When should I book our trip? How far in advance?
Reservations should be made no later than sixty days in advance. Planning a trip with less lead time drastically reduces availability of specific RVs, campgrounds, and excursions. Most national parks are open for reservations about 6 months prior to your arrival date, so booking your trip early is key in the planning process. We recommend booking your trip in the fall, for the following summer.
What costs are included in the trip price?
The services of a Tracks & Trails Trip Consultant to assist in choosing a suitable itinerary, your Adventure Kit, your first-night hotel, your all-inclusive RV (with pots, dishes, towels, sheets, mileage, etc.), all your campgrounds, driving directions and maps, a National Parks Pass (that will gain you free entry for a year). Optional Activities that require advance reservations are available at an additional cost.
What is not included in the trip price?
Airfare, fuel, park entrance fees that are not covered by the National Parks Pass, and personal items including but not limited to laundry, groceries, meals, drinks, telephone and fax charges, visa and passport fees, gratuities, and foreign and domestic departure taxes.
What exactly is in an "Adventure Kit"?
Your Tracks & Trails Adventure Kit contains all of the information you’ll need for your trip. Everything’s right at your fingertips, 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 RV trips with children and infants?
Yes, renting an RV is ALL ABOUT traveling with kids. Dig for dinosaur bones. Ride steam trains. Wade in streams. Peer into huge canyons. Drive a jeep along a rough road. Build a campfire and roast marshmallows. Even jaded teenagers will be telling their friends about this cool summer vacation.
Infants are wonderfully portable. The trick is not committing yourselves to covering lots of ground. We’ll help you plan a route that meanders through some amazingly beautiful places at a very leisurely pace, maybe only moving the RV every two or three days.
If your children are very young, a compact, lightweight stroller is a good idea. Strollers are usually only allowed on well-beaten, paved trails, so you will want a high quality backpack carrier for your smaller children.
Travel by RV is a perfect way to travel with kids, because you have a completely self-contained mini-home with you at all times. Everything you need is always close at hand: food, the potty, a place to lie down and take a nap, a place out of the elements to change a diaper that is not a dirty floor in a public bathroom, room to play, all of your clothes, etc. It is far more pleasant than traveling by car where you have to pack and unpack all your stuff several times a day. Fold down the dinette cushions, lay a pillow across the end, and you have a perfect crib. Since there are only two front seats, one adult may want to ride in the camper section of the RV with your child(ren). You can still see and talk to the driver. The kids will be seated at the dinette, with a table right in front of them for coloring, drawing, or playing.
Will my kids get bored?
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, 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 children's birth-dates to create a trip proposal?
Activity requirements/rates vary depending on the ages of the children at time of travel. It helps us tailor your trip so that all activities are best suited for all involved.
Do you recommend trip insurance?
YES! YES! And YES! We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance providing coverage for loss of Deposit, cancellation fees, medical expenses, lost baggage and other potential travel-related losses under certain circumstances. The scope of coverage is subject to the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. We recommend Travel Guard who offers customized travel insurance plans. If you choose to purchase this insurance, please do so no later than the time of your final payment.
Can I rent bikes with my RV?
Some RV companies will rent bike racks but not bicycles. A great option would be for us to look into booking a guided bike tour for you; or, in most areas there are bicycles outfitters nearby where you can rent a bike and pick up a trail map and go out on your own for the day.
Can I bring my dog?
We’re animal-lovers ourselves. Unfortunately, the National Parks and many other destinations are not dog-friendly, so you have little choice but to leave them in your vehicle. Any vehicle can become very hot inside when parked in the sun, but over the years we’ve had to accept (reluctantly) that they’re sometimes happier at home. 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?
Yes. However, to get the most out of your vacation, we do recommend that you fly into one of our destination cities (San Francisco, Billings, Las Vegas or Denver) and start and end your trip there. If you are using your own RV and driving across several states to begin one of our fabulous trips, you already have eaten up a good portion of your allotted vacation time. Finally, the money you save in excess mileage charges and fuel (think 6-8 mpg) will go a long way towards covering the cost of the plane tickets.
Why do you recommend that we stay in a hotel for the first night of our trip?
