The Complete Guide to Planning a Summer RV Trip

Amelia ArvesenApril 5, 2024

The Complete Guide to Planning a Summer RV Trip

Whether you have a long weekend off, a full week of vacation to cash in on, or a month or more of flexibility, summer is when your wanderlust begs the loudest for your attention.  Answer the call and give yourself a much-deserved break. You have our permission to take a summer RV trip.

If you’re wondering where to begin planning, or if you need help rounding out your trip, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve pulled together the “what to bring,” “where to go,” and “why to take an RV” of getting on the road this summer—from a cross-country road trip that hits all the sightseeing spots or a fun-filled weekend exploring a nearby campground. Summer is the time to do it.

RVs For Rent Near You

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5 Reasons to Go On a Summer RV Trip

Feet out the window on summer road trip

1. Catch up with friends and familyWhen you’re traveling with family or friends, there’s something special about the connections that form and the conversations that flow while away from distractions and out in nature. If you’ve been meaning to visit faraway friends or family, consider meeting them at a halfway point for an epic get together. Or if you live in the same place, pack into one vehicle or leave together as a caravan. 

2. Have the flexibility to shift plansWithout airline tickets or hotel accommodations, you aren’t on someone else’s timeline. Being on your own schedule means you can feel uninhibited to roam or stay put, take a nap or take out the paddleboard. Book a ranger-led tour, or don’t. Unplug and unwind instead, if that’s what you need.

3. Visit places you’ve never seen before—Rather than planning a trip around one landmark, in an RV you can see them all, plus surprises along the way. Because you’re not tied to a single place, you can plot out a route that stops by a new destination each day. And while you’re on the road, we highly recommend pulling over for lookouts and points of interest to add spontaneity to your journey. 

4. Chase the best weather—Temps forecasted to exceed 90 degrees? Again, because you’re not committed to a hotel or other reservations, you can escape. If one particular location experiences a heat wave, it’s easy to pick up and move somewhere cooler when you’re in an RV. 

5. RVing is affordable—For a family of four, RV vacations can have a cost savings of over 50% compared to other options. That’s enough to double the length of your trip. Even if you’re renting an RV, you’ll save money on plane tickets, meals, and activities. Free forms of fun include playing a game of cards together as a family, hammocking by the lake with a novel, and hiking to waterfalls and swimming holes.

Steps For Planning Your Summer RV Trip

Set a budget

You may be on vacation, but your bank account isn’t. In order to stay within your means and not spend in excess, calculate your expected expenses for fuel, accommodations, meals, activities, and any other potential costs. Set a budget to ensure you can afford your road trip and consider ways to save money, such as packing your own food or choosing free activities. Luckily, a summer RV trip is a wallet-friendly way to vacation, so you’ve already made a wise choice.

Choose a destination and route

Make a listFirst, write down everyone’s preferred road trip destinations on a list. Disneyland? Sure. Redwood forests? Add it. Don’t discourage ideas or cross any out just yet. Think of places you’d want to visit again and places you’ve never been. Let that list be long. 

Analyze the listThen, once everybody has added their two cents, analyze that list geographically. Based on the destinations, would it be possible to map out a loop? Or are the destinations better seen as a point-to-point trip? Are they all in one state? Or do they cross state lines?

Narrow it downNow it’s time to create a route. Consider how much time you have, whether it’s a weekend, an entire week, or the whole summer. Unless your calendar is completely clear, you probably won’t be able to see everything. But as you’re plotting spots, try to include at least one recommendation from everyone on the trip. That way, they feel included in the planning process and excited about the journey ahead.

Book accommodations 

Search for RVs that meet your needs. Some of our most popular filters are for pet-friendly and family-friendly rigs. You can also browse rigs by make and model, amenities like bathrooms and wifi, number of seatbelts and beds, and price. If you’d prefer not to drive, we have a filter for that too. Opt for delivery and your host will set up your rental at your preferred destination. 

And don’t forget to make reservations at RV parks or campgrounds, and as backup, bookmark our handy guide to finding a site near the National Parks when their campgrounds are full.

Plan activities

Choosing how we get to spend our days off is our favorite step. Mountain biking or hiking? Swimming or kayaking? Or what about all the above? Consider mixing in a few things that you like to do as a family and a few things that are out of your comfort zone. If your family usually likes to hike and fish on most vacations, plan a few days of that. Then add in a day or more of surprises by booking an adventure guide, joining a tour, or renting equipment for a new sport. 

