It's not too early to start planning your summer road trip. I'm already doing the same, and this time around, instead of driving and shopping for rooms on Hotwire at the last minute, I'm checking out a tantalizing alternative -- renting an RV.
Normally, I wouldn't think of driving anything this tall, wide and square for anything but a crosstown move. But after seeing a dozen or so rental RVs from CruiseAmerica plying the highways, it seems a little less daunting.
The biggest RV renter in the country, the Arizona-based company has an easy-to-use online site, as well as 130 rental locations around the country. They offer rentals as well as sales of used RVs, along with a palette of options for your trip. There are roundtrip, one-way and fly-in rentals; compact, standard and large RVs, as well as "FunMover" vans; and a choice of pickup locations in major metro areas.
Rental fees aren't cheap -- a last-minute, two-week rental for today out of the D.C. suburbs runs about $1400, not including a 32-cents-per-mile charge on top of the rental, not to mention fuel and RV parks fees. Insurance is figured separately, but does offer a $500 deductible and $1 million in liability insurance.
You can also buy a used RV from CruiseAmerica, but be prepared to spend as much as a used BMW, if you've never priced this kind of vehicle. There aren't many bargains in this sphere, and CruiseAmerica's selection shows prices from about $15,000 to $44,000. The company offers a neat plan for European customers to buy an RV and sell it back to the company after a long U.S. vacation, taking advantage of the strong Euro.
The CruiseAmerica Web site is clean and easy to use, and also offers travel tips and vacation ideas. It's a good idea to go in with flexible dates, particularly if you plan on traveling during the summer. Check it out if you're looking for alternatives to the family truckster -- or just a way to sleep on the side of the road legally.