RV camping guide 50+ simple RV living hacks-tips for beginners
Tip 1 – Bring the Whole Family
There is a big difference between an RV and a tent, which means that your options for you can join you on your camping trip (or road trip) just got a lot bigger. Most people tend to stick with bringing along the family dog, but with an RV, why stop there? Cats make great companions in an RV, as do caged animals such as birds or ferrets. With careful placement within the RV, even the family goldfish can tag along on your next adventure. No more need to find a pet sitter!
Tip 2 – Cell Phones
If you are going on an extended trip, make sure you bring along a cell phone. Long stretches of highway can get pretty lonely if you get a flat tire or if your engine over heats. A quick call to a tow truck or a gas station can do a lot of good in an emergency! Not big on technology? You don’t have to be. Prepaid phones and cards are inexpensive, easy to use, and get just as good of service as the contract phones.
Tip 3 – Have Inside Shoes
Being out in the woods can create quite a messy situation. Hiking through the dirt and mud then walking in to the clean RV will create unnecessary messes that require cleaning. And who wants to spend their vacation time cleaning up muddy footprints? Have an indoor pair of shoes and an outdoor pair, this will solve the problem.
Tip 4. What’s Your Rush?
Remember safety first when on the road! RVs are tall vehicles with a high roll over rate, take your time going around corners and passing people. Do not jerk on the steering wheel, and always leave in plenty of time to get to your destination. If you are new to driving an RV, you may want to consider doing a few practice laps around an empty parking lot to get a feel for how to handle such a large vehicle. Try speeding up and slowing down, turning, and driving in reverse before you hit the freeway.
Tip 5 – Mind the Toiletries
RV plumbing systems can get expensive to repair. Make sure you keep up on regular maintenance of the plumbing system, and ALWAYS use biodegradable toilet paper. Do not ever flush anything down the toilet besides toilet paper. It will pay off in the long haul to tend to the smaller things now. Keep a small waste basket in your bathroom for any small thing that you want to get rid of. This will minimize the temptation to flush things down the toilet that you shouldn’t.
Tip 6 – Crank It UP
If you crank up your TV or satellite dish manually, a good tip to remind yourself to lower them again before driving away is to hang your keys from the handle on the crank. Many people forget that they have their satellite dish up and drive away with it still on top of their rig. This poses a lot of problems as it can easily be broken off if it hits a low branch or if you are driving under a bridge.
Tip 7 – Write It Down
Make a list of all the necessary things you need to do to get your RV up and running. Post this list somewhere it is easy to see each time you go on a trip. Run through the list every time you are ready to hit the road, you will be surprised what things are easy to forget when you are in a hurry!
Tip 8 – Map It Out
Plan out your trip in advance. Make a list of the places you plan to stop and how long you intend to be at each destination. Stick to this schedule to avoid having to do any last minute preparation before moving from one destination to the next. With this in mind, make sure you allow plenty of time for yourself to stop and see different sights that you may not have already planned. Be spontaneous.
Tip 9 – Follow The Sun
RVs tend to get hot very quickly, and not all of them include, AC, or the AC isn’t always working. Choose where you park your RV carefully so it is out of the sun as much as possible. This will keep the interior significantly cooler without AC.
Tip 10 – Cover It Up
Another good way to keep you RV nice and cool without the use of AC is to cover the skylight. It is remarkable just how much heat comes in with the sun shining down on the skylight. It is easy to cover. You can either paint over it, attach a tarp or another cover to the top of it, or purchase a skylight cover at a camping store.
Tip 11 – Bring the Shade
It is not always guaranteed that there is going to be shade provided where you are camping, and nothing takes the fun out of a vacation like a sunburn. Bring along a large tarp or two to attach to the side of your RV for instant shade no matter what direction you park it. If you do not want to bring something as big as a tarp, bring along a few sun umbrellas. These can be set up anywhere and provide a lot of comfort with ease.
