Ever think about taking an RV vacation? You aren't alone. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RV shipments for 2012 are expected to be more than 277,000, a 10 percent increase since 2010, and early projections for 2013 are for nearly 290,000 shipments, another 4.5 percent increase over this year. The vast majority (90 percent) of new RV purchases are so-called "towables," which start at about $8,000; motorhomes start at about $55,000.
If you're eager to give RV camping a try, renting is, of course, your best intro, and over the years Budget Travel editors have compiled a number of tips to ease newbies into the driver's seat:
What to expect: The most popular RV rental is the class C "cabover" model, which starts at about 22 feet long and has a front that resembles a pickup truck and a double-bed loft over the driver's seat. Most RVs come with a small sink, refrigerator, stove, and microwave.
How many people will fit? A 25-foot class C cabover model will sleep three adults and two young children. Larger classes (B and C) may hold up to seven people.
How much does it cost? RV rental rates fluctuate the way conventional car rental rates do, depending on time of travel, rental model, and when you make your reservation. In general, the earlier you make the reservation the better the rate, but you should expect to pay at least $100 per day once you factor in the daily rate, taxes, fees, and mileage.
License and insurance: You can rent an RV with your regular driver's license, and insurance will work the same as for rental cars, typically covered by your credit card or auto insurance.
Where to park: RVs are welcomed at more than 16,000 campgrounds in the U.S., often in state and national parks. Fees typically start at $10 per night (where you'll get a parking spot and possibly a barbecue grill) and go up to about $50 (pricier campgrounds will generally offer more amenities, such as laundry facilities, hot showers, and playgrounds). RV parks should have water and electricity hookups and somewhere to empty your sewage.
In a pinch: You can often park your RV in a Walmart parking lot; just check the signage to make sure it's cool with that particular store.
Know before you go: Plan out an RV-friendly route using GPS so that you don't run into overhead clearance problems or routes that don't allow propane tanks.
Consider bringing bicycles: Think about it. You don't want to have to pack up the RV every time you want to look for a trailhead or trout stream, right? But if you're going to park your RV for a few days, be sure to run the engine for a few minutes each day to keep the battery charged.
Talk to us! Have you been bitten by the RV bug? We'd love to hear your best stories and road-tested tips.