Topic Wiki

Trip Reports featuring an RV/motorhome/camper
PBaruch - Iceland
PBaruch - Utah and Arizona
PBaruch - Washington State
PBaruch - Alaska
PBaruch - Death Valley NP
PBaruch - Denver to Seattle
Something Fishy - Alaska
Something Fishy - Iceland
AJK - New Zealand
LookBeforeYouLive - RVing across the country

Shabbos in an RV
There are many potential issues.

- For starters you'll have to be hooked up to power - the batteries won't last all Shabbos and you can't/wouldn't want to run the generator instead. You'll probably also need 220v for the AC, so make sure the campground could supply that (many do).

- The water hookup often leaks, which could be an issue of watering on shabbos; AYLOR.

- You can't put the cabin lights on a timer, so that may be an issue since some beds are in the main living area.

- Going in and out of the RV could be an issue of maaras ayin (even if no Jews are around), so you may have to cover up your wheels to indicate that you're staying put (obviously AYLOR).

-Make sure to empty the black water tank and treat the toilet before Shabbos; that's not something you want to get stuck with.

- Carrying anything outside is obviously an issue to discuss.

- The fridge runs on propane, so the compressor going on may be more serious than a regular fridge (is it considered a fire???).

- As far as I remember all living-area lights are manual (unlike the cab or a regular car). Opening the door doesn't turn on anything. This may obviously vary by model (I had a stock Winnebago).

Winter concerns
You need to choose if you want the amenities or if you want to risk it.

I did a lot of research before my last trip and decided to risk it, BH it worked out great.

- It could take many hours for the tanks to freeze up, and we were expecting above-freezing temps every day. Theoretically it wouldn't have frozen up just overnight. I also emptied a couple gallons of RV antifreeze into the gray and black tanks on the coldest nights. Keeping the tanks half full instead of draining them all the way also helps (more water = slower freezing).
- The bigger issue are the connections, which can freeze up in minutes. So we didn't connect to shore water and sewer on cold nights.
- You can also open the cabinets and drawers near the plumbing so the furnace can heat them a bit better.
- Another tip is to keep a constant drip going, keeps it from freezing a bit longer.

That being said, this all could work if you're expecting to be above freezing most of the time. The desert is cold at night, so moving a few miles away from the park won't do you a whole lot of good.

And remember that this is all at your own risk, freezing damages could get really expensive really fast.

Minor mentions
General RV rentals and discussions
General RV rentals and discussions, thread 2
Tri-state area RV rentals
RV in Banff?
@yehuda's Iceland campervan discussions - begins here and continues on and off for a while
Campers and CC insurance


Pros and cons, from one of @PBaruch's trip reports
Motorhome Pros

1. You have your home wherever you go - easy to cook, shower, and use the restroom;
2. Most of the time you will not need to rent a car - the motorhome is your home and car;
3. If your kid needs to use the bathroom, just find a place to pull over - no hunting for restrooms and no accidents waiting to happen;
4. When you get to a location that has kosher food, you can stock up and keep it in the fridge and freezer;
5. If anyone gets hungry, easy enough to pull over and make some food;
6. No need to hunt for decent hotels each night and no need to unpack for each night and repack the following morning;
7. You have the ability to stay very close to your intended destination for each day instead of sometimes driving for an hour or two from the nearest
    gateway city where your hotel is located;
8. Some campgrounds are lots of fun to stay at - and most have a BBQ pit and picnic table at your campsite.

Motorhome Cons

1. You have your home with you wherever you go - depending on the vehicle length, you cannot take it everywhere and you might have to rent a car, as
    we did, when we visited Sequoia National Park;
2. Can be difficult to drive in urban locations;
3. Have to find campgrounds to stay at each night for an added cost or find a free location (usually without hookups);
4. Have to deal with emptying your waste tanks;
5. They are gas guzzlers - even with relatively cheap gas, it is an added expense;
6. Travel times are longer in a motorhome - you will not be able to drive as fast to your intended destination as you would with a car.

