I don’t know about you, but I have fantasized so many times about climbing into a well-outfitted RV (recreational vehicle) and taking off for a month! Just yesterday I thought I’d start in San Francisco, head north through Oregon, Washington, into Canada to Vancouver. Then I’d head east across Canada to Banff and Lake Louise. Heading south I’d pass through Wyoming to Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, into Utah and down to Sedona in Arizona. And from there make my way back to the Bay Area. Funny thing is, I’ve been to all those places before. I just happen to love them and dream about seeing them all again—this time from the comfort of an RV.
This article is US-centric. There are, however, RV-ing opportunities in Canada, Europe, and many other locations throughout the world.
How Do You Prepare for an RV Trip?
In her article, “RVing for the first time? 8 tips for newbies I wish I’d known during my first trip,” published on the USAtoday site, Carly Mallenbaum gives first timers some tips (some of her comments have been modified/shortened/added to):
- Don’t get poop on yourself. Here she’s referring to black water, the term for the solid and liquid waste you’ll need to pump out of your RV if it has toilet facilities. She suggests watching videos before you leave to learn things like to, “make sure the dump valves are closed before you open the storage compartment on the side of the vehicle to remove the cap and connect the sewer hose.” Bring along some gloves and shoes that you are willing to throw out. Not something one needs to know in everyday life!
- Remember your toolkit. Bring Allen or hex wrenches, a level, duct tape, scissors, rubber bands, and zip ties. Be ready to fix the unanticipated.
- Pack sufficient cookware. If you rent an RV with a stove and it comes with kitchen tools, check that it also has pans, cutting boards, and silverware. And if it has knives, make sure they’re sharp enough.
- Use leveling blocks. Buy a set before you leave on your trip, unless you’re renting the RV and they’re provided. Some of your appliances may not work unless the unit is leveled, and you may not sleep well as you slide to the bottom or top of the bed!
- Get into your campground before dark. It’s challenging to see camping spot numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark.
- Download camping apps. If not for two particular apps, there would have been many nights we wouldn’t have found a place to sleep. May I (says Carly Mallenbaum) recommend Campendiumand Harvest Hosts? Campendium is like a Yelp for RVers that provides honest reviews and detailed information on middle-of-nowhere spots to boondock or pay to camp. We have this app to thank for our most memorable parking spot, on a plateau in the Badlands of South Dakota. She continues, “Harvest Hosts is a program that, after one annual fee of $79, connects you with a number of unique places to stay overnight at no cost. You may not have anticipated a stop at an Ohio vineyard or a Pennsylvania brewery when you were initially mapping out your road trip, but you likely won’t regret staying – and getting drinks once you arrive.”
- Use RV toilet essentials. You’ll want “dissolvable toilet paper and scented toilet capsules (that you should drop in your tank, after you flush plenty of water, at the start of your excursion).
- Wake up early, watch the sunrise, take a nap.
A senior friend, Abbe, and her husband have been RVing for 23 years in an Airstream, so they are very experienced. She suggests that beginners, “do some research and check into RV clubs of various kinds. We enjoy traveling with others – the socializing becomes part of the fun. But traveling on our own is also good, since then we can choose where we want to go without having to arrive at consensus with others. The Rocky Mountains are gorgeous, but the driving can be difficult, especially for beginners.”
As a senior, you’ll have different requirements for travel than you had as a youngster. Consider these tips:
- Break up long drives with interesting stops at roadside attractions. Decide on your route before you depart and research good stops along the way.
- Make a list of daily medications, emergency contacts, insurance, and any other pertinent medical information. Keep it handy so that anyone who needs that information will be able to put their hands on it easily
- Find a very extensive packing list here. Obviously consider your destination, the season, and activities you’ll be enjoying.
What RV Clubs are Best to Join?
- At RV Camping, you’ll find an extensive list of RV clubs and associations.
- At RV share, you’ll find their list of best RV clubs by category, such as RV clubs for seniors (they suggest that almost any club will be welcoming and you should instead focus on your interests), special interest, discount, general interest, and even more categories.
- RV Blogger’s article, 10 Best RV Clubs for Seniors, focuses on those that provide the most services and discounts for seniors.
- In Nationwide’s article, Guide to Senior RV Clubs and Retirement Communities, you’ll find a list of criterion on which to base your choice of clubs to join:
- Customer service
- Discounts and costs
- Park access
- Social opportunities
- RV Seniors article, RV Clubs…some brief information, gives brief, useful descriptions of clubs they recommend for seniors.
What Are the Top Locations to Visit in an RV?
Where you go depends on so much—where are you starting from? How long do you want to travel? What’s your budget? There is so much, maybe too much, information on the internet about the best destinations in an RV. I will include some of those here with links to further information and ideas.
- The Cheapism blog’s article, Bucket List RV Trips for 2021, lists some super destinations. You might consider planning a trip based around any of these destinations. I’ve combined some of their suggestions here, for example:
- If you’re renting an RV, pick it up in Phoenix, AZ, and drive north with stops in Sedona, then Flagstaff, then on to the Grand Canyon. Take a circuitous route back to Phoenix through eastern Arizona.
- Drive the California coast starting in San Francisco, and on up to the Oregon coast, all of it spectacular. Then head east to Portland and return inland down Interstate 5, though Eugene, down to Ashland for the Shakespeare Festival (get tickets ahead of time), and on south through California passing Mt. Shasta, Lassen National Park (a bit more to the east), on to Tahoe, then returning to San Francisco. There are so many beautiful places to stop along the way.
- The BlueRidge Parkway will definitely give you your forest fix as you drive the 469-mile parkway. You pass through two national parks (Shenandoah and Smoky Mountain), and find dozens of RV-friendly campgrounds along the way.
- Yellowstone National Park was America’s first national park and may be my favorite. It covers 2.2 million acres so is a vacation in and of itself. It is very popular and you may want to visit during the off season.
- California wine country, though expanding to southern California these days, is primarily located in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. California produces more than 80% of U.S. wine, and does so in a place where you can drive through the redwoods and hike the coast all in the same weekend. There’s so much to do and many RV parks are located well to put those venues, in addition to wineries, within walking distance.
- In the summer months, head for Maine or Alaska, since winter weather will mean hazardous driving and unpleasant temperatures. But summers in either location offer spectacular views, historic sites, and many recreational opportunities.
- During the winter, you might find locations in Southern California, Florida, and other southern states that will delight you.
Want a Companion to RV with?
If you’re single and would like to find someone to RV with, go to Senior Travel Buddies, register, and post an RV road trip. You’re sure to find someone as anxious and excited as you are to share your future RV trips.