In this time of stay-at-home orders, self-isolation, and travel restrictions, the adventure-travelers among us are going a little stir crazy.
Many of us have had to cancel trips that we’d been planning for months, or that we’ve been dreaming of for years. Traveling by plane might seem downright scary, and crossing international borders is definitely out. And doing anything in a large group is just not going to work.
A road trip is calling, but how can you safely get away from the crowds and avoid the typical hotel and restaurant pit stops along the way? If only you could somehow bring your hotel room, restaurant, and bathroom along with you in your car…
This strange time is shining a whole new light on the world of RV travel. RVs offer the perfect solution to staying safe while exploring the outdoors.
And RVs and campers aren’t just for your grandparents anymore.
Imagine being able to drive for hours without a pitstop because you have your own private bathroom on board. Imagine having a fully-stocked fridge and kitchen with you on the road, so you can keep the road trip snacks coming without having to stop for fast food.
And imagine being able to park in beautiful places away from civilization, with a comfortable bed waiting for you at the end of a long day.
RVs are super-functional tiny homes-on-wheels. They can also function as a mobile isolation unit, providing you with everything you need so you can lower your risk of exposure to COVID-19 that comes with staying in hotels, dining in restaurants, or using public bathrooms.
This guide answers the most important questions for first-time RV renters, so you can feel confident and excited about trying out this new type of adventure.
Where Can You Park a Compact RV?
Deciding what kind of trip you want and where you’ll park the RV is an important first step for your RV journey.
Boondocking/ Dry Camping/ Dispersed Camping
If you want quick access to hiking and other outdoor activities, you’ll probably want to plan a route that takes you through National Parks, State Parks, and National Forests.
Check the rules currently in place for public lands in the state where you’ll be traveling. Camping is extra popular this year with COVID-19 limiting typical summer vacation plans, so be sure to book your spots ahead of time.
You can also look into “boondocking” or off-grid spots. You can park for free in these locations, but won’t have the convenience of hook-ups (i.e., water, electricity, and sewer). But with the right RV, you won’t notice the difference of not being connected to shore power for electricity or the city’s water system.
For example, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land allows free overnight parking and plenty of dispersed camping spots. These areas are often located just outside of National Parks, but they can be hard to access without a high-clearance, 4×4 vehicle.
Before taking your RV down a county or state-maintained dirt road, be sure to consider the clearance of the RV and the condition of the road. There’s a lot of equipment underneath the RV (pipes, water pumps, etc.) that hangs low, so there’s a risk of damage if the road is uneven and unpaved.
RV Parks & Campgrounds
If you plan to put in a lot of highway miles getting quickly from point A to point B, you’ll probably need to rely on some less scenic (but convenient) places to stop for the night along your journey.
There are many RV parks and campgrounds that are designed for this purpose and located near highways for an easy overnight stop. You can also park for free in (most) Walmart parking lots if you just need an easy place to stop for a short amount of time before getting back on the road.
It’s likely that you’ll have to take advantage of a mix of these options along your trip. Each offers their own pros and cons, and you’ll learn as you go along what your preferences are.
Some people love the convenience of RV parks with full hook-ups, while others are comfortable getting off the grid and away from other RV travelers. Be sure to research the rules about RV and overnight parking wherever you end up traveling — it’ll save you a lot of hassle.
*Always check with the Walmart policy by calling and asking about their overnight parking policy before you stop. Make sure to obey posted signage.
There are many apps designed to help RVers find good places to park and camp depending on your preferences, so check out the resources that are out there when plotting your route.
For some apps to get you started, check out our blog on the best outdoor adventure apps >
Sleeping Arrangements in an RV
RVs offer many configurations for sleeping, and often have multiple beds hidden as other furniture during the day. A dining nook or couch might convert to a bed for sleeping additional people.
Before hopping in an RV, think about how many people you plan on bringing along. It’s great to have more people on board to help drive, navigate, cook, and add some general merriment to your trip. But an RV can still be a lot of fun for one person to stretch out and enjoy all the extra space.
At Overland Discovery, we specialize in compact RVs that offer sleeping space for up to 3-4 people. They’re ideal for a small family or a couple that wants a little extra room.
If you’re planning on taking along the whole family and a big group of friends, you might want to consider renting an RV with more space (slide-outs, more beds, etc.), bringing a ground tent, or renting two small RVs from Overland Discovery!
Once you’ve decided how many people you’re bringing along and figured out your sleeping arrangements, next up is safely driving and handling your RV.
You’ll need to know the length of your “rig” for making any campground reservations, and which parking spots will work based on the size of your vehicle.
You’ll also need to pay attention to those signs that you usually ignore that tell you how tall overpasses and parking garages are to make sure you’ll fit!
Since Overland Discovery specializes in compact RV rentals, you typically won’t have a hard time finding a spot big enough for your RV. Our compact RV rentals range from 19 – 24 feet long, so you can easily maneuver on the road, find parking, and fit in that perfect drive-in campsite you’ve been eyeing.
