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  1. Default Cruise America in Phoenix


    This site is amazing, thank you to all the contributors for the excellent advice.

    We are a family of 4 (two children - 5 and 8) from the UK, planning a trip late July and August 2012 for 5 weeks. We have our flights booked into and out of Phoenix and are in the process of route planning. We were fairly sure that we were going to book an RV for 30 days, leaving a few days either side to chill and acclimatise, from Cruise America in Phoenix and have the rough idea of a route taking in GC, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Tetons, Yellowstone etc. Although we are a little anxious about the RV being somewhat cumbersome, the benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages in terms of convenience and lifestyle for the children. Approx 15 years ago we did a similar although shorter road trip by car into and out of SF and stayed in a different place every night - while this was fine for us, I think it would be a nightmare for the children and organising/repacking the suitcases every day would be hideous. So the RV choice seems a good one. But the sensibleness of this decision really rests on whether the RV is a good one - clean and functioning correctly. The upside of motel accommodation being that if it is bad you can leave in the morning and try somewhere else.

    We were keen on Cruise America as they are a large company and hopefully better able to cope with the current economic climate - both in terms of having a modern fleet and also still being there in August 2012, but we have recently come across a lot of fairly damning reviews - the content of which could seriously mar the trip. There also doesn't seem to be many other options in Phoenix.

    My question is - does anyone have current/recent experience of renting from Cruise America in Phoenix? Does anyone have any advice on how to ensure RV that we are allocated is a good one? Anyone done both RV and motel/car with kids have a view on which is most successful?

    I'm sure we will have many other questions as the planning continues but there is still so much I have to read on this site that I'll do that before I post them.

    Many thanks


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Cruise America is the biggest of all the RV rental companies and you really should not have much in the way of problems. I believe Phoenix is also the primary spot they use for cleaning and repairing their fleet, so many of their offerings may be ones that are right out of the shop in top shape for miles to come.

    We've had many forum visitors use CA for trips, and I can't think of any major problems. I know Moderator Dave has used them in the past (I suspect he'll be along to chime in later) and found them to be acceptable.

    One of the big things I'd keep in mind is that people are far more likely to go online to post complains than to post praise, and that can be especially true when you're talking about something like an RV rental where people don't really know what they are getting into before hand.

    RV vs motel trips are really two different animals, and neither should be considered "more successful" in an all purpose sense. I think based on the trip you've laid out, I think an RV would be a great choice. They are perfect for longer trips where you are going to be spending a lot of time in scenic areas where they let you get out with nature. They are generally a more expensive way to travel, however, so keep that in mind.

    And it does pay to shop around. CA is the biggest company, but El Monte and Camping World are two more major chain options that have Phoenix Offices, and I suspect there may be some other more local options that have enough of a track record to safely consider.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default If it's what you want, go for it !

    Hi there.

    If you think it's the right lifestyle choice for you then I would say go for it ! I have not had any experience with the Phoenix office, although I have rented from CA out of Denver and have had a good experience using them. As Michael pointed out, a company this size is going to have some negative feedback whether it's because of a fault with the vehicle or staff, or just that their expectations were to high in the first place and/or they didn't read the fine print and ended up with unexpected costs. Make sure you are well aware of the extra costs like mileage charges, bedding and kitchen kits, possible preparation fees and that you take into consideration the campground fees and the fact you will only get a return of around 10mpg. As Michael pointed out, a Motel room and car can work out cheaper.

    Generally speaking, CA have a modern fleet, full back up support if needed and are OK to deal with, in fact I was very pleased with the Denver staff and their helpful attitude. The RV we rented was clean and generally in good shape, it was just over 3 years old and we had it for one of it's last runs, before being shipped to Phoenix refurb centre to prepare it for sale. I think it had covered between 80-90,000 miles and drove very well, yet it was considered to be of 'retirement age'.

    When you collect the RV you have to sit and watch a 20 min video of how it works and then you are shown around the vehicle for a thorough inspection before heading out. It's at this point that you can voice any concerns on condition etc.

    It is certainly worth shopping around for deals and making comparisions, but I would go with a one of the bigger Co's, who can offer you the security and back up if needed. Be sure to click on the 'Hot deals' link on the CA site where they have various special offers.

    In the National parks you will need to book well in advance and it's best to do it as soon as the booking window opens for each. RV sites are limited and can sell out real quick, and one of the big benefits of the RV is being able to stay right in the heart of the park for as little as $18 per night. A lot of the parks have free shuttle bus systems which means once there, you can set up camp and have a few days of from driving.

