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An RV or campervan trip around America can be an adventure of epic proportions. With high quality roads, cheap fuel and almost endless possibilities, the great American road trip holds excitement around every corner, with an incredible choice of routes allowing you to get exactly what you want out of your US experience. Here is everything you need to know about travelling America by RV.
Popular Places to Start Your One Way RV Rental
Where you begin your RV rental road trip can make the difference between a good trip and an amazing one. Think long and hard about what you what to achieve on your trip.
RV Rental Chicago
Chicago, also known as the Windy City is the starting point for one of the most recognised one way roadtrips in the world. For RV rental enthusiasts Route 66 is the big one and it doesn’t get much better. But thats not all Chicago has to offer, in fact Chicago is one of the best cities in the US for RV Rental because of the long list of attractions within driving distance. Places like Madison, Wisconsin or any number of amazing stops along the coast of Lake Michigan.
RV Rental Seattle
Probably the second most popular of the classic American roadtrips is the Pacific Coast highway. Running from Seattle all the way south to sunny San Diego and with stops in cities like Portland, San Francisco and LA along the way you can see why this is so popular. But you don’t have to go south. If you decide to point your RV rental northwards its next stop Canada and the beautiful city of Vancouver.
RV Rental San Diego
If you decide to take a one way RV rental out of San Diego, you have the entire state of California in front of you. Head for LA, Santa Barbara, San Fran or maybe its a trip to the desert for a bit of gambling your after, with Las Vegas only a few hours away. Whether its a week, two weeks or even a whole summer, you won’t be short of fun things to do.
RV Rental Las Vegas
RV Rental: The Essentials
RV rental in the USA is incredibly easy, with a standard driving licence being all that’s needed, provided you have held it for at least 12 months. Most companies will not hire vehicles to drivers under the age of 21, and anyone up to the age of 25 may have to pay a young driver’s surcharge. They will also usually require that the main driver have a valid credit card.
Most of the classic American roadtrips will mean a one way RV rental. Whether its the classic Route 66 roadtrip or the breathtaking pacific coast highway, the last thing you will want to do is drive the RV rental all the way back again. There is huge savings to be had by picking up an RV relocation deal. You will need to be flexible with your dates and ready to go at the drop of a hat. Also, usually it means going the opposite direction. For example Route 66 is Chicago to LA, but if you don’t mind going in reverse you could save a lot of money.
As far as driving rules go, American laws are nothing out of the ordinary. Wear a seatbelt, stick to the speed limits and don’t use your mobile phone while you drive. In most states the maximum speed limits are 65-75 miles per hour (110 km per hour), but will almost always be clearly signposted.
Best Time of the Year to visit USA by RV
As it’s such a vast country, the climate can vary greatly in different regions of America. Spring, lasting from March to May, is a great time to visit the US as most of the crowds are yet to arrive but the weather is generally pleasant and much of the country is looking it best. If you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures then autumn, running September through November, might be a good time for you. Autumn in America is generally quite dry, with red and orange leaves coating the streets and the buzz of upcoming Thanksgiving in the air.
Temperatures in winter can be drastically different across the country. While it is generally considered the off-season, certain parts of the country like Florida and parts of Arizona and California, will remain fairly warm. If your trip is limited to one of these areas, you might like to take advantage of the cheaper flights and quieter sights and attractions.
Where To Stay
America is full of people travelling by campervan, and as a result campgrounds can get booked up fast, even up to a year in advance for the most popular locations. However, many simply operate on a first come, first served basis.
Campgrounds in the USA vary wildly in the range and quality of amenities on offer, from basic sites with little more than an electricity outlet to camping resorts with their own restaurants, on-site repairs and even gyms. As you might imagine, the difference in price can also be substantial, but there are also plenty of free campgrounds scattered around the country.
WikiCamps is a useful app for finding a campsite to park up for the night. It’s the largest database of campgrounds and RV parks in the USA and comes complete with offline maps, photos, reviews and even a route planner that will show you how long you will need and how much fuel you’ll use. You can also filter for specific amenities like hot showers or kitchen facilities.
Also known as free camping or boondocking, dispersed camping is where you park overnight in designated Forest Service Land. National forests make up an enormous 28% of the USA, meaning a free spot to stay for the night is never too far away. What national forests lack in facilities, they more than make up for in beautiful scenery, offering a quiet place off the beaten track where you can fall asleep under the stars.
