Resources for USA RV Travel

Some Thoughts About Planning

Much of the fun of RV travel is in the planning. Enjoy the process. But don't overplan. The greatest thing about motorhome travel is the flexibility it gives you. Please leave room for the road itself to speak to you, to guide you. With an RV you can go where you want when you want, at a moment's notice. You have more than door-to-door capability; you are a vacation home on wheels. You can toss in virtually as much luggage as you like — unpack it only once — and transport it all to the middle of nowhere, without having to use any nasty bathrooms along the way.

We suggest our clients do not plan to rely solely on any one guide nor even on any collection of such guides (whether they be in book form, software form, or online) to plan their trip. Such a guide — especially if it's provided free of charge by the rental company or another entity — should not be considered suitably thorough and up to date, although in many cases they are very useful. Even if a rental company's policy is to provide such guide with every rental RV, they occasionally run out of supply because too many clients lose or abscond with the guide, or for other reasons beyond the rental company's control.

We therefore propose two rules of three. First rule of three: Use at least two published guides, and rely on your own on-the-ground research (e.g. following local signage, asking local people, and so forth) to complete the picture. Second rule of three: Rely chiefly on your instincts, secondarily on word of mouth (especially from locals), and thirdly on guidebooks.

Market forces usually take care of the rest because they result in campground and hotel locations per the general demand and thus near where you are most likely to desire such location.

So, radically conserve the liberty that is the chief bequest of RV travel. Follow your path. Free your travel.

Online Route Planners

Campgrounds and RVing in the USA


Points of Interest (POI's)

Points of Interest or POI's are locations that are part of, or can be added to, GPS devices. A POI could be a gas station, a hotel, a restaurant, a shopping mall, a historical location, and so forth. The data for the POI databases is collected from a variety of sources. In some cases mapping companies compile it. Sometimes the data is provided directly by retail companies. Often times the information is gathered by companies that specialize in creating business directories. Sometimes a POI is compiled by individuals with a special interest, like RVers who create POI's of their favorite RV parks.

The data typically includes the physical address, name of the location, category of the POI, a phone number, and the geographic coordinates.

Printed Maps

Suitable maps are not provided with your vehicle. We recommend that you invest in a top quality map or maps or a very good atlas — even if you will be using a GPS navigation device. Nothing beats a paper map for general travel planning purposes. Hunkering over such map with, say, a cup of coffee is one of the great pleasures in life. For those reasons, buy your maps before you leave. Once abroad, however, you can buy them in airports, bookstores or auto service stations.

Everyone wants a free map, but in addition to death and taxes at least one further fact will always be true: free maps are not good maps.

And no matter what map you get, remember the words of Thomas Ottavi: "There are lies, damned lies, and then there are maps."

Toll Roads

Border Crossings

RV Propane, Water, Waste & Electrics

RV Rental Videos

Your Domestic Driver's License

The minimum age limit for the motorhome and campervan rentals presented by IdeaMerge depends on the vendor. (Many vendors require that drivers have posssesed a valid domestic driver's license for at least a year prior to the rental.) See the particular Rental Details page presented during our online reservation process.

Drivers must of course possess their valid domestic driver's license. The USA motorhome and camper van rental vehicles presented on the IdeaMerge Website are designed such that relative especially to the laws of the USA virtually all domestic driver's licenses suffice for operation of these vehicles, even in nearly all cases where the inherent limits of the license (i.e. relative to your domestic laws) would preclude the holder from driving the vehicle in his/her own country. Which is to say, standard foreign driver's licenses are translated by the laws of the USA such that these licenses basically function in the USA as standard USA driver's licenses.

To state this yet another way: In the USA the standard domestic driver's licenses of foreign states are, in connection with foreign tourists, considered equal to a standard USA driver's license. Therefore the foreign driver's license allows the holder to drive the same range of vehicle types as does a corresponding USA license. This means, for instance, that the 3500 kg permissible-weight constraint that applies to European Union licenses in Europe is effectively raised in the USA to match the USA standards, which are invariably so high that all the vehicles presented by IdeaMerge may be driven by a standard-European-drivers-licensed client. … Nevertheless, you might be interested in researching the inherent limits of your driver's license. To do so you can check the back of your license and visit the Website of the governmental agency that issued your license. You can also see the following Wikipedia articles:'s_license and, say,

International Driving Permit

The USA does not require of foreign drivers an international driving permit.

