Have Cards, Will Travel

On the road with rewards – in an RV

A Q&A session with RV experts on how to safely vacation this summer


Resident travel writer Stephanie Zito sat down with RV experts and authors Alyssa and Heath Padgett. Full-time RV-ers, they share tips for working on the road, along with practical advice on how to start RV-ing on their website. Here’s what they had to say about traveling this summer.

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Alyssa and Heath Padgett

Alyssa and Heath Padgett

Two exciting things happened in my world this week – I actually left my home to take my first overnight trip since fleeing London in March, and National Geographic named 2020 “The Year of the Camper.”

I’ve heard 2020 called a lot of things, and I’m pretty sure that “The Year of the Camper” is the nicest one. Even with COVID -19 cases still causing confusion for vacationers, I’m elated to see people finding safe and sanitized ways to get out. I’m even more thrilled to get back to the road myself – even if my runway is a lot shorter than normal.

Now that it looks like international travel restrictions won’t be going anywhere for the rest of the summer, I’ve gotten myself excited about stretching that runway a little further by exploring the world RV-ing.

While I’ve driven a campervan around Iceland’s ring road and the circumference of New Zealand’s South Island, I have to admit that I’ve never actually RV-ed across my own nation. In fact, I have a lot to learn in order to rise to the challenge of the year of the camper.

Luckily for me (and I guess for you, too) I happen to know some experts who’ve been practicing for the year of the camper for many years. Alyssa and Heath Padgett literally wrote the book on RVs for newbies – “A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV”.

Not only do Heath and Alyssa RV the world full-time with their baby, they are also smart about mixing the arts of both RV-ing and rewards travel. Here’s what they had to say to some of my burning questions and some of my own money saving and points earning tips:

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

See related: Planning a socially-distanced summer vacation

Q&A with Alyssa and Heath Padgett

Q: How challenging is it to find RV sites right now with camping soaring as a socially distant summer activity? What resources do you recommend?

A: Finding a site is about as hard as it is most summers. For full-timers like us, this is the only time of year we make reservations because there are so many families camping. We mostly use Google to find RV parks and campgrounds, but we use Campendium to source reviews – as well as check cell signal before we arrive.

Q: Any tips for summer vacationers looking for RV or van rentals in the U.S.?

A: Go with a peer-to-peer service like Outdoorsy or RV Share, versus a big chain like Cruise America. You can find the best possible RV for your family that way, as well as support other families and small businesses.

Q: What are your biggest expenses on the road and what credit cards do you use for them to maximize your points-earning?

A: The biggest expenses are diesel and RV parks for sure. We put everything on either our Southwest Rapid Rewards Card or Delta SkyMiles American Express Card so we can fly to visit family or fly abroad on points when we want. In the past two years, we’ve RV-ed in New Zealand and Italy by flying overseas with our reward points.

Q: Are there ways that you use your travel rewards points to cut costs on your RV lifestyle?

A: Our first year on the road, we maximized savings by using a cash back credit card that earned every time we filled up our tank with gas. We maxed out the cash back we could earn in a month because we filled the tank so often. We also save money by using our points and not having to pay to fly when we want to travel to a new destination.

See related: 5 great credit cards to save on gas now

Q: Insuring an RV or camper van rental: What do you recommend? Are there any credit cards that cover RV or van rental insurance?

A: That’s a good question. We usually pay for the insurance when we rent, but our Delta American Express does cover rental cars. I would have to call them to see if it covers RVs, too.

Q: Where are you dreaming about RV-ing once international travel restrictions are lifted?

A: We want to head to Iceland and Japan. Both have huge camping cultures and are next on our list for RV-ing abroad.

Q: You guys literally wrote the book for first time RV-ers – what’s the top tip for RV newbies?

A: Travel slowly. Most of the time, new RV-ers want to see it all as fast as possible, but that’s not what RV-ing is about. It’s about getting outside, slowing down and appreciating the journey.

See you on the road!

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