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We are looking to rent a class c for the Griswold trip out west this summer. Total of about 5500 miles over 16 days. Anything special we should watch out for or look for in a rental or when booking campgrounds? I'm familiar with Koa but this will be our first time rv'ing as a family.

Thanks
Sleepy Badger
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Anything special we should watch out for or look for in a rental or when booking campgrounds?

While deciding if and which RV to buy, we rented a 27ft 2008 Class-C and 34ft 2008 Class-A from a local company. Issues:

- Some auto insurance companies will cover a rented RV and others don't. Ours didn't and this limited the selection of RV's we could rent and required us to purchase expensive insurance through the rental company.

- Mileage, our rent included 100 mi/day and 4hr/day of generator use. At 5500mi/16 days any additional mileage charge may add up. If you're staying in RV parks with hookup's it's unlikely you'll use the generator much.

- Ease of driving varies by RV and RV type, the 6-7 year old Class-A & C were hard to drive, partly because of the body length behind the rear wheels (longer overhang = more sway) and the Bounder Class-A is known for bounding down the road.

- Try filling gas when it's about 1/2 full. Enter National Parks filled up with fuel. Fuel in National Parks may be expensive and far away.

- Try to make camp a couple of hours before dark and leave early in the morning to miss traffic. For best site selection get there between noon and 3pm.

- When picking up the RV, film the training tour. 1) you can refer to it when needed, 2) you'll document the pickup state of the unit in case there's a damage claim at drop off.

- 5500mi/16 days = 370mi a day or 7+ hours, that's a lot. We've done 700mi/day but it was exhausting and not recommended. We'll travel at the speed limit and still only average 50mph over the day. It's best to stop every couple of hours to switch drivers or rest as driving a large vehicle for the first time is tiring, also allow for meals, refueling,...

- Driving forward is easy, left turns not bad, right turns and backing up take extra attention. Always use a spotter when backing up. Make all turns wide turns. Practice driving & stopping some place safe before starting out.

- People will cut you off, expect it, and allow extra space so you don't cream someone. Your vehicle is bigger and takes longer to stop.

- The vehicles are huge, storage small, plan accordingly. Consider renting some equipment from the rental company because it's easier.

- Understand how much RV cleaning costs and what is included. We rented from a company which charged a flat rate cleaning charge. It was well worth it as when we got back we unloaded and left and didn't have to spend a couple of hours cleaning.

Let us know how your trip goes.
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If you're not used to the length, practice, practice, practice.

We went to a big mall shopping center on a Sunday morning and took two or three dozen empty cat food cans to make a "street" (in one of the outlying parking areas.) Then I could K-turn, back up, turn corners as sharply as possible to see how sharp that really was, etc.

One thing I found out, which probably won't apply to you, is that no matter how sharply I turned a corner, the car I was towing behind *could not* hit anything, it followed so closely in the track of the rig. Anyway, I found the practice session invaluable.

I second the "don't try to drive too far" advice. We go 3-4 hours a day, occasionally more, once in a great while less. We don't get going until about 10am (miss the traffic) and we roll in before 3 and *always* get a good slot. Set up, drive around and reconnoiter that night (usually eat out), spend a full day there (more if a great locale), pull out the next morning - so each stop is 2 days minimum. Of course we're rarely in a hurry to get somewhere, we're just out for the sake of being out. Eventually we get where we're going.

Laundry rooms: the best place for local intelligence. Much better than the glossy brochures, usually.

If you aren't towing a car make sure there's an Enterprise (or similar) nearby if you're staying long. You don't want to have to disconnect and reconnect every time you want to go somewhere, and getting into some restaurant parking lots and tourist attractions is tough in an RV.

Good Sam directory; call ahead when you're getting close/getting tired of driving. KOAs are always clean, but there are sometimes campgrounds that are much more fun. And state and national parks, of course.
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Thanks for the advice guys. We have big drives with nothing to see at the start and end (Birmingham AL - Carlsbad at start, Bad Lands - Birmingham at end). Thought about the Alamo but I'm the only one that cares about stuff like that.

Its going to be peak season so thought we would need to reserve spots in all our stops forcing us to hit our distances each day. General itinerary:

Carlsbad Caverns
4 Corners
Grand Canyon
Hoover/Lake Meade with overnight in Vegas
Death Valley
Golden Gate/Alcatraz
Tahoe
Salt Lake (I think)
Jackson just outside Grand Tetons
Yellowstone (2 days)
Devils Tower/Mt Rushmore
Badlands

Want to camp in Yellowstone for sure. Thoughts on apps that show all the campgrounds instead of just the KOA/Happy Sam? Getting the national park pass.