However, if your domestic driver's license is not primarily or secondarily (i.e. in parallel) written in English, the vendor does require of you an international driving permit (IDP). IDPs are available for a small charge (about the equivalent of US 20) from the automobile club offices in the client's country of residence (but not outside their country), and a person need not be a member of such club to obtain the IDP from the club. Basically an IDP is a means by which police in a foreign country can know — in terms of translations in nearly a dozen different languages — that your domestic driver's license is indeed recognized as being valid by the proper authorities in your country. (See the excellent article at

If you need an IDP, take your license, two passport-sized photos and the requisite cash to the club office. (Though for about US6 the club may snap Polaroid photos for you.) Web searches will bring up a host of websites selling documents that conform to the international driving permit model delineated in annex 10 of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic (1949); but according to Article 24 of that convention, a truly valid IDP is one which is "issued … by the competent authority of another Contracting State or subdivision thereof, or by an association duly empowered by such authority …."

Travel Insurance

We recommend that our clients purchase travel insurance and/or trip cancellation insurance to insure against the risks of any unexpected occurrence or loss.

Collision/Loss Damage Waivers/Reducers (LDW/CDW/CDRs)

Nearly all RV rental companies include insurance which involves a very considerable deductible (i.e. an excess). Many RV rental companies do offer an optional waiver or two by which the customer can effectively reduce the deductible, perhaps all the way to zero. Note in this respect: the cover which credit cards typically extend to car rentals when the customer uses the card to pay for the rental does not extend to RV rentals, this because RVs (like sports cars, etc) are considered specialty vehicles that are excluded from such credit card cover.

However, some RV rental companies do not offer such waiver, or the waiver(s) they do offer might not be sufficiently effective for your taste. In such case, you can order additional or alternative collision/loss cover via the following UK-based companies:

General Advisories

With respect to manual transmission vehicles, it is the client's responsibility to know, or to learn how, to drive a manual transmission. The rental company (i.e. the vendor) will likely refuse to deliver such vehicle unless all the drivers listed on the rental contract are expressly or evidently proficient in the operation of a manual transmission vehicle. There are no refunds in such cases.

Almost all the motorhomes and campervans available for rental in Europe have a manual transmission rather than an automatic transmission.

Vehicle models and layouts are not guaranteed. Some vehicle accessories, such as an awning or a bike rack, are not guaranteed, because some of the vehicles are delivered from the factory to the rental company so near to the pick-up date that there is no time to install such items.

Where and when road or weather conditions, and perhaps laws or ordinances or such, dictate the wise or requisite use of specific tires or specifically embellished tires (e.g. tires fitted with snow chains or socks), it is the driver's responsibility to abstain from driving until such tires are installed on his or her vehicle. It is nevertheless the client's responsibility to return the vehicle with the initial (i.e. original) set of tires installed or co-present; otherwise the client will be billed for those initial tires. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden, for example, have laws which dictate the use of winter tires. It is the client's responsibility to research and understand such laws in relation to his or her rental and itinerary.

You can study the UK Automobile Assocation website to learn more about winter tire requirements and other compulsory equipment per European country.

Regarding snow chains, it is vital that you check and if necessary maintain the tension of the chains frequently, and certainly after every short journey. Also, with the chains fitted do not drive faster than about 35 miles per hour (60 km/h).

IdeaMerge suggests that our clients do not plan to rely solely on any one guide nor even on any collection of such guides (whether they be in book form, software form, or online) to determine the location or quality of appropriate hotels and campgrounds. Such a guide — especially if it is provided free of charge by the vendor or another entity — should not be considered suitably thorough and up to date, although in many cases they are very useful. Even if a vendor's policy is to provide such guide with every rental vehicle, they occasionally run out of supply because too many clients lose or abscond with the guide, or for other reasons beyond the vendor's control. IdeaMerge therefore suggests a sort of rule of three: use at least two published guides (in book form, software form, or online), and rely on your own on-the-ground research (e.g. following local signage, questioning local people, and so forth) to complete the picture. Market forces usually take care of the rest because they result in hotel and campground locations per the general demand and thus near where you are most likely to desire such location.

