Experiencing America in VR | The Press

Experiencing America in VR | The Press

Who hasn't dreamed of hitting the road for a few weeks to see the country and enjoy the great outdoors? The recreational vehicle is ideal for this kind of escape, a trip made more accessible thanks to rental. Testimonials and practical guide.

Posted on Apr 6, 2018Pierre-Marc Durivage THE PRESS

Follow the guide! They were all seduced by the fact of traveling by transporting their own little house. Some have decided to go on long trips, others have chosen to rent an RV for a few weeks. Memorable experiences that they deliver to us in the blink of an eye.

Jerome Vaillancourt

It was on a whim that Jérôme Vaillancourt and his wife Alexandra Larouche left for Las Vegas with their little girls Charlie and Ariane in November 2014. They rented an RV there to tour the major national parks of the region, taking advantage of the low season to get from one place to another without too much hassle.

“I booked this three days in advance, in November. I could never have done this in the other 11 months of the year. There was room in Las Vegas, and this area is perfectly suited to this type of trip. There are lots of landlords, there are RV parks, the roads are wide, civilization is geared up for that! Apart from Las Vegas, the rest is nature, it's easy, you never have to maneuver in cramped small towns. Everything is vast, it's made for that, it's well-established. The VR culture is in place.”


“Having your home in a national park is the pinnacle of camping. Having camped only in private campsites would have made me unhappy, however, it sometimes looks like shopping center parking lots. But being able to count on your own apartment while camping is our favourite.”

Louis Jutras

It's a real “guy trip” that Louis Jutras enjoyed last summer with his sons Roméo and Willie, his nephew Pascal and their neighbor and friend Vladimir. A whirlwind eight-day trip around the Grand Canyon, well planned, but not without its surprises.

“I had brought my guys to Hawaii a few years ago and was looking for a new destination where I could show them the country. A friend of mine had done the Grand Canyon tour by car and I thought it might be nice to do the same thing in RV. The first day, we arrived at night in Zion Park; when the sun came up the next day, we saw the hills, the river, it was really impressive.”


“When you leave Las Vegas, it's quite a contrast, you really feel like you've arrived in another world. You ride for miles where you feel like you're on the moon, it never ends. And it's really easy in VR; you have peace, every day it changes, everyone had fun.”

Mariane Fradette

Mariane Fradette had never traveled in a recreational vehicle before the summer of 2016, when she and her partner Sébastien Dupuis decided to take a few trips to Quebec with their children Émile and Liliane, then aged 7 and 3. They caught the virus and embarked on a year-long journey around North America.

"It's not something we've been dreaming about for a long time. I knew a girl who had traveled for two years in VR and it marked me, it lit a small spark. Subsequently, when we made the decision to sell our house in Rimouski, a window opened: we no longer had any financial obligations, that's when I thought of going in RV. It's convenient to have your house all the time, you're not always in your luggage, it's also easy to keep a routine with the children.


“The happy blend of mobility and stability. You walk with your house, but at the same time, you discover the country, it's the best of both worlds. We can be in our business, but at the same time, we can discover little hidden gems that people don't know about. It's really not hard to get off the beaten track."

Genevieve Doyle

Left from Quebec in June 2016 with her spouse François Désy and their children Simon and Raphaëlle. They criss-crossed North America and stopped nine months ago in Chacala, north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They will soon be back in Quebec.

“We bought our RV and went to Florida for three weeks to do a test. It was conclusive and so we decided to leave for real. At first, we wanted to cross the Americas; however, the project evolved, and we decided to take much smaller bites. During the first 18 months, we stopped for a maximum of one week. But here, we've been in Chacala for almost nine months, the children go to an alternative school to learn Spanish. It's also good for socializing, because you tend to create a bubble in your RV, you don't come into too much contact with people."


“Sunrises. When you wake up somewhere and enjoy a view you couldn't have otherwise. We camped on beaches, parked next to a five-star hotel at $5,000 a night! The RV provides access to otherwise inaccessible places, with a certain luxury; you can cook eggs Benedict while watching the sun rise!”

For a successful tripAny RV trip requires some preparation, and this is especially true when renting in high season. Rental of the vehicle, itinerary, types of campsites desired, here is a range of things that one must have in mind before imagining oneself driving in the immensity of the landscapes.

