A few simple strategies can help you keep your motorhome on the road despite the price at the pump.
By J. Glenn Dupree, F362282
As fuel prices spiral upward, motorhome travel “” or any other travel method, for that matter “” becomes more expensive. At the time of this writing, diesel fuel topped $4 per gallon in many states, up from $2.75 not too long ago.
My wife, Laura, and I love traveling in our motorhome, and we don’t want to curtail our trips because of the rising costs. So, I started to think of ways to save on fuel consumption. After some contemplation, I came up with a few commonsense tips that have helped us continue to use our motorhome. I hope they will inspire you to keep traveling as well should gas and diesel fuel costs remain high.
First, don’t let the increase in fuel prices scare you into not using your motorhome. Look at it objectively. A $1-per-gallon hike equates to $100 more for every 100 gallons of fuel purchased. My motorhome, a 2004 Monaco Windsor diesel pusher, can average a little more than 8 mpg if I drive it properly and keep my highway speed in the 60-to-62-mph range. Therefore, 100 gallons of fuel should be enough for an 800-plus-mile trip. This means that for every $1 increase in fuel costs, I have to add another $100 to make that same 800-mile trip. Though we don’t relish paying the higher prices, this is not grounds for parking the motorhome and waiting until fuel costs decline $1 a gallon to resume traveling. We simply have to learn to live with the times and adjust accordingly.
How To Save Fuel
One of the best ways I know to conserve fuel is to drive efficiently. I’m told that with many modern diesel motorhomes, the most economic rpm is just above peak torque rpm, which is at the very low end of the engine’s rpm range. Experiment and look for your motorhome’s “sweet spot.”
I also pay attention to motorhome maintenance. I regularly check air pressure in the motorhome’s tires to make sure they are at the proper levels. In addition, I keep the air filters and fuel filters changed at the proper intervals.
Aside from driving efficiently and performing proper maintenance, another way to save on fuel costs is with good planning and trip routing. It can be a fun adventure when we make a wrong turn and get in an argument with our GPS, then explore and return to the original route. However, we are burning unnecessary fuel as we navigate to get back on track.
Be sure you have selected the best route to travel by motorhome (not car), and try to determine whether you will encounter road construction that will require detours. One of the easiest places to receive trip routing advice is through FMCA’s trip routing service. As an FMCA member, you can go online at FMCA.com and request free routing information for your trip (www.fmca.com/members/trip-routing).
Make reservations at campgrounds. Determine the route and the location of each facility beforehand so you won’t have to ride around looking for it when you arrive in the area.
If you belong to a local chapter of FMCA, ask whether any fellow members have been to your proposed destination. If so, do they have any tips that would make the trip shorter, better, or easier? You may be surprised by how valuable such advice can be.
Finally, I think you will be amazed to discover how easy it is to plan shorter trips. Countless destinations are fun, interesting, and relatively close to your home base. Laura and I are not completely retired, and three-to-five-day trips are much easier for us to make than 30-day journeys across the country. Obviously, the less distance traveled, the less fuel used.
I went to the Web and searched for fairs, festivals, and events within a 250-mile radius of our home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (four to five hours driving time). For the month of March alone, I found 56 events (fairs, festivals, and craft shows) listed within 250 miles of our hometown. They ranged from Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana to art exhibits on the beach in Pensacola, Florida. One craft festival in Bossier City, Louisiana, was titled “Shop till you Drop.” That certainly sounded like something my wife would love. I also found the “Que’in On The Red” barbecue festival in Alexandria, Louisiana. I can really get into some good pit barbecue. Needless to say, Laura and I had the opportunity to experience a variety of cultural events while keeping our travel miles low.
And let us not forget the fun social events planned by FMCA chapters. Many chapters welcome non-chapter members to attend their rallies; a number of them are listed in the “Association Calendar,” which appears in Family Motor Coaching magazine and online at FMCA.com (click on Chapters/Areas, then Chapter Rallies). In addition to chapter events, the Association Calendar includes information about upcoming FMCA area rallies that may be in your vicinity, as well as FMCA Family Reunions (international conventions).
I think you will agree that the distance of the trip has nothing to do with the quality of the trip. Good driving, proper maintenance, careful planning, and shorter trips allow us to continue quality RVing in spite of rising fuel costs.
Laura and I love the feeling of freedom that RVing has given us. We truly enjoy meeting new people and sharing new experiences while not very far from home. I particularly enjoy learning how other folks handle life’s daily experiences, what they consider important, and what they like to celebrate. The more I learn about the differences in the people I meet, the more I realize that we all have so much in common, especially motorhomers.
It may cost a little more, but it’s worth it.
RV Travel And Fuel Prices
With the onset of the summer RV travel season, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has compiled positive data and RV travel savings information.
“¢ RV travel is a great value. A study conducted by PKF Consulting found that a family of four can save 26 percent to 71 percent on vacation costs, depending on the type of trip and the type of RV used. More than 80 percent of RV owners say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation.
“¢ The latest Campfire Canvass survey of RV owners, conducted by RVIA, reveals that 53 percent intended to use their RVs more this spring/summer despite higher fuel prices. Another 38 percent said they’ll use their RVs the same amount.
“¢ Many RV-owning families planned to take shorter but more frequent trips in their RVs. Sixty-three percent planned to spend five or more weekends in their RVs this spring/summer; 19 percent said they will reserve a seasonal site at a campground this summer, and visit it on weekends.
“¢ When fuel prices rise, RVers adjust by traveling to destinations closer to home, driving fewer miles, and staying longer in one place, according to surveys of RV owners conducted by RVIA and CVENT, a leading provider of online surveys and research technology.
“¢ To save on fuel, RVers typically spend more time enjoying the campground experience and less time on the road. More than 16,000 campgrounds nationwide give RVers the flexibility to save fuel and cut costs by staying closer to home. Whether they travel five miles or 500, they can still enjoy a great outdoor experience.
“¢ Fuel prices would need to more than double from their current level to make RVing more expensive for a family of four than other forms of travel, according to PKF Consulting. PKF’s spring 2008 vacation cost comparison study shows that RV trips remain the most affordable way for a family to travel, because of the significant savings on air, hotel, and restaurant costs, which continue to rise.
“¢ Fluctuating fuel prices affect the cost of all modes of travel and transportation. Airfares and hotel rates rise rapidly when fuel costs increase.
“¢ Many RV owners surveyed take additional measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps. These include driving 55 mph instead of 65 mph, packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV, and turning off home utilities to save energy when traveling. RVers travel at a leisurely pace with no tight schedules for flights, hotels, or restaurants.