Tip 12 – Use the Campfire
RV stoves heat up the entire rig quickly, and they require a lot of gas to cook the food properly. Whenever possible cook your food outside the RV over a camp fire or on a grill. This will also help cut down lingering food smells in the interior of the RV. That being said RVs can tend to get musty. Bring along an air freshener to keep your RV smelling fresh and clean for your entire trip.
Tip 13 – Close the Windows
A lot of people like to keep the windows open and the door ajar when they are out exploring or hiking. This is just fine… unless you are traveling in the fall or in the desert. Leaving the doors and windows open lets leaves and sand blow right into the RV every time a gust of wind comes up, creating a lot of time spent doing preventable cleaning.
Tip 14 – Clean Up Before Storing
It isn’t hard to look around and see the things that need to be taken back inside after your road trip has come to an end, but make sure you remember to clean out the fridge and freezer of the RV before you store it away. This will make the preparation for your next trip run infinitely smoother as you will not have a fridge full of spoiled food to take care of.
Tip 15 – Warm It Up
One of the great things about RV travel is that it can take place any time of year, and in any season. With the opposite effect of summertime heat, RVs also get really cold in the winter if you don’t want to spend a lot of money keeping the heater on. Try adding a bit of extra insulation to the interior of the RV. Adding such things as foam board insulation or window film works wonders in keeping the interior of the RV warm, as well as aiding in the prevention of frozen pipes.
Tip 16 – Add a Touch of Home
If you don’t want to go through all of the hassle of adding insulation to the RV, try buying a set of heavy drapes to hang over the windows. These drapes will help to make your vacation on wheels feel a little bit more like home, and it will also aide in keeping the cold on the outside where it belongs. You don’t have to stop at drapes, feel free to add area rugs or even artwork to your RV as well, make it feel comfortable!
Tip 17 – BYOH… Bring Your Own Heat
The heater included in the RV will work great for heating the rig, but this can be really expensive with the cost of gas prices these days. Try bringing along an electric heater, and park in places where there is a free electric hookup. You will be surprised at how much money you will save if you bring your own source of heat.
Tip 18 – Dry It Out
It can be surprising just how much moisture gets trapped inside of a home on wheels. Purchasing a dehumidifier and running it will help dry out the inside of your rig and greatly reduce the risk of mold forming on the ceiling and walls. Also hang wet clothing outdoors to dry. Leaving in the RV will cause it to drip on the floor potentially causing water damage, as well as adding humidity into the air as it dries.
Tip 19 – Online Bill Pay
For those who are going to be on the road for extended periods of time, remember that you still have bills to pay back at home. Since you will not have a stationary address, it is a good idea to sign up for online bill payment. Most services have a website that will automatically withdraw money out of your account on a scheduled date and time, take advantage of this option and have one more worry off of your mind while you are on the road.
Tip 20 – Secure Your Home
Another thing to keep in mind if you are going to be going on a trip for a long while, secure your home so all of your belongings remain safe while you are on the road. Take photos of expensive possessions you own so you can show them to the insurance company in the event there is a break in. Have a friend shovel snow in your driveway so it looks like you are still living there. Doing little things like this will greatly reduce the risk of losing your property while you are away.
Tip 21 – Name Brand Is Worth It
Cleaning the RV during or after a trip shouldn’t be too hard or very time consuming if you keep up on it during the trip. Of course it can be swept, mopped, and vacuumed as needed, but take the time to purchase cleaners that are specifically meant to be used in an RV. This is, after all, your second home, so you should spend the extra time and money needed to keep it as nice as your home should be.
Tip 22 – Don’t Dirty What You’re Cleaning
Take care that you do not cause damage to your RV while you are trying to clean it. There is a surprising amount of people who accidently harm the interior or exterior of their home on wheels because they did not know what they were doing when they were cleaning. Not only is it important to use chemicals that are meant to be used in an RV, but you must also keep in mind the physical damage that doing things like getting on the roof is not sturdy enough to support you.