    The Kid's will love it, I'm sure. Wildlife and amazing scenery make these places like giant playgrounds and there is nothing quite like quality family time around the campfire. It's also a great way to meet other like minded people and swap stories and tips, everyone is so friendly and helpful.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    While I have no experience with CA itself, I have rented a motorhome before. As has been pointed out, be sure you know what all charges are going to be, what type of fuel the rig takes, and realize that the fuel mileage will be low compared to your family car. That said...

    With two children of that age, it's my opinion that you'll probably break even, cost-wise, in comparison to a car/motel trip. First, you won't have to worry about two motel rooms and 4 restaurant meals every time. Groceries, purchased at a local store, will probably be less expensive than 3 meals out x 4 people every day, even adding the few condiments that you might have to buy in order to cook. I personally find it pleasant to be cooking in my RV while outside is this beautiful view. (It's one thing I miss about my RV, as we're "tween RV's" at the moment.) Consider packing a few of your favorite herbs/spices in your suitcase.

    My children ALWAYS loved the RV until they became mid-teens. Then it was a hassle for them to give up their social life to go off gallivanting with the parents! On your grocery store trip to stock up the RV for the first time, be sure to buy the makings for some-mores. You can bribe kids with those every night. ;-)


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Pick of the Litter

    One of the ways to ensure that you have very best vehicle from the Cruise America rental fleet is to book with an RV outfitter like Tracks and Trails. Dan and Sheri have a VERY good relationship with CA and they offer the best personalized RV trip planning services that I know of.

    And if you elect to be your own outfitter.... this is a very handy checklist to print out and have with you when you pick up your holiday RV.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-20-2011 at 08:27 PM. Reason: added another resource

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Better check.... could be risky.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    ... Consider packing a few of your favorite herbs/spices in your suitcase.
    Before you consider doing this, be sure you check to make sure you are allowed to 'import' them. There's nothing worse than having things confiscated at the border. And even then, sometimes you hear a different story when you arrive. So make sure you have it on paper.

    I know I have to make a list of all the food I am asked to bring, and then check with the authorities which I am allowed to bring into the country. One trip they threatened to confiscate my Vegemite. The thought of my grandchildren growing up without Vegemite was more than I could take. Just as well I had the written authority to bring it into the US.


  7. Default Thank you :)

    Thanks for all this great advice. I have contacted Tracks and Trails. I guess the other thing to ask would be - does anyone have any experience of any of the smaller RV rental places in Phoenix - Messner RV? Or Owner Rentals?

    Thanks again


  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default owner dangers

    I would not use an owner-rental, or at the very least, I would be extremely cautious before even considering going that route.

    The biggest issue would be what would happen if you have a problem on the road? They're not going to have any support at all to help you get back on the road. There are other issues, such as insurance, that can become very complicated when you're not dealing with a commercial company. For example, a personal insurance policy they have on the RV would likely be voided by them using it as a rental, but since it is a privately owned RV, you may have trouble finding anyone who will provide you with a rental insurance policy. Those aren't the only issues, but those would be a couple big ones to start with.

    A smaller local company could be fine, but I'd still ask about their policies, especially if you have a breakdown or an issue while hundreds of miles away.

  9. Default Internet access on the road


    Our plans are coming along although the more we read the more complex the route becomes :) One thing that we are struggling with at the moment is the best way to access the internet whilst we are on the road. We are relatively technophobic and the research that we have done is not helping. Will we be able to use our laptop with wi-fi at RV parks? We will mostly be in National Park areas rather than cities so relying on internet cafes seems to be unlikely. We will want to email, write our blog and research destinations etc...

    Many thanks for all your help.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Preview on an upcoming article

    Jon Vermilye, a long-time RTA contributor wrote a WiFi report in 2004 that addressed your concerns, but the world has changed a bit since then. We're going to publish a new article, but in the meantime, here is the initial report....

    Updated Field Report on Internet Access

    by Jon Vermilye

    A number of years ago (2004 to be exact) I authored a "Field Report" on access to WiFi while traveling. The report can be found here, and is very much outdated.

    After a long (111 day) trip across the US & Canada pulling a travel trailer on secondary roads when ever possible & staying in state & national parks, I would like to provide an update on internet connectivity. During the trip I updated a daily web page that was often graphics intensive, and managed to keep up with the many photographic websites I read. For the trip I used an AT&T iPhone & a Verizon based cell modem & WiFi Ranger router located in my travel trailer. Since the router was DC powered I could use which ever service was available, even from the tow vehicle while driving.

