During the extended COVID pandemic, families everywhere are rediscovering the great outdoors. Visits to national and state parks are booming. And more than 10 million families tried camping for the first time in 2021, according to a Kampgrounds of America report.
Following that trend, our family rented an RV for a long weekend trip. Our thinking: we could enjoy great weather at a nearby location and test-drive the RV trip experience. Then we could decide about a week-long rental to Disney World and other RV trips beyond.
Our destination was FD Roosevelt State Park, located near Pine Mountain, GA. It's Georgia's largest state park featuring camping, hiking, fishing, boating and more.
Here are a few things we learned about renting and having fun on RV trips:
- Choose carefully. For a first-time renter, selection can be a daunting task. We found peer-to-peer sites RVShare.com and Outdoorsy.com to be excellent sources to compare RV options, amenities, prices and availability. Extended resources (like blogs and user reviews) offer excellent tips and insights, both on what to expect and specific experiences with the rental units and owners.
- Consider your needs. Carefully consider the number, ages and sizes of your travelers and potential sleeping arrangements. Think about bedtimes (early for young children, but not others), personal habits (who takes forever in the bathroom!), any physical requirements (frequent nighttime bathroom needs?) and your meal plans (cook and carry, campfire cooking or other). Don’t forget to evaluate included (or excluded!) amenities, like extras sheets, towels, cookware and a coffee pot – or you’ll need to bring them along from home.
- Understand bathroom reality. Most larger RVs include bathrooms, but don’t expect them to match up with an ensuite in an HGTV luxury home. They often are functional, basic and cramped. Hot water is in limited supply, shower space is tight, toilets can be complicated, and every drop of water that is used must later be drained. By day 3, even our most privacy-conscious adults sought out the space and luxurious hot water supply of the campground bath house.
- Make a packing list. Since this was a first camping and RV excursion, we took extra care to create our packing list. We were confident we had it all. As soon as we hit the road, we realized what we left behind. Avoid this rookie mistake by comparing to an RV veteran's list.
- Use expert resources. Do a google search and you'll discover many. We avoided those that focused on full-time RV living, and instead gravitated to blogs that focused on destinations and tips. Some we liked best included Everything About RVing, and GO RVing. We also checked out a variety of dealership sites -- mostly to check out future ideas for remote rentals. We liked Lazy Days among the best.
- Bring your little red wagon. Even if it feels like you’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink, go back to your garage and take along your little red wagon. Seriously, do it! It will be handy in loading and at the campsite. If you’re doing RV trips with kids and grandkids, having the wagon along provides some easy activities and much-needed respite from carrying tired, crying young ones.
So what was the outcome of our RV rental camping weekend? We’ve decided that we enjoyed the RV experience and are looking forward to future adventures in a rented RV. Those likely will be long weekends, or close-by journeys – in a rented RV -- that may include two or three stops of multiple days in “natural” settings. But, we have marked our calendars for an upcoming regional RV and camping show. Who knows where that will lead!
Get More RV Planning Tips
We've served up a sampling of our best tips here. We have more -- plus links to additional great resources -- in our original article at OurTravelCafe.com. You'll also find ideas for more than 50 fun family outings in North Georgia and beyond. Check our out Georgia Small Plates for ideas in North Georgia and the rest of the state. Our Southern Fried Favorites includes content from neighboring states. Or venture further afield with our US Roadhouse Fare from throughout the US, or our International Sampler.
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