Disclosure: I participated in the All American RV Blogger tour. This event was partially sponsored by Access RV, Austin Minnesota Jellystone Camp Resort, Bulu Box, Bus Bank, CVS/pharmacy, Eagle Creek, Insightly, KOA Campgrounds, Mall of America, Murphy USA, South Dakota Tourism and USA 5 Star. This campaign and tour was organized by Me Network. Bloggers on the tour were responsible for all expenses not covered by sponsors.
Earlier this month, I and 15 other bloggers took part in the All American RV Blogger Tour! This was a first-of-its-kind event designed to send bloggers on a cross-country journey from Indiana to Utah. I was very excited about this opportunity, as I grew up road-tripping with my parents in their motorhome, and I’d always wanted to take a long cross-country vacation with our kids. And, with summer coming, travel’s on many people’s minds. We love to travel, and I enjoy blogging about our trips-on-a-budget too. How much would a trip like this cost? Is it less expensive to road-trip across the country versus flying to a destination? Is that even a fair comparison for a trip where the journey itself, not the end destination, is the most alluring part of the trip? I set out to answer all of these questions over the course of this tour.
More than 400 bloggers from around the country applied to be a part of this tour, which was pitched as a minimal-expenses trip for bloggers and their families. Many of the destinations, activities and attraction costs were provided by sponsors for purposes of review.
In preparation for this trip, we were provided with packing lists. I’ll share them with you here. Our Access RV motorhome contained: Cookware (pots, pans, spatula) Flatware Cutlery Bakeware Mixing bowls Knives Measuring cups Vegetable peeler Bottle opener Salt and pepper shakers Towel set for two (two bath towels, two hand towels, two washcloths) Bedding and pillows for queen bed (sheets, two pillows, blanket and bedspread) Note that these items are included with each Access RV rental — if you rented an RV from them, this is what you could expect it to contain. However, the bedding/towels/linens-for-two rental is an additional charge of $30 per trip. Additionally, the PR team for this event provided each RV with: Dish soap Trash bags Plastic silverware Roll of paper towels 4-pack of RV-safe toilet paper Paper plates and bowls Styrofoam cups $100 grocery allowance for purchasing groceries along the way CVS/pharmacy also provided each RV with: CVS travel toothbrush/toothpaste sets for each person CVS SPF 30 spray sunscreen CVS aloe vera gel CVS hand sanitizer CVS bar of soap CVS cotton swabs CVS lip balm CVS adhesive bandages Gold Emblem marshmallows Gold Emblem graham crackers Gold Emblem chocolate bar (the latter three for s’mores, of course!) Bulu Box provided each RV with a box of natural product samples too. Mine contained: Herbal and enzyme supplements A fruit pouch A packet of coconut oil Hangover prevention capsules (what kind of trip did they think this would be?!)
Prior to the event, we were instructed to watch all of the RV training videos on Access RV’s website to learn how to convert some of the RV furniture into beds, how to monitor and dump the black & grey water tanks, and to learn how to connect and use other systems in the RV. (Aside from these videos, we would receive no other training on how to operate the RVs.) I think this was the most important video: How to flush the waste tanks!
