It was the scream heard across the RV park. A high-pitched yelp that combined my excitement at unexpectedly bumping into friend and Toronto nutritionist Lianne Phillipson and the realization that I had yet to brush my teeth or comb my hair. I needn’t have worried, and neither had she.
This is the RV life, where only a few days after leaving the posh surroundings of a Las Vegas hotel, you are so completely relaxed that walking out of your mobile home, across a gravel parking garage to shower with strangers feels completely natural. In fact, bumping into Phillipson couldn’t have happened at a better time.
My husband, Ish, sons Cameron and Ethan, and I were only a few days into our seven-day trip from Las Vegas to Sedona via the Grand Canyon. Phillipson and her two daughters were the first females I’d spent time with in about that long. We immediately merged families, redivided into “kids versus adults” groups and made plans to co-mingle our snacks. It’s the RV way.
I knew better than to let the opportunity pass; this isn’t our first RV rodeo.
A few years ago, Ish and I were newbies when we hit the road in a 26-foot behemoth, with a fully kitted fridge and maps that led us astray. When it was over we were frazzled but committed. The next time we did it we’d be pros.
True to form, this trip had been a breeze.
It helped that we’d let someone else take charge.
The moment I heard about Tracks and Trails – an RV planning company that focuses on National Park getaways in the Western United States and Western Canada – I knew I wanted to try it.
Let’s face it: Carrying your home with you as you make your way through the world is a genius move. The idea of being able to bring it all and the kitchen sink? That’s something I always knew I could get behind.
But figuring out where to park, how to get there, when to go and where to stop can quickly go from fun times to second job.
Booking in with Tracks and Trails took away that stress. Suddenly, I was an equal-opportunity participant in my family’s vacation. We were all just following the itinerary set by the company. Any one of us could be playing the role of navigator or scanning the mobile app for meal options along the way.
It gave me back my vacation time.
And it meant that I could take my nose out of guidebooks and be relaxed enough to throw a hoodie over my pyjamas, walk out into the wilds and bump into a friend.
Planning your own RV adventure? Here are a few tips from two-time survivors.
1. Consider letting someone else do the planning
Much like booking your airline tickets, you can organize your entire RV outing on your own, but chances are that someone out there is much better at it. Our Tracks and Trails booking meant that a fully customized itinerary was waiting for us when we arrived in Vegas, the RV was booked and we had access to premium campsites we would’ve had to book months in advance. It also meant we had someone to call with any concerns along the way and the benefit of their experience and connections when booking local tours and activities. tracks-trails.com
2. Be realistic about what you need inside
The cost of your RV adventure is going to vary depending on a lot of factors. A tricked-out ride will cost you more on gas and rental than the smaller trailer add-on, but if having space is a primary concern, it could be worth it. In our 23-footer, we were cognizant of parking limitations and opted to leave it parked in cities where it made more sense to explore on foot.
3. Do not skimp on the prior inspection
The most exciting moments of your RV adventure will come on delivery. Moving in and stocking up is fun and sets the pace of everything that follows, but don’t get so excited about setting off that you forget to get a thorough understanding of your new digs. Much like a home inspection, you’ll want to look beyond the pretty exterior. Do appliances work? Do you have everything you were promised? Do you understand how to work the tanks and the generators? Do you understand the extra costs that can arise from each? And have you got a reliable number you can call if things go wrong?
4. Make sure your family is on board with the lifestyle
If you aren’t someone who spends 24/7 with the kids at home, all this together time, without a door to close can get old quickly. Bringing decks of cards and maybe even a travel-size board game is a great idea. Kids who will be happy with a book or who can be coaxed into making new friends on the campgrounds will thrive. And if you’re all happier when you’re active, work with your planner to incorporate hiking tours or evenings out. Our Blazin’ M Ranch Chuckwagon supper was something we’d never have chosen on our own, but the traditional songs made us laugh and the yodelling was impressive.
5. You need a plan
The call of the open road may seem like a great idea but after a few hours of it, you’ll be itching to stretch your legs. Our Tracks and Trails itinerary offered options for tours in destinations, alternate routes (hello Route 66!) and tips for newbie campers. (We thought we knew how to start a campfire until it was 6 p.m., the sun was setting fast and the wood wasn’t lighting. Having those tiny detailed instructions at hand saved us from a s’moreless evening.)
The writer’s RV experience was supported in part by Tracks and Trails RV Adventure Vacations. They did not review or approve this article.