Studies show travel is extremely beneficial for brain, social, and overall health of older adults. However, many people I speak to, especially those with specific home routines and health concerns, find the typical vacation itinerary doesn’t quite suit their comfort. This is why I often suggest people look into RV travel, which provides everything needed for vacations that don’t sacrifice on creature comforts.
Let’s take a look at the different types of RVs on the market and what the RV can provide seniors.
What Exactly Is an RV?
The RV, short for ‘recreational vehicle,’ is a vehicle with a living space attached. RV’s broaden into different categories, such as motorhomes, campervans, truck campers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, and pop-ups. With over 11 million owners in the U.S., RVs are very much a popular option for today’s seniors, and buying an RV is a relatively simple process.
There are plenty of RV options that allow you to keep your living quarters attached to your vehicle—no towing necessary. There are three main types of motorized RVs: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A motorhomes are on the larger end of RV choices, ranging from around 26 to 45 feet in length. These vehicles can sleep up to eight people and have extra room for standing, moving about, and activities. Most come equipped with a small kitchen area, a shower, and a toilet. However, you’ll find most motorhomes on the market today have luxury upgrades such as air-conditioning, heating, televisions, surround-sound speakers (interior and exterior), built-in recliners, and more.
Price: Most new Class A motorhomes start at ~$50,000 to ~$100,00. Ultra-luxury models fetch prices upwards of $400,000.
Class B motorhomes, also called “campervans,” are mid-size RV’s which pack a living space into a cargo van. At just under 20 feet, most Class B motorhomes can comfortably sleep 2-4. Although they commonly include a sitting room, kitchenette, and toilet, these amenities are usually quite compact so to fit within the frame. Class B motorhomes can be purchased; however, some RVers choose to build-out their own cargo van by making their own modifications or having a specialist install an RV kit into the vehicle.
Price: New models start around $90,000. DIY campervans can vary in price and require personal know-how or a specialist.
If you’re new to RVing or on a fixed income and not quite ready to make a big investment, Class C will probably be the best option for you. Class C motorhomes are built on the base frame of a van but are typically larger than Class B models. These motorhomes usually have a slide-out, or extra storage or sitting space that can be collapsed prior to travel. Class C’s usually have amenities, such as toilets, which can be used during transit––which adds convenience for longer trips.
Price: You can find most Class C RV’s within the $50,000 – $100,00 range.
Outside of motorized RV’s, there is a multitude of options for tow-alongs. This category includes truck campers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, and pop-ups. Let’s take a closer look at each of these options.
If you have access to a pickup truck, truck campers are a convenient option for camping getaways. Truck campers are specifically shaped to fit snugly in a truck bed and over its cab.
Though these campers are popular among couples, some have the capabilities to accommodate up to six people! Most truck campers will have a large sleeping area as well as a small living space. However, many models include compact kitchenettes and/or bathrooms.
Price: Newer models will range from $5,000 to upwards of $50,000 for luxury options.
These hard-sided towable campers are the most popular in the towable category and come in an extensive range of sizes and layouts. For example, you can choose a tiny “teardrop” camper, which consists of little more than a crawl-in bed and outdoor kitchenette. On the other hand, you can find larger travel trailers that can house the whole family. Many travel trailers can be towed with a small to midsize SUV. As the most popular and varied group of RV’s, there are plenty of options to find an RV suited closely to your needs.
Price: $10,000 to $35,000
On the larger end of towable RV’s, fifth-wheels require a truck to tow, as they are often quite heavy and include an extension that hangs over the truck bed. Fifth-wheels campers are a great option for those who require more space for storage, sleeping, and lounging. With plenty of layout options and living space, these RVs are a great option to consider if you are looking to use your camper as a second home or plan to camp for an extended time in a particular area.
Price: $30,000 to $100,000
This type of RV is great for those who would like to dabble in the RV lifestyle, but are not quite yet to commit to a larger investment (such as a motorhome). Pop-up campers can sometimes be towed by smaller cars, so check the owner’s manual or salesperson for information.
