RV Travel: Is It For You?

Flying is often unpleasant and frequently inefficient. Can traveling -- and working -- in a motor home be better?

To begin at the end, I now have an RV, a motor home that gives me an office on wheels, a meeting place for customers, a way to avoid the hassles of flying and dirty hotel rooms. And yes, it's a home on wheels. (In fact, it's my second motor home / mobile office.) But why, after racking up more than a million flying miles (as an airline passenger, and doing my own piloting), do I now want to plod down the road instead of zooming over it? In this and other articles, I'll explain why driving a motor home makes sense for me, my business, and my sanity. I'll also share some hard-to-find information and advice on RV lifestyle. The starting point was realizing how much real time -- not "flying time" -- is consumed by flying for business, yet how little we get in return for the time investment. My wife Jeanne and I are involved in multiple business ventures. We have clients and facilities and customers and partners and key relationships to nurture. So we must travel, often toting boxes of information, publications and products. We also tote business gear galore, including multiple computers, storage systems, printers, Internet and wireless networking, communications, media systems, and clothes for all occasions. Taking all our stuff on an airplane isn't possible. We lug what we can, trying to make airport security personnel understand why we need so many wires and gadgets. We ship the rest, hoping it arrives on time and undamaged. It's never been reliable. I recall sitting on the floor of Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco trying to fix a computer mangled in shipping so we could use it in our trade show booth. And it's been getting more difficult, because we need even more gear more often. But we have an alternative. When when we drive to a conference or meeting location, the whole trip is much better. When our destination is Phoenix or Las Vegas or San Francisco or Seattle, we pack the minivan or SUV to the roof and head off from San Diego, enjoying the road trip and getting to our destination with everything we need. Many people seem to think this is bizarre. "You're driving to Vegas? Why not just hop a plane?" Some people really can hop a plane, packing light and moving fast, because they aren't involved in a complex endeavor. Grab a toothbrush and go. But that isn't us. A "quick flight" actually takes many hours. In fact, several times I calculated we would be better off driving to anyplace we could reach in one day, even if we could fly there in "an hour or two" -- because that isn't how long it really takes. Even if it was true pre-9/11, it isn't true now. Flying for us means hours of careful packing of everything we need before we even start the trip, to fit within the quantity, size and weight requirements of air travel. And if we need more than we can take on the plane, we need to start the trip days early by carefully packing and shipping our overflow supplies. Then it means driving to the airport, parking, taking a shuttle bus, standing in a long security line, and doing so a couple of hours before the flight, to allow for 30 minute boarding, and whatever might happen -- just in case. At the destination end, flying means gathering and dragging around all our stuff, finding transportation to our hotel, then fighting traffic to get there. So, a theoretical short flight, such as San Diego to Phoenix "in one hour", door-to-door actually requires at least three hours up-front, and one hour after landing -- five hours minimum. But San Diego to Phoenix by road is about 350 miles, which at legal speed limits of 65-70mph in California, and up to 75mph in Arizona, is just over five hours -- the same! The math is even better San Diego to Las Vegas (300 miles), and slightly worse San Diego to San Francisco (500 miles), assuming direct flights. If plane changes are required, flying loses every time. Even when driving takes an hour or two longer door-to-door, it's pleasant and productive. Packing a car is fast and easy. We don't need extra time to drive, park, take a shuttle, walk, stand in line, walk, stand in line, etc. We just drive directly to our destination. We have with us everything we need on the road, we get some work done on the way (my wife usually drives while I work on my laptop), and we enjoy the trip. Besides, once we get out of California, roads are much better built and maintained, and driving them is fun! And we are flexible -- we can change our travel plans instantly. One time we were at the CES trade show in Las Vegas when an important meeting with Novell popped up. Last-minute flying would have been a nightmare, so we hopped in the car and in six hours we were at the big red N in Provo, Utah.
Class A motor home has space for meetings and work.
RVs come in many sizes. We choose a mid-sized Class A motor home because it has sufficient inside space for meetings and work.
Of course, even with our car, we still have to lug our stuff around at the destination, and come up with suitable meeting and office rooms to work. Restaurants aren't especially laptop friendly, and they don't usually like us occupying a table for hours and hours. Starbucks has wi-fi, but that's about the end of its business friendliness. On every trip we contemplated whether a car or plane was the right way to travel. We wondered, what if we put everything we need on wheels -- in a motor home? In 2006, we did. Now, after several years and many miles on the road, we know for sure: an office in the front and living space in the back is a wonderful way to go. In additional articles, I explain what we learned -- pros and cons; what we bought -- including RV selection tips; and how driving our office/hotel/restaurant is helping us do better business, and have a better life too!