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General FAQs

When should we book our trip?

6 months before your start date is the minimum for most trips. This is when most national park campsites go on sale, and we need to be ready to reserve them for you the moment they become available. 12 months or more is even better, especially for trips that include Yellowstone which releases their campgrounds a year in advance. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the RVs, campgrounds, and excursions you want will be gone – and the more expensive those things become. Notice that our lowest prices are available until September 15 of the previous. After that, prices increase every 30 days.

What is included in the trip price?

You get the undivided attention of a veteran Tracks & Trails Trip Consultant to help you choose the right trip and excursions, prepaid hotel night in your arrival city, all-inclusive RV rental with pots, dishes, towels, sheets, mileage, etc., pre-booked campsites for every night, and, just before you leave home, your Adventure Kit travel support system-in-a-box. Some trips have an excursion or two included in the trip price (see the trip pages).

What is not included in the trip price?

Airfare, fuel, park entrance fees, and personal items like laundry, groceries, meals, drinks, telephone charges, and gratuities. Optional excursions that we reserve for you are also extra. 

What is the "Adventure Kit"?

Your Tracks & Trails Adventure Kit contains all of the information you’ll need for your trip, including your personalized itinerary, suggested activities, accommodation details, daily mileage, maps, and details about activities that we arranged for you. This packet organizes all the details and helps you stay on track once you’re on the road.

Do you recommend trip insurance?

YES! We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance providing coverage for loss of non-refundable payments (this includes all T&T payments), medical expenses, lost baggage, and other potential travel-related losses when the loss is for a covered reason. Because it’s a complicated decision, we recommend SquareMouth, who make it easy to compare plans from many companies and select one that fits your needs. Most policies will cover pre-existing conditions only if you purchase the plan within 15 days after making your first vacation payment, which would be your $500 deposit payment to Tracks & Trails.

We have multiple families traveling together. Can you organize this for us?

Of course! Multiple family trips are more complicated and require extra time, so the earlier you book, the better. 

Can I rent bikes with my RV?

It is possible but not easy. If this is a very high priority for you, you could make arrangements with a local bike shop to rent bikes and a suitable rack. But your schedule is quite full. You may not have much time to use them. (Our RV rental partner in Canada does have bikes to rent.)

Can I bring my dog?

We’re animal-lovers ourselves. Unfortunately, the National Parks and many other destinations are not dog-friendly, so there are few places they are allowed to be (mostly paved), and leaving them in the RV is prohibited in the National Parks. Like any vehicle, RVs get very hot inside when parked in the sun. We have reluctantly accepted that our fur babies are happier at home when we visit national parks. If you are determined to bring a pet, it will severely limit your choices of where to go and what to do. Most RV rental companies do not allow pets in their rentals.

We have our own RV, can you still plan a trip for us?

If one of the trips you see here on our website looks good to you and you are willing to follow that route, then we are happy to plan your trip. We do not plan fully custom itineraries, though we can personalize the trip somewhat. Prices are roughly 40% less than the prices on our website.

Keep in mind that if you plan to drive across several states to begin one of our trips, you will have eaten up a good portion of your allotted vacation time en route to your destination. You won’t want to drive more than 400-500 miles per day when covering long distances.

Tracks & Trails Services

What are the steps for booking a trip?

Say Hello – Explore our website to learn how this works, find a trip you like, click on Lets Get Started!, and use the short form to get us started.

Nail Down Details – We will get in touch with you, hopefully by phone, to get better acquainted, ask you some more questions, and help you zero in on an itinerary, dates, and RV size that work for you. 

Pay Deposit – We will send you an invoice for $500. This is the first of 3 payments. As soon as you make this payment, we will reserve your RV, since they sell out quickly. We will then build your trip in our system and send you a summary to confirm the details. Over the following months, we reserve each of your campsites the moment they become available. 

Choose Excursions – We’ll send a separate email introducing the optional excursions offered for your itinerary. Take your pick. We make the reservations and add the costs to your final invoice. 

Pay Half – 90 days after your deposit payment, pay 50% of your initial trip costs. 

Pay The Rest – Pay your vacation balance 60 days prior to departure. With receipt of this payment, we prepare your Adventure Kit – packed with everything you need for a successful trip – and ship it to you.

Go! – You arrive in your gateway city prepared to hit the road on your national park adventure.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Your $500 deposit may be paid using VISA, MasterCard, or Discover credit cards. The other payments are made online via ACH (bank draft). We charge 3% if you want to use a credit card for the second and third (larger) payments. 

Why must we pay before we receive our itinerary and Adventure Kit?