Tip 23 – The ABC’s Of Cleaning
It is our normal tendency to want to clean the most accessible areas first, then go for the harder to reach places later. This could just cause you to have to spend more time and effort cleaning certain places over again because they got soiled when you clean something else. Start from the top of the RV and work your way to the bottom, and start from the back of the RV and work your way to the door. Don’t clean yourself into a corner!
Tip 24 – Sound the Alarm
Burglars will break into anything and try to take the valuables, and an RV is no exception. There are alarms you can buy that will add security to your RV, and help to protect your possessions inside. These can be set to go off if someone is trying to force their way into the RV, but usually the visual of the alarm is enough to deter any robber from even attempting a break in.
Tip 25 – Apply the Brakes
No matter if you are parked on a mountain, a hill, or a flat parking lot, make sure you set the emergency brake of your vehicle before you leave it unattended. You have a lot of your possessions in here, and anything can happen. It is also much safer to the people both in and around the vehicle if the emergency brake is used every time the RV is in park.
Tip 26 – Filters
Many people these days have grown accustomed to water filters in their kitchens, and the kitchen to your RV should be no exception. Purchase and install a water filter to keep your water as clean and fresh as possible while you travel. Not only will it be better tasting, it will also be better for you. Bottled water is another option if you do not want to invest in a filter. These will work better if you are renting an RV.
Tip 27 – Watch Your Schedule
Most people take regular medication in their daily lives, make sure you know which medications affect your driving, and plan your travel time around taking those medications. If a medication causes drowsiness, consider taking it before you go to bed or after you reach the destination you are headed to for that day. Impaired driving causes a number of problems and is always best avoided!
Tip 28 – Check and Check
Don’t ever forget how important it is to check out the exterior of your RV before you hit the road. Every day walk around and make sure your lights, tail lights, brake lights, and high beams are working. Also check to make sure any trailers are securely and properly hitched before you start driving. A light can blow out anytime. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Tip 29 – The Squeaky Anything Gets the Grease
It is remarkable just how annoying a squeak can get over time. Whether it be the cupboards, the pantry, the fridge, windows, even the door can start to squeak, and that is when you will realize just how many times you open and close a particular thing in a day. Invest in some WD 40 before you hit the road so you can get right on the squeaks as soon as they start. This will make for a much more peaceful journey miles down the road.
Tip 30 – Take Your Time
The act of putting the RV in reverse can be daunting in and of itself, but likely the single most important thing you can remember when reversing your vehicle, is to take your time. Practice in an empty parking lot if you would like to gain some experience before you hit the road for real. Just remember that when you are backing up… There is no hurry to get back to where you are going, and it is much better to take your time backing into a spot than to hurry and potentially cause damage to either your vehicle or the surroundings. Ignore people who may be pressuring you to hurry, you are the one trying to use mirrors to guide an enormous vehicle, and it may do them some good to learn a little patience anyway.
Tip 31 – More Now Pays Off Later
There are a lot of little fun things you can do to upgrade your RV, spend a little extra money for little fun things such as a good stereo system. The miles will start to feel longer and longer the more you drive, and something entertaining like a stereo or a new DVD player for the kids will help to pass the time.
Tip 32 – Be Proportionate
Make sure you bring enough road activities for the kids that are proportionate to the length of your trip. Bring more than just a couple movies or games, it is better to over pack on these things than to be stuck listening to the soundtrack to the same movie for over 500 miles.
Tip 33 – Assign Jobs
Give each of the people on the trip specific jobs to handle themselves. This will especially help the younger members of the crew to feel more involved, as well as minimize the chance of you overlooking something if you are trying to remember everything yourself. Make a time schedule so everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. Practicing in advance will also help everything run smoothly especially in the first few days of the trip.