(I later learned that some of the bloggers on the trip did not use the toilet or plumbing in their RVs at all so they would not have to deal with flushing the waste! I thought that was wild — to me, having a bathroom that’s available all the time, even while on the road, is a huge perk — especially when road-tripping with kids. And really, flushing it is not difficult at all — we did it every day.) The tour would begin at Chicago’s Midway Airport and end in Salt Lake City, Utah. As the tour approached, we learned that we would be responsible for our return airfare from Salt Lake City (airfare was previously going to be covered by a sponsor, who unfortunately backed out after bloggers had been selected for the tour.) We were happy that we lived in the area and would only need one-way flights home to Midway. I found flights for $94 each and booked them prior to the tour. In addition to packing clothes and toiletries, I brought a large duffel bag with two sets of sheets, pillows and comforters for our sons’ beds, as well as additional bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. Other random gear I packed: Retractable roasting forks for cooking over a fire, matches, firestarters, a citronella candle, rain ponchos, an umbrella, rubber gloves (for changing the sewer hose on the camper,) a quart sport bottle, a kitchen dishtowel and a dishrag. Lawnchairs were on the “recommended” packing list we were provided with (for sitting around the campfire and around our campsites, of course!) but I was always mindful of having to bring our camping gear home with us on an airplane too. I opted to buy four camp stools which fold up to about the size of a newspaper, like this style. (Access RV also rents lawnchairs at .85/day per chair, but this was not an option for us as we were picking the RVs up empty from the manufacturer.) I also brought road-trip snacks and foods that we had at home – crackers, nuts, cookies, microwave popcorn, a bottle of shake-to-mix pancake mix, dehydrated hash browns, a restaurant-sized bottle of maple syrup, and a canister of lemonade mix — and the free cereal boxes that came in the newspaper on Easter. Each campground would have laundry facilities, so there was no need to pack eight days’ worth of clothing. I packed about five days’ worth of clothes for everyone, and I brought some travel-size laundry detergent packs (free from past coupon deals!) with plans to do laundry at least once along the way.
Our journey began on April 30th, 2014 at Chicago’s Midway Airport. Bloggers from around the country met at the airport for a bus ride to Elkhart, Indiana, which was sponsored by BusBank. This drive took about 2 1/2 hours. Along the way, the bloggers and families got to know each other and received packets of information for the trip. We received some road trip snacks from CVS/pharmacy too – a bag of Gold Emblem gummy worms and a bag of Gold Emblem pistachios! My sons would proudly tell you that those gummy worms never made it to the actual road trip – the bag was consumed in its entirety somewhere between Chicago and Elkhart.
We arrived in Elkhart, Indiana at Forest River RV to pick up our motorhomes directly from the manufacturer. They were brand-new, fresh off the production line! Our group was split between driving Class A and Class C RVs for this trip. (Class As are built on a bus frame, and Class Cs are built on a truck/van frame.) Initially, we were told that we’d be completing an “RV Driving Course,” which was comforting to those who hadn’t driven a motorhome before. However, the PR team in charge of the event had hit so much Chicago traffic on their way to meet us at the airport that our entire trip was delayed by nearly two hours. (We later learned that the PR team had gone sightseeing and shopping in Chicago prior to meeting us. The two-hour delay was due to their late departure from the city.) To get things back on track, the driving course was scrapped. Instead, we were instructed to open the door of each motorhome, where there was a packet with each family’s name on it. Once you found your motorhome, you could start it up and get on the road! This was kind of a fun adventure, with everyone running around somewhat “Amazing Race” style looking for their vehicles.
Our family was assigned a 27′ Sunseeker Class C. It was very nice! It had the capacity to sleep six people: Two on the queen-size bed in the back, two on the bunk over the cab, and two (snugly) on the twin-size bed, which converts from the kitchen benches and table into a sleeper. The kitchen bed was also a slide-out unit that slid out when the RV was parked, giving everyone more space inside the camper.
I was also impressed with the size of the bathroom — unlike some of the RV bathrooms I’ve seen, this one was pretty roomy and had a much larger shower than I expected. It also had a large storage compartment in the back accessible from side panels on the RV. There was a folding table inside too for outdoor dining (it snaps out of the floor from this cargo area – you’ll see it near the bottom of the photo)
My husband was initially apprehensive about driving such a large vehicle, and prior to this trip, I told him I’d do all of the driving — I was 17 years old the first time I took my parent’s motorhome on a trip alone, and driving something this size has never bothered me. He jumped right behind the wheel though and had no issues driving at all. (I ended up driving on just two days of our trip!)
