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I’ve said before that I hate camping. HATE it. Staying in a tent with no electricity or bathroom is NOT my idea of vacation. It’s something you do when you have no other choice. And of course, as travel hackers, we have many choices. That’s the beauty of this hobby: getting to experience things that are otherwise not attainable to an average joe.
However, there is a sophisticated form of camping: traveling in an RV or a motorhome, a compromise for “fancy pants” folks. Now that I can do! Sure, you still have to deal with limited space, but at least there is A/C, shower and a toilet, plus a real (though usually mediocre) mattress.
My husband loves camping and his best travel memories are of roaming around the West in a cheap pop-up. He’s even mentioned buying one of those on Craigslist. Unfortunately, cheap pop-ups don’t come with bathroom, shower or A/C. On top of it, you have to insure them, pay for license and tag, plus store them in the yard from then on. All just so you can take them out for a spin once or twice per year. No way, Jose! The solution? Rent.
I’m sure there are other companies, but Cruise America (has nothing to do with water cruises) is the one I’m familiar with. They’ve been in business for a long time and have 124 locations around the country. If you have some flexibility, you can score some amazing bargains by keeping an eye on their Hot Rental Deals page.
This is a great bargain, no doubt about it. As you can see, you are allowed a total of 8 nights at this price, so you can potentially do a detour to Nevada before dropping off your unit in Arizona. Of course, this deal is mostly good for families with flexible schedule. Unless you are going during Spring Break, taking the kids out of school is not an option for most of us.
But what about getting back to Florida? Southwest or other airline to the rescue, of course. You can mix and match your travel transportation options, there is no law that prevents it.
Renting an RV at a regular price
Not all of us want to spend 8 nights in an RV, roaming around Arizona. Personally, I’m interested in renting it for three nights max. I don’t think I can last longer than that in a confined space with my two crazy kids. For us, the place that would be the obvious choice is Disney’s Fort Wilderness, a cadillac of campgrounds.
My husband and his sister stayed there with kids in a tent a few times, and they both said it’s way too hard to set everything up.
So, bringing an RV would be a decent compromise. It wouldn’t be cheap during high season, I’ll tell you that. Minimum rental period is usually 3 nights. Here is what an RV would run during March of 2018 (the peak of Spring Break):
Ouch! Then you have to pay around $300 to rent a campground lot for three nights. So, once you add the fees, you are looking at spending more than $1,000 (with fees for kits etc). It’s still less compared to renting a cabin in Fort Wilderness, but not by a whole lot. This is definitely not a dirt cheap vacation by any stretch of imagination.
However, the rate is way more palatable at the end of May:
Much better! So, assuming you rent a full-hookup site for $300 and pay $300 for an RV (with fees), the price works out to be around $200 per night, which is somewhat reasonable. Since we live in Florida, we would bring our own supplies and sheets. Sure, you can get a hotel for much less, but you are paying for a unique experience. My kids are begging us to buy an RV (which we absolutely can not afford), so this would be the next best thing.
I’m also seriously considering renting an RV so we could stay at Lion Country Safari campground. We visited the park a year ago, and really enjoyed it. It would be neat to hear lions roar in the morning. Who needs to go to Africa? This is cheaper and just as good! OK, I’m kidding, of course.
The logistics of picking up an RV would be a bit challenging. We would probably have to ask my in-laws to drop us off and pick us up in Fort Myers Cruise America location. Then we would start our long trek to the opposite coast. I read on Cruise America website that some locations will let you leave your vehicle on their lot, so that’s another option. In that case, we could drive to Delray beach Cruise America franchise, which is located about 30 minutes from Lion Country Safari.
Of course, if you plan on flying to Orlando and staying at Fort Wilderness, you wouldn’t have any issues. Just take a taxi from the airport or Uber your way to the rental location, and go from there.
Update: Nancy mentioned to me that there are companies that will bring an RV to the lot and set everything up in Fort Wilderness campground. Interesting! I found Fort Wilderness RV Rentals via Google search and 6 nights+ rates aren’t too bad.
Credit cards to help you pay for your RV rental
The charge from Cruise America should code as transportation. That will make it eligible for $300 annual credit from Chase Sapphire Reserve. Update: reader Ben has mentioned in the comments that the charge did not code as travel purchase on his CSR statement. Calling Chase and asking them to apply it manually might work.
Of course, if you are looking to apply for a sign-up bonus, you have many options. Check my Hot Deals page for cash and travel rebate offers.
Aside from cashback bonuses, the most obvious choices are Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and Capital One Venture Rewards and you can see more details on them in my linked page. Both pay us commission if you choose to support the site.
Unless you snag a super deal on a moving Cruise America special, you should probably plan to shell out a good bit of money, especially if traveling during high season. In all likelihood, you can travel hack a hotel room for much less. However, you probably won’t be hearing a roaring lion in the morning if you do!
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Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.