Additional Q&A by @PBaruch
Even though we've been to most of the places in this TR, we've always wanted to try an RV but have found the logistics daunting (it also helps that we have tons of hotel points so almost never pay for lodging), so I'd love some pointers about how to feel secure enough to go ahead with it. Specifically:

Are there any websites or generally good strategies to use to find good deals on RVs, whether 1-way or just cheap rates?
Are there specific RV rental companies that are more reliable, and any to avoid?
Are there any that include unlimited miles as is standard with car rentals?
In hindsight, were there any red flags you missed or questions you wish you had asked to avoid getting an RV Poopypants? :)
Any tips about how to find good places to stay each night?
Did you have prior RV experience, and any advice about how to handle unique RV issues like emptying tanks, leveling, etc., to ensure a successful first experience?
1. I would check with each RV rental company to see if they have any specials.  Here is a partial list:

El Monte 1-way specials
https://www.elmonterv.com/rv-rental/cool-deal-detail/ONE-WAY-SPECIAL/

Great Alaskan Holidays
https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com/alaska-rv-rentals/specials/

Cruise America
https://www.cruiseamerica.com/

Apollo RV
https://www.apollorv.com/reloc.aspx

Road Bear RV
http://www.roadbearrv.com/en/rental-deals
http://www.roadbearrv.com/en/rental-deals/one-way-specials

https://www.imoova.com/

https://www.transfercarus.com/

2.  We have rented from El Monte, Apollo and Great Alaskan, as best as I can recall.  I do not know if there are any to avoid.  We have always had some issues with the rentals but I wouldn't characterize the issues we had as a reason to avoid that company in the future.  @Something Fishy once mentioned reading negative things about Apollo but we did not have any issues when renting from them and, at the time, they were one of the cheapest.

3. I think there are some that do include unlimited miles for an added fee, but you would have to check with each rental company.  Generally, it is not an option.

4. No red flags that I can specifically point out.  All I can say is that I have learned to check all of the major systems of the RV before you take off.  Make sure the AC, generator and refrigerator work.  Check to see that the outlets work.  Make sure the shower and sink work.  Turn on the stove and ovens.  It pays to spend a few extra minutes before you leave to make sure everything works rather than realizing later on and having to call the RV company and try to diagnose the problem.  With this particular 1 way rental, the RV was definitely beat up a lot more than any other rental we had in the past - but then again it was $75 a night.  Other 1-way rentals can be brand spanking new RVs that need to be relocated from the factory to the rental company - so you can really luck out there.

5. We like KOA campgrounds as they are a chain and are fairly consistent throughout.  We have also found other non chain campgrounds that we liked very much.  I'd suggest doing some research about the locations you want to visit.  National parks have some really nice campgrounds but those are often without any hookups.  You can also camp on BLM land for free but again, no hookups.  Info can be found here:  https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/camping.  Another option is to camp at farms, vineyards and breweries by purchasing a membership here:  https://harvesthosts.com/.  The cost is $79 or $119 per year.  Finally, if you are on the road and want a free place to stay for the night, most Walmarts allow you to stay overnight in the parking lot.  This list is by no means exhaustive. 

6.  We started renting RVs without any prior experience - just jumped right in.  The rental company will show you a video before you take off, which will contain a number of useful tips.  There are also many videos on YouTube that you can watch, to learn the basics.  Emptying tanks is not hard at all.  It's not a pleasant job but I don't understand why people make such a big fuss about it.  Likewise, leveling isn't a big deal.  Most RVs you rent do not have auto leveling.  The rental company provides you with one of those bubble levels.  Once you know which side needs to be adjusted, you drive the RV onto one of those small ramps that you are provided with.  I am sure it will be a little daunting your first time out, but once you get the hang of it everything will be fine and you will have a great time.

I hope I answered all of your questions.  If I missed anything, please let me know.

« Last edited by whYME on March 15, 2021, 11:30:31 PM »

Author Topic: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread  (Read 29761 times)

Offline Something Fishy

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RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« on: August 10, 2016, 03:54:32 PM »
There's a lot of discussion on this topic sprinkled throughout the forums, mainly in individual planning, destination, and trip report threads. I think it would be beneficial to have a single master thread to discuss it all in one place.

I'll begin by referencing as many existing discussions as I can find strewn about.

