There is something incredibly laidback and charming about the idea of going on a long road trip in an RV. But if you are a beginner, things can quickly go south without the right kind of preparation and planning. Check out these RV tips for beginners to avoid making some common mistakes.
23 RVing For Beginners Checklist
1. What kind of RV do you want?
When it comes to RVing for beginners, the first thing to decide is whether you want to rent or buy an RV. If you are new to this world, renting might be the best option. There are many different types of RV designs and classes out there.
- Class A: these are the most premium looking vehicles. They look like large buses and are expensive.
- Class B: These are smaller than Class A, and look more like large vans. But they still have all the necessities inside, including sinks showers and toilets.
- Class C: These are smaller RVs built on a van chassis. Their tops extend noticeably over the driving cab in front.
- Travel Trailers and 5th Wheel trailers are towed RVs. The main difference between the two is that they use different hitching mechanisms.
If you want to tow your RV, make sure that the weight of the RV is compatible with towing capability of your vehicle. If you want to drive the RV, then pick a Class depending on your budget and space requirements.
2. What Layout Suits You Best?
Different RVs have their unique take on space allocation for kitchens, dinettes, and living space. When shopping for an RV, you need to get inside as many RVs as possible physically. This will help give you an accurate idea regarding space inside. After all, an RV indoors is where you will be spending a lot of time when out on the road.
A large and spacious kitchen is available only in the most expensive RVs. If you don’t have a ton of cash to burn, you will have to compromise. So just try and make sure that you will have enough space to cook properly. If multiple people are making the trip, bring them all together inside to see if there is enough space.
3. Plan Your Route in Advance
Among all the RV tips for beginners, this is probably the most important. If you are new to driving this type of vehicle, try to avoid getting caught in rush hour traffic. And that takes a bit of planning. And if you want to have fun and de-stress, also try to avoid mountain roads, and hairpin bends as well!
4. Know Your Height!
Always be wary of low-clearance sections when on the road. A good idea is to note down the height of your RV on your dashboard, both in imperial and metric systems (in case you are driving through Canada). This will help you stop well in advance if a low hanging bridge or obstruction comes up while driving.
5. Watch your load limits
Unlike a car or SUV, when traveling in an RV, it is very easy to exceed your vehicle weight limits. After all, you will bring a lot of gear on-board when going on an RV vacation. So use the truck scales at truck stops en route to check your vehicle weight.
For Class A, B, and C RVs, the limit is called Available Payload Capacity. For trailers, you have to look at your Car/SUV towing capacity.
6. Don’t Wing It
Spontaneity can be fun, but not when you are planning an RV trip for the first time. Plan the important stuff, like:
- Your budget for food, fun, and incidental expenses
- Whether you will cook or eat out
- Multiple routes
- Good stops along these routes
- Where to stop for the night (usually campgrounds)
7. Make RVing Checklists
This may sound boring, but rving for beginners involves familiarizing themselves with boring but critical routines. Having checklists on everything before embarking on your trip will help avoid potential headaches along the way. You do not want to be hundreds of miles away from civilization without a charger, can opener, or any small but important object.
8. Create a Campground Setup Checklist
When learning all the RV basics, beginners should pay particular attention to campground rules, etiquette and things to do. Here is a helpful checklist:
- Always scan the area for any obstacles on the ground or low hanging branches.
- Figure out where the power, water, and sewage hookups are before pulling in your RV
- Keep the RV level with blocks or jacks, and chock the wheels to secure the rig.
- Don’t use the gas or batteries when you have a hookup nearby.
- Remember to hook up your sewage lines, and wear gloves when doing this!
- Finally, put up an awning to get your campsite started.
9. Put together a pre-flight routine and checklist
Before you start off, check everything, including tire pressure, emergency brakes, all cabinet and compartment doors, antennae, and fluid levels, just to mention a few. Create a routine and stick to it every time, to create a habit.
10. Practice Driving
RV driving is not easy, but all it needs is some practice to master. And when you practice, stick to routes that are similar to the one you plan to take on your RV vacation if possible. You can always start in a large parking lot, or take a special class if possible.
11. Learn to Back Up
Backing up is a critical skill that you have to master when driving an RV. Sooner or later, you will find yourself in a situation where you have to back up your rig to get some extra space to turn, get out of a jam, or simply park. When towing trailers, you have to learn how to back up.
