Hit the Open Road in Style

Hit the Open Road in Style

If your New Year's resolution was to spend more time with friends and family, a popular way to make good on it is to hit the open road in a recreational vehicle.
Living the RV lifestyle is something more and more people are doing these days. According to The Good Sam Club, an organization dedicated to making RVing fun, safe and enjoyable for everyone, there are now more than seven million people doing it.
"We've seen a lot of growth in the industry in the past five years. Perhaps because of September 11th and peoples' desire to spend more time with family, they are choosing to travel together for long periods of time in an RV rather than hop on a plane to get from here to there," says Sue Bray, Executive Director and President of the Good Sam Club.
Paul and Diane Smith first took up RVing in the early 1970s as an activity they could enjoy with their children who are now grown up and have kids of their own. Once they had both retired, in early 2003, they sold their house in Maryland and took to it full-time.
"It was really a no-brainer for us," says Paul. "We were always on the road anyway, and tired of still having to pay the mortgage for a house we didn't need. Now we can travel around the country and visit our kids and grandkids any time we want."
Ira and Rosemary Bates have a similar story. "When our kids were growing up, we frequently rented an RV for summer camping trips and fell in love with the lifestyle. I loved the idea of being able to go anywhere we wanted, anytime we wanted without any obligations holding us back," says Ira. "So after we were both retired we decided to go for it," adds Rosemary.
Both couples now spend their time crisscrossing the country, visiting places they've always wanted to see, family, and friends they've made along the way. The majority of those friends are people they've met at Samborees, gatherings sponsored by the Good Sam Club.
The club got a modest start in 1966 when a handful of RV owners put Good Samaritan bumper stickers on their rigs so fellow members would know they could get help on the road. Before long, it evolved into the world's largest association of RV owners. Today, the club has a million members; and helping RVers stay connected is only part of the mission.
"Most RVers consider a membership in the Good Sam Club essential, if for no other reason than to take advantage of the 10 percent discount they will receive at 1,700 RV parks throughout the United States and Canada. It doesn't take many stays to earn back the modest cost of a membership," says Bray. Members also get a free subscription to Highways Magazine, the official publication of the Good Sam Club; access to an RV trip routing service; discounts on insurance; preferred rates on RV financing, and a lot more.
RVs used to have a reputation for being the chosen vehicle of retirees, particularly because of the expenses involved in purchasing and operating them, but these days, more and more families are showing an interest in them.
Perhaps because she grew up enjoying trips in one, the Smiths' daughter Veronica has one. The Bates' kids occasionally rent them for summer vacations and family trips.
"RVing is something we really share as a family and it helps bond us together," say the Smiths. "Before we were only getting to see our kids and grandkids once or twice a year for a few days at a time. This way, we pull up in their driveway, park for a few weeks at a time, and really get to become more a part of their lives," add the Smiths.
Making a decision to live the RV lifestyle is not something you should jump into without doing a little research first. The Good Sam Club is a good source of information.
"We can provide people with everything they need to know about RVs. An idea of what they cost, how to insure them, access to trip planning, lists of campgrounds that accept them, access to discounts and more," says Bray.
Answers to some frequently asked questions:
1. Where can I find a list of campgrounds that accept RVs?
Locating a campground in the state you want to visit is easy. Several different campground directories can be purchased at bookstores, newsstands, RV-supply stores, or online.
Directories that contain listings for all states and also Canada and Mexico are the annually published Trailer Life Directory for Campgrounds, RV Parks & Services and Woodall's Campground Directory. In addition, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has several regional campground directories available to members.
It's best to make reservations before showing up, but if they have space available, most campgrounds will accept drive-ups.
2. How do I get my mail while I'm on the road? Whether you've decided to live in your RV full-time, or for just a few months out of the year, you need to set up a way to get your bills and other mail. Many people opt to use internet based bill paying and banking services. Others either get permission from a friend or family member to use their address as the place mail will be sent, then have them forward it to them as they move about the country; or hire a mail forwarding service, such as the one offered by the Good Sam Club.
Some people have their mail forwarded to themselves care of General Delivery at the Post Office closest to the park they'll be staying at. They do that for safety and security reasons. Mail can get lost if sent to the park you're staying at if people in the office don't know you.
3. If I break down, who do I call for towing? We all hope breakdowns won't occur, but if they do, you'll be better off if you are enrolled in an emergency road service designed to service RVs. All the services have similar basic benefits: emergency towing, lockout and flat tire service, fuel delivery, a toll-free number to call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Where an RV-designed service differs from regular road services is mainly in the towing. If necessary, your entire rig--be it a motor home and dinghy or a tow vehicle and trailer--will be towed or transported to the nearest qualified facility, no matter how far away.
The Good Sam Club offers a special roadside plan throughout the United States and Canada that is significantly discounted for members. Some AAA clubs across the country also offer roadside assistance for RVs. To learn more about the organization, you can call (800) 234-3450 or log on to www.goodsamclub.com.

Article Courtesy of ARA Content