Systems on Board
RVs are usually self-contained units that combine all the systems you would have in a house and a vehicle, combined into one package.
You’re now driving a truck that has a kitchen and (sometimes) a bathroom. That means you have to know a little bit about how those things work before jumping into the driver’s seat.
But don’t be intimidated — they’re designed to be easy to use and convenient. Getting a little bit familiar with how everything works will ensure that your trip goes smoothly.
A few things to know about your RV systems before hitting the road:
Whether the vehicle takes regular gasoline or diesel
If the kitchen appliances require propane
What sources of power you need switched on in order to use electricity while on the road (battery, generator, plug-in power, or even solar)
As RVing and #vanlife become more and more popular, we’re seeing lots of RV manufacturers build units that combine the best of both worlds — the comforts of an RV with the simplicity of a campervan.
There are RVs, for example, that rely on lithium batteries and solar for their power, as opposed to the loud and cumbersome generators that are ubiquitous in traditional RVs. Newer RV models also have outdoor showers or spray hoses to rinse off after a day of adventures, and plenty of outdoor storage for bikes, paddle boards, and other equipment.
Some RVs take simplicity to the next level by offering all the interior amenities you’d expect from an RV (kitchen, furnace, electricity, etc.), except for the bathroom. While this type of configuration isn’t for everyone, it’s great when you’re on the fence between a campervan and an RV.
Not having a bathroom allows for more space inside the RV, and less hassle for those who know they don’t need a shower or toilet inside their vehicle.
How Do You Go to the Bathroom in a Compact RV?
One of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in an RV is, “How do you go to the bathroom?” We’re here to demystify this experience in an RV.
Traditional RVs usually come with a full bathroom on board, including a toilet, sink, and shower. The luxury of having hot water showers and flushing toilets while you’re on the road is a highlight of RV travel, and a big distinction between tent camping and RVing.
The difference between the plumbing in a house and an RV is that you’ll have to empty your holding tanks every few days (when you’re not using a full hook-up campsite, where you hook up to a sewer line for the duration of your stay).
This is a barrier for many people, but it’s actually pretty simple and allows you to have a flushing toilet on the road, without having to rely on finding a public bathroom or latrines.
For RVs with bathrooms, you’ll have three water tanks on board – fresh, gray, and black.
Fresh water will come through the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, and toilet for flushing.
Gray water is collected after fresh water has run through the sink or shower, so it is just dirty/soapy water.
Black water is basically sewage, and the holding tank for the toilet.
Each tank can only hold a certain amount of water. Gauges on board will tell you when these are empty or full.
How to Empty the Water Tanks In Your Compact RV
When the gray and black tanks are full, they need to be emptied into designated dump stations. Dump stations designed for this purpose can be found at truck stops, some gas stations, RV parks, and campgrounds.
A plastic hose is connected from the black and gray tanks to the dump station. With one switch of a lever, the contents of your tank will be flushed down into a hole.
Water provided at the sites will allow you to clean the hose and flush the tanks. Wash your hands, and the job is done.
When you’re using your private bathroom in your RV, the experience feels just like a compact version of any other bathroom. Sometimes the flusher is placed differently from a home toilet, such as a foot pedal. All systems on board will be designed to conserve your limited water resources.
Holding tank deodorizer treatments and regular maintenance ensure that the bathroom doesn’t smell. And using RV or septic-safe toilet paper ensures you don’t get any clogs.
It’s also worth mentioning that you shouldn’t flush anything except RV-safe toilet paper down the toilet. Wet wipes, paper towels, sanitary products, etc. should all be disposed of in the trash, not the toilet!
The convenience of having a full bathroom on board when you’re roadtripping, camping, and enjoying the outdoors outweighs the few minutes spent emptying the tanks. Being able to take a hot shower after a long day of hiking, biking, or skiing (and not having to use the bathroom outdoors while camping) makes RV life the ultimate in comfort and convenience.
What’s the Best Part About Renting a Compact RV?
The best part of traveling in an RV is the freedom. You’re self-contained and self-sufficient, always packed with all your stuff and ready to go wherever the road may take you.
You can park your mobile tiny home in the most beautiful places in the country, and always have your comfy bed with you at the end of the day. An RV allows you to experience the beauty of nature and the outdoors, with the convenience and comforts of home. Plus, you save a lot of time when you don’t have to look for places to stop and use the bathroom along the way!
Now that you’re excited to get in your very own RV and start roadtripping, camping, and glamping around the U.S., where do you start? Renting an RV for your next trip is an awesome way to test drive the RV lifestyle or just have an amazing getaway and a well-deserved break from staying at home.
Overland Discovery can help get you on the road in a stylish and modern compact RV rental for your next adventure. Check out the compact RVs we offer here, and discover more information about what to pack for your next campervan adventure here >