Traveling to your departure location can sometimes not always go as one would like. Staying the first night in a hotel allows for unplanned flight delays and/or cancellations and provides you the opportunity to enjoy your stay at the departure city. This also allows plenty of time to pick up your RV and begin your trip with no added stress or delays.
Can you arrange a hotel on the last night of the trip for us?
Yes! You can certainly add on additional hotel stays if you would like more time at the beginning of your trip, or a little down time after dropping off your RV at the end of your trip. Just let us know!
Can I book my own hotel stay?
Certainly – just let us know!
What is the difference between a hookup and no-hookup campsite?
Full hookups include electric, water and sewer attachments for the RV. The RV is completely self-contained. Hookups to electric and water provide you with unlimited use. You don’t have to ration. No-hook up campsites can usually be quite comfortable without hookups. However, your air conditioner and microwave oven will not operate without either running the generator (not allowed in some campgrounds due to noise, or only during specific generator hours) or external electricity.
Can I still use the shower in the RV at a no-hookup campsite?
You will have a fresh water tank. That 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.
Why is traveling in an RV better than 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 very quickly, as does keeping a toddler quiet in a hotel room at 5:00 AM because it’s 7:00 AM at home. Not to mention eating out three times a day. 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, and on and on.
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. 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?
There is some liability coverage included with the rental of your RV. You can choose to purchase supplemental liability insurance to lower your deductible when you arrive at the RV station. You can also check with your own private auto insurance company to see if they will provide some coverage as well.
Are RVs hard to drive?
Smaller RVs are only a few feet longer than a Chevy Suburban or Ford Excursion. 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 ambulances, delivery vans and airport shuttle buses. The driving positions and controls are very 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 easy 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.
Are there seat-belts in the RV? Do you have to use them?
The seats in the RVs have seat-belts and they are required to be worn while the vehicle is moving. Larger Class C models have seat-belts for up to seven passengers. This is a motor vehicle – the same seat-belt laws (and common sense) apply. Infant and child seats are also required in RVs. Only a few RV companies will rent a car seat to you due to liability issues, but you may prefer to bring your own.
Can I tow a car?
Most RV companies do not allow towing. We think you’ll find that it’s not really a problem driving the RV wherever you need to go, and 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.
What does the normal RV rental come with? Do we have to bring our own cooking supplies? Sleeping supplies?
Your rental is booked with “Convenience Kits” which typically include:
- Water Pitcher
- Potato Peeler
- Bottle Opener
- 4 Piece Cutlery
- Pan Covers
- Salad Bowls
- Dutch Oven
- Clothes Hangers
- Dust Pan
- Baking Dish
- Small Sauce Pan
- Large Sauce Pan
- Frying Pan
- Coffee Maker
- Toilet Brush
Convenience Kits also include sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, washcloths, etc.
If you love a big bath towel, then bring your own. We provide you with a customized list of items you might want to bring from home in the Adventure Kit.
What is the best 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 satisfied and 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. Class “A” RVs tend to be 31’ and larger, and may have limited to no access on certain backroads. Some campgrounds inside the parks may be restricted to smaller type RVs, or may have fewer larger campsites to choose from.
Below are a few more differences between the Class A and Class C motorhomes;
- Class Cs are less expensive to rent than a Class A.
- Fuel economy better than a Class A.
- Easier to drive than a Class A. Class C owners say that driving a Class C feels like driving a heavier and bigger SUV.
- Easier to find campsites, as Class A units typically start at 31’ and go up from there.
- Because it is more compact than Class A, it can be driven on most roads.
- It has more real sleeping capacity than a “bus” style motorhome, due to the spacious queen size cabover bed. Two full beds are ready to use immediately without folding down or adjusting interior furniture.
- Is much easier to drive, park, and maneuver in tight areas such as campgrounds. This feature is very important for the first-time renter. Our customers report feeling more comfortable and familiar with driving the more “automatic” cabover motorhome.
- As per our internal statistics, is less prone to accidents involving third parties and to vehicle damage. We know since we formerly rented “bus” style motorhomes.
- Is easier to handle and drive in windy conditions due to lower overall vehicle profile. All renters really appreciate this feature!
- It has easier access with three separate entry doors, compared to one door commonly found on bus style motorhomes.
