disconnected the hose vertically and poured the water down it to really flush it out before we put it back into the compartment on the side of the RV.
- It took us about 2 hours to thoroughly clean out the RV, empty the tanks, and get gas before we brought it back to the rental place. Make sure to account for that amount of time and bring paper towels and some kind of spray cleaner. The RV was equipped with a small broom, but we needed to use the paper towels and spray cleaner to clean the counters, bathroom and to “mop” the floor. I just sprayed it down and slid around with paper towels under my shoes.
So, in a nutshell, aside from the noise while driving, damp loft area (and not *loving* our phone or in-person experiences with the particular gal & location we rented our RV from) we thoroughly enjoyed traveling in an RV and we would definitely rent from a (different) Cruise America location in the future. (I’m thinking next Spring!) We’ll forever treasure the memories we made as a family over those 12 days. Kevin and I sat in the seats in front and talked as we took in all the Fall colors along the way, Steevenson got to see things he’s only ever heard or read about or seen on TV, and the three of us connected in a way that felt like we were really hinging together in a way that you can only experience if you “get lost” with each other for a while. It was so special!
It seems like every person we talk to says they either want to take an RV road trip or they have taken an RV road trip and it was one of the best vacations of their life. And whether you have kids or not, I highly recommend it and hope this post has helped with questions you might have about doing it. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about, please don’t hesitate to comment below. I’m happy to share additional information and answers there too!