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Road Trip Ideas: RV Camping in New England

Stephanie Simpson

Stephanie Simpson

RV parked at campsite on Cape Cod National Seashore.

As your families and friends across the country begin to look ahead for travel adventures together, why not consider making this year’s vacation the Great American Road Trip? According to the December 2020 Business Insider, camping and RVing have enjoyed renewed popularity recently more people look to spend their leisure time in the great outdoors - with the comforts of home.

Finding an RV

If you don’t already own an RV and want to test the waters, RV rentals are a popular option. You can choose the perfect size and floor plan to fit your group. Whether you’re traveling alone, with just one companion, or if you’re bringing along your entire extended family, there are RVs for everyone! You might have a local RV rental company near you, or you can check out one of the nationwide resources. According to Tripsavvy, there are a variety of options, including their “Best Traditional Rental” company Cruise America and “Most Convenient”, El Monte RV to help you find your temporary home on wheels. Before embarking on your road trip, work with the rental company to learn specific details about the model and make time to practice driving it before hitting the road.

Planning a route

To help you get started with planning your trip, a great place to start is with a route planning tool like RV Trip Wizard or an app like Roadtrippers. These tools can help you find RV-friendly routes to travel, rest stops and fuel stations along your route, and even campgrounds and RV parks to stay at each destination. You can see what is happening within a specific radius of your location and decide how far you want to drive between stops in order to keep everyone in your RV happy.

Destination: New England

As for where to travel on your RV trip, what about the birthplace of American history - New England? The region is rich in American history plus it has a varied landscape: sprawling cities and picturesque towns; mountains and rolling grasslands; plus seashores, both craggy and sandy. Like sports? There are professional teams for football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer in or around Boston, plus dozens of college teams and minor league franchises across the region. Enjoy the arts and culture? World-renowned art museums and small galleries, music and theater venues (including summer playhouse options) and seasonal festivals (including in winter - New Englanders come from hardy stock). You’ll find a little bit of everything in New England!

Timing of your travel to New England is going to determine much of what you’ll do on your adventure. While snowy, wintertime adventures in an RV aren’t for everyone, if you do decide to head that way before the spring thaw, you’ll want to be especially mindful to plan your route. Avoid mountain passes that may close in the winter or shore roads that may get pounded by waves during a Nor’easter (cold weather hurricanes).

But if you do love the beauty of the winter season, check with the campgrounds and RV parks where you plan to stay to confirm they’ll be open when you get there. And stay warm by dressing like a native with these tips from a “New England Momma”. If your activities, including snowboarding, downhill or cross-country skiing, you’ll want to bring those waterproof ski pants or bibs to help stay dry and warm. The snow tends to be wetter here and you’ll be more comfortable in gear meant for skiing vs. trying to tough it out in soggy jeans.

Planning a spring, summer, or autumn adventure to New England? You won’t have to worry as much about the weather. You’ll still want to bring layers and rain gear since it can be pretty wet, with temperature fluctuations influenced by both the nearness to the ocean and elevation. However, planning ahead is always a smart idea, as this corner of the country is a favorite for RVers.

Snagging a campsite in popular spots might require advanced reservations. A great option for camping, especially if you are wanting to enjoy more time in nature, is to look into state or national park camping. Many state and national parks have sites that will accommodate RVs and have water, electric, and occasionally even sewer hook-ups for your RV. You can find yourself staying with your front door opening right up to the ocean on Cape Cod at Nickerson State Park in Massachusetts, or at the base of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. There’s no better way to experience these locations than to park your home away from home right in the middle of the most gorgeous natural settings you’ve ever dreamed of!

If private parks with full resort amenities are more your thing, you might look into a camping club membership such as Thousand Trails which has resorts across the country and in many of the most popular locations in the Northeast. With Thousand Trails you can choose a nationwide membership or stick to only the regions that you plan to travel to save money on your membership fees. You’ll pay an upfront fee for the camping pass, but then can stay in any of their parks at no additional charge. The parks aren’t everywhere though, so you’ll want to check out their locations to see if that might be a good option for your travels. There are other private park options too including KOA Kampgrounds, Jellystone resorts, and independently owned RV resorts.

State-by-state fun

Six states comprise New England: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Each has its own unique flavor and things to recommend it. By acreage, some of these states are quite small, but their long histories have built a wealth of resources for visitors. For example, you can park outside Boston and be within an hour drive of some portion of the other five states’ treasures. Or better yet, take a break from driving and enjoy the view on a bus, train or ferry ride to your next activity. Check out the New England Regional Transportation Map for ideas.

So what is there to do in each state? Way too much to list here, but here’s a taste of local flavor and activities from each state.

New Hampshire:

If amusement parks are your speed, you’ll find just what you are looking for in New Hampshire! Whether Santa’s Village, Story Land, Clark’s Bears or one of New Hampshire’s other amusement parks catch your eye, you’ll find days full of family fun at these New England summertime staples.

Vermont:

And while you’re close by, you might hop over to Vermont for Ben and Jerry’s creamery and factory tour in Waterbury. There you can also find your favorite retired Ben and Jerry’s flavors in the Flavor Graveyard. RIP, Wavy Gravy.

Massachusetts:

What if exploring the historic cities of New England are more your style? Navigating the narrow streets of Boston with your RV is not advised and could prove hazardous to both your blood pressure and your RV. While Boston proper doesn’t have any RV parks, there are a number of both private and public options around the outskirts of town with convenient access to shopping centers or bus stations where you can pick up public transit into the city. You can be on the Freedom Trail in under an hour from most of these parks and find yourself following the footsteps of our founding fathers as you explore the city.

Connecticut:

The Nutmeg State has the picturesque whaling port of Mystic, Connecticut that can be more than an all-day adventure. The maritime museum is a recreation of an historic seaport that can give you and your travel companions a chance to see ships, artifacts and shops as they were “back in the day”.

Rhode Island:

Love to see and hear about the lives of those who lived and worked in the opulent Newport mansions in the smallest state in the U.S.? You can find RV parks and campgrounds just a hop, skip, and a jump from these top tourist destinations as well!

Maine:

And the largest state in New England, Maine, provides a rare opportunity to visit a tidal salt marsh, estuary and more - the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. This stunning refuge gives you an opportunity to observe a variety of migratory birds, such as blue herons and egrets, plus other rare plants and animals you can’t find anywhere else. There are hiking trails, and in some sections, you can even rent a kayak to explore the marsh. Stretching almost 50 miles through York and Cumberland counties in Southern Maine, there are a variety of places, both public and private rental spots for your RV.

Let’s go!

No matter what you like to do, there’s a place for you to find what you are looking for in New England. As you venture out on the road less traveled, with a little bit of research and a hearty sense of adventure, the road will rise up to meet you. During the pandemic, you’ll want to double-check any restrictions or special arrangements that may need to be accommodated for a state or an activity. With a little luck, this Great American Road Trip will be one that you and your family will never forget!

Interested in learning more about camping (with or without an RV) in state parks? Check out this article. And check out these cargo straps to help corral some of your travel gear.

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