Need to re-evaluate how we planned on splitting the drive each day based on your feedback. May need to cut out SanFran/Tahoe and turn up to Salt Lake from Vegas instead. Wife doesn't want to stay long anywhere but Yellowstone.
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Need to re-evaluate how we planned on splitting the drive each day based on your feedback. May need to cut out SanFran/Tahoe and turn up to Salt Lake from Vegas instead. Wife doesn't want to stay long anywhere but Yellowstone.

I hope you either:

a) already have reservations for Yellowstone, or

b) do NOT plan to be there in the last half of August 2017.

Yellowstone happens to be about the best place in the world for a solar-eclipse-watching vacation this year, and the eclipse is Aug 21.

In fact, if your vacation plans involve the last half of August, you should be aware of the whole eclipse route. It's gonna be tough to get an RV space pretty much anywhere on the route, and the longer you wait the tougher it will be. So visit http://www.eclipse2017.org/
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I'm going to the echo the others.  5500 miles in 16 days is a lot.  A lot.  You are going to be so tired of driving that you will not enjoy whatever it is that you are going to see.  Driving an RV is not like driving a car.  You have to anticipate what everyone else is going to do.  People do not understand that they are supposed to speed up and merge into traffic on an entrance ramp on the freeway.  Therefore they just continue to drive 35 while you see them in the middle of your RV and are forced to slow down so they can merge without crashing into you.  You're driving in an unfamiliar area, you don't know what lane to be in and you can't just change lanes in an instant, you have to anticipate.  It's stressful.  And you want to spend 7 hours a day doing it and then try to do something fun when all you really want to do is crack open a beer and relax?  

It's not that I'm trying to talk you out of it, I'm just suggesting that you adjust your route or perhaps adjust the number of things you try to see on your trip.  It will help a lot if your wife is going to drive.  It will be a trip that you and the kids will never forget.  But Other than Yellowstone Im not sure you need to be booked in advance.  As far as apps, I like RV Parky.  And for gas I like gas buddy.
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Reposting marcusfan's message with line-wrapping...

I'm going to the echo the others. 5500 miles in 16 days is a lot. A lot. You are going to be so tired of driving that you will not enjoy whatever it is that you are going to see. Driving an RV is not like driving a car. You have to anticipate what everyone else is going to do. People do not understand that they are supposed to speed up and merge into traffic on an entrance ramp on the freeway. Therefore they just continue to drive 35 while you see them in the middle of your RV and are forced to slow down so they can merge without crashing into you. You're driving in an unfamiliar area, you don't know what lane to be in and you can't just change lanes in an instant, you have to anticipate. It's stressful. And you want to spend 7 hours a day doing it and then try to do something fun when all you really want to do is crack open a beer and relax?

It's not that I'm trying to talk you out of it, I'm just suggesting that you adjust your route or perhaps adjust the number of things you try to see on your trip. It will help a lot if your wife is going to drive. It will be a trip that you and the kids will never forget. But Other than Yellowstone Im not sure you need to be booked in advance. As far as apps, I like RV Parky. And for gas I like gas buddy.
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Its going to be peak season so thought we would need to reserve spots in all our stops forcing us to hit our distances each day. General itinerary:

Far be it from me to try to tell you how to plan your trip, but Mrs. Goofy and I took a 5 month trip across America - from April to September - and never had a single reservation, and were never unable to find a spot. I think twice in the entire time a place we wanted was full, and sometimes that was only because we wanted to spend more than one day and we couldn't get the full stay. Now, we don't ever have reservations. Sometimes we leave the storage lot not knowing which direction we're going, and just randomly take a couple highways until we're driving for an hour and then decide. No, I'm not kidding.

Yes, we stayed in Yellowstone without reservations. On the 4th of July weekend. And another well regarded state park on Memorial Day weekend. Without reservations. Of course we pull in at 2-3 o'clock in the afternoon because we drive short - and we call ahead from about an hour or two out.

My point is that for us, at least, part of the attraction is not being a slave to a schedule, and if we make reservations everywhere, well, when we find someplace we'd like to spend an extra day, sorry, gotta go. When we find someplace that doesn't live up to the expectation, sorry, gotta stay.

(PS: Go to the Alamo. The whole point is discovery. Who knows, the kids might learn something - and they will have *great* stories to tell when they come back.)

(PPS: I know many people are not comfortable having *no idea* where they're going, or are insecure about having the whole thing planned out. I'm just pointing out that there are alternatives, and one of the great things about RV travel is, well, there are campgrounds *everywhere*, and you have your motel room on your back anyway. Worse case scenario: Walmart parking lot for the night. Lots of people do it. How bad can it be? )
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Last year we spent a week in Grand Tetons and a second week in Yellowstone. We're going back to Yellowstone, didn't see a a quarter of it. A day here plus driving each day doesn't give time to see anything.

