Every traveler’s bucket list has a road trip on there somewhere, especially as it’s (sadly) rare to find yourself living in an RV full time and constantly exploring anymore.
Most travelers want the classic American road trip: RV, sunsets and amazing sights. Thoughts of the open road in a classic American car come to mind.
And, whether it’s the official Route 66 or just part of it you’re going on, our top tips for road tripping America in an RV have all of the advice and life hacks you could possibly need to survive your journey.
1. Keep it Legal
If you are not a US resident with a valid state drivers license, you’ll want to make sure you have an International Drivers Permit (IDP). Apart from being easily recognizable and accepted in over 200 countries, the permit is translated into multiple languages which makes it convenient for world travel.
Many car rental companies and insurance providers require non-US travelers to have an IDP, so it’s safer to get one before you leave home and avoid unpleasant surprises once you get to the US. Find out more about how to get an IDP here.
2. Plan well – don’t romanticize disorganization
Anyone who has ever been on a road trip or a long traveling trip will tell you that there is no pleasure in failing to organize it beforehand. The romantic notion of planning none of it before you go is just that: a romantic notion. It’s not practical and not something we’d advise. You want your travels to be as stress-free as possible, so make sure you plan well.
Planning well for road tripping America in an RV includes mapping out your route to the furthest extent possible. You’ll need to ensure you know where the attractions you want to visit are, where your overnight possible parking spots are and the places you want to stop off at. You don’t need to religiously plan when you’ll be there, but it’s a good idea to mark out where you want to go, and where you can go. That way, your options are always open!
3. Buy a National Park pass
Chances are, one of the main reasons you’re road tripping America in an RV is because you want to see the amazing National Parks the country has to offer.
From the Grand Canyon to Yosemite to Yellowstone, over one million acres of stunning landscape and wildlife is up for viewing on your US road trip, so buying a National Park Pass will work out in your favor money and experience.
Even if you’re not sure if you’ll go to a few National Parks, it’s worth purchasing a pass because you can also add an element of spontaneity to your trip. And if you’re going to Alaska, it’s basically destiny that you’ll head to a National Park, so you should just invest in one of these passes before you head off.
4. Keep a constant speed throughout
There is nothing worse than having to walk a few miles to fill your RV with fuel if it runs out mid-way through a leg of the journey. You don’t want to have to do that, so one of our top tips just has to be to pick a driving speed and sticking to it throughout the whole journey so that you’re able to calculate how often you need to refuel.
It’s also important to note that the speed you pick should be one that also allows you some room to be flexible. Don’t pick one that’s too slow, but definitely don’t pick one that’s too fast or you’ll destroy the RV’s fuel economy. Steady always wins the race, so be safe and mindful of your surroundings.
Oh, and if you want to be extra safe, have some fuel in the RV just in case anything drastic happens. That way, you’re prepared for everything and you won’t need to walk miles to refuel!
5. Watch What You Eat
American highways are littered with fast food joints and gasoline stations at almost every exit. While there has been a rise in gourmet options at gas stations and many gas station chains such as Quick Trip now offering fresh and ready options like salads and fruits, it is still very easy to end up eating a lot of junk food on the road.
When you’re driving in the RV on the road all day, you’re going to get tired. But you’ll be even groggier if you eat big meals before driving for hours due to the impact it has on you. You’ll be more inclined to have a rest after a large meal and you don’t want to take your eye off the road at 2 pm in the afternoon. While gas stations are convenient, you might regret pigging-out on high-calorie snacks while on the road. Your best bet is to buy a cooler, stock up on ice and pack a good supply of snacks and quick meals. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also save money on your trip since convenience items are highly overpriced.
6. Save on Gas
Road tripping America in an RV means you’ll be using a whole lot of fuel. And you might as well get something back for it, so get yourself signed up for a gas card. Every time you refuel, you can get points which can translate into free (or cheaper) fuel next time. If you are coming from Europe or Asia you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the affordable gas prices in the US. You’ll need to convert the gallon to liters (3.785 liters to the US gallon) in order to compare to back home and adjust for the exchange rate, but you’ll usually find the gas is sometimes less than 1/2 of what you’d pay back home.
However, keep in mind the distances in the US are huge! If you are road tripping across the country you can quickly rack up thousands of mile behind the wheel. On top of that, RVs are notorious gas-guzzlers getting only a fraction of what you’d get in a fuel-efficient economy car.
While a decade ago it made a lot of sense to get a gas card, you may want to skip the card (which limits you to just one gas station chain) and opt for a credit card with a good points reward system. Some credit cards match 2X points for gas and you can change those up for miles if you use an airline credit card from one of the main airlines. You’ll save yourself some money which can be spent on other things along the way or save up for your next international trip.
Main image by KounG