After full-time RVing for over a year across the U.S., my hubby and I feel like we have RVing down (for the most part). It was a high learning curve though! I wish we would have had some RVing Tips in the beginning. When we first set out on our RV road trip adventure as RV newbies, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing or what we had gotten ourselves into!
As we were picking up our new RV from the dealership, they showed us how everything worked with the RV inside and out. Talk about an overwhelming information overload! I recorded the entire RV walk-through, but it was still a lot to take in for first-time RVers.
The dealership was closing up shop, and we realized that the time had come for us to tow our new massive 35-foot Travel Trailer. Neither one of us had ever towed anything before. It was nerve-wracking! These are some of the questions we asked ourselves as we were driving off the dealership lot with our new RV in tow:
- Are we crazy?! (YES!!!)
- What were we thinking buying an RV when neither one of us knew anything about RVing or towing an RV?
- As we pulled into our first RV campground site: What now?! How the heck do we get this RV unhooked from our truck and set-up?
- What have we gotten ourselves into?!
We had done a ridiculous amount of research on the best RV type for us along with the proper truck we’d need to tow the RV. We also did a lot of planning when it came to the route we wanted to take on our cross-country RV road trip.
But, despite all that research and planning, we didn’t think about what would come next. We completely failed to figure out what to do once we got our RV… Oops! Some RVing Tips would have really come in handy.
To try to save you some of the growing pains we experienced with RVing and full-time RV life, I’m going to drop some knowledge on you. Here are some important RVing tips for first-time RVers that we’ve learned along the way from our RV adventures.
You may also like: Guide to the Many Different RV Types and Why We Chose a Travel Trailer
1. Make RV campground reservations in advance
You’d be surprised how many RV campgrounds get booked up, especially on weekends and even more so in the summer! Unfortunately, we realized that when we rolled into Denver on Father’s Day weekend with no reservations.
It was not only a weekend in the summer but a holiday weekend at that! After calling 18 (yes, 18!) campgrounds trying to find a place with availability. But no luck.
We ended up staying part of the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. We didn’t stay until morning though. In the middle of the night, our RV was vandalized and my hubby had a knife pulled on him as he was chased through the parking lot. You can read all about that crazy night HERE).
Luckily, we were okay, but talk about traumatizing! Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some Cracker Barrel! Plus, it’s one of the few places you can get a bite to eat at with RV parking. So don’t blame CB.
But had we booked an RV site beforehand, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. Not only could we have avoided the horrible experience we had. But we could have also avoided the stress of trying to find a place to stay at the last minute as we were pulling into town.
The lesson here: Book RV campgrounds in advance as much as possible. And be sure to book ahead for holidays, weekends, and especially holiday weekends!
2. Have a back-up plan
Make sure you have a plan B for where to stay in case your first choice isn’t available. If you’re in a pinch (or you just want a spot to hunker down and park your RV for the night), these places often offer free overnight parking for RVs:
However, know that it’s not a given that you can park your RV overnight at the places mentioned above. Be sure to look for posted signs about parking restrictions and check the rules. Before parking, always ask a manager and get their permission to stay overnight in your RV. Call in advance if you can.
Also, always be sure to take safety precautions! Lock all your doors and windows and stow valuables out of sight. Be aware of your surroundings. If you get a bad vibe, it’s probably best to move on. Above all, be safe!
3. Keep track of your RV campground reservations
Use my handy RV Travel Planner to keep track of your campground reservations. If you’re staying at multiple RV campgrounds over an extended period of time, it can become overwhelming. You can easily get confused with all the different check-in/check-out dates and times for where you’re staying and when.
You don’t want to accidentally show up somewhere a day early and not have an RV campsite to stay in because they’re already booked. This is why I created a free RV Travel Planner that you can use to help keep track of all the details for your RV trips!
4. Break up your RV drives
Know your limits when it comes to how long of a drive you can handle. You don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel or not be fully alert. You also don’t want to arrive at your campground exhausted and then have to get everything set up with your RV and campsite.
When we’re towing our RV, our travel time seems to average around 50-60 miles per hour (even when we’re on major highways). That might seem pretty slow, but you have to factor in the time for getting gas, restroom breaks, and food stops.
Pay attention to your drive time in relation to your actual miles per hour. It will probably take a lot longer than the time your maps app says it will take for you to arrive at your destination.
For us, a 200-mile drive with our RV usually takes around 3.5-4 hours. And a 400-mile drive takes roughly 7-8 hours. We try to keep our max driving distance around 400-miles or less. But we definitely prefer shorter drives around 200-300 miles if possible.
You can break up the drives for your RV road trips with overnight stops. Stay just one night to rest before continuing on to your destination the next day.
5. Don’t wait until the last minute to get gas
Stop for gas when your tank gets to ½ (or worst case scenario ¼ at the lowest)! Gas stations can be few and far between or they may not be conducive to pulling in with an RV. Do NOT wait until your tank is nearly empty and risk running out of gas.
Yes, you may be stopping more frequently. But it sure beats the extreme stress and impending doom of running out of gas and being stranded. Because believe me, it will happen in the middle of nowhere when you have no cell service. Don’t put yourself in that situation.
We’ve literally run out of gas before and rolled into a gas station at the very last second (thank goodness we made it!). That was terrifying! I cannot stress this enough – be aware of your gas level!
What we’ve started doing is once the tank gets to ½, we actively start looking for an RV-ideal gas station. If it gets down to ¼, we stop at the very next gas station that we come to!