We charge for our services in advance because after we prepare your personalized itinerary and e-mail it to you, we have shared the secret sauce that makes what we do valuable. We have spent 25 developing this unique knowledge base, and we try to avoid giving it away.

When will I receive my itinerary and Adventure Kit?

If you are within the United States, we ship your Adventure Kit to you approximately 45-60 days prior to your departure so you have plenty of time to look it over. We receive new information almost daily, so waiting until the end allows us to include the most current materials.

If we live outside the US, when will we get our Adventure Kit?

For our customers outside of the USA, we will email copies of the most important documents to you ahead of time and ship the Adventure Kit to your RV company for you to retrieve upon arrival in the US. You must remember to ask for this when you pick up your RV.

What is your cancellation policy?

We make non-refundable purchases of RVs, campsites, hotels, and activities starting the day you book your trip. Therefore, we do not issue refunds. However, if you cancel more than 60 days before travel, your payments will convert to a credit that may be applied to the purchase of a future T&T trip (minus the $500 deposit). Inside of 60 days, all payments are forfeited, and there is no credit. 

We encourage you to purchase travel insurance to protect you in the event that certain events require you to cancel your trip. We like SquareMouth, a service that helps you compare policies from multiple companies to find a policy that works for you. It’s best to do this within 2 weeks after you make your first payment to us since most companies will cover pre-existing medical conditions if you do so. 

Can we make changes?

Not easily. As soon as you choose an itinerary and your start date, we build a full timeline in our systems, immediately reserving anything that’s available and sequencing the rest into dozens of tasks that are completed as they come due in the months leading up to your trip. Changing or undoing any of this is hard and will incur change fees:

  • Change trip or start date: $500 minimum
  • Change RV model: $200 + change in RV cost
  • Add or change trip participants: $100
  • Add excursion after initial selection: $50


How does traveling in an RV compare with traveling by car and staying in hotels?

Traveling in a car and staying in hotels is fine for a few days, but the packing-unpacking routine gets old quickly. Eating out three times a day gets old after a while, too. In an RV, everything you need is always close at hand: a stocked refrigerator, a clean restroom, a place to sit or lie down and have a rest, a warm refuge when it suddenly turns chilly, a cool place when it’s hot, room for the kids to spread out their stuff.

The scenery is better, too. You’ll spend your nights in some of the most scenic places on earth rather than in a hotel on the busiest street around. It’s a little home on wheels, and after a few days you’ll truly feel at home in it. You get the seclusion and natural beauty normally reserved for those willing to sleep on the ground but with all the comforts of home. You can see the stars, hear the coyotes howl, and smell the junipers. It’s the best of both worlds. We think you’ll love the RV experience.

Do I need a special license to drive the RV?

No, you may drive a motorhome using a current, standard driver’s license.

Is insurance included with the RV?

Most RV rentals include basic liability and collision coverage. When you pick up the RV, you will have the option to purchase supplemental liability insurance or to lower your collision deductible. You can also check with your own auto insurance company to see if they provide any coverage.

Are RVs hard to drive?

Smaller RVs are only a few feet longer than a large SUV. Class C models – the most popular – are built on a full-size Ford or GMC van chassis. These same truck bodies are the foundation for U-Hauls, ambulances, delivery vans and airport shuttle buses. The driving positions and controls are similar to a passenger car and the vehicle handles very predictably. Even the big Class A models (they’re the ones that look like a bus) are manageable to drive once you get used to them. What requires extra attention from the driver is the additional length and height. In no time you’ll get used to taking turns a little wider than usual and watching your overhead clearance. Details here

Are there seatbelts in the RV? Do you have to use them?

The seats in the RVs have seatbelts and they are required to be worn while the vehicle is moving. Larger Class C models have seatbelts for up to seven passengers. This is a motor vehicle, and the same seatbelt laws (and common sense) apply. Infant and child seats are also required in RVs. Few RV companies will rent a car seat to you due to liability issues, so bring your own.

Can I tow a car?

There are serious disadvantages to towing a vehicle. It slows the RV down, makes it more difficult to handle, and makes it impossible to back up if you find yourself in a tight spot, which is inevitable. Fortunately, it’s easy to drive the RV wherever you need to go. Most RV companies do not allow towing.

Is the RV fully stocked?

Your RV comes with essential linens and kitchen items – a simplified version of what you’d expect from a rented condo or Airbnb. If you can’t live without your favorite bath towel or pancake flipper, then bring it along. We provide you with a customized list of items you might want to bring from home in your Adventure Kit.

What is the best type and size RV for our family?

We’ll handle all the details of making your RV rental reservation. We’ll help you decide what type of RV configuration will work best for you based on the number of people you have on your trip. We’ll choose a rental company with a strong reputation for service and quality. This will be your home for the duration of your trip and we want you to be as comfortable as possible.

