Karyn Wofford is a freelance writer in the fields of travel, eco-tourism, and wellness. She’s an avid traveler and Georgia native. She grew up with a passion for travel, exploring everything from the mountains to the ocean, and continues to find new and unique things to do in the places she travels.
Read full bio
Traveling via RV is both freeing and stressful since it carries a long list of responsibilities while having many perks. Some are downright freaked out when thinking about hauling around a giant vehicle. But with thoughtful planning and a little preparation, it’s an exhilarating way to really see more of the country. So much is missed when flying by plane or even scooting around by train. Considering taking it on? Here are a few tips to get started.
Know the Basics
Whether buying an RV or renting one, request a little education on loading/hitching, and setting up when at a campsite. Most employees are happy to help. This will be easier than trying to Youtube after a long drive. Know how to level your unit properly, and how to safely connect to electricity and water. Bringing a level tool along can help assist in properly adjusting when at the site.
Do a Test Run
Book a dry run at a nearby campground, preferably with pull-through campsites. Drive the vehicle around the area, and eventually make your way to the near home campsite. Take your time, breath, and slowly familiarize yourself with hookups. What’s cool is that many surrounding camping neighbors will typically be happy to answer questions or offer tips that they’ve learned along the way. At home, practice backing in and out of the driveway, to prep when the time comes you’ll need to back in at an actual site.
Before heading out on the road, use a power adapter to plug up to the house. This will enable a thorough check of lights and other functions. Assess the tires, test gauges, and assure any tools needed for basic roadside maintenance are onboard. AAA also has plans for RV travelers, that can prove to be handy if a tire goes flat or you don’t find a gas station in time.
Consider the Length
The length of a unit could determine where travelers can go. Some parks and nature sites have limits when it comes to vehicle size. Some heavy-duty RVs will not be able to safely take certain turns among tight mountain roads, for example. Do the research—smaller units are typically cheaper anyway, and way less stressful to maintain.
Know the Height
Some RVs can be really, really tall. This means it may not be able to clear drive-thru overhangs at restaurants or banks. Some bridges can be low hanging as well. Luckily, height limits are typically stamped on these structures, so knowing the height of the RV will enable drivers to always make safe decisions. Write it on a sticky note and place it on a visor for quick reference.
Don’t Fill Up the Fresh Water Tanks
When on the road, full water tanks can increase the rate at which the vehicle is burning gas. So therefore money can be saved by filling up the tanks when you’re actually going to need the water. “Boondocking” is camping when there are no hookups around, and absolutely water is needed at this point. All in all, wait to haul it at the last minute.
Never Leave the "Toilet" Open
Some folks think leaving the black tank valve open is a great way to go ahead and get all the junk into the tank. We will go ahead and save you the anguish of a big, nasty, dried pile of poo that literally has to be professionally chiseled out—tanks need to stay closed so waste remains moist and able to cleanly “dump“.
Keep the Load Light
Do you really need massive amounts of stuff to enjoy the pure simple surroundings of the outdoors? Take what you need, like staple foods, medications and emergency supplies, but leave the Rubbermaid containers full of recreational stuff that probably will never get used at home. It’s possible to overload an RV, which increases wear and tear, amongst other things.
Train a Co Pilot
More than one person needs to be able to safely operate the RV. Everyone needs an opportunity to rest, whether going on a long or short trip. Be patient with your co-pilot, and let them have plenty of time to get comfortable on highways and backroads. This time investment will prove to be invaluable in the long run.
Disposable gloves are hard to come by right now, but some type of hand cover that can be thrown away is highly helpful when the time comes for the dreadful task of handling tank emptying hoses. Culinary prep gloves are a bit easier to find—keep in mind they can fit somewhat loose and can be a little slippery. Worst case scenario, a set of designated work gloves are better than nothing.
Leave No Trace
RVing is not seen to be environmentally friendly, compared to camping on foot. But we can certainly do our part to take out all we bring in. Sort trash and take it to a recycling center rather than filling trash cans at parks. Opt for reusable food storage bags and items with compostable packaging. Leave a campsite better than you found it and feel good about thanking the earth for a wonderful stay.
Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff
All in all, we take trips to have fun! Bring the marshmallows and roasting sticks, make sure all the margarita supplies are in the cabinets, download constellation spotting apps for nights of stargazing. Bonus—those are all things that won’t tip you over the weight limit.