    WiFi has become available almost anywhere. Most libraries, fast food outlets, hotels & motels and interstate rest stops provide free WiFi. If you camp, many campgrounds provide free or inexpensive WiFi (although the quality at some is questionable). For the most part it is now possible to find free or low cost daily connections to the internet through WiFi.

    While WiFi is still a viable method of connecting to the internet, the use of cell data has become a useful alternative. Depending on the type of service provided by the carrier, it can be faster than many WiFi sources, and is usually available while driving & in areas where there is no WiFi. While there are parts of the country, particularly rural areas where cell coverage is not available, I have found good connections in many remote areas.

    The first decision is to choose a cellular provider. While there are many providers, for nationwide access the major providers are Verizon, AT&T & Sprint. Each has advantages & disadvantages, however it is well worth spending some time with coverage maps when choosing. If you have an iPhone, Coverage? is a handy app that includes a map showing AT&T, Verizon, Sprint & T-Mobile coverage down to street levels. You can turn on & off overlays for each carrier, and show Roaming, 2G, 3G & 4G coverage.

    Each carrier also has on-line coverage maps, and there are websites like this one, that can be useful. I have traveled across much of the US using both AT&T & Verizon, and found that Verizon provides better coverage, however there are many places where only AT&T was available. Again, coverage maps will help you make your choice of carriers.

    Very few providers offer unlimited access to the internet. Even those that do usually slow down your connection if you use more than a predetermined amount of data. It is probably a good idea to determine how much data you use per month prior to choosing a data plan.

    You will probably use less data on the road than at home (particularly if you have a high speed connection at home & a lower speed connection while traveling). Determining your data usage ahead of time will save you money. Most carriers offer packages based on the number of Gigabytes per month, typically in units of 5GB, 10GB, 20GB for data modems, and 200MB, 2GB, 4GB for smart phones. If you go over that amount they will either slow your connection to a crawl or charge you additional fees, typically $10.00 per GB, although sometimes at a much higher rate.

    Most providers offer multiple methods of providing data service. Smart cell phones can often provide access through a wired connection (usually a USB cable), Bluetooth, or by providing a "Hot Spot" (a WiFi connection for your computer or other data devices).

    Many will also provide non phone access through a "Hot Spot" device that usually allows up to 5 connected devices, or a cell modem (usually a USB device) that can be plugged into your computer. The "Hot Spot" devices such as Verizon's MiFi 4510L have self contained batteries and are the size of a smart phone.

    If you have more than 5 devices you wish to connect or want a stronger WiFi signal for your equipment, there are routers available that can be used with cellular modems. Cradlepoint as well as some other companies makes a number of routers that can be used with cellular modems. Most provide both hard wired connections as well as a local WiFi signal.

    Another possibility is to use a router that can work with multiple inputs. Routers such as the WiFi Ranger as well as at least one model from Cradlepoint can be connected to the internet through a USB cell modem or pick up a local WiFi network & rebroadcast it on your own network. You can choose either source, depending on availability & quality of connection. This is also useful when traveling outside the US when using a US based cell carrier. The rates for using a US carrier to provide cell based data in Canada & Mexico is prohibitively expensive. Using the WiFi Ranger system I could pull in to a campground or fast food restaurant & connect to their WiFi service. When using these specialized routers you only have to change one connection (at the router) rather than changing all your devices when moving from a cell based connection to WiFi.

    If you know you will be in areas of weak coverage, there are amplifiers & external antennas available for both smart phones & cellular modems. I used a Wilson Sleek for my iPhone & a Wilson Vehicle Booster Kit for the trailer based USB modem. Both proved valuable in many parts of the country.

    Most of the data providers are offering fast 4G service, however is currently is very limited in locations. If all you plan to do is read mail or view web sites with limited graphics, the slower connections will be fine, however if you work with large graphic files, 4G is a definite advantage. Within the next few years, most of the carriers will build out their 4G coverage to cover most of their network. Again, for now, check the provider's coverage map to determine whether the additional cost of 4G service is available at the locations you plan to use it.

    All in all, access to the internet has improved remarkably since 2004. Not only is it faster, but is is available almost everywhere, even when on the move.


    And there's more information in this thread on 2011-2012 connectivity.


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