Trip Reports featuring an RV/motorhome/camper:
PBaruch - Iceland
PBaruch - Utah and Arizona
Something Fishy - Alaska Part 1, Part 2
Something Fishy - Iceland
AJK - New Zealand
LookBeforeYouLive - RVing across the country

Discussions:
RVs and Shabbos
Some more Shabbos discussions
General RV rentals and discussions
General RV rentals and discussions, thread 2
Tri-state area RV rentals
RV in Banff?
@yehuda's Iceland camervan discussions - begins here and continues on and off for a while
Campers and CC insurance

If there's anything I missed, please post.
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Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2016, 04:04:14 PM »
Thanks for starting this! Long overdue!
Tried searching but could barely find anything thanks to the fantastic DDF search feature which will give me any word that has an R and a V together  ::)

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2016, 04:06:22 PM »
Thanks for starting this! Long overdue!
Tried searching but could barely find anything thanks to the fantastic DDF search feature which will give me any word that has an R and a V together  ::)

You're welcome.

In the future, Google this: rv site:http://forums.dansdeals.com/. Works wonders.
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Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2016, 04:08:12 PM »
So I'll start (repost from another thread that I just asked this, but noone answered yet anyways):

Thinking of doing a motorhome trip from AZ to UT next week.
Had some questions beforehand though, which I hope some of you RV pros can answer.

1) I don't have much experience driving vans, let alone trucks (other than a uhaul for a day).
How easy do you find the driving?
I recall years back when I went to the Grand Canyon for example, there are a lot of very steep very narrow very windy roads on which it seems that you're on the edge of a cliff etc.
Do you feel comfortable/safe driving on such roads -of which there are many in national parks- with an RV?
When you go down unpaved or bumpy roads, do you feel like the whole vehicle is about to fall apart and all your luggage falls out of the closets and from the bed on top of the driver (whatever that's called)? (I've been in RV's before, but haven't driven or slept in one)

2) How mobile can you be? Can you access all roads with the RV? Aren't there roads with restricted access?

3) How's the gas expense? Do you fill Regular?

4) How do you feel safe and secure sleeping inside?
There's some strange fear inside of me that it's easy for trouble-makers to break in while you during the night; a fear I don't feel as much in hotels.
Please explain to me how/why you feel safe and thereby extricate my silly fears.
Which leads me to my next question..

5) How do these camping sites work? Is there anywhere safe to park (without the above fears) besides camping sites?
Is there security on camping sites? Or are they simply always safe?
If I'm in the desert (e.g. near GC), it anyways cools down at night, so I wouldn't need the generator for AC.
But if I'm somewhere hot, what's cheaper, using the RV generator at $3.50/hr or camping sites where you plug in?
Is it really impossible to get into a camping site last minute?

6) RV tech: How does the fresh water system work for the sink, shower, and toilet? You fill up water or the rental company fills up?
How long does it last?
I understand that it's the responsibility of the renter to empty the 'holding tank' before returning the rental. Please excuse my ignorance with all these issues but is this a simple easy procedure? Or do I have to 'get my hands dirty'? ;)

7) Any other tips or important issues to be aware of before renting an RV?

I'd greatly appreciate any input from anyone here that's traveled to national parks with a motorhome.

TIA!!!

Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2016, 04:09:10 PM »
You're welcome.

In the future, Google this: rv site:http://forums.dansdeals.com/. Works wonders.
Lol! I do that when I'm extremely un-lazy! ;)

Offline shulem92

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2016, 04:10:08 PM »
You're welcome.

In the future, Google this: rv site:http://forums.dansdeals.com/. Works wonders.
Best Google feature ever btw! #JustSaying

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2016, 04:46:16 PM »
So I'll start (repost from another thread that I just asked this, but noone answered yet anyways):

Thinking of doing a motorhome trip from AZ to UT next week.
Had some questions beforehand though, which I hope some of you RV pros can answer.

1) I don't have much experience driving vans, let alone trucks (other than a uhaul for a day).
How easy do you find the driving? It takes a few minutes to get used to, but any reasonably good driver will have no problems. Backing up and turning are a little different than you're used to, but they do a good job explaining it to you before you head out.
I recall years back when I went to the Grand Canyon for example, there are a lot of very steep very narrow very windy roads on which it seems that you're on the edge of a cliff etc.
Do you feel comfortable/safe driving on such roads -of which there are many in national parks- with an RV? If the road is not safe for an RV, it will be clearly signed that RVs are not allowed here. Go to the NPS website for your park, all the info is there.
When you go down unpaved or bumpy roads, do you feel like the whole vehicle is about to fall apart and all your luggage falls out of the closets and from the bed on top of the driver (whatever that's called)? (I've been in RV's before, but haven't driven or slept in one)I sometimes found the rattle of the kitchenware annoying, but nothing ever fell out - all the drawers and cabinets have latches for this very reason. Luggage goes in the trunk underneath, so that's a non-issue. The camers I had in Iceland were a bit different, as there was no real proper storage space, so yes we did have a suitcase come flying every now and then :D. But with a regular RV you have nothing to worry about.


