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Driving motor homes, caravans, and campers
In Canada and the United States

Pros & cons

Any discussion of buying or renting (hiring) vehicles in North America should include motor homes (recreational vehicles or RVs) and caravans (travel trailers).

A class of retired Americans and Canadians no longer owns homes permanently attached to the ground, but instead lives in large motor homes which are moved from winter to summer rental spaces and back again. These often tow smaller cars used at their two destinations.

Whereas the above group has found an enjoyable lifestyle and new friends at their summer and winter homes, the motor home and trailer experience may not be so pleasant for other travellers.

Pros of RV's

Let's start with the positive: A motor home is much more comfortable than a tent, especially in heavy rain. Little set up is needed upon arrival.

The kitchen of a motor home allows the maintenance of special diets, such as Kosher or Moslem.

Especially in popular areas money may be saved on accommodation, in contrast to using motels.

Hanging out in recreational vehicle parks is fun, too, as RV users tend to be a social group, who love to travel and share experiences.

Cons of RV's

Let's move to the negative: Driving a large motor home or towing a trailer may not be comfortable for many of us who are used to smaller vehicles, especially in urban areas.

Be sure to drive an RV or to tow a trailer before committing to a long rental.

Travelling in cities means finding suitable parking, which can require careful planning in advance.

Have you ever noticed the maximum vertical clearances posted at the entrances to covered car parks? If you drive an RV, you must now!

Fuel costs, also, have become much more expensive, and your home on wheels is thirsty.

In addition, you cannot expect to arrive at recreational vehicle parks at popular destinations during peak periods without advance booking, so you are no better off than the car driver using motels.

Alternatives

Mini motor homes, the shorter "Class C" ones, or vans outfitted for sleeping and cooking such as Volkswagen's Eurovan, may make an ideal compromise.

After all, unlike people who live in their RVs year round, you just want to use your vehicle for a few weeks while on holiday, not as your permanent home.

Some of these smaller RVs (but not VW's) even have washroom facilities with showers.

You also can "expand" your otherwise small living area at longer stops by setting up screened tents, which are tall enough to stand in, for dining and outdoor sleeping.

Overall, the experience in any size RV can be wonderful if the driver is comfortable.

The most well-known makers of RVs are Fleetwood Industries (as seen on MTV's Road Rules) and Winnebago Industries.

Other alternatives

Another compromise is the camper ("cap") placed on a pickup truck.

These trucks may a short as most passenger cars, and thus easy to park and drive.

Many trucks with campers are inexpensive to rent or buy compared to RVs.

On the other hand, the more deluxe models feature washrooms, kitchens, and the other amenities of small RVs, and are consequently more expensive.

Some two-wheel drive pickups achieve the same miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency of many lightweight automobiles.

Even modest campers offer more comfort and convenience than a tent, but admittedly do not provide the home atmosphere of a larger motor home or trailer.

Unlike the tent, no set up is needed upon arrival.

The main problems of campers are lack of space for larger groups, the lack of full kitchens in most, the inability to stand up inside many (but not all) of them, and the lack of interior access between the camper unit and the driver and front seat passenger.

Obviously, too, you must camp directly adjacent to access roads, instead of seeking more natural environments.

In addition, Dr. Voyageur dislikes the loud sound of rain hitting the metal roofs when trying to sleep, although some more expensive models feature rubber roofs that mute this sound.

Tents

Travelling by car with an inexpensive tent is the most popular choice.

However, if you choose this, make sure to buy a tent with extra flaps (which function as an additional roof) to help keep out all but the heaviest rain and zip up screens for the door and window or windows.

When picking a spot to set up your tent, try to gauge where water would run deepest in a sudden storm.

Believe Dr. Voyageur when he says that he has picked wrongly at times!

On Prince Edward Island once, a flood drove Dr. V out of his tent and into a motel at 2:00 in the morning. Other times, he just suffered.

Learn about the pros and cons of othe travel methods:


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Go To >> Renting and buying cars
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