If you're in a hurry to get there, fly, it's probably cheaper.

BTW: my financial analysis has shown using an RV isn't may not be less expensive than driving and staying in one room in a hotel.

Jack
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Cut out the trip over to SanFran and will be turning north from Vegas now. Is the max vehicle length at Mather campground in Grand Canyon really the max length? All the 30'+ sites are booked and our rv is going to be 31'. We are staying the night before at Petrified Forest so we aren't going to have a long distance but expect the road will be bumper to bumper and would like to stay there once we get in instead of driving back out to a campground by Flagstaff.
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Is the max vehicle length at Mather campground in Grand Canyon really the max length?

Sometimes the max length isn't due to the campsite size, but due to the access road width and sharp turns.
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Sometimes the max length isn't due to the campsite size, but due to the access road width and sharp turns.

I can't speak of the roads in the park in question, but Glacier Park's "Road to the sun"... if you're the least bit over length, DON'T DO IT. There's an extremely high likelihood that you'll get stuck, blocking all traffic in both directions, and they charge a steep price for getting you unstuck (it often takes two tow trucks, one at each end). Plus the obstructing-traffic citation and the citation for driving an over-length rig.
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ok, outside the park that night it is.
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Yes it is Max length. Not necessarily because of difficult to navigate roads, but rather due to the amount of traffic at the park and the spot sizes are just that limited.

Are you planning on towing a small vehicle or are you intending to just drive in with your RV?

Thinking about the last time we were at the Canyon, the parking lots aren't necessarily built or meant for a big RV but we drove our car there and I wasn't looking at the RV spaces.

One thing you might consider is taking the RV to Williams, AZ, camp there and then take the train up to the Canyon in the morning, spend the day at the South Rim and then take the train back in the afternoon.

https://www.thetrain.com/

One suggestion I have is that if you're intending to ever visit Yosemite in CA, I can guarantee you DO NOT want to camp in the park... Impossible to get and you can camp just outside the park. Similar story there as you are limited in vehicle sizes due to the nature of the roads so you'll need to pull a car with you as I think there are some spots on that road that are 25' max vehicle.

HereIGo
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One suggestion I have is that if you're intending to ever visit Yosemite in CA, I can guarantee you DO NOT want to camp in the park... Impossible to get and you can camp just outside the park.

We have a 35ft 5th wheel and 20 ft truck, while we haven't yet taken the rig to Yosemite, on-line information states that RV's longer than ours will fit in a very few sites. Maybe only 1 or 2 at a few campgrounds.

Jack
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Here is the site with the Yosemite road restrictions.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/restrictions.htm

HereIGo
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Not hauling a vehicle behind or going to Yosemite. Earlier posts to my question got us to cut out the jaunt over to San Fran. Doing short stops at lots of sites to get a feel for what we'd like to come back and see:

3 days to get to Carlsbad and overnight.
Calsbad Caverns
Camp somewhere between Carlsbad and Four Corners
Four Corners ("short" stop then on to...)
Petrified Forest (overnight)
Grand Canyon (south rim, camp outside park)
Hoover Dam & Vegas (camp in Vegas)
Somewhere between Vegas and Salt Lake
Jackson Hole over night then north through south entrance to Yellowstone
Yellowstone (2 nights, have to switch from Fishing Bridge to Bridge Bay, reservations made)
Take east road out of Yellowstone and stop somewhere between Yellow Stone and Devil's Tower
Devil's Tower over night for pictures at different times of the day
Mt Rushmore over night for pictures at different times of the day
4 days to get home stopping wherever we decide to stop

We have 17 days total. Been searching web for more tips and glad I found a write up on the Bighorns. I originally planed on taking 14 over (west to east). No way I am doing that on our first trip with an rv and will take 16 instead.
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https://custerresorts.com/activities/scenic-drives/

If you are in the area, taking the scenic drive may be worthwhile. However, I have my doubts about how much fun it would be in an RV. Also, the Spearfish Canyon is a nice little secret just north of Rapid City and close to Sturgis. Be sure and check Sturgis dates for the Mt. Rushmore part of the trip. The place will be crawling with motorcycles.


If you can get a space, go ahead and stay in the Grand Teton National park. I actually think this is a prettier park than Yellowstone and Jackson Hole is a rich kids place.

We took a raft trip in the Grand Teton park, it was a gentle float trip, then we went up and stayed in some cabins in Gardiner, (north gate) the raft ride there was anything but gentle.

