What it was like to rent an RV for $1 a day from California to Texas during the pandemic
Ever since my husband and I rented an RV for $1 a day in 2018, we’ve talked about doing it again. So, when a six-night relocation rental appeared from Los Angeles to Dallas for $1 a day, we booked it. After all, we're constantly looking for ways to self-isolate since as full-time digital nomads we don't have a place of our own.
I’ve previously described how to find and relocate an RV inexpensively. And, other TPG writers have described what you should know before your first RV rental as well as tips for taking a road trip during the coronavirus pandemic. So, today I’ll instead describe what it was like relocating an RV from California to Texas during the coronavirus pandemic.
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RVing allows distancing
Travel isn’t the right choice for everyone right now. After all, traveling generally means you’ll interact with other people more than you would if you stayed home. And, this increased interaction puts both you and those you interact with at risk. But, once you’re set up in your RV, it’s usually possible to maintain adequate distancing from others.
During this rental, we enjoyed having a full bathroom and a well-equipped kitchen on board. After all, we didn’t need to use public bathrooms or campground restrooms since we had a toilet and shower on board. And, we didn’t need to eat at restaurants since we could cook in our kitchen.
We visited Rocky Mountain National Park shortly before we picked up the RV. And, compared to staying in a hotel and using a rental car while visiting the park, we found we were able to distance and isolate much better while traveling by RV.
Related: Maximizing points and miles on road trips
But, complete distancing isn’t possible
However, complete physical distancing isn’t possible when RVing. At the very least, you still need to check-in to RV campgrounds, refuel your vehicle and shop for groceries. And, patrons weren’t wearing masks or maintaining distancing at some grocery stores, gas stations and campgrounds.
Additionally, you’ll usually need to fly or drive on either or both ends of a relocation rental. In our case, we flew to Los Angeles and took an Uber to the pick-up point before the rental. And, a friend picked us up after the rental. Then, we stayed in Dallas for a few nights before flying to Tampa. So, despite distancing while RVing, we still needed to interact closely with various people before and after the RV rental.
Related: Don’t make these 5 mistakes when buying your first RV
You may want previous experience RVing
Before our first RV rental in 2018, a rental agent walked us through our RV to explain all the details and answer our questions. But, for this rental, we were sent a video to watch and then essentially handed the keys in Los Angeles. Of course, we were able to ask some questions. But, the agent wasn’t able to enter the vehicle with us due to coronavirus policies. So, this made it impossible to get a guided introduction to our rental RV.
If you decide to rent an RV during the coronavirus pandemic, I suggest researching how the various features of your RV work before picking up your RV. And, read all of the documentation provided with the RV before leaving the rental lot. After all, especially with physical interaction avoided as much as possible, the agent may not tell you everything you need to know.
Related: How to use your decrepit RV to get free hotel nights
Policies vary at the city, county and state level
Each city, county and state has its own coronavirus policies. And, some cities and states require travelers to quarantine. Although these quarantine requirements often only apply to select travelers arriving by air, it's worth checking current requirements when planning your route. After all, quarantining won't fit well into the time allocated for most relocation rentals.
Likewise, some areas may have strict stay-at-home orders or road closures. For example, Grand Canyon National Park visitors will currently need to enter through the park's South entrance. This is because Navajo Nation lockdowns have closed Highway 64 near the Desert View entrance.
Finally, some areas don't require or enforce mask usage. For example, we picked up food from a restaurant in Arizona where multiple workers weren't wearing masks. So, depending on your risk tolerance, you may want to carefully select where you stop for groceries, food and fuel.
Related: Planning a trip? Why your travel plans should be flexible right now
Closed parks, campgrounds and rest areas
Many of the state parks in New Mexico have partially or completely closed. So, these parks aren't an option currently for camping. And, some campgrounds only allowed guests that wouldn't need to use the campground's restrooms. However, potentially due to the high temperatures along our route, none of the campgrounds reached capacity during our trip.
And, we passed multiple temporarily closed rest areas. Luckily, we didn't need to use public bathrooms during our road trip since our RV was well-equipped. But, a rest area can be a good place to stop with your RV if you want to switch drivers or take a quick break. After all, rest areas usually have ample parking for large vehicles and are easy to enter and exit.
Related: Why this camping loyalty program is worth its $33 fee
National park campgrounds that are open may have space
I've lucked into snagging last-minute national park campground reservations in the past. But, campgrounds at most of the best U.S. national parks often fill up quickly. As a result, getting a reservation often requires luck or planning.
However, I found ample availability in Trailer Village when I searched about two weeks before my trip. So, I was able to stay in Grand Canyon National Park for two nights during this rental. And, I found at least scattered campground availability this summer and fall at several other popular national parks.
But, some national park campgrounds are closed or aren't accepting new reservations. For example, Timber Creek Campground is closed in Rocky Mountain National Park. And, Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park isn't accepting new reservations and is only open to campers with existing reservations.
If camping isn't your jam, there's also surprising availability and deals at many national park lodges. And, there are plenty of options to stay near national parks using points. So, now may be a good time to take a national park road trip.
Related: 9 things to know about visiting a national park right now
The roads aren’t empty
TPG's Benet Wilson experienced very light traffic when she drove from Maryland to Texas in late April. But, this wasn't the case on my trip. There was ample trucker traffic along my route, as well as plenty of passenger vehicles along most stretches of road. Although we did experience a few stretches where no vehicles were in sight, this is relatively common even during normal times on isolated parts of interstate 40.
Related: 7 mistakes every road tripper makes at least once
Relocation rental opportunities are ample
Whether it's due to increased demand or rental companies moving RVs to be sold, there are ample relocation rentals available currently. When I wrote this story, there were multiple six- and seven-night relocations bookable through imoova.com for $1 a day plus a booking fee. However, travelers often snag relocation rentals within just a couple of hours. So, it's likely that you'll see an entirely different set of relocations if you check now.
But, if you're looking to book an inexpensive RV relocation rental, I highly recommend frequently checking sites like imoova.com and transfercarus.com. Especially if you live in California, Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Arizona or Texas, you'll likely see something of interest appear soon.
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Renting a relocation RV for a $1 a day can be a great way to take a socially distanced vacation. And, if you isolate yourself in the RV, and wear a mask and maintain distancing when you go out, you pose a relatively low risk to the destinations you visit.
But, you may still need to interact with others at grocery stores, campgrounds and gas stations. And, you may need to travel before and/or after your RV rental. Finally, if you're renting an RV for the first time, realize that you may not get an in-person walkthrough of how your RV works due to distancing policies.