Neither IdeaMerge nor the vendor is responsible to assist in locating or recommending hotels or campgrounds to clients. Any assistance IdeaMerge or the vendor does give in that respect should not be interpreted as sanctioning or signifying the suitability of the services or products provided at the hotel or campground.

For motorhome travel soft-sided, collapsable bags are the best sort to use, because they can be stored within the vehicle without taking up much room. See the particular Rental Details page presented during our online reservation process for information about whether or not the rental depot will store luggage for you.

Unless otherwise specified on the IdeaMerge website or by the relevant IdeaMergevendor, clients should not plan to park their own vehicle at the rental depot. At some rental depots such parking is possible, but only if upon the pick-up occasion there happens to be room on the depot grounds. Typically rental depot personnel can direct clients to optimal parking solutions nearby the depot.

Check all accessories at the depot to be sure they are in working order. If there is a problem say something at the depot before leaving.

Ask questions during the vehicle orientation. Refuse to be rushed.

You will be held liable for vehicle damage that is deemed to occur during your rental. Test drive the vehicle at and near the rental depot where you begin your journey. If you notice anything unusual about the vehicle, especially the clutch, return it to the depot immediately.

Drive carefully. The security deposit that you leave with the rental company upon the pick-up occasion will be debited for vehicle damage.

Please carry a mobile phone with you so the vendor can easily contact you if necessary and in case of emergency. Please confirm that your phone service provider and contract allows you to call toll-free numbers.

The vehicle should be returned with the toilet waste receptacle (e.g. blackwater tank) and the shower/sink waste water tank (greywater tank) empty. Otherwise the vendor reserves the right to charge a waste cleaning fee.

Moreover, the vehicle should be returned clean inside and be emptied of luggage by the reserved return time. (Typically the vendor will clean the outside.) If the vehicle is not clean on the inside — i.e. not only emptied of luggage but also with clean floors (vacuumed or thoroughly swept), clean seats, clean appliances, clean bathroom, and generally clean surfaces — the vendor reserves the right to charge an interior cleaning fee.

If proper return (as described above) occurs after the reserved return time, a charge will be levied for each extra such hour (up to the daily or nightly rate); and the customer will assume responsibility for claims made against the vendor by the subsequent customer because the subsequent customer's pick-up is the delayed by the late return.

Upon returning the vehicle the client should report to the vendor any ticketed parking violations, ticketed traffic violations, and toll-road violations and such that the client knowingly incurred during the rental, along with any documentation thereof (e.g. the ticket itself). The cost of any associated fine or fines devolves upon the client, even if the client was not directly ticketed for the violation or was otherwise unaware of the violation. Moreover, the vendor might charge to the client an administration fee for processing each such fine.

Also see our General Disclaimers & Notices.

Miscellaneous Relevant Links

Using Mobile Phones Abroad

Many cell phones (i.e. mobile phones, handies) now work overseas. Check with your service provider (i.e. your carrier, the phone service company) in this regard; it might be a good occasion for you to upgrade to a phone (and plan) that works well overseas. If indeed you want to be able to use your phone on another continent, you'll need to call your service provider customer support to get international roaming turned on.

But beware: such roaming in and of itself is very expensive. Every missed or rejected call will use a minute of roaming charges; every notification of a voicemail that's been left will cost a minute too. More charges will come if you use data, even unknowingly — and the new smart phones are constantly using data that you're unaware of. Data roaming costs about US15/MB, which means a dollar fifty or so for every single web page that you view. If someone sends you a nice 2 megapixel photo from home, that'll be US30! If you want to avoid data roaming charges completely, you should disable data roaming and data synchronization before you go abroad.

International roaming is not a good value unless you have tri-band GSM phone. Such phones can be "SIM subsidy unlocked" via your service provider to accept a foreign SIM card. Calls received through such card will be charged to you as if you are using a local phone. To initiate such unlocking of your tri-band GSM phone, call your service provider at least a week or two before you go abroad. Your service provider will then request an unlock code from the phone manufacturer, but the service provider will not officially guarantee the manufacturer's response time (it's usually 24–48 hours) nor even that a unlock code will be provided.