Don’t have the right gear? You’ll be delighted to discover that many Outdoorsy hosts offer experiential add-ons like bikes, kayak, SUPs, racks, ground tents, and more to help you achieve your outdoor goals.

Make sure to build in a few days of leisure and factor driving time into your itinerary so you’re not rushing from place to place. What have you and your family always wanted to do? 

Research your route

Once you know where you’re going, do some further research. Are there any travel restrictions where you’re going? Is there going to be an event that will impact your visit? Do you need to get permits to hike in a certain area? Are there wildfires nearby and therefore campfires aren’t allowed? Make sure to know as many of these details as you can before you go. Of course, you can’t plan for everything and that’s why it’s called an adventure. But you can try! 

RV camping by a lake

Things To Bring

Summer calls for seasonal gear to deal with the hotter temperatures and higher UV rays. And don’t forget the bugs. This isn’t an exhaustive packing list (you can find one of those here), but these are just a few extra things you should consider bringing along this summer.Extra water


Bug netting

Bug spray

-Sun layers and hats


Water shoes




Cooler/ice chest

Top Summer RV Trip Destinations

Based on Outdoorsy data, RV travel trends, the best summer weather, and popular hotspots, we’ve listed a few destinations across North America for your summer travels. 

Utah’s Mighty Five

Take a tour of five National Parks, all in one trip: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce. Each has its own unique geology and topography that is sure to wow you. These spots can get scorched during the day and brisk at night, so plan accordingly. Delights along the way include national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Mileage: 358 miles one way

Where to stay: North Campground in Bryce, King’s Bottom Campground in Moab, Fruita Campground in Teasdale, and more spots

RVs to rent in Utah

Texas: Galveston to Port Aransas 

Stay close to the water when it’s hot out by traveling the length of the Texas coastline. Hop to a new beach or marsh each day, cool off in the ocean, and shop and dine in the cute towns along Highway 35. If you have more than a few days to spend along the shore, you can even extend your drive about 200 more miles by jetting to South Padre Island.

Mileage: 210 miles one way (or 410 if you continue on to South Padre Island)

Where to stay: Camping is available at Galveston Island State Park and Goose Island State Park

RVs to rent near Galveston

Southwest Colorado

Bayfield, Durango, Ouray, Telluride, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, all accessible from Highway 160. The San Juan Mountains are somethin’ extra special, with charming mountain towns clustered along the way. It’s an utter paradise for hikers, bikers, anglers, paddlers, and RVers. Tackle a little bit of road each day to make the most of each spot.

Mileage: 490 miles one way

Where to stay: Outdoorsy Bayfield is in the middle of everything—and with everything you need. Hookups, laundry facilities, showers, green open space, a camp store, merch, fishing, and community.

RVs to rent in Southwest Colorado

The Trans-Canada Highway

Spanning from Vancouver to Banff, this route only gives you a taste of Canada’s natural beauty and vastness. You could spend a whole month on this route, but you can also accomplish it in a week. You’ll just have to return for more. Highlights include Glacier and Banff National Parks, Saskatchewan, Thunder Bay, and Montreal and Quebec City. Get your fill on nature and cities. 

Mileage: 530 miles one way

Where to stay: Capilano River RV Park in Vancouver and Burnaby Cariboo RV Park in Burnaby

RVs to rent near Vancouver

Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Parkway goes on and on and on, over ridges, through valleys, and between gaps of Virginia and North Carolina’s famed mountains, the counterpart to the Rocky Mountains. This road was originally created as a recreational road to connect Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and today it remains in use as designated.

Mileage: 469 miles one way

Where to stay: Camping is available across eight reservable campgrounds, including Mount Pisgah

RVs to rent in Virginia and North Carolina

Vermont Route 100

Travel almost the entire length of Vermont to experience quintessential New England, complete with farm stands and country stores selling cider. And don’t forget to pick up some maple syrup as a keepsake. 

Mileage: 216 miles one way

Where to stay: Peruse our list of Vermont campgrounds and RV parks

RVs to rent in Vermont

Ready for summer now?! While it’s important to have a plan, be prepared to adapt and make changes as needed during your road trip. Unexpected delays, weather conditions, or changes in circumstances may require you to alter your itinerary. But remember that the journey is just as important as your destination. Take time to enjoy the scenery, try new experiences, and make memories along the way. Embrace the adventure of your summer road trip! 

RVs For Rent Near You

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Amelia Arvesen, Outdoorsy Author

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