Family with map at RV near lake.

The costs of renting an RV can vary depending on the type of rental, how big it is, when you rent and what upgrades you choose. (Getty Images)

With school out for the summer and warm weather the norm nationwide, the months of June, July and August are ideal for a cross-country road trip. Pack up the kids, some snacks and a road map, and you can experience some cross-country fun with little planned and nothing but the open road ahead.

Of course, you don't have to pack your family – and your stuff – in the car to see the world. In lieu of taking the car and stopping at hotels, many families opt to rent an RV instead. While any family road trip can be a load of fun, having a little more room to stretch out can make for a more comfortable, unique experience.

[Read: 4 Tips for Camper Van Vacationing With the Kids.]

But how much does it cost to rent an RV for a summer or fall road trip? According to Kevin Broom, director of media relations at the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the costs of renting an RV can vary depending on the type of rental you want, how big it is, when you rent it and what kind of upgrades you add.

“Renting an RV is similar to renting a car,” Broom says. “You pay a set fee for a specific rental period along with insurance, gas and tolls.”

Most rentals come with a mileage limit, but you usually have the option to purchase additional mileage beforehand. This may sound complicated, but if you know where your road trip will take you, it’s fairly easy to map out how much mileage you’ll need.

Most RV companies tack on charges for a kitchen kit that includes pots, pans, dishes and utensils, as well as a personals kit with sheets, blankets, pillows and towels. Of course, these add-ons are typically optional.

Still, Broom offered a few scenarios to give you an idea of how much you could pay to rent an RV:

A family of four rents a Class C, 25-foot motorhome for seven nights from June 3-10, 2017

  • In Delray Beach, Florida, the cost is approximately $1,000, including tax and a fully outfitted kitchen.
  • In Phoenix, the cost is approximately $1,500, including tax and fully outfitted kitchen.

On top of the rental expense, you’ll need to factor in campground rates for overnight stops. Like RV rentals, campgrounds rates fluctuate based on the season, location (on the beach or lake, near amusement parks and in state or national parks), number of people and campsite amenities.

Once again, here are some sample rates:

  • In Florida at Fort Wilderness (Disney) with full hook-ups (water, sewer, cable), it costs $121 per night plus tax for a family of four from June 3-10.
  • In Arizona at St George/Hurricane KOA with full hook-ups (water, sewer, cable), it costs $53 per night plus tax for a family of four from June 3-10

Some state parks, national parks and Bureau of Land Management properties allow you to camp for free, while others charge a nominal fee. These campgrounds may not have any amenities to hook up to (water, electric, sewer, cable), but they are often located in some of the most beautiful areas to camp.

In addition to RV rental fees and campground dues, you’ll also need to pay for fuel for your RV. This cost can vary tremendously based on the price of gas and the mileage your rental RV gets per gallon.

[See: 5 Epic U.S. Roadtrips for Nature Lovers.]

How to Save on an RV Rental

While some of the costs of renting an RV are hard to control, the nature of renting an RV makes it easy to save money in other ways. According to the RVIA's GoRving.com, one of the easiest ways to save money is to bring your own “extras,” such as a kitchen or personals kit. Bring your own pots, pans, silverware and bedding, and you can save a few hundred dollars on your RV rental right off the bat.

You can also save by researching campground options and selecting affordable choices ahead of time. While it’s easy to assume all camping is frugal, this isn’t always the case.

Higher-end campgrounds often charge higher nightly rates to make up for added amenities like on-site pools and parks, Broom notes. But you can normally save money by choosing state or national parks that have fewer amenities but plenty of outdoor recreation and natural beauty.

Also keep in mind that RV camping makes it easy to save money on food. With a kitchen and cooking tools at your disposal, you can bring your own food and prepare the bulk of your meals. This strategy lets you avoid restaurant meals altogether if you choose.

You can also bring toys, games and sporting equipment with you for no additional charge. Lastly, you can travel with your pets, which can help you save on pet boarding fees. And, depending on the type of trip you choose, you may eliminate the need to pay for airfare.

Consider Quality Time

Renting an RV is the perfect vacation option for families who want to travel slowly without the hassle and stress of airport security and lines. Plus, watching the scenery out of the big front window is a lot like watching a movie. You can see all that nature has to offer, slowly and in real time.

[See: 6 Amazing All-American Road Trips to Take This Summer.]

But the real value of a cross-country road trip can be found in the quality moments these trips create. There’s something special and fun about making s’mores over the fire with your kids, helping them catch fireflies at dusk and getting away from the hustle and bustle of regular life. Most campgrounds have Wi-Fi, but you can choose not to use it if you truly want to get away.

Tags: travel, vacations, family


Holly Johnson writes about travel, credit cards, personal finance and frugality for a wide range of publications including U.S. News, The Indianapolis Star, The Simple Dollar, Lending Tree, Frugal Travel Guy and Wise Bread. Along with her husband, Johnson also runs two personal blogs - Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. Johnson's travel writing revolves around the Caribbean and Europe, with a special focus on family-friendly activities, all-inclusive resorts and unique hotels. Follow Holly Johnson on Twitter @ClubThrifty.

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