As these RVs were brand-new from the factory, they didn’t have much gas in them — ours had a little less than 1/4 tank. Our schedule instructed us to drive to the KOA campground in Middlebury, Indiana for an Amish dinner provided by the campground. First, though, we needed to put license plates on our motorhomes — yes, they were that new! Once that was done, we needed to get some gasoline for our RVs too. Our RV tour had one fuel sponsor, Murphy USA, which provided each blogger with a $375 TxtPay gas card for the trip. However, Murphy USA did not have any gas stations near Elkhart or Middlebury. Our tour packet provided us with the locations of Murphy USA stations in each state, and our next closest Murphy stations were in Belvidere and Rockford, Illinois. We made a mental note to fill up again when we went through the area. We stopped for gas just outside Elkhart and filled up ($156.03,) then headed to the Middlebury KOA campground. The Middlebury KOA is located in the heart of Amish country in northern Indiana. We arrived around 8:30pm and were delighted to see a fantastic Amish-catered dinner and delicious desserts. The food was delicious. The Middlebury KOA’s clubhouse was themed like a 1950s diner, complete with a bubble Wurlitzer jukebox. Very cute!
After dinner, we picked up our RV supplies in the clubhouse. The Middlebury KOA provided each family with a disposable LED flashlight and a reusable shopping bag. Then, we headed to bed for our first night in the camper, which our boys were very excited about. The adventure began…
With each day’s trip report, I’m going to provide an exact list of expenses — what it cost us, and what it would cost to do an identical trip without sponsorship. Obviously, there will be areas where you could tweak or adjust expenses to suit your family’s needs and budget, but I’m trying to be as thorough as possible in detailing all of the costs of this trip. (After my recent California trip report, more than a few readers emailed to ask if I could do a trip report with all expenses listed. Guys, this one is for you!) For instances in which I do not know the exact costs of a particular item, I’m estimating what the cost would be. Day One:Day One:
|What it cost our family of four||What it would cost your family of four|
|One-way airfare home from SLC to MDW for four people: $376.00||One-way airfare home from SLC to MDW for four people: $376.00|
|Four folding camp stools: $44.00||Four folding camp stools: $44.00|
|Access RV rental $0.00 Unlimited miles: $0.00 Towels/bedding/linen rental for two people: $0.00||Access RV rental: 7 nights at $222/night: $1554.00 2000 prepaid miles (about .37/mile): $745.00 Towels/bedding/linen rental for two people: $30.00|
|Gas: $156.03 Murphy USA TxtPay gas card (for later in the trip): +$375.00||Gas: $156.03|
|Grocery allowance: +$100.00||Grocery allowance: $0.00|
|RV paper/cleaning products and supplies: $0.00||RV paper/cleaning products and supplies: $15.00|
|Travel supplies from CVS/pharmacy: $0.00||Travel supplies from CVS/pharmacy: $30.00|
|Disposable LED flashlight and shopping bag from Middlebury KOA: $0.00||Disposable LED flashlight and shopping bag from Middlebury KOA: $2.00|
|Road trip snacks from CVS/pharmacy: $0.00||Road trip snacks from CVS/pharmacy: $8.48|
|Bulu Box products: $0.00||Bulu Box products: $10.00|
|Food brought from home: $12.00||Food brought from home: $12.00|
|BusBank transportation from Midway Airport to Elkhart, Indiana: $0.00||Car rental from Midway Airport to Elkhart, Indiana: $65.00|
|One night stay at Middlebury, Indiana KOA campground: $0.00||One night stay at Middlebury, Indiana KOA campground: $57.00|
|Amish dinner (catered, approx. $10 per person) $0.00||Amish dinner: $40.00|
|Today’s total: $113.03||Today’s total: $3144.51|
Disclosure: I participated in the All American RV Blogger tour. This event was partially sponsored by Access RV, Austin Minnesota Jellystone Camp Resort, Bulu Box, Bus Bank, CVS/pharmacy, Eagle Creek, Insightly, KOA campgrounds, Mall of America, Murphy USA, South Dakota Tourism and USA 5 Star. This campaign and tour was organized by Me Network. Bloggers on the tour were responsible for all expenses not covered by sponsors. Hashtags: #EpicRVBloggerTour #drivingBusBank #grouptravel #LovinMurphyUSA #MOARocks #AustinJellystone #EagleCreekAdventure #BuluBox #MiddleburyKOA #CVSOnTheGo #CVSconvenience #travelsd #exploresd #getinsightly #MtRushmoreKOA #KOAadventure #sponsored