Sure, everyone makes mistakes. But no one wants to look like a rookie on the road. Feeling like you don’t have a clue is stressful and embarrassing. And when it comes to RVing, being clueless can also be dangerous and costly.
Luckily, the worst mistakes can be avoided by doing a bit of homework and planning ahead. Here are some of the most common RV rookie mistakes — and how you can avoid them.
Before Your RV Trip
1. Not packing enough food (or packing too much!)
You can really work up an appetite setting up a campsite. There’s nothing worse than putting in time and hard work only to realize that you only brought enough graham crackers and chocolate for 2 nights of s’mores on your 4-night stay (so tragic!).
Conversely, it’s important not to overpack. Unless you’re headed to the middle of nowhere, you probably don’t need a three months’ supply of canned goods. (See this article on 5 Things To Leave At Home On Your Next RV Trip for more things you probably don’t need to haul around.)
Avoid both mistakes by meal planning beforehand.
Don’t underestimate the power of pen and paper. Write down all the meals you need for your trip — think simple, one-pot recipes — and make a grocery list. Take your list to the store and ensure you’ve marked every thing off the list before checkout.
2. Not making reservations
While a pro may know the ins and outs of every campground within a 500-mile radius, the novice RVer probably does not. After a long day of driving, you don’t want to pull up to the RV park of your dreams only to find out they don’t have a spot for you.
There are several reasons a park may not be able to accommodate you:
- Some campgrounds only allow motorhomes and trailers less than 10 years of age
- A campground may not have campsites long enough for your generously sized Class A vehicle.
- If RVing with kids, RV parks may charge a child tax that you aren’t willing to pay.
- Some RV parks are only for seniors
- And of course, an RV park may simply be full by the time you get there.
It is best to do your research, call prospective campgrounds and make reservations before you head out on your adventure.
3. Not planning your route
Maybe you love the feeling of driving in a car, unconcerned with routes or plans. But the fact is, getting lost in an RV is not like getting lost in a car. It’s really stressful!.
Where can I turn around safely? Are they any low bridges I need to worry about if I continue down this road? Am I legally allowed to make this turn? Can I cross this intersection without causing a traffic jam?
Planning your route in advance can help you avoid any blunders. The Rand McNally Atlas and Trucker’s Atlas list low-clearance roads, truck stops, and more. Online tools like the Good Sam Club trip planner or Roadtrippers.com are also great for planning the perfect RV road trip route.
At the RV Park Or Campground
4. Not following camp etiquette
No matter how much you feel at home there, a campground is not your backyard. There are certain rules that should be followed to ensure every RVer has a good time.
- Read and follow the camp or RV park rules.
- Don’t play your music too loudly or for too long.
- Avoid walking through other RVers’ campsites. Going around to the bathhouse isn’t going to hurt you.
- Let the kids have fun, but make sure they are aware of others around them and of the campground rules.
- Drive slowly. If you feel like you may be going too fast, you are.
- Don’t engine for more than a few minutes — it can be disturbing to your neighbors.
- Pick up after your pets and keep them on a leash at all times.
5. Leaving your curtains up at night
While this mistake won’t cost you anything, it can lead to some awkward experiences. Campsites at RV parks and campgrounds are usually pretty lose together. Leaving your curtains or blinds up allows everyone to see right into your rig.
Give yourself some privacy and save others from the temptation to snoop by pulling down the shades once the sun sets.
Packing Up Your RV
6. Being underprepared at the dump station
Being unprepared at the dump station with a line of people ready to hit the road behind you is a fast way to become the least popular person at camp.
Research how to dump your tanks well before you drive up to the station. You can do this by reading your RV manual, watching YouTube videos or even asking people around the park. If you’re renting an RV on Campanda, be sure to ask the owner about your tanks when you pick up the vehicle.
It’s important to put everything you need for this special RV experience together in one convenient place. This allows for easy access when you pull up to the dump station and easy clean up when you leave.
7. Forgetting to do the walk-around
Before you hit the road, you must walk around your RV. Check to ensure everything is put away and in its proper place for highway driving.
Now do it again.
Two walk-arounds may seem excessive, but trust me, spending a few extra minutes checking your RV is better than driving off with your awning still out or your sewer hose dragging behind you.
(Yes, that really does happen. We RVers call these “drive off disasters.”)
Save yourself the headache of trying to remember everything when you break camp by using a checklist. Be sure to:
- Do a walk-around and check your antenna, lights, tow vehicle connections, windows and vents
- Make sure that your storage doors are closed and locked
- Check that your cupboards and fridge doors are secure
- Test your turn signals, brakes and headlights for safety
On The Road
8. Moving too quickly
RVs are great for many things. Moving quickly is not one of them.
Driving under pressure may lead to some bad decisions. You may pack up too quickly and forget to secure items in and outside the rig. Or you could drive too fast and put yourself and your passengers at risk, not to mention the other vehicles on the road.
An RV — whether it’s a motorhome or a towed vehicle — really shouldn’t be flying down the highway.
And the fact is, trying to cover too much ground in too little time is incredibly stressful. Avoid cramming too much experience into your short window of vacation time. Slow down and really enjoy the RV experience by taking it one day at a time.
When you plan a trip, use Google Maps to determine how much time it will take. Then add 15 to 25 minutes to every hour. That should give you a better idea of how long it will actually take to get to your destination.
9. Ignoring sounds and signs that something is wrong
RVs have a lot of moving parts. There’s nothing like driving down the highway in an RV, listening to something beep or rattle behind you as you try to merge lanes to help you realize you’ve got something terribly wrong.
While on the road, be sure to listen to your rig and check your mirrors often to be certain you are secure and safe.
If you see something flapping in your rearview mirror, stop immediately to secure it. Hear a weird scraping sound? You better pull over ASAP to find the problem.
Remember, an RV is a large piece of equipment. That means large problems can arise. Always err on the side of caution. Pull over as quickly as possible to investigate any abnormal sounds or signs that your rig is not 100% safe.
The Biggest Mistake
The biggest mistake an RV newbie can make?
10. Giving up on your RV dreams because you think you’re not up to the task.
The fact is, RVing can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes and ask for help from other RVers. Most slip ups are minor and can be chalked up to learning experience — and a good story to tell around your next campfire.
Do your homework, pay attention and stay calm. (And seriously, do that second walk-around.)
Renting an RV is a fantastic way to get into the RV life. And with Campanda, you’re backed by a support system of some really excellent people — not to mention 24/7 roadside assistance (just in case).