Marie-Christine Daignault | Desjardins Group
"RVing is the THE way to go if you're feeling less adventurous than you used to or if you're travelling with family," says Louise Paquet. She says it's definitely not economical, but she loves it!
She first embarked on the adventure in August 2015 with her sweetheart, Serge, and 2 of their grown children. She shared the main lessons she learned in the 2 weeks the 4 of them covered hundreds of miles between Calgary and Vancouver--in a 28-foot vehicle!
1. Beware of "surprise" charges
"When you rent an RV, you're charged for everything per person, like bedding, towels and dishes," says Paquet. Many companies offer packages. It's smart to ask a lot of questions and to compare to see if it's better to buy an all-inclusive, bring your own stuff or even buy locally from discount stores. The same goes for insurance: "When we picked up our RV, the company offered us a lot of last-minute insurance products. It scared us a bit, so we took them! But it's really worth it to check with your own insurance company before you go to see if they offer anything better."
Everything's negotiable and the sooner you start shopping around, the more you'll save. "We booked our August trip in January. We saved close to 50% in additional charges, because we weren't bringing the RV back to where we picked it up. Because they also charge for that."
Is RVing economical? No, says Paquet, all things considered: rental (vehicle and package), gas, insurance, parking, camp stays, etc...there are no real bargains.
2. Go big, but not too big
Gas is very expensive. There are "green" RVs, but they also cost a lot more to rent. So it's really a personal choice, based on your values. Size is an important consideration with gasoline-powered vehicles. "You rent what's recommended for the number of people. If you don't, you carry too much weight, and also, the bigger the RV is, the harder it is to park," says Paquet.
3. A bit of planning goes a long way
One of the biggest advantages of RVing is definitely the feeling of complete freedom. You take your "home" with you wherever you go, wherever the wind takes you, spending the night wherever you can, and changing your itinerary as you see fit. Yes! But no... Paquet recommends creating an itinerary and most importantly, planning. "The rental company asked us to call them when we got to Calgary. Which we did, but we waited for our RV the whole day. If I'd known, I would have called the night before, and it would have been ready in the morning, when we got there."
There's lots to see in the Rockies, and for Paquet, the itinerary was essential for a successful trip. "We'd booked our campsites in the national parks, but we met lots of travellers who hadn't booked and they often had to overnight far off their route. You miss a lot of things in the West if you don't have an itinerary, and booking your campsites is the best way to stick to your plan."
The little family of 4 quickly learned to take full advantage of their home on wheels. "Tourist attractions are very popular in the Rockies. They're already booked up by the time you get there in the morning! We got into the habit of leaving our campsite very early to get to where we were going, and eating our breakfast in our RV while we waited for the place to open," says Paquet with a laugh. "We were always the first ones there!"
4. Stay safe in the comfort of your RV
Paquet was behind the wheel the whole time. "You definitely have to be comfortable driving a big vehicle. I'd say the hardest part was parking. In small towns like Banff, you have to be prepared to walk into town." Something else the family really appreciated: the security aspect. "In national parks, there are grizzly warnings everywhere. I felt a lot safer in my RV."
- Do a lot of shopping around--and the sooner, the better
- Pick a newer vehicle
- Plan your itinerary
- Book your camp stays ahead of time
- Contact your insurer before buying insurance from the rental company
Her favourite part
"It was great being able to stop wherever we wanted. If there was a river, we pulled over, washed and freshened up, and then we were off again!"
Her least favourite part
"Emptying the toilet isn't great, but we had to do it every 2 days or so. But it's straightforward, and there are sanitation facilities in all the campgrounds."
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