- With less interior volume to cool in the cab area during summer travel, has better driving comfort, as reported by customers. Uses less generator time to power the roof A/C, and consequently experiences less fuel expense.
- As a “van” based RV, has more readily available on-the-road service, and service part items such as filters, belts, and headlights.
- With lower profile, has easier entry/egress to vehicle along with the convenience of driver and passenger cab doors.
- It is quieter when driving, as the cab area “insulates” driver and passenger from over the road noise.
What is the gas mileage like when driving an RV?
Fuel mileage will be between 7-9 mpg, depending upon the vehicle you rent. We know that RVs are at their best wandering the back roads at a leisurely pace.
What is a "slideout"?
A “slideout” is the 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 have limited to no access on certain back roads. Some campgrounds inside the parks will have a limited number of spots for larger RVs.
Do the RVs come with TVs?
Some do and some don’t. It depends on the size of the RV and the supplier. But please allow us to make a radical suggestion. Even if you can’t imagine a week or two without a TV, give it a try. Almost without exception, families tell us that their kids seldom, if ever, watched TV and that this accounted for much of the family “magic” that took place during the trip.
How does "dumping" your tanks work?
The RV rental company will give you instructions on how to empty the holding tanks. Buy a pair of heavy duty yellow rubber gloves for this task. Basically, it’s a flush toilet with a holding tank, so it works like a normal toilet. There is a gauge/panel that will show you the fullness level of the holding tank. When it gets towards full (at ¾ is best) or every couple of days, you pull up to the dump station at the campground, and empty that holding tank along with the grey water holding tank (that holds the sink and shower water).
Helpful hint – empty the toilet (black) water tank first, and then use the grey water to rinse out the hose and wash out anything that didn’t go down on the first run through.
How will we power our electronics while on the road?
If you have 12V car cords for your devices, that’s all you need. If not, you need AC (household) current. This is available from the outlets in the RV when you are plugged into “shore power” at a campground or when you start your generator. However, some campgrounds don’t have hookups, and running the noisy generator is certainly overkill for charging your camera battery. The best solution is to go to Wal-Mart, Target, or any of the office supply superstores and buy a small “inverter”. It plugs into a cigarette lighter and gives you a small quantity of AC juice. They come in various sizes, but 150 watts is probably enough to run a laptop and miscellaneous adapters and battery chargers (no toasters or hair dryers!). As a rule of thumb, any device with a separate “brick” in its power cord will work fine (inverters may produce an audible hum in some audio devices if played while connected to the inverter). Just don’t buy the very cheapest units.
What is the process of booking a trip?
Step 1 Browse our whole website and understand the services that we provide
Step 2 To get started immediately, click on Lets Get Started! and follow the instructions there.
Step 3 We’ll then ask you a few questions to make sure we understand your needs. The questions will include:
- Names and dates of birth for anyone under the age of 18, and special interests
- Expected dates of arrival and departure
- Desired trip and “must-see” destinations
- If your party is interested in added activities like rafting, horseback riding, biking, etc.
- Preferences for rustic vs. “developed” camping
- Size preference for your RV
Based upon what we learn, we’ll create a personalized proposal and e-mail it to you.
Step 4 You review the proposal and let us know what you think!
Step 5 We’ll fine tune your itinerary if necessary to maximize your enjoyment.
Step 6 After you approve the itinerary, we require a 40% non-refundable deposit. Once that is processed, we will make reservations for your RV, camping, rafting, horseback riding…etc.
Step 7 Once you pay your final balance (due 60 days prior to departure) we’ll prepare your Adventure Kit – packed with all sorts of additional information about your trip – and ship it to you.
Step 8 Enjoy your Adventure!
We are multiple families traveling together; can you organize this for us?
Of course! Multiple families will require more lead time, so the earlier you can plan the better. Most National Parks open for reservations approximately 6 months prior to your arrival date.
We are multiple families traveling together, can I get a discount?
We have found through 20+ years of experience that we actually spend more time planning multi-family vacations than single family vacations. It takes more time to coordinate all the families and to do our best making all the reservations together, including finding availability and requesting campsites as close together as possible.
What forms of payment do you accept?