2) How mobile can you be? Can you access all roads with the RV? Aren't there roads with restricted access? Sure there are. The rental company will restrict you from some, and roadside signs will restrict you from others. But in my experience that wouldn't be reason enough to pass on an RV.


3) How's the gas expense? Do you fill Regular? Depends on the exact model. The RV I had in Alaska took regular, and the Icelandic ones were diesel. The fuel economy is better than you'd expect. Far more than a car obviously, but not prohibitively so.

4) How do you feel safe and secure sleeping inside? Never once felt unsafe.
There's some strange fear inside of me that it's easy for trouble-makers to break in while you during the night; a fear I don't feel as much in hotels.
Please explain to me how/why you feel safe and thereby extricate my silly fears. The doors have double locks, there are usually plenty of neighbors, and why in the world would someone break into a motorhome when he knows that the occupants will wake up the instant he tries opening the door?
Which leads me to my next question..

5) How do these camping sites work? Reserve ahead of time, especially during popular times.
Is there anywhere safe to park (without the above fears) besides camping sites?I wouldn't, plus it may be illegal.
Is there security on camping sites? I've never seen.
Or are they simply always safe?I never felt unsafe, even in more secluded sites.
If I'm in the desert (e.g. near GC), it anyways cools down at night, so I wouldn't need the generator for AC.
But if I'm somewhere hot, what's cheaper, using the RV generator at $3.50/hr or camping sites where you plug in?The generator is for emergencies only, really. Most campsites won't even let you run it past 10 or 11, due to the noise. Always use the campground hookup rather. confirm if you need a regular line or a hi-voltage line for the AC ahead of time, as not all campgrounds offer hi-voltage.
Is it really impossible to get into a camping site last minute?That's a loaded question... Depends on your risk aversion level, where and when you are, possible alternate options...

6) RV tech: How does the fresh water system work for the sink, shower, and toilet? You fill up water or the rental company fills up?Comes full, but you'll likely need to refill a few times. Pretty much all campgrounds and many gas stations have facilities, often for free.
How long does it last?Depends how much you use...
I understand that it's the responsibility of the renter to empty the 'holding tank' before returning the rental. Please excuse my ignorance with all these issues but is this a simple easy procedure? Or do I have to 'get my hands dirty'? ;)Pretty straightforward and clean, so long as you don't inhale too deeply ;)

7) Any other tips or important issues to be aware of before renting an RV?Look into insurance, remember that it takes a couple of hours to check out, note the pickup and return times (may not be what you like), find out about airport transfers, always check the floor plans before choosing a model, remember that most places are closed Sundays.

I'd greatly appreciate any input from anyone here that's traveled to national parks with a motorhome.

TIA!!!
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Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2016, 04:49:36 PM »
In response to PBaruch answering me in the thread I originally asked the question, I have some more questions:

What is a pull-through site? What is a back-in site? And what's the difference between that and a campground parking spot?

"Expect to get 8-10 miles per gallon"
Wow!!!

"buy plenty of toilet chemicals"
Can you elaborate please what you mean by "toilet chemicals"?

"I'd recommend buying insurance from the RV rental facility"
Cruise America told me it includes insurance, you recommend more?

BTW, why don't they put backup cameras in RV's?

Thanks!

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2016, 04:56:56 PM »
In response to PBaruch answering me in the thread I originally asked the question, I have some more questions:

What is a pull-through site? What is a back-in site? And what's the difference between that and a campground parking spot? Pretty self-explanatory; pull-though you just drive up to, it's much simpler. And while we're on the subject, aim for campgrounds that advertise level sites. It's a real PITA to need to use leveling blocks.

"Expect to get 8-10 miles per gallon"
Wow!!!
Depends a lot on the size of the camper of course. I had a 26-footer (IIRC) and I got somewhat better gas mileage.

"buy plenty of toilet chemicals"
Can you elaborate please what you mean by "toilet chemicals"?
Stuff that keep your toilet from stinking up the place. The rental company gives you some, but more may be handy. I didn't have a need for it, but that was in Alaska, not the broiling Southwest...