If you choose to take advantage of dispersed camping, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind. ‘Leave no trace’ is the official guideline, which involves cleaning up after yourself and being respectful of your surroundings. Keep your campervan at least 150 feet from the road, 100 feet from any stream and outside a 1 mile radius of any designated campground.
While most national parks allow dispersed camping, there are some exceptions. Keep your eyes peeled for any ‘no overnight parking’ or ‘day use only’ signs, and if you can, always check with a ranger to make sure you’re not breaking any rules.
This popular American grocery store chain allows people in campervans to spend one night in their car parks, totally free of charge. Just make sure to ask the store manager before you park up for the night (they usually have designated campervan spaces), and double check if your location allows it by using this handy database.
It may sound obvious, but bear in mind if you opt for this route there might not be any places to fill up your water tank or dump your waste water nearby. They do, however, have the benefit of being easy to find and located all across the country.
It’s important to note that most US states do not allow you to park overnight at rest stops, and by doing so you risk a fine. However, it is allowed in the following states:
Illinois (only on Illinois Toll Road)
Indiana (only on Indiana Toll Road)
New York (emergencies only)
Ohio (only on Ohio Turnpike)
Oregon ( for 14 hours maximum)
Some of these states may only allow you to park overnight for a certain period of time, however this is generally not very strictly enforced. If you are not sure of the specific rules for your state, get in touch with the US Department of Transportation to be on the safe side.
Best RV Destinations in the USA
One of the incredible things about taking a US road trip is the huge variety of options available when it comes to planning your holiday. Whether you’re looking for history and heritage or becoming one with the great outdoors, there really is a trip for everyone. Here are just a few of America’s well-established routes and roughly how long you will need for each.
We couldn’t talk about the American road trip without a mention of Route 66. This mammoth drive covers over 2000 miles of road, stretching from ‘the Windy City’ all the way across the country to sunny L.A. Taking you through 8 different states and more than 90 years of history, this iconic route is popular for a reason, showing you how diverse and vibrant America can be.
You’ll need a good chunk of time to cover Route 66, with most itineraries lasting between three and four weeks. While it’s possible to do it in two, you’ll miss out on some of the exhilarating sights along the way and will only be able to see the most popular landmarks and cities.
Related Article – Read our epic 3 week Route 66 Itinerary
The Pacific Coast Highway
The picturesque Pacific Coast Highway hugs the west coast of the country, running through Washington, Oregon and California. You can tackle just a portion of it or drive the whole route, but it’s best experienced from north to south, putting you right on the edge of America’s beautiful coastline. Highlights include Washington’s Sol Duc Falls, the Redwood National and State Parks and the wild beauty of Big Sur.
A week to 10 days is a good amount of time to spend exploring the Pacific Coast Highway, allowing you some time to hike, spend time on the beach and also explore the cities.
Related Article – 10 day guide to the most amazing pacific coast highway experience
Blue Ridge Parkway
This is one of the country’s most scenic routes, starting at Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and traversing the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. This route is particularly beautiful to drive in the fall, when the landscapes are lit up by a blanket of red and orange leaves. The Blue Ridge Parkway mostly avoids towns and cities, making it a great choice for nature-lovers who want to enjoy America’s natural beauty.
This route is almost 500 miles long, and you should allow at least 1 week to really make the most of it (2 if time allows). It is, however, possible to drive it in just a few days.
Great River Road
Following the Mississippi River, this route traces the beating heart of America for 3,000 miles all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Running through a whopping 10 states, this road trip is a whistle stop tour of the US with among the country’s most exciting culture and culinary scene. As well as vibrant riverside cities like Memphis and Baton Rouge, you’ll also encounter the scenic beauty of state parks, forests and cliffs.
While it’s possible to do it in less than a week, you should take at least 10 days to drive the Great River Road
The USA offers a huge amount of flexibility when it comes to travelling by campervan. Not only are there countless routes to choose from, but it is so well set up for driving that you can easily change your plans without a moment’s notice. As it’s so large, it’s important to have a rough idea of which part of the country you would like to explore. But whatever region you decide on, there’ll be more than enough to keep you entertained and plenty of memories for you to take back home.
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About the Author
Karl O’Brien is a writer and adventure traveller from Dublin, Ireland. He has been travelling the world since his late teens. His adventures have taken him to the far reaches of the globe including most of Europe, North & South America, New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia and the Middle East. When he is not planning his next adventure Karl can be found building and renovating campervans.