The Hambricks live in South Florida raising their daughters who are three and four years old. They believe in raising global citizens and providing their children with as many experiences as possible. Their motto is “if kids live there, kids can visit,” and you’ll often find them exploring far-flung destinations.
Our First Lessons in Driving an RV
Monet & James Hambrick
As a family, we have always dreamed of going on an RV road trip. With most aspects of our life, our motto is, “Go big or go home,” so for our first RV trip we went really big. We decided our first RV road trip would be an eight-day journey exploring the national parks of Utah and Arizona.
To test out RV travel before purchasing, we rented one. The process was easy and the rental included insurance and roadside assistance to put us at ease during our maiden journey. We picked up our Jayco Redhawk rental from the owner’s home in Las Vegas. He ran us through everything we needed to know, and after an hour we were ready to hit the road.
After an uneventful two-hour drive from Las Vegas, our first stop was Zion National Park.
We thought we had done all the research we needed to make our RV trip successful, but when we arrived to the park, we hit our first roadblock. There was a tunnel to exit Zion and we knew that RVs taller than 11’ 4” or wider than 7’ 10” needed to pay $15 for a permit., but we misunderstood their hours of operation.
We chose Upper Antelope Canyon as it looked easier to navigate with kids. The natural beauty left us all speechless.
Vehicles that required a permit had to exit via the tunnel by 4:30 p.m. that day, hours before the sun set. If we didn’t exit by this time we would have to make a two-hour detour. If we had known we could’ve booked an RV park on the other side of the tunnel, allowing us to enjoy the whole day in Zion, but no harm done.
The next day, we drove an hour and twenty minutes to Bryce Canyon. With so many stunning and unique features, this ended up being our favorite National Park. There are so many hiking trails here that you can do, even with young children.
In our research, we saw conflicting information on whether RV campsite reservations were necessary. As planners we wanted to make our reservations in advance to avoid any hiccups—and we’re so glad we did! For instance, a campsite near Bryce Canyon came well-recommended, but if we’d just shown up, we’d have found it closed. With spotty cell service in the area, we would’ve had no idea where to go next, but thanks to a little preparation we had a solid place to camp for the night.
Our next stop was Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. You can easily do both in one day with their close proximity. We first visited Horseshoe Bend, and while there was plenty of RV parking, we quickly learned throughout the rest of our trip that regular vehicles often disregard these signs. We learned to adjust our plan on the fly and that we may need to park further away than we’d expected.
Antelope Canyon is on the private land of the Navajo Tribe and you can’t drive here yourself, you’ll need to book a tour to visit. The company we booked through had plenty of RV parking. We chose Upper Antelope Canyon as it looked easier to navigate with kids. The natural beauty left us all speechless. There are a few RV parks to choose from in the area, but if you’re looking for an amazing view, definitely book the Lake Powell Wahweap RV & Campground.
From Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, we made our way to Monument Valley. You cannot travel through the valley with an RV. Your options are to go on a guided tour or explore on a four-wheeler. There is plenty of RV parking on-site, however, if you just want to look out into the valley or leave your RV while you take a tour.
We made our final stop at the Grand Canyon. It was here we learned that you should really know how to check the amount of propane you have left in your tank. It’s just as important to know the nearest place to get propane and their hours of operation. After a full day exploring the canyon, we began cooking dinner. Midway through, the stove shut off. Next, we lost the heat. With temperatures supposed to drop into the 20s overnight, we needed to refill our propane tank, but the station nearby had already closed for the evening.
Thankfully, the RV owner we rented from had a space heater tucked away that we used to stay warm through the night. Even though the next day was Thanksgiving, we lucked out and the nearby station was open so we could refill our tank.
Here are a few things we would recommend to any first-time RV traveler:
Understand the different types of RVs. Before looking at RV rentals, it’s important to understand the different types. You have the option of renting a Class A, Class B, or Class C RV. These three options let you drive and sleep in the same vehicle.
Record your walkthrough. As first-time renters who had never driven an RV before, we were so thankful we had recorded the RV owner giving us the walkthrough. There were many times we needed to do something and didn’t remember exactly what he told us when we picked it up. Having the video recording allowed us to hear the tips and know exactly which button to press or where to find something.
Know the height of your RV and research any tunnels on your route. Approaching a tunnel or bridge is not the time to figure out if your RV rental is under the height limit. Know the exact measurements of your RV rental before you plan your route.
Map out where you can purchase propane on your route. In many RVs, propane is used for heating and to operate the stove and oven. You do not want to run out of propane on a cold night or when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need to cook. Propane tanks can only be filled by professionals and not all propane facilities will fill up RV tanks. While our mishap was short-lived, earlier in our trip a couple told us the story of having to drive two hours each way to fill their propane on a cold night. No thank you.
If you don’t know, ask for help! No one expects you to know everything. We found the RV community extremely nice and willing to help. Our first night hooking up, we weren’t totally sure about something and knocked on a neighbor’s door in 20-degree weather. He helped us and reassured us that if we needed anything else, he’d be there.
Even with a few hiccups, we had the most amazing time on our first RV trip. Now that we’re hooked, we already have our next RV road trip planned.
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