When I wrote my trip report in this forum of our holiday in Alaska in September last year, I said I was going to do a separate report on RVs to help others who were new to driving these vehicles. I did do a report but got overtaken by life and forgot to post. I was reminded of this by several recent private message from people who is intending to hire an RV and who were interested in my comments. So I promised I would post the report and here it is for what it is worth. I must say it brought all the memories of that brilliant holiday back again. I will post it in 3 sections otherwise it will be too lengthy. I also apologise to the forum experts as I'm pretty sure I have posted it in the wrong place since this is the arena for questions, but I couldn't work out how to post it under the top question on RVs..
I found holidaying in an RV to be absolutely brilliant and I would do it again in a heartbeat. We hired a 28’ S RV from Great Alaskan Holidays for the two of us as I felt that was probably the biggest size we would want to manage having only driven smaller campervans in New Zealand. Great Alaskan Holidays were excellent, very organised and helpful but they were very busy and this was late August outside the main tourist season. They have a van that will pick you up from the airport and take you to their depot. We actually stayed the first night in a hotel, so we got the hotel shuttle back to the airport and then caught the GAH shuttle from there.
GAH depot is enormous with more campervans than I have ever seen in my life. Once they process your booking you are put in a small room to watch a video of all that can go wrong, which so traumatised me that I left the room wondering what on earth I had let ourselves in for. We were then shown to our van and given a very brief once over which, if it is your first time, will probably not be enough. As I note below you should take some time to familiarise yourself with the RV and make sure you understand how it all works.
Our RV was well equipped and very comfortable, especially the fixed queen bed at the back. There was more than adequate storage, virtually a full cooker – 3 hobs and an oven, a built in microwave and fairly large fridge and separate freezer. Plus a flat screen TV which I don’t think we ever watched. Admittedly there were only 2 of us in a 6 berth RV, however it would also be fine for 2 couples or a family with children. The “slide out,” where the living part of the RV moves out about 3 feet, is the best invention since sliced bread. It gave so much more room. The shower in the toilet was fine, not large but big enough to shower in. However we did very much enjoy having a “proper” shower at campsites where there were facilities.
There were not many negatives. The only two I had both concerned bedding. Firstly, the sheets wouldn’t stay put, they would be better with fitted sheets. Secondly only blankets were provided, not quilts, which we did not find to be adequate in late August in Denali. Luckily there were two spare blankets so we each had an extra one, and I had some thermal underwear from Marks and Spencers which made all the difference for me. If I hired an RV again at this time of year I would try and fit my Haglof down sleeping bag into my suitcase. That would make for a truly blissful RV experience.
I thought I would just note down a few comments which might help other newcomers to driving an RV:
1. Spend an hour or so checking your RV before driving it away. GAH were very competent and professional. However, we discovered on the first night that there was no chopping board, although according to the person I spoke to on our return it should have been provided. We also discovered when we came to change the fixed queen bed, that although we had 3 spare sets of sheets none of them fitted a queen bed (and that would include the one over the cab) and there were no spare pillow cases. Neither of these was a major problem, as we bought a small chopping board to use and laundered the sheets ourselves, but if we hadn’t been in such a rush to get off, we could have saved ourselves some trouble. So spend some time checking everything is there.
2. Also check you know how to do all the hook ups. Then if you have problems there will be someone who can help.
3. Before going shopping check what is provided in the RV e.g. there is salt and pepper so you don’t need to buy that. We found kitchen roll to be very useful as you can use it for all sorts of things. Also antiseptic kitchen/bathroom wipes were very useful for cleaning.
4. What to bring? I followed the advice of other posters where it was feasible, bearing in mind we were flying from UK. I took:
- Bold 2 in 1 washing tabs in a small rigid plastic box for washing clothes in a laundrette. 6 were enough for 2 weeks.
- Ziplock bags, small and large – very useful
- Tea bags and coffee for my husband in ziplock bags because I was worried I wouldn’t like the tea bags.
- Two old tea towels which I threw out at the end. – at least you know where they come from.
- Some “herbs de provence” or whatever your favourite multi purpose herbs are in n a small ziplock bag. GAH provide very decent salt and pepper.
What I didn’t bring, and it would have been very useful, was some olive oil or your preferred cooking oil, in a small plastic bottle.
5. What and where to buy. Best to really stock up in Anchorage as prices and
availability of goods is better there. There are two big supermarkets just down the road from the GAH depot and I seem to recall they gave us a map which had them marked on it. I found the big freezer very useful as you could buy most of the meat you might need for the trip in Anchorage,and freeze it, although probably better to under buy than over buy. I did cook quite a lot as I enjoy it, but we also ate out at some great restaurants.
5. If you are coming from Europe, or anywhere else that has a significant time change, it is probably advisable to spend the first night in a hotel or in the campervan at the GAH depot. You will just have undertaken a long flight, will be jet lagged and on a very different time zone so it is probably better not to drive straight off, or if you do, plan your trip so you are only driving a few hours the first day.
6. All RVs are petrol engines so fuel consumption is low. I estimate we got 8 miles to the gallon. So petrol is going to be a significant part of your budget, something I didn’t factor in as I assumed the RVs would be diesel as they are in New Zealand and indeed in UK and therefore much more economical to drive. NB for those from UK “gas” is petrol.