Otherwise, you cannot pull into an RV space! So practice often if you plan on using a tow trailer. But it is much harder to do when your RV is towing another vehicle behind it. But it is still possible to back up a little, to gain an extra foot or two.
This can be valuable when in a pinch. So, learn how far you can back up while towing a vehicle, preferably in a parking lot. To make your life a lot easier, you can install backup cameras on your RV. There are both wired and wireless models available in the market.
12. Learn How to Level Your Rig Properly
The propane fridges in an RV is a costly piece of equipment. If they are off-level by even a few degrees, they can get damaged. But leveling an RV is a relatively easy task. There are several ways to do it.
On expensive rigs, there are automatic levelers to get the task done without any effort. Manual leveling is required for most other rigs. You can do this by using leveling blocks. Place them under lower tires to keep the rig level.
Scissor jacks can be used for fine-tuning when you are leveling your rig. They will help keep the rig stable, but don’t overextend them in the process.
13. Become Familiar with Your Power Systems
RVs have two different power systems. They are:
- 110/120 Volt Systems: these are like home power systems, and can run appliances like a fridge, microwave, AC, and laptops.
- 12 Volt systems: these are similar to the ones you find on boats. They can power your lights, any vent fans, and ignite propane (for your fridge).
If you don’t have a power hookup at your site, or you plan to go boondocking, you can use a generator or inverter to gain 110/120 power. But a generator will probably annoy your neighbors! But an inverter is often not enough, as it converts the 12V battery power on your RV into 110V power.
14. Learn How to Dump Your Black and Gray Water Tanks
The black and grey tanks contain toilet water and sink/shower water. If you don’t learn how to do this vital task properly, it can only result in a stinky mess. Learn how to correctly identify the tanks and the proper hoses at the campsite. Never connect these tanks to hoses for potable water. Always dump the dirtier black tank first.
15. Get a Trucker GPS Unit
This is a very useful investment indeed and should rank high in RV travel tips for beginners. These are special GPS monitors with data and setting useful for heavy rigs. They can look for routes suitable for your RV weight and height and can warn you about many potential impediments in your route.
16. Check the date code on your tires
Whether you are renting or using your RV, always check the date codes on the tires before starting your trip. The tread may look fine, but it can still break down. Tires should be changed every 5-7 years, regardless of how often they have been used.
17. Double check that awning
A loose awning can cause chaos when you are out driving on the interstate. So make sure that they are properly secured and tightly rolled up before starting your engines. If you want, you can add aftermarket locks for extra support.
You Can Also Read: Simple Tricks to Select RV Awning Replacement Fabric
18. Get RV Roadside Assistance Membership
Towing a broken RV is a very expensive process. So it is wise to enroll in a roadside assistance program. Just familiarise yourself with the coverage program. That way you will know what to expect.
19. Use Damprid
RVs don’t have ventilation like regular homes. So there is a high risk of mold and mildew appearing in poorly ventilated corners. This risk is severe is older, leak-prone RVs. You should use a moisture absorbing product like Damprid remove excess moisture from inside your RV.
20. Check Out these Great RV Books!
There are many great books out there that explains the basics of RV travel for beginners. The RVer’s Bible by Kim and Sunny Baker is a great choice if you are new to the world of RVs. Living Aboard Your RV, by Janet and Gordon Groene, is another solid choice.
21. Go waterless
Hauling water across long distances in an RV is not a good idea. Check if your destination has a good supply of water. If so, do not travel with fully loaded tanks. Carrying around water is an unnecessary and avoidable burden.
22. Don’t get locked out and prepare for after-dark setup
Know the rules of your campsite. Not all of them are open 24/7. Some may lock the gates at night, for “quiet hours.” If you are stuck after dark, here are some helpful RV camping tips for beginners:
Walmart parking lots are a safe alternative. So check online for the nearest Walmart.
23. Leave the dispersed camping for another day
Dispersed camping is a fun option out there in the wilderness, but it not for beginners. Try and get some experience under your belt in regular campsites before attempting this.
RVing may look like a very chilled out activity, and in many ways, it is just that. But to make it happen, you need to do a lot of legwork and initial preparation. We hope you find something of value in our selection of the best RV tips for beginners. Feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, and queries in the comments section below. Thanks for visiting, and happy RVing!