Moreover, you'll need to obtain a prepaid SIM card or cards for the country or countries you plan to travel to. Those cards cost roughly 30 euros and can be bought in mobile phone shops in Europe (the primary companies in France, for instance, are Orange, Bouygues Telecom and SFR). Alternatively you can buy or rent them before you go abroad, from various internet-based companies. You would replace your current SIM card with the European one. (Typically they go under the battery.) Do save your current SIM card, however; you'll need it when you return home.

For SIM card or special phone rental or purchase online, see the following:

Portable GPS Navigation Solutions

Portable GPS navigation technology has undergone some real changes lately. Windshield-mountable units have proliferated and dropped hugely in price. Meanwhile mobile (i.e. cellular) phone based GPS navigation has arrived full force.

Be wary of "free" portable GPS rentals. You tend to get what you pay for. And upon finally receiving such rental unit a day or so before you depart, there's precious little time for you to get comfortable with the device — much less to program it with destination addresses and such. Furthermore, "free" usually translates into shipping and handling charges in both directions, to and from you. In the face of these negatives, you should strongly consider buying your own portable GPS navigation device instead.

Analysis Criteria

  • Map software: While many GPS units offer optional map software of Europe and/or other countries, a cheaper and easier way to get such software is to buy a model that standardly has it already loaded.
  • Operability abroad: Does the unit function as well abroad as it does domestically?
  • Ease of operation: Is the user interface heuristic enough to be easily operable by a driver in a foreign land?
  • Functionality: Does the unit have audible directions, a programmable points-of-interest database, a traffic-conditions receiver (FM), Bluetooth technology, a travel guide, etc.
  • Value: Is the unit a good value both now and for the next few years?

Windshield-Mountable GPS Units

Make sure the unit you buy comes equipped with pre-installed, high-resolution map software of both North America and Europe. There are some potential drawbacks to purchasing these types of portable GPS units. Some users have remarked that these types of GPS units "lose their way" from time to time in smaller European towns, and in some cases the units have difficulties obtaining satellite reception while in Europe. Other users have noticed that these types of GPS units occasionally have difficulty with place names in the voice command mode if not set to the language of the local area.

It is important to note that while these units are loaded with European maps, and they offer additional features such as downloadable city maps for even more usability in small local areas, they are primarily marketed towards a North American user/consumer, and as such they may not be as functional on the ground in Europe as, say, a built-in GPS like as those that are delivered in some of the French short-term tax-free lease vehicle models.

There are literally dozens of windshield-mountable GPS models. Between adjacent, sequentially ordered models from a given manufacturer there are only incremental differences. Comparing the top to the very bottom of a manufacturer's range, however, there are big differences.


The latest in the evolution of GPS technology is the mobile phone or "Smartphone" integrated unit. Most if not all "smartphones" on the market feature GPS signal transmission and reception that can be integrated with a dedicated GPS navigation device discussed above, enhancing the dedicated device's ability to transmit and receive such signal, and which also feature full GPS navigation functionality in connection with Google Maps and other apps.

Dedicated GPS devices still provide larger screens, better maps, and an overall higher level of functionality than these cutting edge integrated phones; but mobile phone navigation will of course continue to improve, and it already meets the needs of many users.

Of special concern when choosing to use a smartphone in Europe is the type of service plan or contract that one might have with their particular service provider. In some cases, a smartphone's GPS feature may utilize a "data" connection which is just a way of the GPS attaining its functionality by way of the mobile phone network. Using such a phone in Europe may compile some significant, if not astronomical fees from the service provider. It is critical to thoroughly understand your particular mobile phone plan before attempting to rely on your smartphone in a foreign country. We strongly recommend that you contact your cell phone service provider for full details about the ramifications of using a smartphone GPS in Europe before you leave for your trip. You'll be glad you did!

Where To Buy

Great deals on the GPS units that we have recommended (as well as those we have not) are available through a wide variety of vendors on the internet. We recommend using a reputable seller such as for your online purchase.

Bricks-and-mortar companies like the USA's BestBuy offer a wide selection of GPS models both in-store and on their websites. Not all of the items shown on their websites are available in all their stores, but it may nevertheless be wise go into the store and speak with the GPS expert there (if there is one).