For awhile we have talked about renting a Cruise America RV and going camping. Well, what better time than while our traveling options are extremely limited? That way we can still get away for a bit and explore somewhere new, all while still feeling safe and have many of the comforts of home.
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While researching different places we might be able to rent an RV from, we came across Cruise America. One of the reasons they stuck out to us was because they would allow us to bring dogs. Now, my Wrigley does not travel well at all, but mom has 2 little ones that we thought about taking. So, we did our research and booked an RV for an adventure. We ended up not taking the dogs with us this first time because my brothers’ family was joining us and we felt that was just too much for our first trip.
About Cruise America
Cruise America has 45 years of experience with renting RV’s and locations in 33 states (unfortunately none in Iowa, but there were other locations we could choose from). They also have different sized vehicles to help with different sized groups. For this trip, we rented the largest one. If it was just mom and me, then we’d rent a smaller one. You also do not need a special license to be able to drive one. All you need is to be 21 or older with a valid driver’s license. All the drivers must be present when picking up the vehicle and be listed on and sign the rental agreement.
While you’re on the road, you are responsible for checking the tire pressure, oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and windshield wiper fluid whenever you stop for gas. If you need to refill anything, keep your receipts because they will reimburse. There’s a traveler’s assistance number you call if you get in an accident, anything breaks, or get a flat tire. Again, if you need to have repair work done while you’re on the road, they will reimburse for this (you just need approval before you go over $75).
How Much Does it Cost?
When it comes to the actual pricing for the rental, you’ll have a flat nightly rate, and then a fee per miles you drive. Right now the fee is $0.35 a mile. You can get the zero deductible plan for an additional $14.95 a night as well, while supplemental liability insurance is already included in the rental. You can also then purchase a kitchen kit for $110 or a personal kit for $60. On top of these charges you will have tax and an environmental fee.
If you use the generator, there is a fee of $3.50 an hour, which will be calculated when you return. On our trip, we didn’t use the generator once. You’ll really only need it for running the air conditioning in the back, the microwave, or outlets. We simply didn’t use these while we were traveling (we still had the air conditioning in the front cab part), and we stayed at a campsite with a full electric hookup. You can also be charged up to $250 if you do not clean your vehicle, and $50 if you do not empty your waste tanks. Finally, if you are late returning the vehicle the website says there is a fee of $25 per hour. However, when we got our vehicle, they told us that the cost would be one nightly rate and the $25/hour.
All of these charges may change though, so make sure you check out their website for the specific details.
Driving the Cruise America RV
As far as driving goes, it’s definitely different than driving your car. Personally, I did not drive it once. I thought I would, but after a while I decided I definitely did not want to get behind the wheel. The ride was loud and bumpy. You felt everything and heard everything in the back moving around. One of the big things to remember is your vehicle is longer than you’re used to. They recommend that when you’re making a turn, you pull forward so your back tire is past what you’re turning around, and then start turning. This made things a little awkward sometimes as you might cross lanes or stop traffic. By the end of the trip, I realized that perhaps we didn’t have to pull forward as far as we were, but better safe than sorry.
The height is also something to be aware of. Our Cruise America RV was 12 feet tall. There are some roads that may have bridges that are lower than this. Do not be that person that doesn’t pay attention and runs the top of the camper right into the bridge!
If you’re unsure about where you’re going, you could use an app like Smart Truck Route to make sure you’re on roads that meet your height requirements. Speaking of being on the right roads, I know technology is everywhere right now, or so it seems. During this trip, we didn’t go far off the beaten track but were still out of range a couple of times. That is why I was super happy I had printed out our directions as a backup, instead of just planning on using the map on my phone!
Getting to the camping part. Since we rented the large RV, that is what I’ll talk about. Our RV could sleep 7 and had 4 different beds. For this trip, my mother and I shared the bed in the back, which surprisingly worked okay. We both usually like our space. There were cabinets for storage on both sides and above this bed. There were rods so you could hang clothes up. Luckily, I knew that so we brought a few hangers. I would rather have more shelving instead of the rod, but that’s just me. There was a little curtain you could close to make this space more of a bedroom and offer some privacy.
The dining table then folds down into a bed, and the bench seat pulls out to a bed. One of these is supposed to be able to sleep 2, but I really only see that happening if they’re smaller kids, or they really like to snuggle. When I would lay on the beds while putting my nieces to sleep, I could fit on the table/bed, but on the bench/bed, while I could fit, I always felt that the middle was falling in. The fourth bed is above the cab and can sleep two adults as well.
For the amount of time we rented this, the beds were comfortable enough. I would recommend possibly bringing one of those mattress toppers to add another layer to your bed and make it more comfortable though, especially if you’re going to be in there awhile. To get to the bed above the cab you had to do some stepping on the seat for the table to pull yourself up. It wasn’t horrible though, and even the little girls could almost do that themselves (although we didn’t let them).