Pop up campers are relatively small RVs compared to other towables. These campers can be either soft-sided (like a tent) or hard-sided and collapse into a small, towable square. There is a wide range of sizes and weights. Most models double in size once they “pop-up,” revealing sleeping and lounging space (and sometimes even a kitchen area)! While browsing pop-ups, be sure to take note of how much labor is involved in setting up each model: some will require more physical strength than others.
Price: $5,000- $20,000
Renting Vs Purchasing an RV
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to purchasing an RV, or if you’d like to try before you buy, renting an RV is a great idea. By renting an RV prior to purchasing, you can get a better feel for what size, layout, and amenities you may be looking for, how towing and setting up an RV works, and what towing or driving an RV is like. As RV’s are a major purchase, I personally recommend seniors try renting before purchasing––especially if they’ve never been on an RV trip before.
New Vs Pre-Owned
If you are already committed to the idea of purchasing an RV, I highly recommend scouring your local classifieds ads and online marketplaces for pre-owned options. Though you may be more restricted in terms of layout and amenities choices, you can save a great deal on even newer RV models by buying pre-owned.
Expert Tip: Be careful when browsing for pre-owned RV’s––especially online. As RV sales continue to rise in the U.S, so do scams targeting those with inexperience in the territory. Be sure to do your research on what is being offered. If the offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
RV Travel Ideas for Seniors
The great thing about RV trips is that they can be focused on a destination or the journey itself. From coastlines and mountain ranges to historic routes and National Parks, there are endless expeditions you can take with your motorhome!
Blue Ridge Parkway
Often considered “America’s favorite drive,” Blue Ridge Parkway is also America’s longest linear park! Situated along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this route winds through North Carolina and Virginia, connecting Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way, you can hit spots such as the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC, and the Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County, VA. The parkway also touts plenty of camping options with breathtaking views.
You can still “get your kicks” on this infamous relic of the original U.S. highway system. Though U.S. Route 66 was removed from the U.S. Highway system in 1985, you can still follow much of the preserved route using a map or following the “Historic Route” signage along the way. The length of the route runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, with popular stopping points including the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas, and the Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona.
By taking a circular route, you can visit all of 5 of these North American freshwater beauties. Along the way, you can visit a plethora of lighthouses, see Niagara Falls, and drive through parts of Canada. There are many possible routes for visiting all (or some) of the Great Lakes, with lots of national parks and waterside camping along the way.
For this trip, you can travel as far south as the Mexican border and then up close to the Canadian border (or stretch of road in-between). Hugging the greens and blues of the great Pacific Coast, you may choose to stop in any part of western California, Oregon, or Washington. Stop to see a multitude of infamous American sights, such as the Redwood Forest National Park or Olympic National Park.
FYI: While planning your RV trip, be on the lookout for senior discounts at campsites, restaurants, and roadside attractions. Chain campgrounds, such as KOA, offer discount cards and special discounts for frequent travelers. If you plan to partake in outdoor activities, you may also want to consider a senior national parks pass.
We’ve covered the most popular types of RV’s out there and what seniors can expect from the RV experience. With nearly one-third of RV owners identifying as senior citizens, an RV is definitely something to consider if you’d like to add enrichment to your life and travels or add comfort and convenience to solo, couple, or family trips.
The majority of U.S. states do not require a special license to tow RVs. Though larger RVs may require you to drive a larger vehicle than you are used to, which may pose some challenges, RVs are generally easy to tow. If you are still concerned, you can hire a towing service or take a vehicle towing class.
This all depends on the size and weight of the camper you are towing. While larger RVs, such as fifth-wheels, require a large truck, other smaller campers, like pop-ups, may be towed with a sedan. When considering possible RV options, be sure to check your vehicle’s towing capacity. You can do this through many online services, as well as via your local car dealership or with help of an RV salesperson.
It is very important to be cognizant of the parking rules in destinations along your route. While some cities allow street parking for RVs with the use of a temporary permit, others prohibit it completely. If you are on a long trip, you may want to park for longer periods of time in places like rest stops, truck stops, or larger chain restaurants and retailers (such as Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, Cabela. Always be sure to check online or with an employee before you park, especially if you plan to leave your RV for any amount of time.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here