RVing 101: Road Tripping with a Home on Wheels
This is what you need to know for our first RV trip
Cooking s’mores while gathered around a campfire, with stars twinkling overhead. Making a cool splash in the park pool on a steamy summer day. Spending time as a family in your very own space. These wonderful images might come to mind when you imagine RV travel. Whether you’ve recently purchased an RV or are planning to rent one for an upcoming vacation, there are many things to think about to ensure smooth sailing. Here are some tips that will help you plan your first RV trip:
PICKING A CAMPGROUND
Deciding where to stay is the biggest decision to make while trip planning. Campgrounds come in a wide array of styles, from primitive wooded campsites to plush manicured resorts. Read reviews online before you book to help you decide if a campground is for you. First, you should think about your budget, as costs range from around $25 to upwards of $100 a night. Next, decide what hookups are necessary. While some pros are good at boondocking, most new RVers appreciate having easy access to water, electric and sewer as well as cell phone or Wi-Fi signals.
Local, state and national park campgrounds are often the cheapest options, and many offer beautiful campsites near dreamy locations. However, you are more likely to find fewer amenities and services. Private campgrounds usually cost more per night. The benefits may include a full slate of activities and recreational opportunities as well as fancier campsites and facilities.
PACKING FOR THE TRIP
The nice thing about packing an RV is that you have more room in it than a suitcase…but that’s also a bad thing. It is imperative to find the right balance between having everything you need without taking along everything from your house.
Start by finding sample packing lists online. Copy these into a document of your own and take off the things you won’t use. Load the trailer with the things you think you will need, focusing first on safety, sleeping, health and hygiene, and cooking items. Beyond that, add the things that will make your experience more fun and comfortable. If in doubt about your cargo weight, be sure to weigh your loaded rig at a weigh station.
Traveling safely is your most essential duty while RVing, as you put yourself and others at risk when you don’t take proper care. Before any road trip, you should do a check of your RV systems and equipment. Try to take a short “shakedown” trip if you can.
Your tires are one of the first things you should inspect—not just before a long journey but before every single day of travel. RV tires often wear out due to age before they wear out due to mileage. Look carefully for cracks, and ensure tires are properly filled.
Before a long trip, it’s also helpful to test your water system, all of your appliances, and your heating and cooling. If you discover problems, it is easier to take care of these at home rather than spending vacation time troubleshooting. This also gives you the opportunity to make sure you know how to operate everything.
After your first RV trip, you’ll learn a lot about your rig…and yourselves! You’ll soon figure out your own systems of preparation and your own camping style. Before long, you will be hitting the road like a pro, making family memories with the RV in tow!
With her small bunkhouse travel trailer in tow, Kerri Cox has traveled near and far with her husband and two teenage sons, documenting their adventures on her blog, Travels with Birdy.
When not on the road, she spends her time teaching and writing. Her words and photographs can be found in print and digital publications, including Trailer Life and the Good Sam Club Blog, and she is a frequent contributor to the RV Atlas podcast.