Also, start keeping track of your miles per gallon. You will not get the same gas mileage with an RV as you do with a standard vehicle. Our truck usually gets around 400 miles per full tank of gas. But when we’re towing our RV, we can usually only drive around 200 miles or less before having to stop for gas.
That could factor into how long you drive. So keep it in mind when you’re planning your route to your next destination. It’s a good idea to look up gas stations along your route in advance based on how far you can go before needing to get gas. This will help alleviate the stress of trying to find a gas station while you’re on the road, especially if you don’t have cell service.
6. Carry some cash
I’m not saying to carry large amounts of cash with you, but it’s a good idea to have some cash on you. There are two main reasons you’ll want to have some cash on hand.
First, you may need cash for toll roads, especially on the East Coast as well as in the Mid West. Some toll booths accept credit cards, but there are some that are cash only.
Also, tolls for RVs are more expensive than tolls for standard vehicles. We once had to pay a $20 in New York! And we recently spent over $5 in tolls in Oklahoma (without our RV).
The second reason to have cash is for RV campgrounds. Believe it or not, not all campgrounds accept credit cards. Many are old school and still require cash payments.
It’s always a good idea to ask if RV parks and campgrounds accept credit cards or cash only. Checks may also be an option, so you might want to keep a checkbook with you too.
7. Always bring your RV awning in when you leave your RV
Even if you’re just leaving for a short time and even if there’s no wind, do NOT leave your RV awning out! You never know when a random gust of wind will come out of nowhere and rip your awning off.
Those babies are not cheap to repair or replace! And it can easily be avoided. So you’re better off being on the safe side and not leaving your RV awning out if it’s going to be unattended.
8. Make sure EVERYTHING is SECURE in your RV on travel days
I cannot stress this enough! Stow EVERYTHING that isn’t bolted or strapped down while in transit! Unfortunately, this was a lesson we learned the hard way early on with RVing.
I assumed the coffee maker and knife block on the counter were both heavy enough that they wouldn’t move… WRONG! They both ended up on the floor after doing some damage on the way down.
Another time, our pantry door popped open while we were on the move, and the olive oil and salt fell out. That wouldn’t have been a big deal, but they both opened up and went EVERYWHERE! They also mixed with one another in the carpet. That was fun to clean up. We made the mistake of thinking because they were in a cabinet, they wouldn’t go anywhere… WRONG AGAIN!
Now we have everything in cabinets kept in plastic bins like these, and we store the coffee maker, knives, etc. on moving days. Live and learn, right? Plastic bins should be your BFF when it comes to RVing. Use them for everything you can fit into them to keep things contained, especially when you’re on the move with your RV.
9. If you’re not sure, ask a fellow RVer
If you’re brand new to RVing, find another friendly RVer to help walk you through the set-up process the first time you take your RV out. Because you simply won’t remember everything they go over with you at the RV dealership when you pick up your RV.
When we pulled into our first campground immediately after leaving the dealership with our new RV, we were overwhelmed. Not to mention, we were also completely clueless about what to do next and how to get everything set-up with the RV at the campsite.
Luckily, the folks in the site next to us saw us struggling and offered to help. We would have been in serious trouble if it hadn’t been for them! And I can’t tell you how many other RVers have helped us along the way!
Even after RVing for a while, we still don’t know everything there is to know. There’s a definite learning curve, and even then, it’s a constant learning process. We still find ourselves now and then turning to other seasoned RVers for their guidance.
RVers are generally a very friendly and helpful bunch, so don’t be afraid to ask someone if you need help or advice! They’re usually happy to help and share their knowledge.
10. Take Your Time!
When we first hit the road on our full-time RV adventure, our goal was to see all 48 contiguous states in the lower U.S. in… wait for it… 6 months. And guess what. We made it happen!
We saw and did A LOT, and it was absolutely ahhh-mazing! BUT we were exhausted! Full-time RVing had turned into a full-time job. It became tiring finding new places to stay every few days and also driving long distances every few days to reach those new places.
We feel like we missed quite a bit along the way. If we had it to do it over again, we would have taken more time exploring and not tried to cram everything in during such a short time. I feel like you could spend a year in each state and still not see it all.
So my biggest piece of advice… take your time with RVing if you can. Don’t rush through it, and don’t overdo it to the point where it’s not enjoyable anymore. Make the most of your time on the road RVing and enjoy every second of it!
And here’s a bonus tip just for the heck of it… Something is bound to go wrong. RVs are moving homes-on-wheels. They’re meant for travel, they’re not very sturdy, and they need maintenance.
Keep in mind that they’re not perfect. Something will happen with your RV itself or with your travel plans. You’ll probably get a flat tire at some point (knock on wood!). Hopefully, that’s the worst that will happen.
Don’t go into the RV lifestyle expecting perfection, because you’re not going to get it. There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into traveling, especially with an RV.
But you can only plan so much before life takes over with its own plan. Go into RVing knowing that it will be frustrating and challenging at times. Then you won’t set yourself up for failure.
When something does go wrong, try not to let it ruin your RV experience. RVing will allow you to go places and experience things you otherwise wouldn’t get to. Take the good with the bad because the RV life will be completely worth it!
I hope these RVing tips help save you some trouble while you’re out on the road with your RV. If you happen to have any words of wisdom or helpful advice to share with fellow RVers, please leave them in the comments below!