For the summer period, the best prices and the most beautiful variety of vehicles are offered to travelers who book early. “As the RV rental fleet is not as large as for cars, we generally start the process in the fall and we do not go beyond the month of January, supports Louise Gagnon, director of communications for the Quebec Federation of camping and caravanning (FQCC). Otherwise, you have to be flexible with regard to the departure date, the type of vehicle and the rental location.”

The most beautiful campsites also tend to sell out very quickly if you plan to travel in July or August. In some US national parks, the most coveted campsites are sold out six months in advance. “In the parks, reservations for campsites are made online, but there are particularities for each of them, explains Louise Gagnon. They can be very different from each other, some offer full services, others do not. So you have to do research and study how to make reservations.”

It is therefore ideal to have a good idea of ​​your trip when making reservations.

“The best thing is to establish a precise itinerary and to book well in advance at the campsites in the parks. For people who prefer to travel with more flexibility, it is necessary to have in mind up to three places to camp in the sectors that we intend to visit”, indicates Nathalie Martel, advisor of the agency Voyages FQCC.

Living America in VR | Press

Preparing a relatively precise route is also necessary to determine the distance you intend to travel, because the mileage is not unlimited when you rent an RV. “The best thing is to buy mileage blocks before leaving,” says Louise Gagnon. The distances included in the rental are clearly insufficient, so you have to plan the number of kilometers you plan to cover and indicate it when renting the vehicle. If we don't, we are quickly billed for the kilometer traveled and it is expensive.

Life on board

Before concluding the rental of our motorhome, it is also good to know that very few things are included on board. It is necessary to provide bedding, crockery, various accessories and sanitary products - including treatment tablets for the waste water tanks. As for booster seats, not all RVs accommodate all types of child seats. “When you rent, there are supplements for all sorts of essential things, explains Jérôme Vaillancourt. We thought it was cheaper to buy our sheets, our chairs and our table in a big box store. We also brought a bag with towels, frisbees, games, etc.

Especially since children love to travel in VR. “At first, they are very excited, says Louise Gagnon, who has rented a family RV on multiple occasions. But they will also participate enthusiastically in domestic life, much more than at home.

On the other hand, if you want offspring in good shape, it is better to plan ahead if they tend to suffer from motion sickness. “In an RV, everyone has to be tied down, you can't cook or play skipping rope when the vehicle is moving,” continues Ms. Gagnon. Motion sickness can be worse in VR, it's a bit like being in a boat. We bring Gravol, we don't ask questions.

With all of these things to plan for, the rental bill can be quite substantial - close to $250 per day in high season, not including gas. “It's a trip that you offer yourself, recognizes Louise Gagnon. There are savings to be made because you don't eat at the restaurant, but it compares to the hotel. So it's a way of traveling, probably the best way to visit national parks, because you always stay in your dream setting."

In complete autonomy

It is also possible to camp in complete autonomy, often for free, especially in national forests. On the other hand, it is necessary to manage its consumption of electricity and drinking water and to plan places where to empty waste water. Since it is often forbidden to use the generator at night, you cannot use a heater or air conditioner, which can be a problem when traveling in the middle of summer. You should also know that the use of the generator entails additional costs.

Tricks of the trade for an easy stay all types of travellers. Regular tips when taking possession of the rented vehicle.

Filming the introductory tourThe landlord will take at least 30 minutes to walk around the RV before letting you go. This is necessary to grasp all the subtleties surrounding the use of the vehicle. “It's not a bad idea to film the tour of the owner with his phone before departure, recommends Louise Gagnon, of the Quebec Federation of Camping and Caravanning. Record the landlord explain how to empty the tanks and install the various equipment, but also how to handle the retractable awning. Moreover, we are taught that we should never leave the awning open when we are away, a gust of wind can tear it.

Getting supplies “You can bring basic products in your suitcases, but there's a lot of groceries to do the first day,” explains Louise Gagnon, who has frequently traveled with her family by renting RVs. We prefer big box stores because they offer large parking lots where it is easy to maneuver. It's also practical because you can find everything under the same roof: groceries, food for cooking, cleaning products, toys, etc. “When you return to the landlord at the end of the trip, you can leave certain things there and everything will be distributed to people in need,” suggests Louis Jutras.

Fixing the equipment on boardYou may feel like you're carrying your little house with you, but you always have to keep in mind that it's in motion. “It can get quite noisy, warns Louise Gagnon. Everything slams, the glasses knock against each other. We have to put things back in the cupboards on a few occasions. Otherwise, care must be taken to lock the door latches. Also, do not leave anything lying around before hitting the road. In short, we secure everything on board the RV, not only for safety reasons, but also to ensure a more pleasant sound environment.

