The engine fired up and we put the camper into reverse. Slowly backing out of the driveway there was a nervous, excited energy that filled our 23-foot camper. Looking out the window, we waved to Jim and Linda, owners of the “Happy Camper.” My husband, daughter and I were on our way to experiencing our first RV road trip.
With summer in full swing, many families are thinking differently about vacation. There’s value in staycations or even the simplicity of summer at home. For our family, we chose an RV rental that felt like the right compromise between keeping it safe during a global health pandemic and trying to keep moving forward with the hopes and dreams that summertime brings.
Why an RV
The idea started to brew in my head as summer camps were canceled and working remotely started to feel normal. It seemed to be a summer for thinking differently, including if or how we would travel.
I then saw a newspaper article that talked about the great American road trip. The idea of being self-contained, together in a camper with everything we need stuck with me. “Brilliant,” I thought. There would be no need to eat out, use any public restroom or socialize with anyone. And yet, we could explore new places and make some memories as a family.
Finding an RV
How do you find an RV? For me, it started with a Google search. That Google search yielded a variety of results. I followed the results with the best ratings and that led me to RV share (www.rvshare.com). New to the RV world, I found helpful graphics that told me about the types of RVs — travel trailers, fifth wheels, class C and A motorhomes — and the benefits of each type of RV, from driving comfort level to amenities to mileage.
Next up, I was able to search and find RVs in Northeast Ohio that I could rent directly from a local owner. There were pictures and reviews, descriptions and details.
Once I knew what may best meet my needs (I chose the class C motorhome that noted it was like driving a large truck), I began my search. Much like searching for a hotel, I was able to define my criteria of dates, number of people I wanted to accommodate and a host of other items (i.e. cancellation policy, amenities, pet-friendly, etc.).
At the end of my searching, I found the “Happy Camper.” The name spoke to me. It was everything I wanted: Happy. Camper. I wanted to be that person. Additionally, this RV was located in Hartville (about 1.25 hours from home), was a 2015 vehicle, slept four and was complete with kitchen and full bathroom.
Renting An RV
RV Share allowed me to send a message to the owners with my inquiry about dates and where I was looking to travel. The connection with the owners turned out to be professional, helpful and provided me with more confidence that even being new to an RV, my husband and I could manage an adventure in the Happy Camper.
Jim and Linda, the owners, invited us to come see the RV. Donned in masks, we made our way to Hartville, where we were able to see the RV in person. The owners walked us through all the systems and we learned about the grey and black water tanks (yes, they are what you think they are) and how to also manage other systems such as the generator, electric hook-up, and water tank. We left excited but still a bit unsure about making the commitment.
Yes to Adventure
A few days later, the Happy Camper was still on my mind. We had been home for months, summer felt like it had been canceled, and I sent another message to the owners. We were ready to commit.
Commitment meant putting money down and booking specific dates. In our case, we committed to a week and paid around $175 per night to rent the vehicle. It was a little more than we would generally spend for a hotel, but given the global health pandemic and knowing I would never have to use a public restroom, I made the investment.
Our dates were now secured. We made one more trip to Hartville for a more thorough walk-through of the RV. Between my husband and I, we believed we were ready to manage the systems and drive the camper to some family fun and time together.
On the Road
The comparison of a Class C RV to driving a large truck is accurate. It was a rough ride that added to the adventurous feeling of trying and exploring something new. Four hours into our trip, we were able to stop overnight at a well lit, RV-friendly travel plaza. We turned on the air conditioner via the generator, brushed our teeth, used the restroom and went to bed. As I turned off the lights that night, I indeed was a happy camper.
Our primary destination proved to be rainy for several days. Though the camper had all the amenities of home, the coziness of this cute space wore off after a few hours of games and YouTube videos. My husband and I decided that one of the perks of an RV was being able to make a move to dryer and warmer weather. We did just that and salvaged some fun and sanity of traveling during a pandemic.
Would I Do It Again?
RV rental turned out to be a more expensive way to travel than I originally had planned. In addition to the rental, there was gas (approximately $90 each fill-up) and campsite rental (KOAs were our favorite). However, these expenses were justified with the convenience of being able to prepare our own meals and stay self-contained in this unit.
Renting through RV Share was easy to navigate and the owners we rented from are now friends whom I believe we will stay connected to even without an RV rental.
We accomplished our goals: time together, new scenery and a few new memories that will last a lifetime. The Happy Camper? Indeed, I am.
Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is a mama, arts professional, volunteer puppy raiser of service dogs, and freelance writer.