Since COVID-19 has seriously limited travel options for this summer, folks are looking for alternative ways to spend some time away from home and recharge, explore and enjoy the outdoors. Airplanes, resorts, theme parks, and other travel go-tos are all either shut down or too risky to enjoy for a carefree getaway, but there is one way to travel in a self-contained and germ-free environment: RV camping. Without having to deal with air travel or book accommodations, RV camping gives you an incredible amount of freedom to go wherever the road takes you and stay wherever you like--even with a wheelchair or special needs. There are several RV models to choose from that were designed for people with different abilities, featuring chair lifts, wider spaces and lower appliances.
The weekend warrior life is making a huge resurgence this summer for several reasons. RV dealers that reopened in early May report monthly sales are up 170 percent year over year; bookings through rental site RVshare for the Fourth of July weekend are up 81 percent over 2019, according to National Geographic. Besides coronavirus concerns, gas prices are low and peer-to-peer rental platforms are making it easier than ever to get connected with the right vehicle for you.
Check out these tips for planning your own accessible RV adventure:
Find the makes and models that fit your needs
Standard RVs can be retrofitted to be more wheelchair accessible, but you may find that you need certain features and amenities to really enjoy your trip. Determine what features are must-haves and which models will work for you before you start your search. If you plan on spending a lot of time on the open road, it’s important that your RV and your wheelchair are compatible. Our FLUX Slim-Line was created specifically for getting around in tight indoor spaces.
Winnebago and Newmar both have lines of vehicles designed to be not just accessible, but comfortable for wheelchair users and people with different abilities. Features of Winnebago’s accessibility-enhanced motorhomes include expanded hallways, a roll-in shower with an assist bar and folding bench seat, a raised toilet with assist bars, and a roll under sink, an adjustable bed and some other customization options if you’re looking to buy, such as including a platform wheelchair lift with an 800-pound lifting capacity, and a powered roll-up lift door for wheelchair entry and exit.
The three motorcoaches in Newmar’s Mobility Lineup are the largest fully accessible RVs available today, designed using direction and oversight from wheelchair users. They are luxury on wheels: each one was designed, not retrofitted, with wider aisles, lower switches and appliances, adjustable tables, spacious sofas and Sleep Number® mattresses. All models come equipped with BraunAbility® wheelchair lifts, and the Dutch Star model even has a dishwasher!
Find the right RV rental service
There are plenty of rental centers across the country that you can find through Go RVing and Cruise America, but it can be difficult to find a vehicle through a rental center with the right accessibility features. Renting from individuals is a great option for beginners because veteran RV owners can be a great source of information on making the best use of their vehicle, great places to go in your area, and camping while differently-abled. RVshare and Outdoorsy are peer-to-peer booking sites offering everything from popup trailers to motor homes. Check out this article from The Wandering RV on average pricing for different types of vehicles and hidden costs to watch out for.
Plan Your Trip
While travelers are avoiding crowded resorts, cruises and hotels, that means more people are flocking to the most famous state parks. This might not be the year to go to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, but websites like Harvest Hosts and Campendium can help you find out-of-the-way camping locations around the country or closer to home. What landmarks have you always wanted to see? Now is the time!
Living on the open road for more than a couple of days takes careful planning, but experienced RV road trippers have shared tons of information for beginners in articles like this one from National Geographic or the RV-specific blog Drivin’ & Vibin’. This article from RV Share is a useful guide for first-time RV renters with different abilities.
A note on safety during the coronavirus pandemic:
RV camping is one of the safest forms of travel right now, but it’s still important to know the risks involved and how to protect yourself and those around you. Find out from your rental service or the vehicle owner if the vehicle will be sanitized before you pick it up or if there’s a recommended cleaning service. Do some research on the area you’re planning to travel to and any parks or campgrounds you want to visit. Make sure you know their guidelines and verify that any attractions you want to see are open, and “Leave No Trace,” as the National Parks Service recommends.