I suspect you are leaving Yellowstone by the East Gate to avoid the Beartooth Highway. However I found the plains with the herds of Buffalo on them quite interesting, and the large log cabin in Silver Gate with the rooms set up like a brothel to be fun too.

If you can get a space, go ahead and stay in the Grand Teton National park. I actually think this is a prettier park than Yellowstone and Jackson Hole is a rich kids place.

But I am guessing Beartooth Highway may be a challenge for an RV, but I don't know I went over it in a car.

I don't know where you are coming from, but I made a similar loop out of Texas in 2010 or 2011. We left Mt. Rushmore and dropped south and crossed Nebraska then Kansas and back to Texas. We were tired vacationing and did that last leg none stop swapping drivers, so we missed some things.

If you go back across Nebraska there is a very very large train depot there. I still hope to see it one day. If you cross South Dakota, there is an Airbase with a museum just east of Rapid City and then there is a state park with a view on the east side of the Missouri River.

Also, in Iowa on high 29 in Onawa there is a state park on a little Ox bow lake off of the Missouri river that has replicas of the boats that Lewis and Clark used, it is worth a stop and a picnic.

Also, in Sioux Falls, they have really done a nice job with Falls Park. It is downtown, and the downtown isn't shabby either.

IF you find yourself in Kansas City, and you are crazy about Lewis and Clark, there is a park, hidden in an industrial area, at Kaw Point. It is where Lewis and Clark camped. The park is decent, I wouldn't go out of my way to see it unless I was both very interested in Lewis and Clark and was going to be in the area anyway.

Also, if you find yourself in Kansas City, there is a steamboat museum, it is worth seeing, but again, only if find yourself in Kansas City with time to burn.

Cheers
Qazulight
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Thanks Qazulight. When we went through the mountains when I was a kid in the 70's I ended up rolling to the middle of the wagon and closing my eyes until we reached the top/bottom. I've also read some reviews of the NE entrance and it doesn't sound promising for a first time rv drive with my height aversion.
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Nobody is going to pull out a tape measure on you. Our RV sells as a 36' but measured it's 36' 9" Oops, we have a motor scooter carrier on the front that projects out another 2' 6". Double oops, we have a hitch for a tow car on the back that adds another 1' 6". Altogether we're really about 40' (not counting the car) and we've still been in lots of national parks with a 35' limit and never had a problem. Yes, I've had to back in far enough that there's some "scrub" under the back hitch once in a while, and yes, I've had to park in what I call "the stick of gum in the wrapper" parking places, but overall, doable.

Mrs. Goofy tells me that we were not allowed in one section of Yellowstone (on the road), and also for one part of Glacier National. I don't remember that, but it could have happened. 16 years ago and all.

I will say this: I will NEVER drive an RV through Yosemite again. It was the worst drive of my life; narrow (super narrow) roads, twisting, turning, and one side you're looking down into several hundred foot drops into a ravine, with a maybe 1' curb made out of a few stones along the edge. We overstressed the brakes (the heat alarm went off) and when I tried using the transmission for braking that heat alarm went off too. Mrs. Goofy was yelling "You're too close to the edge" while I was yellow "but I just missed that guy coming the other way by 6". We saw two RV accidents on the drive through: one had run off the road (onto the "high side" not over a cliff) and the other two RV's sideswiped each other.) We both had massive headaches by the time it was all over. Much better would have been to park in a nice friendly campground outside, and drive the car through to sightsee.
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Living in Northern CA, over the years we've been into Yosemite many times, from the earliest trip, sleeping in the car after watching the fire falls they used to do, to Tent cabins, to hardside cabins, the Lodge, or even staying at the Ahwahnee...

But mostly in an earlier 5th wheel, to lately our 28' Keystone... Small is best, the campsite roads are very old, narrow, and maneuvering into some of the sites can be a real challenge, even with the smaller trailer..

We stay as many days as we can, usually 2 or 3 nights, so time to get out on the trails, hikes, but also time to maybe splurge on dinner at either the Lodge's Steakhouse, or maybe Brunch at the Ahwahnee...

We used to get in there a couple times a years, sometimes with other family, but on our own as well..

We've towed on over Tioga from the NV side, sometimes as a shortcut on the way home, or to spend time camping, hiking up in Tuolome Meadows...

So many trails, so many hikes, we've been there in 'busy' times and off season as well.. If you head off on the trails, the crowds fade behind, forgotten, other than the Valley floor... The bus service is great, handy, no need to drive other than heading out to remote trailheads..

Many great memories in there as well as Hetch Hetchy next door... Haven't been in a while, need to do it!

weco
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