The Smart Family Travel Guide to renting an RV & roaming through New England.
“Let’s go visit New England in the fall” is one of those bucket-list items that everyone has claimed and for good reason! After the first frost, the dense forests and rolling hills are ablaze in vibrant colors and it really is something everyone should see at least once!
Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.
TannerFamilyOnline.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
A few years ago we decided we could make this trip since we were living in the mid-Atlantic and New England was easily a day’s drive.
As always, when we start our planning, we need to take the kids and puppies into consideration. To take a trip in October means taking the kids out of school. We also have to consider finding a place to house the hounds or risk taking them with us to hotels that won’t allow them on the premises. “Let’s try this in an RV!”, we said.
For this trip we rented an RV. Renting an RV is a great way to determine if traveling by RV is a good way for your family to get around without a lot of extra cost! We are seeking RV rental partners now to give our readers the best deals. Check back soon!
For our trip, we rented through one of the smaller RV rental companies online.Looking for an RV for your next trip, reserve here!
Getting around for shopping and sightseeing while traveling with an RV is something you need to plan. If you travel with a pull-behind trailer, it’s easy to disconnect and go sightseeing. If you are traveling with a motor coach, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to setup and tear down your campsite before each excursion. You may want to consider towing a car, packing bicycles, or using public transportation at your destination.
We couldn’t pick up the RV until after 1 PM on the first day of the rental since so much prep time is needed. The manager from the rental shop took the time to walk us through all the equipment on-board the RV, all the hookups, and how to maneuver the rig. This whole process took nearly an hour so they could show us how everything worked and teach us the ropes. The RV itself was in real good shape and had plenty of room and amenities. It was a 28 foot long Class C with a Ford F350 up front.
We headed out on a Monday evening around 5 PM. We really had no idea where we were going to stay or how long it would take us to get anywhere. We made a very conscious decision to travel at 55 MPH to conserve fuel. This particular rig had a 40 gallon fuel tank and used regular gasoline. A diesel engine will get you a lot better gas mileage with these heavier vehicles but the diesel fuel prices are still pretty high.
The first night we traveled all the way from Roanoke, VA to Harrisburg, PA. The nice guy at the RV rental mentioned that you can stay for free at any WalMart in the country so we figured we’d go cheap as long as we could.
Just our luck, the very first Walmart we pull in to had a big ole honking sign out front that says “NO OVERNIGHT RV/TRUCK PARKING”. So much for that theory. Heather had to pull out the iPhone to track down a list of WalMart stores that don’t allow you to stay. We did find another one a little further down our route and spent the night there along with about 8 other RVs.
The good thing about staying at a WalMart parking lot, or “boondocking”, is that you can easily stock up on things or, in our case, go grab things you forgot to pack! This was our 1st trip in an RV and we naturally forgot quite a few things.
The bad thing about boondocking is that you have no hookups. We took our trip in early October and were heading north. The temps were starting to get into the 30s at night and RVs don’t really have much in the way of insulation. Traveling further north would require electrical hookups or running the generator all night.
Our first morning on the road, we decided our first destination would be Gloucester, Massachusetts. Gloucester (pronounced “Gloster” by the locals) is an island town on the northernmost reaches of Massachusetts.
Gloucester is the home to America’s first seaport and is supported mainly by fishing and ocean-bound ventures. There are a LOT of seafood shops and whale sightseeing tours in the area. The town served as the location for most of the movie The Perfect Storm.
We went online to see if we could find a local place to park the rolling home, and stumbled upon the Hanscomb Air Force Base near Boston. Most military facilities in the US (and a number of overseas bases) have an RV campground attached to them in some fashion. These places are only open to Department of Defense ID cards holders and offer all the usual hookups in a nice secure location. The rates are great (usually about $20 a night) and they generally provide easy access to the rest of the base. If you’re affiliated with the military in any way, you can usually use them with proper ID.
We pulled in around 10 PM to find the front office closed. The campground had a number of empty spaces available and the sign on the front door told us we could pick a space and come by the next morning to settle up. No hassles – no worries – just the way we like it.
The airbase was in a really nice location. You could use it as a launching ground for any trips in the Boston area or to sightsee around Lexington and Concord. The MinuteMan National Historic Park is right next door to the airbase. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go through it. One thing we quickly realized was that travel in an RV means planning your stops and your routes. This thing is huge and navigating through tight streets is no way to spend a “vacation”!
We spent Wednesday in the seaport town of Gloucester and visited the Halibut Point State Park. The park was really pretty and the homes on the island are just gorgeous. This was the first time our dogs had ever seen the ocean. Nikki really didn’t want anything to do with it but Baby wouldn’t stay out of it. The coast is very rocky and she was jumping from rock to rock like a young pup.
After visiting the island we decided to head over to Salem – home of the infamous witch trials and many things Halloween. It was almost 5 PM by the time we made it around there and the tour buses were no longer running. We decided to spend another night in the area and come visit again the next morning.
After spending some time in the morning touring Salem, it was time to point the RV south and start making our way back today home. We learned that we really had to map out our routed ahead of time due to a couple of factors. For one thing, many of the major roads in the northeast are toll roads. Just about any RV is going to have more than two axles so the tolls are significantly higher. The other issue with routing is that I didn’t really feel comfortable taking the RV through New York City. We had set our destination to be in mid New Jersey for what would turn out to be our final night on the road.
The GPS figured the shortest route to anything in New Jersey would be right through NYC. Naturally, our first attempt at diverting from that route almost caused us to rip the air conditioner off the top of the RV. If you aren’t used to driving a vehicle that’s larger than a passenger car or truck, you don’t really realize that you have to factor height into your route. Most bridges and overpasses have a clearance that is just right for semis to make it under them but many don’t. We’ve never really experienced a need to be on the lookout for height markers and almost learned the hard way. Thankfully, the honking horns of friendly passers-by warned us we shouldn’t be on the route we had chosen (at least I think they were friendly).
Our final day on the road turned out to be a bust. The weather turned bad and the kids and critters were all stuck inside. We made the best of the situation and decided to head on back to the house and relax a bit. Perhaps taking a massive rig into the most densely populated part of the US wasn’t such a great idea for a first timer. We learned a lot on the trip, though and have moved on and purchased our own travel trailer. More on that on another post!
Worth The Trip?
Dwayne: It was definitely worth the trip to me. After a few hours behind the wheel and learning how to navigate such a big rig, I really enjoyed our time out there. I’m really glad we took a rental out the first time before deciding which type of RV works best for our family.
Heather: It was definitely worth the trip to me! I just wish we had planned our trip a little better up front so we could have seen more things in the short time we had. Next time!!