What is the difference between a Class A RV and a Class C RV? Which do you recommend?

We recommend a Class “C” motorhome. They are easier to drive, have a bonus queen bed over the cab, are less expensive to rent, and get better fuel mileage. At over 30’ long, Class “A” RVs are intimidating to drive, have fewer beds than a Class C, and restrict access to many of our favorite campgrounds. Details here.

What is the gas mileage when driving an RV?

Fuel mileage will be between 7-9 mpg, depending upon the vehicle you rent.

What is a "slideout"?

A “slideout” is a section of the wall/floor that slides out the side of the vehicle when you’re parked. It’s a great feature when you have lots of people in the vehicle. It is MUCH roomier, because the big pieces of furniture (sofa and/or dinette) get moved 3’ outside the vehicle, opening up all that extra floor space inside.

Why don't you recommend RVs longer than 31 feet in length?

Because of its size, an RV over 31 feet will not be allowed on some roads, and many campgrounds inside the parks have few or no spots for larger RVs.

Do RVs have TVs?

Some do. It depends on the size of the RV and the supplier. Many families tell us that their kids seldom, if ever, watched TV and spent less time on their other devices and that this accounted for much of the family “magic” that took place during the trip. 

How does "dumping" the holding tanks work?

The RV rental company will give you specific instructions on how to empty the holding tanks, and we supply a handy cheat sheet in your Adventure Kit. Basically, it’s a flush toilet with a holding tank. There is a gauge/panel that displays the level of the holding tank. When it gets near full, generally every 2-3 days, you pull up to the well-signed dump station at the campground, connect the hose, then open the valve to empty the black water (toilet) and gray water (sinks and shower) holding tanks.

How will we power our electronics while on the road?

If you have 12V car cords for your devices, that’s all you need. Most new RVs also have USB outlets scattered about the vehicle. For wall warts, you’ll need AC (household) current. This is available from outlets in the RV when you are plugged into “shore power” at a campground or when you run your generator. If you find yourself at a no-hookup campsite and running the noisy generator isn’t practical, you can use a small AC inverter that plugs into a cigarette lighter and gives you a small quantity of AC power. They come in various sizes, but 150 watts shouldn’t blow a fuse and is enough to charge a laptop and other adapters and battery chargers. No toasters or hair dryers!  “True sine wave” inverters provide the cleanest power for sensitive devices. (Some newer RVs have onboard, whole-house inverters.)

Campsites & Hotels

Why do we stay in a hotel for the first night of our trip?

You know how air travel is. Spending your first night in a hotel allows for unplanned flight delays and/or cancellations and provides you the opportunity to enjoy your stay in the departure city. This also allows plenty of time to pick up your RV the next day, shop for groceries, and have a comfortable drive to your first campground.

Can I book my own hotel stay?

Sure, just let us know. We will make an adjustment to your final invoice. 

What is the difference between campsites with and without hook-ups?

A no-hookup site will have only a picnic table, a firepit, and a place to park the RV. The RV is completely self-contained with onboard sources of electricity and fresh water plus holding tanks for wastewater. But quantities are limited, so you must be frugal with your use of water and electricity. Energy-hungry appliances like the air conditioner and microwave will not work without external electricity, which can be provided by the onboard generator, if its use is allowed in your campsite. Generators are noisy.

Full-hookup sites have external electricity, water, and sewer connections right at your campsite, usually on an adjacent post or pedestal. No rationing required here, although the water heater only holds 6 gallons, so you’ll need to give it time to recharge between showers. 

No-hookup sites tend to attract smaller RVs and to be more widely spaced, quiet, rustic and natural. Full-hookup sites are preferred by larger RVs, are closer together, and have fewer trees. It’s rare to find both qualities in the same campground. We find that after a day or 2 in one type you start to crave the other. So we like to mix it up. 

Can I still use the shower in the RV at a no-hookup campsite?

Yes! Your fresh water tank contains a limited supply of water that you will use for drinking, cooking, washing, showering, and flushing. So conserve with shorter showers!

Where do we wash our clothes while traveling?

Many private campgrounds have washers and dryers for laundry. Most towns have coin operated laundromats, as well.

Trip Logistics

Your trips seem a little slow. Can we add more stops?

If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned from helping thousands of people plan RV trips, it’s that slower is better.

