Are you a first-time RV owner, looking to hit the open road in your new home-on-wheels? As exciting as it may be to travel in an RV, it can also be quite overwhelming. From packing and navigating to maintenance and safety, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to traveling in a motorhome, with a fifth wheel or trailer. That’s why I’ve put together this guide of RV tips 101 to help beginners start off on the right foot and enjoy your first trip!
We bought our first fifth wheel travel trailer in 2017, and since then we’ve been hooked on RV travel. (Check out my latest renovation of a 2007 Jayco fifth wheel right here!) I’ve definitely learned how to be a better RV traveler each time we go on a trip. Every RV trip gets easier and easier as we learn how to be more efficient, which helps us have a lot more fun. Here are some tips and tricks on how to travel with an RV!
Plan Your Route
The first and most important thing to consider when it comes to RVing is your route. Plan it out carefully, considering factors like distance, driving time, road conditions, and weather. You’ll also want to choose your destinations carefully, based on what you want to see and do. Remember to check for RV-friendly campgrounds along the way, and try to reserve your spot well in advance.
I’m finding that it’s getting more & more crucial to research and reserve RV camping spots far in advance. For example, when we drove down to California from Edmonton last year, I booked all of our camping spots 5 months in advance. Surprisingly, I booked the last few good spots at many of the campgrounds and RV parks!
Something else to keep in mind during this planning stage is how big your rig is and how it will perform on certain roads. I’m not a fan of winding, narrow, cliff-side roads with our 30.5 foot fifth wheel, however they might be OK to drive if you’re less squeamish or have a smaller RV!
We’re so lucky to have thousands of online resources nowadays as we plan our RV trips. You can simply Google a destination, route, or RV campground to see what people say about it and how they recommend preparing for it. That’s how I planned our 64 hour California trip, and we had very few surprises!
Packing for an RV trip can be a bit tricky, as space is limited. That’s why it’s important to pack smart. Most RVs come with plenty of storage space, so be strategic with what you bring. Start by making a list of essential items like clothes, toiletries, and kitchen essentials. Then, add in extras like games, books, and outdoor gear. Remember, you can always buy things on the road if you need to but if you plan ahead you’ll save some money. I have a free printable RV packing list right here, or here is a packing list below:
General Camping Supplies
- MAP, COMPASS, GPS
- UPDATED FIRST AID KIT & MEDICATION
- SUNSCREEN & BUG SPRAY
- SWISS ARMY KNIFE
- BACKPACKS & BEACH BAGS
- CAMERA, BATTERY & BATTERY CHARGER
- FLASHLIGHTS & EXTRA BATTERIES
- LANTERNS & LANTERN FUEL
- LIGHTERS & MATCHES
- ALARM CLOCK
- LAYERS OF BEDDING [SLEEPING BAGS, PILLOWS, SHEETS AND/OR BLANKETS)
- FIREWOOD & AXE
- BASIC TOOL KIT [HAMMER. SCREWDRIVER ETC
- EXTENSION CORD & HOSE for RV
RV Kitchen Supplies
- MEAL PLAN
- GROCERIES AS PER MEAL PLAN*
- SPICES, SALT. PEPPER
- DRINKING WATER
- DISHES, CUPS & UTENSILS
- CAN OPENER
- LIDDED CONTAINERS & BOWLS
- ICE CHEST & ICE
- CAMPING STOVE & FUEL
- ZIPLOC BAGS
- ALUMINUM FOIL
- DISHWASHING ITEMS
- TRASH & RECYCLING BAGS
- BOTH WARM AND COLD WEA THEA CLOTHES
- HATS & GLOVES
- BOTH WARM AND COLD WEATHER FOOTWEAR
- TOOTHBRUSHES & TOOTHPASTE
- BODY WASH & SHAMPOO
- SHAVING SUPPLIES
- HAIR CARE ITEMS
- TOILET PAPER
- CONTACT LENSES, GLASSES & CARE ITEMS
- LAUNDRY BAG
- HAND SANITIZER
- BABY WIPES
- PET FOOD
- PET TREATS
- PET FOOD & WATER DISHES 0 PET TOYS
- LEASH AND HARNESS
- PET WASTE BAGS
Maintain Your RV
Regular maintenance is essential to keep your RV running smoothly. Make sure to take care of things like oil changes, tire rotations, and brake checks on a regular basis. Additionally, you’ll want to check your RV’s electrical system, plumbing system, and propane system before heading out on your trip. It’s also a good idea to do a thorough cleaning both before and after your trip.
After your trip, make sure to dispose of any waste in your holding tanks properly. Most campgrounds and RV parks will have dump station where you can do so. (Don’t forget to pack the right hoses and gloves for this!)
Before it freezes here in Alberta at the end of October, we also winterize our fifth wheel by:
- cleaning the interior and exterior of our RV
- checking all the systems, the appliances, and the slide-out for any damages and repairs needed before next camping season
- ensuring the RV safety features like the CO2 alarm are still working
- flushing all the plumbing pipes and filling the RV water system with antifreeze
- removing the batteries and storing them inside (for more RV battery care & maintenance tips, Go RVing has a great article right here)
I think RV consumers should be aware of all the maintenance that goes into an RV before purchasing. You definitely need to be willing to spend the time to do preventative maintenance on your rig throughout the year.
RVing can be a very safe and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to practice safety at all times. If you have a motorhome, one of the most important things you can do is buckle up. Make sure everyone in the RV is wearing a seatbelt when driving a motorhome. For all RV types, you’ll want to make sure your RV is level before parking, to prevent accidents. You can use the leveling system that might be included in your RV, or we’ve even used a leveling app on our phones to help us level our fifth wheel on site. If you are using a fifth wheel or trailer, it’s important to be confident with trailer towing and have the proper tow vehicle for your rig. Lastly, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for potential hazards. Challenges such as driving at night and driving rough terrain should be planned for beforehand… can your partner be a good co-pilot in situations like this?
Enjoy the Experience
Finally, remember to enjoy the experience of RVing. Yes, there may be some challenges and unexpected surprises along the way, but that’s all part of the adventure! We have so many incredible camping trip memories in the RV with our girls. I think they’ll remember all of our trips for a very long time… even the one where it snowed the whole time (in June)! Embrace everything that comes your way, from the beautiful scenery to the new friends you might meet along the way. RVing is an amazing way to see the country and create lasting memories with your loved ones.
RVing can be an incredible experience for first-time owners, as long as you’re prepared and informed. By following these RV tips 101, you’ll be well on your way to a safe, fun, and memorable trip. Remember to plan your route, pack smart, maintain your RV, practice safety, and most of all, enjoy the journey. For more RV education, one of my favourite resources is Go RVing – it’s definitely a website to check out! There are also a lot of handy resources, online training and tips on RV 101 by Mark Polk; I like this whole RV Newbie section. Happy travels!