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Your house is on wheels, so you wouldn’t think needing to fly would be necessary. But sometimes work or holidays or emergencies mean abandoning your RV and booking a flight somewhere in the world. So where do you leave the RV when flying?
Heath and I have a bit of experience with this. We’ve had to leave our motorhome behind when flying to Hawaii, Alaska, and back home to Austin, Texas. I’m actually writing this blog from 39,020 feet en route to Austin for our Hourly America documentary premiere (internal squeal of excitement)!
#3. RV Storage
I’m morally against RV storage places. Mostly because the owners of RVs that stay in storage clearly don’t understand how awesome full-timing is. (They probably don’t know you can eat s’mores every day if you live in a motorhome).
Heath and I have never actually put our RV in storage, but if you’re traveling for an extended time and need a safe place to leave the RV, this is a fairly cheap option. We’ve seen weekly storage rates for as low as $60.
The worst part about putting the RV in storage is that in addition to packing for your trip, you’ll also need to pack up and move the RV. You’ll have to bring in the slides, put away your valuables, and generally make sure the RV is clean so you don’t end up with bugs or rodents sneaking in to find food.
- Safe (most people aren’t going to assume an RV in storage will have belongings inside)
- No access to electric hook-ups (so you’ll need to dump your fridge)
- You’ll have to pack up your RV and move it into storage.
- You won’t have the RV ready to live in as soon as you return from your flight.
#2. An RV park
Last fall, Heath and I stayed in Austin, Texas for an extended period. This meant we paid a monthly rate at our RV park. So when business opportunities popped up and we needed to fly to Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta all in one month, we were able to leave our RV at the park.
Since we stayed at this park for so long and knew our neighbors, we left a set of keys at the park for emergencies. Since that park was lakefront, we wanted someone to have the keys to move our house in case of a flood. Other than a natural disaster there aren’t many reasons you might need to leave a set of keys behind, but it gave Heath peace of mind.
Leaving your RV at a park is incredibly easy. You don’t need to move your rig or pack anything up. Plus, you’ll likely have full services so you don’t need to worry about coming home to an empty fridge or a hot, stuffy rig. (We did once fly to Portland and forget to leave our A/C on…in July…in Texas…big mistake).
But what if you’re not already paying for a month’s stay at a park?
When we flew to Hawaii in February, we left our RV at a park 40 minutes away from the San Jose airport. It wasn’t the nicest RV park (although it did have an awesome hot tub, which has nothing to do with this article), but we felt comfortable leaving our RV for five days. We didn’t tell anyone at the park we were flying across the Pacific Ocean, and no one was the wiser. Unless you’re expecting mail or forgot to pay for your stay, it’s likely no park staff would come knocking on your door in your absence anyway.
Paying for an RV park is an expensive option—especially when we flew out of California where parks average $60 a night—but if you’re at the right park, it’s safe and easy. Plus, when you return from your flight late at night and just want to climb into your own bed, your rig is already set up at a park waiting for you.
- Easy and convenient
- Full hook-ups
- Not needing to empty your fridge
- You don’t need to move or pack your RV at all
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the above options. Heath and I spend a good amount of time boondocking because we don’t like paying just to park our RV. That’s when I hatched a sneaky little plan:
#1. The Service Department
If you own an RV, you know how often things break. You also know how freaking difficult it is to get into the shop. They usually have waiting lists that are literally months long. As a full-timer, this is incredibly annoying.
But say you know that Labor Day weekend you’ll be flying from Portland to Texas for a few days. Here’s what you do:
- Find a Winnebago (or whoever your manufacturer is) dealer and service department near the airport.
- Make sure they do warranty work, if applicable.
Because the goal here is to not pay a single red cent to store our RV while we are gone.
- Make an appointment for the day before or the morning of your travel day.
If they can’t accommodate you that soon, tell them that you’re full-timer and you need to get to point B by the end of the month, so you’re desperate and really need for them to fit you in. This doesn’t have to be true and works 80% of the time to get you the appointment.
- Tell them your issue(s).
For us, we had one small issue when we made this appointment a few weeks back. The sensor our steps is messed up and our stairs don’t automatically pop out when we open the door. We have to tap the sensor. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. That one thing alone isn’t really reason enough to keep the RV in the shop for a week. So for the weeks before our flight, we made a list of every little thing that might need fixing or replacing on the RV. This isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to be gone for a while, why not have them check everything?
We’ve left our RV in service departments three times now. We love this for multiple reasons:
- Work gets done in our RV and we don’t have to worry about the hassle of finding a place to stay while the mechanics work.
- IT’S FREE. Well, sometimes it’s free. Our Winnebago Brave is a 2016 and still under warranty. But if your rig isn’t under warranty you were going to need to pay for the repairs anyway. Might as well kill two birds with one stone and save on the costs of lodging while you get the repairs done.
- It’s super safe. If your rig is in the bay or parked behind a dealer or service department, it’s likely safe from break-ins. Most of these places have security cameras, fences, and plenty of employees around during the day.
If you’re a full-timer and need to fly for a few days or a few weeks, one of these tried and true strategies will work for you.
Oh, yes! I almost forgot the best, but also most stressful option!
Bonus option #4: Rent your RV
Services like RVShare and Outdoorsy facilitate peer-to-peer RV sharing. So if you’re a wannabe RVer and want to test the lifestyle, instead of exploring in a gaudy Cruise America, you can rent someone’s actual RV and pay a human being instead of a big corporation. But if you’re a full timer like us, posting your RV on one of these sites, isn’t very realistic.
However, in March of this year, Heath and I flew to Salt Lake City to go skiing for a week. Our friend, Wes, told us he was trying RVShare for the first time during that same week to drive to SXSW for a film shoot. Our plans to put the RV in service fell through when they said they actually couldn’t fit us in until October, so we offered to rent our RV to Wes instead. We gave him a lower rate than he was going to get with RVShare AND we made enough money to pay for our vacation. Can you say most epic deal of all time? It was incredible.
- We made money instead of spending money.
- Someone who knew relatively nothing about RVs was driving our house from Nashville to Austin. No lies: this was super nerve-wracking. We love and trust Wes and if nothing else, our rig was under warranty. This made it no less stressful, but making money while on vacation is always awesome, so the pros outweigh the cons for me.
Leaving your house on wheels unattended is always a little stressful, but hopefully one of these four options will help you take care of your RV while you jet across the country.