RVs are at their best when used as a mobile base camp for enjoying the outdoors. RVs are actually less comfortable for covering long distances than your car or SUV. At highway speeds they are noisy, a little bumpy in the back, and consume fuel in a hurry. Nearly everyone who plans their own RV trip overestimates the distance they can drive comfortably. Most places deserve at least a full day of your time, so you’ll see 2-night stays at most destinations in our trips. Your fondest memories of your trip will be of time spent outside the RV, not of endless hours behind the wheel.

As Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire and other iconic reads about the American Southwest says, “You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the #%&$% contraption and walk — better yet crawl, on hands and knees — over the sandstone and through the thorn bush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something. Maybe.”

How many miles do you suggest we drive in a day?

When you’re traveling in an RV, an average of 150 miles per day (or less) is plenty, unless it’s unavoidable due to travel distance from one park to another. Out here, you don’t have to go any further to discover another breathtaking place worth staying for a couple of days. Some of your days should involve no driving, at all. 

Why are all of your trips round-trips and not one-ways?

Our round-trip routes cover a region very efficiently, allow you to book simple round-trip airline fares, and permit leaving empty suitcases at the rental depot until you return. (You only unpack once in an RV, remember?) RV suppliers usually require motorhomes to be picked up and dropped off at the same location. When one-ways are available, they must be booked farther in advance, they run only in certain directions, and they require an additional “drop fee”. 

Why can't we start our trip on a Saturday or end on a Sunday?

Nearly all RV rental offices are closed on Sundays and holidays. Since you spend your first night in a hotel, flying into your starting city on a Saturday would require a Sunday RV pickup, which is not possible. At the end of your trip, you will fly home on the same day you return the RV, which may not be a Sunday. 

At what time should our return flight depart?

Most RV companies require you to return your RV between about 8:00 AM and 11:00 AM. You’ll need time to get to the airport and through security for your flight home. We suggest booking return flights no earlier than 1:00. 2:00 is better.

How do we get around inside the parks?

Many parks have shuttles that serve the campgrounds and attractions in the area. When these are available, we’ll explain how to use them. Outfitters for your optional excursions will sometimes pick you up right at your campground. Otherwise, you just pull the power cord, unscrew the water hose, and go. Your Tracks & Trails itinerary and “More About” documents will tell you how to get around in each place.

Will I have internet access on my trip?

Cellular data coverage in the parks gets a little better each year, but it can still be spotty. There is no magical technology solution. Some national park lodges have limited WiFi, but that is not always reliable. It is best to be prepared to survive a night or two during your trip with no Internet. Once you get past the initial pangs of anxiety, it can be quite relaxing! 

How many optional excursions should we take?

It depends mostly on your personal energy level and appetite for adventure, but it is possible to overdo it and leave too little time for the main sights and attractions. Scheduling one excursion per location will usually allow a good balance.

Can you book a fishing, mountain biking, or other unlisted excursion for us?

Specialized pursuits like these are hard for us to arrange ahead of time because they are so dependent on your personal level of experience and competence. Local conditions on the day you arrive are also factors that only you can gauge when choosing an experience to reserve. If you have a special interest, just let us know. We can probably suggest a good location for it and even an outfitter for you to contact independently.

Do you offer trips in places other than the American West?

We only offer trips in the Western United States and Canada.

Traveling with Children

Do you recommend RV trips with younger kids?

Absolutely! An RV is the perfect support system for kid-focused travel because you travel in a completely self-contained mini-home on wheels with everything you need close at hand: food, clean bathroom, a place to have a nap, all of your clothes, etc. And you only unpack once rather than every night of your road trip. Compared to hotel-based road trips and tent camping, it’s the best of both worlds

Since there are only two front seats, we recommend rotating all family members who are old enough into that seat during the trip so that everyone experiences the best views. It often helps for an adult to ride in the camper section of the RV with the kids to help point out things you are passing and talk with them about what you are experiencing on the vacation. You can still see and talk to the driver. Seating is at the dinette with a table available for coloring, drawing, or playing. The seats have LATCH attachments for car seats.

The secret to successful family trips is keeping the driving distances comfortable. Most of our routes meander through beautiful places at a leisurely pace, usually spending 2 or 3 nights in a single spot before moving on.

Will my kids get bored?

It’s highly unlikely. Even if they’re used to a steady diet of TV and video games, your kids might surprise you (and themselves) once they get out here. Digging for dinosaur bones, riding on steam trains, wading in streams, watching spewing geysers, peering into huge canyons, driving a Jeep along a rough road, building campfires, roasting marshmallows – it’s a rare child that doesn’t think that’s all pretty cool. The trick is to vary the activities enough so that there’s something interesting to do every day.

Why do you need to know heights, weights, and birth dates?

Suppliers of excursions like horseback rides and raft trips need this to safely assign participants to the right boat, horse, or helicopter.