As my family and I traversed the rows of recreational vehicles at the recent Chicago Boat, Sports, & RV Show, I began wondering, “What has happened to me?!” It’s a question that’s been running through my head since then, as The Working Dad and I scour the internet for used and/or affordable RVs. “How did I go from being an independent, backpacker-type traveler to being an RV camper? I don’t even know who I am!”
I’m all for camping. I mean, I love it. And normally when I talk about camping, I mean tent camping. Back when I was a cool hiker and backpacker, working in Yellowstone National Park and frolicking in the mountains of Montana, I was known to curl my lip and sneer at the electricity-sucking, loud-motor-running RVs at the campgrounds. I would curse up and down if I were to ever get stuck behind a slow-moving camper trying to make its way up and around the climbing, snaking roads of the American West.
And now, guess what? I’m voluntarily trading in my half-dome backpacking tent for a 4,000-pound, pop-up RV camper.
What has happened to me?
I’ll tell you: I’m all about comfort in my old age. The last few times The Working Dad and I were tent camping, we both slept poorly and woke in the mornings riddled with aches and pains. RVs have beds, with real mattresses! We’ve yet to take our daughter tent camping but I cannot even imagine having to crawl out of the tent in the middle of the night to walk to the campground restroom because my cranky toddler has to pee. RVs have bathrooms with toilets AND showers! But most of all, my little family and I really do love to travel and we want to see as much of the USA and Canada as possible. We have always been budget travelers but having a veritable home-on-wheels will allow us to save on airfare, hotels, and food. We can cook our own meals! Yes, we’ll need more time to drive to our destinations, but luckily The Working Dad and I are blessed with generous vacation time.
And what about the cost of the RV and then gas for these trips? I know that’s what some of you are thinking. Our answers: We’re not looking for a brand new camper, or one of those million-dollar, rock-star tour bus behemoths. Instead, we’ve been shopping around for a used pop-up in relatively good shape (everything we’ve looked at is well under $10,000). The typical pop-up camper features enough space for our family (including a grandparent or three) and is light enough for our standard SUV. We wouldn’t need to also buy a monster truck to haul it. As for the price of gas… campsites, even with electric hook-ups, are half the price of standard hotel rooms. The money we’d spend on hotels will be re-allotted for gas expenses. It’s a fair trade-off for us because, as we see it, traveling with children and having the comforts of home while on the road is invaluable.