Deposits may be paid using VISA, MasterCard and Discover credit cards. Final payments must be made by personal check, wire transfer, or money order. Requests to make final payment by credit card will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Why do we have to pay in advance of receiving 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 most of the proprietary “know-how” that constitutes most of the value of our unique service. In short, we have invested heavily in this unique knowledge base, and we can’t afford to give 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 30 days prior to your departure so you have plenty of time to look it over. We receive new information daily, and this 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 first night’s hotel for your pickup upon arrival in the US.
What is your cancellation policy?
CANCELLATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED AT OUR OFFICE IN WRITING – by mail, fax or email.
No refunds or other compensation will be offered in the event that inclement weather, fire or smoke conditions, or other natural causes lead to travel delays or prevent customer from participating in scheduled activities. If your trip needs to be rerouted due to weather-related conditions, we will do so.
If for any reason you need to cancel your Tracks & Trails vacation, fees are as follows:
More than 60 days prior to your departure date, the cancellation fee will be 40% of the price of your trip.
60 days or less prior to your departure date, the cancellation fee will be 100% of the price of your trip.
Tracks & Trails strongly recommends that you purchase travel insurance from Travel Guard providing coverage for loss of Deposit, cancellation fees, medical expenses, lost baggage and other potential travel-related losses under certain circumstances. The scope of coverage is subject to the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. If you choose to purchase this insurance, please do so no later than the time of your final payment.
Why do you suggest a certain amount of nights for each trip?
If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned from helping hundreds 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. While they do have nearly all the conveniences of home, they are actually less comfortable for long days on the road than your car or SUV. At highway speeds they are noisy, unstable in cross-winds, and consume fuel in a hurry. From our experience, we consider anything over 800-1000 miles per week to be excessive. Nearly everyone who plans a trip out here on their own makes the mistake of overestimating the number of miles that they can drive comfortably. 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 great books 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.” You don’t have to go to quite that extreme, but you and your kids will remember the things you did together like seeing that big bear or bison in Yellowstone, rappelling down that canyon wall, or just hearing the wolves howl one night from your campsite.
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. If you only have a week, it’s better to really get to know the area around Zion National Park than it is to start in Denver, roar over the Rocky Mountains, skim over Mesa Verde, fly through southern Utah, stick your head over the rim at the Grand Canyon, and whiz across Hoover Dam before collapsing in Las Vegas. Really. It is.
Why is it preferred to do a round-trip route, rather than a one-way?
RV suppliers mostly rent for round-trip excursions; they require the motorhome to be picked up and dropped off at the same location. One-way rentals are few and therefore need to be booked quite early in the season, run in only certain directions, and require an additional “drop fee”.
Why can't we start our trip on a Saturday? Or end on a Sunday (or holiday)?
All RV rental offices are closed on Sundays and holidays, making the pick-up or return of your RV impossible on these days.
On the last day of the trip, at what time should we book our return flights?
The RV drop-off times are usually from 8:00 AM but no later than 10:30 AM. Leave time to get to the airport and pass through security for your flight home. We suggest booking return flights for no earlier than 1:00 PM.
How do we get around the parks?
Many National Parks have shuttles that serve the campgrounds and the attractions in the area. When these are available, we suggest you use this convenient transportation. Many of the optional activities will also provide transportation. Otherwise, you just pull the power cord, unscrew the water hose, and go. Your Tracks & Trails “More About” documents will have all the details.
Will I have internet access on my trip?
Internet can be spotty. Many National Park Lodges will have WiFi, but they are not reliable. You might also have the option of purchasing WiFI for your RV at your rental company at check-out.
How many optional activities do you suggest in each area we visit?
There are many variables when looking at optional activities. We take into account how long you will be at a location as well as group and individual interests. In general, we suggest one additional activity in every location you visit. We want to make sure you have time to visit the parks and sights, rather than spending your time in activities.
Can you book a fishing / excursion for us?
Unfortunately, fishing is one of the sports that is hard for us to arrange ahead of time. Fishing is very dependent on hatches and current river and weather conditions. Because of this factor, we aren’t able to organize fishing ahead of time. If you are interested in fishing while on your vacation, we can suggest locations and an outfitter for you to contact independently.
Do you offer trips in places other than the American West?
Currently, we only offer trips in the Western United States and Canada.