"I'd recommend buying insurance from the RV rental facility"
Cruise America told me it includes insurance, you recommend more?
You should probably get some of the additional coverages, like gravel and the like. Chipped windshields are too common...

BTW, why don't they put backup cameras in RV's?
Surprisingly, no. Of course some may have, but the trend seems to be no.

Thanks!
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Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2016, 05:21:57 PM »
"5) How do these camping sites work? Reserve ahead of time, especially during popular times."
Well, I'm talking about next week...  Is there still any point?

Are there any apps for RV's that can tell you closest campsite or place to get new water or empty holding tank?

"Is there anywhere safe to park (without the above fears) besides camping sites?I wouldn't, plus it may be illegal."
Wow, that's interesting. So you mean it can be illegal to just park by the sidewalk on any random side street in a random neighborhood?

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2016, 05:28:58 PM »
"5) How do these camping sites work? Reserve ahead of time, especially during popular times."
Well, I'm talking about next week...  Is there still any point?
Uhhh, how would I know? I don't even know where you're going... Look around your destination, and check out some campgrounds. Most have pretty good websites and will tell you if there are vacancies or not.

Are there any apps for RV's that can tell you closest campsite or place to get new water or empty holding tank?
No idea, I've never looked.

"Is there anywhere safe to park (without the above fears) besides camping sites?I wouldn't, plus it may be illegal."
Wow, that's interesting. So you mean it can be illegal to just park by the sidewalk on any random side street in a random neighborhood?
Yes, you will most likely get ticketed.
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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2016, 05:45:22 PM »
"5) How do these camping sites work? Reserve ahead of time, especially during popular times.
Well, I'm talking about next week...  Is there still any point?
Uhhh, how would I know? I don't even know where you're going... Look around your destination, and check out some campgrounds. Most have pretty good websites and will tell you if there are vacancies or not."

I was asking in a general sense, not being specific. PBaruch mentioned in his post to book a year in advance. He didn't mention any specific location, so I asked in a general sense as well, if reserving the week before makes sense.

Any US CC CDW protections cover motorhomes?

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2016, 05:48:07 PM »
"5) How do these camping sites work? Reserve ahead of time, especially during popular times.
Well, I'm talking about next week...  Is there still any point?
Uhhh, how would I know? I don't even know where you're going... Look around your destination, and check out some campgrounds. Most have pretty good websites and will tell you if there are vacancies or not."

I was asking in a general sense, not being specific. PBaruch mentioned in his post to book a year in advance. He didn't mention any specific location, so I asked in a general sense as well, if reserving the week before makes sense.

Any US CC CDW protections cover motorhomes?

Yes, it never hurts to look. Even the most booked-up place will have cancellations now and then.

There's a link in the first post discussing the CC question. I don't think it was ever clearly resolved; I'd suggest paying for the extra coverages from the rental place.
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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2016, 05:58:02 PM »
Great. Thanks for your help!

Offline Galitzyaner

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2016, 08:12:36 PM »
Where do you put a baby in an RV?
How practical is it for a couple with one baby?

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2016, 08:37:21 PM »
Where do you put a baby in an RV?
How practical is it for a couple with one baby?

In a regular car seat, which may or may not be accessible from the front cab without stopping.
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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #16 on: August 10, 2016, 09:04:38 PM »
Our rented RV had a backup camera but that is only one part of the equation in backing up.  You have to watch angles and sides.  The backup camera is nice but its better to have someone behind you helping out, especially with a 31 foot RV.

As for the baby seat, our RV had lap belts by the table and couch.  You have to install the car seat forward facing, which is what we did.  These seats are directly behind the two front seats but you cannot easily reach these seats from the two front seats.
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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #17 on: August 10, 2016, 09:19:16 PM »
In a regular car seat, which may or may not be accessible from the front cab without stopping.
:o Can you please explain?

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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2016, 09:23:39 PM »
:o Can you please explain?

You cannot easily reach these seats without getting up from the front seats - that is the way it was in our rented RV.
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Re: RV/Motorhome/Camper Master Thread
« Reply #19 on: August 10, 2016, 10:00:00 PM »
You cannot easily reach these seats without getting up from the front seats - that is the way it was in our rented RV.
Oh, phew. Was thinking for a minute that he meant like the ambulances where the front can't reach the back  ;) .
I know what you're referring to of course, but people walk around an RV during driving.... :-X