Easy Navigation GPS device rentals are available for an additional fee, but they are often provided automatically when choosing to purchase bedding and dishes from the rental company. "You can also buy a prepaid phone on site for less than $100," says Louis Jutras. In addition to being able to count on an integrated GPS, you can use the device to make calls or browse the internet. You can also buy a SIM card and put it in your phone - just make sure the phone is unlocked (your provider can do this for free) and that it's compatible with the service provider.

Entertaining the kidsThe RV is ideal for family trips. But you have to know how to keep the children in a good mood. Of course, the electronic tablet with a few films in memory is essential, as well as some games and activity books. “We like audio books, suggests Geneviève Doyle. Children listen to them while looking outside, they are less likely to get motion sickness. Also, we divide the trips into two-hour periods between which we stop to play a little. Finally, it is sometimes good to spend the night in family campsites with swimming pools, water games and parks. We have to make it interesting for the children.”

Knowing how to settle Moving to a campsite requires a certain amount of acclimatization. “It's good to know the maneuvering techniques, says Louise Gagnon. Except in pitches where you enter on one side and exit on the other, you have to back up and make sure that the connections are on the right side. For the connections, however, it is better that only one person takes care of it. “Often, one of the two parents can go for a walk with the children in the playground while the other settles down, recommends Ms. Gagnon. It can avoid some family crises!”

Limit comings and goings "When you arrive in the evening, you have to be sure you've seen everything you had planned on the schedule," says Louise Gagnon. You don't feel like unplugging at night. So we're going to stop on the way to do the shopping, because it's unpleasant to unplug to get a pint of milk. In a campsite, we are a bit prisoner of our vehicle, so the idea is to move as much as possible during the day. It's fun, an RV, but it's not magic; there is no domestic technician on board!”

Draining with peace of mind “The first time you empty your black water, it's not pleasant, admits Jérôme Vaillancourt. On the third time, you buy dishwashing gloves! But in the end, if you think things through and are resourceful, you're fine!” Obviously, opting for campsites with services limits emptying operations. “It's better to connect every time, supports Louis Jutras. For our part, a reservation error precipitated our departure and the landlord forgot to drain our RV. On the fourth day, we realized this when we saw the dirty water coming up through the shower drain...”

Tools for caravannersDo you have in mind to rent a motorhome or do you cherish the slightly crazy dream of going on an adventure for several months aboard your RV? Several tools can make your life easier, before or after departure. Small non-exhaustive collection including some must-see sites and some suggestions from seasoned travelers.

Rental between individuals

It's sort of the Airbnb of caravanning. Owners - but also retailers - make their RVs available to travellers. Unlike traditional landlords, here everything is included in the price, except the extra mileage. But it's not always cheaper, especially for newer vehicles. You have to search to find the bargains.

Last minute departure

Rental companies often have to move their vehicles from one city to another or take possession of RVs fresh from the factory. They therefore invite travelers to drive vehicles from point A to point B for unbeatable prices. However, you have to be ready to leave on short notice. You can also directly consult the websites of rental companies, being on the lookout for “relocation specials”. Motorhome Republic is an agency that does business with the world's leading rental companies.

Find the campsite

These two practical sites allow you to discover almost all the places to spend the night while camping. Campendium lists all types of pitches, from wilderness sites to private campsites with pools and water features. As its name suggests, Free Campsites is a directory of places where you can camp for free in complete autonomy. Both sites are powered by their subscribers.

Practical applications

Similar to Campendium, AllStays and iOverlander, however, are used more on mobile devices, through apps. AllStays is paid, but it's packed with information, from traditional campsites to wilderness sites to Walmart parking lots. It can also be used to find the nearest dump station. The iOverlander app, on the other hand, is more for those who want to think outside the box.

Welcome travelers

While Outdoorsy offers individuals the opportunity to rent their RV through its platform, Boondockers Welcome offers people the opportunity to welcome RVers into their homes at no cost. Members can be hosts or visitors, they are often caravanning enthusiasts. The Quebec site RVandBEE offers a similar formula, but many owners offer sites with some services, so there are associated costs.

At the farm

Harvest Hosts is the American equivalent of the Quebec site Terroir en VR. You can spend the night for free on the grounds of more than 590 vineyards, breweries, distilleries, farms and other local producers. The idea is directly inspired by the French site France Passion, which has existed since 1993.