There are two types of organized travel for groups of RVers. They are RV Tours and RV Caravans. Each has its own unique features. Try them. There are good reasons to go even if you are not a “joiner”—I’m not either.
The problem is that the Tours and the Caravans are often both called “Caravans.” They are often both marketed as “Caravans.” The simple difference is this…
- RV Tour… you meet the rest of the group at some fixed location (typically a campground) and the tour company provides transportation from there. You are not driving around in your RV. Two popular events for this type of organized travel are the Albuquerque Balloon Festival and Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.
- RV Caravan… This group actually drives their RVs (sometimes daily) over some pre-planned route. One common and popular caravan does the Alaska trip each summer.
The various companies offering caravans do market these two types of ventures together. It can be confusing to the RVer that has never been on one so you will have to read their information carefully.
These are planned, organized tours. You must have an RV, pay for the tour, and travel on your own to some
predetermined destination such as a campground. There, you will meet up with a “wagon master” (tour leader) and other RVers in your group.
There are numerous destinations offered for RV tours. You visit wonderful destinations with an experienced tour guide who shares your interest in RVing. We did the Tournament of Roses Parade with
an RV tour and it was an excellent experience. Shown here is our tour entering the flower barns where they decorate the floats. I recommend it. It’s better than TV!
On our own, we meandered across country and arrived at a campground in Pomona, California on a designated date. Our space was waiting. There we joined 30 other RVs (60 people) including a Wagonmaster and (on this particular tour) an Assistant Wagonmaster.
We arrived one week before the day of the Parade. During that week, we had daily events and tours (all planned and organized). We were truly tourists going out by chartered bus during the day and spending the evening in our RV.
The RV Caravan is an exercise in driving your RV over some prescribed route with other RVers. This route is typically planned to take advantage of the sights and unique places to visit along the way and may have a specific destination or ultimately become a round trip. Caravans may last a few days or a couple of months.
One might think that a large group of RVs driving together might cause traffic problems. After all, it would look like some convoy of large vehicles. However, caravans often provide flexibility in daily departure times but most events and campsites are scheduled so you must be at the daily destination by a certain time. For example, you may be able to leave between 6:30 and 9:30 AM—with others or by yourself—your choice. You may need to arrive at that day’s destination by, for example, 3:00 PM to get registered/parked with your group and take part in any activities scheduled that afternoon.
If you choose to depart at the earlier time, you would have an additional three hours to stop, shop, browse, mess around during the day. If you chose to sleep in and depart at the later time, you won’t have that extra time to mess around. By leaving at the later time, you will have a normal, but not a rushed, drive time to the next stop. Nearly always, it’s your choice.
Many caravans and especially longer caravans will have a Wagonmaster and a “Tail Gunner.” Both may be compensated, in some manner, by the caravan company. The Tail Gunner is the designated person who is always the last RV to depart and the last to arrive (by plan). They do this to ensure no one is left behind for any reason (mechanical problems or just still shopping). The Tail Gunner can usually provide light emergency service—or know how to get professional help—especially if an RV is disabled along the way. It is common for the Wagonmaster to have a satellite phone (especially in the remote areas) that can be used from any location.
Some caravans use CB-radio communication and small groups may receive a verbal “traveling” dialogue in certain areas. Caravans may load onto a ferry or rail flatcar and unload some distance away. Your route and daily itinerary are carefully planned to take advantage of sights, places to visit, and always with the size of the RVs in mind—any stops will accommodate all the RVs with the group. Additionally, all
reservations are done for you. You will always have a place to stay.
What’s in a Name
The major companies that specialize in tours and caravans use the terms…“Tour” and “Caravan.” So you know what to look for and it’s easy to understand what type of gathering they are offering. Some of the RV organizations (such as Good Sam Club, FMCA, S.M.A.R.T., Escapees, and others) also offer caravans. Of course, you have to be a member of that organization to go.
On the other end of the spectrum, larger groups of like-minded RVers sometimes get together and literally make up a caravan. I’ve talked with several groups of at least 20 RVs who were getting together to make the trip to Alaska. This was a totally “unofficial” group (with no common organizational ties) that just simply wanted to make the drive with others for whatever reason. Apparently there was no cost and few
Try It, You May Like It
We have been on three RV tours…
- The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California
- Visited the Polar Bears in Churchill, Manitoba
- The Holland, Michigan Tulip Festival.
On the three trips, we met the group of RVers and our guides in some specified location and they took over from there with all transportation furnished, plus many meals, and other stops of interest. I would do it again.
We are considering another trip in the future to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. I’ll let you know.
We probably will not do a caravan. It simply is not our style. We leave later in the morning and stop earlier in the afternoon. Plus, I am a pretty good researcher and we manage to see just about everything they see on a caravan—assuming we go to the same place. However, I do believe that the caravans are as well planned as the RV tours. If it fit our lifestyle, I would go.