RVing isn’t always smooth sailing, especially when it’s your first time. Be prepared to make some RV mistakes!
We had a little experience with RVs before purchasing our own and becoming full-timers. We thought we had researched everything, but still made some pretty dumb mistakes our first year of RVing. The good thing is, with a little research and planning ahead of time, you can avoid many of the issues we came across. I hope that sharing our experience helps you think ahead of time and avoid the bumps we encountered in the road. Whether you are planning to buy an RV or just rent one, follow the advice below and you’ll be a happy camper.
Forgetting Important Things on Travel Days. We learned the hard way that we needed to create a checklist of steps that are required for preparing to move locations. With a fifth-wheel, or travel trailer, there are more steps than a motorhome. But regardless of what rig you have, there are action items that can be particularly important to you and your rig if you forget to do them before taking off. These steps may seem like “second nature” and steps that you can’t imagine forgetting, but you might be surprised how often you feel rushed or anxious on travel days.
It’s easy to feel a little flustered when you’re cleaning up, strapping down, packing up, planning your route, and getting directions, all while keeping an eye on the time to ensure you’re done by checkout time. We’ve learned that doing some tasks the night before is helpful. Get your tow vehicle or rig fueled up the night before, so you don’t have to worry about stopping right away. Maybe even clean and stow or strap down items the night before as well. Give yourself plenty of time too.
Your RV checklist should include but not limited to, things like:
Turn off the water pump and water heater
Put the stabilizer legs up (we’ve forgotten this step before!)
Close all the windows and vents
Check the brakes and turn signals
Check the tire pressure
Ensure that the tailgate is up (yep, we forgot this once, too!)
You can find these checklists online or create one yourself. But we have a video, RV PRE TRIP INSPECTION / RV PRE TRIP CHECKLIST / RVing for beginners / RV life that may help you create one that will work for you. If you’re a couple, each person should ensure that every item is completed and checked off. Then, after you pull away from your spot, one person should walk around the site and ensure you didn’t leave anything behind, too. Do not forget to check your electric & water connections! We’ve had our fair share of those mistakes as well.
Not Fully Understanding What You Need in the RV. We don’t necessarily regret purchasing our first RV, but we wish we would have been a little more informed and prepared. It’s so important to understand what needs you have in an RV. Think about your lifestyle and make sure that the RV you purchase fits that. We did not realize what a great hitch was until we knew ours was not. Towing a travel trailer is much different than the 5th wheel we have now. Also, we were limited in our ability to dry camp, or “boondock”, because we did not give any thought to certain features of our first RV, such as holding tanks.
Trusting Any Type of Map Planning Software and Not Validating Your Route. Many of us have become accustomed to using our cell phones for directions. And because of that, we often don’t put much thought into the route that it suggests. We’ll simply type in the address and head out, usually without double checking. You absolutely cannot do this with an RV. Our general thought was, “as long as we’re on highways, we’ll be good…truckers take those roads!”. But that’s not always the case, and it’s the roads leading to and from highways that you need to be extra careful of.
We got ourselves into a stressful situation following our old Auto GPS directions. While traveling to Tybee Island GA, we were routed to a highway that had a low clearance bridge. Thankfully, we caught before proceeding but it made us back up in traffic because in no way would our RV fit under it. On top of that, there were many low hanging trees that were hitting the roof of our fifth wheel. It was in that moment that we realized we need to be more hands on with our route planning.
To avoid getting yourself into a dangerous situation, we suggest purchasing an RV specific GPS. You can also find apps that offer maps with clearly marked areas that have low clearance or weight restrictions. We’ve gotten in the habit of checking every road we will be taking ahead of time.
Skipping the Practice Run Before RVing. Our first time RVing with our new RV we traveled a distance for a camping trip. We were fairly nervous and had just planned to “learn as we go”. Needless to say, our first day was memorable… and not in a good way. We made simple, careless mistakes just because of our lack of experience and the anxiety that came with that. We regretted not doing a trial run, even just for a quick overnight camping trip not far from home. If we’d gone for a practice run, we truly believe our first day RV mistakes wouldn’t have happened. We would’ve learned then that we needed a checklist and could’ve avoided careless errors. We also could have practiced our roles and our communication for parking. It’s really no different than playing a sport— there’s way less pressure at practice than on game day! Overall, it would have greatly increased our confidence and eased our nerves a bit. So, if you aren’t an experienced RVer, do yourself a favor and give yourself some practice time.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking a short road trip with a rental RV! Especially if you plan on go long-term RVing, it’s a good idea to use rentals to learn the ropes and what you like and dislike in an RV.
Going Too Far and Too Fast. RVing is not just about the destination. It’s also about enjoying your time on the road. Going too far in one day of driving can not only leave you exhausted, but it’s also dangerous. It’s always better to break your journey down in manageable chunks and rest when you need to. Similarly, don’t try to put the pedal to the metal in your RV. Take it slow and take it safe. Driving at higher-than-intended speeds trying to race to your destination can cause unsafe conditions like trailer sway.
Plus, you may miss the exit to see the World’s Second Largest Ball of Yarn! Taking things slow allow you to enjoy your surroundings and arrive in one piece.
Try It For Yourself. I really hope this post gives you practical tips for avoiding careless and dumb mistakes during your upcoming RV travels. Now go make that checklist, buy an RV specific GPS, and schedule in some practice before your maiden voyage! If you’re a seasoned RVer and want to share your RV mistakes, do so in the comments below. We’d love to hear more tips and am always looking for more ways to be proactive myself.