We brought our own bedding items, but you can get the personal kit which includes: bath towels, dish towels, pillow, pillowcase, sheet, sleeping bag/comforter, and washcloths. I would make sure you check your items before you leave the rental center because it would really stink if you got all the way to your first campsite only to find out you were missing a comforter or something. While we were sure they washed these items, with all of the virus stuff going around, we just felt more comfortable bringing our own. Also, going back to when we picked up the RV, even though we were told it was disinfected before it was turned over to us, we still went around and wiped everything down with disinfecting wipes, just for peace of mind.
In the large RV, the toilet/sink is separate from the shower. In the bathroom, there is a toilet, cabinets, and a sink. The toilet is raised off the ground, so we were glad we had a step stool for the kids. Something we didn’t learn about until the day before we went to pick up our RV was that we needed toilet treatments. My brother was able to swing by a store on his way to meet us at the campground and pick some up though. This helps to break down the waste from the toilet!
The shower was across the hallway and a decent size. In all honesty, we ended up using ours for storage, and no one ever showered in it. You wouldn’t need that storage space, we just knew we weren’t going to use it as a shower. The campground we were at actually had very nice showers so we all used those instead. However, I would assume that the water pressure would be similar to the sinks, which was decent. While there is a sliding door on the shower, you can also then open the bathroom door, and in that position, it makes a little private area with the door on one side and a curtain to the back bedroom area on the other. That way someone would have privacy getting in and out of the shower.
All the Tanks
The large RV has a 40-gallon freshwater tank, but we were hooked up to water at our campsite, so that was not an issue for us ever. The water heater tank was 6 gallons. If someone was going to shower we would have to turn the water heater on and wait a few minutes before there was good warm water. Then there was a 25-gallon sewage tank, and a 22-gallon grey water tank (sink/shower water). There was a control panel in the kitchen area that would tell us the levels of all these tanks. Someone had told us that they may not be 100% accurate, but halfway during our stay, it was showing that our tanks were nearly full. Since we didn’t want to find out what happened if the waste tanks overflowed, we ended up taking the RV up to the dump station.
Keeping Things Cold
The refrigerator ran off propane. Even though we did refill it, we really wouldn’t have needed to because the needle never moved on the gauge. The fridge and freezer were a good size. There were 5 shelves, 2 crisper baskets, and 4 door shelves in the fridge. The freezer had 2 shelves and one door shelf. These doors would clip shut, but sometimes it got left open. One day while we were sitting outside I noticed water coming out of the openings above the propane tank/behind the fridge. I went to check the fridge and it had been left open. So that was helpful knowing if the doors were left open, it would begin to defrost, and the water would come out those slots. We tried to keep things like water bottles in the cooler with ice. That way we didn’t have to be opening and closing these doors often.
Kitchen Space in Cruise America RV
The kitchen space had 3 drawers and 2 cabinets under the countertop. There was a small sink and a 3-burner stovetop. We used the stovetop once I think. Most of our meals were cooked either over the grill, or I had prepared before we left and only needed to be heated up in the microwave. I also had brought my griddle from home, so we hooked that up in the kitchen a couple of times, and then we moved it to outside to our prep table and ran an extension cord to the electric box. Above the sink, there was another cabinet that had our plates, bowls, and mugs secured in them.
We got the kitchen kit to limit the large items we would need to bring. This included: a broom, can opener, carving knife, coffee cups, colander, cooking fork, cooking spoon, cookware, dinner forks, dinner knives, dinner plates, flashlight, mixing bowl, paring knife, soup bowls, soup spoons, spatula, steak knives, tea kettle, teaspoons, and tumblers. I would recommend you go through this kit before you leave. Prior to the trip, I had asked how many of each item we would have and they said enough for 7 since that was what our RV could sleep. When we had everything cleaned and put together in the end we realized we had only gotten 6 of the items that were individually used. So, check before you leave. Better yet, take a picture so at the very end you know exactly what is theirs and what is yours.
A tip that was shared with us was to keep a bowl in the sink so that when we were doing dishes you would simply have the water go into the bowl, and then dump it outside. Another tip that I can now give after going on this trip, is that there are portable waste containers that you can hook up to your vehicle. When it’s full, you simply pull it by hand or hook it up to a hitch, and take it to the dump station. That way, if you’re staying at one site for a while, you don’t have to move the camper to dump. If you were moving sites more often this may not be a problem, but if you’re staying put for a while, it could be annoying.
Storage Space in the Cruise America RV
The amount of storage space was great. In addition to the cabinets I’ve already mentioned, there were also cabinets all along the top in the living space. If you need to, you could even store something under the pull-out bench as well. In the back of the Cruise America RV, there is a large storage compartment. It is a good amount of space. We were able to fit everything we needed to back there, with room to spare. Have access doors on three sides also made it helpful when we were at camp. We would put different things by different doors so we could easily access them.
Logistics – Fun Times!
Now for some logistical items. They will send you some videos to watch prior to picking up your RV that will detail all of this. If you’re a beginner at this, I definitely recommend getting a site with full electric and water hookups. That was very helpful! I had brought an extra hose (the camper does come with one) which came in handy. The layout of our first site was a little off, so our water and electric hookups were on the wrong side of the vehicle and further away than the hose allowed. We were able to maneuver it enough to get the electric hooked up, but for the water, we just used my hose, which was much longer. I would definitely do that again. I also saw some electrical extension cords (not your typical extension cords), which could have been very useful as well.
The power cord (shoreline) is hooked into the generator while you are driving. Once at a full hookup site, you would unplug it and plug it into the electrical box at the site. Make sure the breaker is turned on in the box. Our box had a couple of outlets, so we were able to also plug in a regular extension cord to use other items outside (our RV did not have an exterior outlet). This part is fairly straight forward and not too tricky.
The water hookup was pretty simple as well. With the exception of the hose they provided being kind of short, it all worked just fine. You connect the hose to the vehicle, then you connect it to the faucet and turn it on. It was very helpful having a wrench for this to make sure the hose was connected tightly.
Bring Gloves for the Waste Dump!
When it comes time to dump the waste, that’s pretty straight forward as well. Remove the cap to the dump drain, making sure that both valves are closed first. There is a hose in a compartment above the waste drain. You pull that out and connect it, then put it into the hole in the ground. You will first open the black waste valve (the larger handle) to empty that tank. Then you’ll open the grey water tank (smaller handle) to help flush out all that icky stuff. The grey water tank is the water from the sinks and shower, the black water is from the toilet. Once it’s empty, you close the two valves and then detach the hose. Luckily there is usually a hose by the dump station so then we would hose off the hose before putting it back in its compartment, and then close the cap.
When you’re getting gas or propane, you have to make sure that the gas appliances and pilot lights are off. This would be things like the furnace, water heater, fridge, and the range. Since the only thing we had going while we were driving was the fridge, we simply had to make sure that was switched off.
The air conditioning will operate if you’re plugged into an electrical box at a campground, or your generator (turned on). The biggest complaint about the ac would be that it was rather loud. The furnace operates using propane to heat the air and power, the same as the ac, to circulate the air. Honestly, we never used the heater so I can’t speak to how well that operated but it seems pretty straightforward.
Returning Your Cruise America RV
When it comes time to return your RV, there are a couple of things to note. First off, for us, it had to be returned by 11 am. This means turning the keys over. You will have to make sure it’s dumped, refilled, and cleaned before you return it. We were able to dump our waste at our last campsite and refilled on the way back. I had been told that we needed to allocate about 4 hours to all of this and that the rental center recommended that you stayed nearby on your last night to make that easier. Well, I was told this after our plans had been made. I wasn’t able to move our last night to anywhere close to the center, but I did find something half the distance back so that cut our drive in half on the last day.
As far as cleaning goes, the last night we packed everything up. We cleaned the dishes and separated ours and theirs. My brother brought his car, so they loaded their stuff that night, so the morning was easy peasy. When we arrived at the rental center it was just my mother and I. She unloaded everything while I started cleaning. We used our wipes for most of it, along with some Sparkle spray. You have to clean the toilet as well, so I was glad we brought gloves. I also brought some wet Swiffer floor sheets which worked great at the end to clean the floors. They also do want you to wash the outside of the vehicle. We hosed down at the last dump station and were blessed to not get dirty on our way back. Overall, I think we were there for about an hour unloading and cleaning.
Would I Recommend Cruise America?
So, overall, would I recommend renting a Cruise America RV? Yes, I would. We are thinking of booking again for the spring! It’s a great option to get away without all the stress and finances that go behind purchasing one. And, if I can figure out how everything works on it, then I have high hopes for you! With everything that has been going on this year, their reservations have been filling up fast, so if you’re thinking about it, I would recommend reserving sooner rather than later. The guy at the rental center said that we were lucky we rented when we did. Not only were they fully booked, but the pricing had gone up, but we still got the cheaper rates!
Other than what I’ve listed above, here are some other various pros and cons of renting a Cruise America RV.
PROS of Renting a Cruise America RV
Ability to see nature and the world around us.
Flexibility. This year due to the virus, sites were filling up fast. However, having the RV allows you flexibility with where you can stay. It’s nice to have the full hookup, but you definitely don’t need it all the time.
Don’t have to unpack and pack every time you move locations.
Easily able to stay inside away from bugs (we don’t get along) but still have windows/door open with the screens and be somewhat a part of what is going on outside.
Easy to learn how to operate.
Great to have a table set-up inside for any bad weather days.
USB plugs in the coach area.
Plenty of storage space.
Power to charge your electronics, especially if you’re working remotely 😉
They do have a setup for kids car seats, you just bring your own.
CONS of Renting a Cruise America RV
Bumpy. As I mentioned the ride wasn’t horribly smooth, but neither was it when it was parked. There are no levelers on this RV, so, for instance, when someone got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, the whole RV would shake.
Doesn’t move quickly. If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, this may not be a great option.
Unable to drive everywhere.
Parking can be tricky.
Parking for the night in a tight campsite can be especially tricky (it’s a miracle we got into our last spot).
So, have you rented a Cruise America RV before? What are your thoughts? If you’re thinking of renting one and have any questions, I would be more than happy to try to answer and give you my input. Happy camping!
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