Tip 34 – Stretch Your Legs
It can be a temptation to see just how far you are able to travel in one day, but it is important to remember to take breaks periodically and get out and stretch your legs. This is especially important if you have pets traveling with you. They don’t have the opportunity to go to the bathroom on the go, and they will get a lot of pent up energy if you do not take care to stop every couple hours and let them out to stretch their legs. Remember to take along a cleanup bag to attend to any business they may leave behind. Others will appreciate it if you do this! Pets are not the only ones who will appreciate the break, small children will get bored watching out the window, they would also enjoy some time to get out and move around for a while.
Tip 35 – Stop To Smell The Roses
If you are out on vacation and do not have a tight schedule, make sure you plan enough extra time in your trip for spontaneous stops along the way. There are many little attractions that are tucked away in small out of the way towns that road maps don’t mention. Take the time to stop by and make some memories with your family. If may just seem like a giant ball of yarn or a rubber band ball at the time, but the memories that you will have after stopping with your family to see such things will make the trip that much more special in everyone’s memory.
Tip 36 – Fill It Up
When you are out on the road, there is no telling what may come your way. Detours pop up seemingly out of nowhere, or there are unplanned for traffic jams. Always keep your gas tank at least three quarters of the way full. Treat half way as empty and stop at the nearest gas station to fill back up. There is nothing worse than being hundreds of miles between towns and having the fuel light come on. Be prepared.
Tip 37 – Watch Your Weight
The RV manual will tell you the weight specifications of the vehicle, and it is up to you to keep track of how much everything you bring on board weighs. There will be weigh stations periodically, but it is better to have the knowledge on hand at all times. Bridges and other things on the road will require that you stay within a certain weight range, and if you do not know what the weight of your vehicle is, remember that it is always better to stay on the side of caution.
Tip 38 – Comfort Is Key
You are going to spend hours upon hours in the driver seat of the RV. Remember that there is no way for this to be too comfortable. Arrange it how you want it so that everything is easily accessible and within reach, especially once you have your seatbelt on. Place the registration along with the owner’s manual in an easy to find and reach location, and make sure they stay organized. Try placing them in a small tote to keep them all in one place so you always know right where to look when you need them.
Tip 39 – Consolidate
Even the largest of RVs is relatively small when it comes to the amount of time you are going to be spending inside. Make sure you travel lightly to begin with, then carefully store the things you do bring to maximize the amount of space you have inside the RV. Try removing food from bulky packaging and put them in smaller zip lock bags instead. Bring along totes that can be stacked to pack your clothes into so you don’t have to try to find a place for bulky luggage that can only be stored next to each other. Totes that can slide under the bed is another great, space saving option.
Tip 40 – Gloves
Remember to pack at least two boxes of disposable gloves for every trip. You never know exactly what could come up and nothing saves your hands quite like a pair of gloves that you can just throw away when you are finished using them. This will come especially in handy when you are doing anything sewage related. No matter how skilled you are, there is nothing worse than having to work on a leaking sewage pipe or tend to other kinds of plumbing without some kind of protection over your hands.
Tip 41 – Rugs Save Interiors
Invest in two smaller rugs to place at the base of your RV as well as at the door. These will eliminate a surprising amount of dirt and debris that would normally get dragged into the RV, as well as help to absorb moisture. Both benefits will greatly aide in saving the interior of the vehicle and will help to cut down on maintenance cost in the future. An added benefit is that they add a homier feel to the RV as well.
Tip 42 – Keep In Touch
You are out on the road exploring new things and making memories, but remember that you still have friends and family at home that will worry about you and want to know how you are doing. Make sure that you keep an emergency contact number easily accessible in your RV at all times, and call home every now and again to let everyone know that you are safe and healthy and having a great time!
Tip 43 – Accept Life On The Road
There are a lot of comforts and conveniences that come along with renting or owning an RV, many that are like the comforts of home. It is very important to remember, however, that you are not at home and will not have all of the comforts of home. On the road it is not uncommon for you to be your own plumber or electrician, and if you forget something you will likely have to purchase it or go without. As freeing and fun traveling by RV is, it is still traveling.
Tip 44 – Take Advantage of Wireless
If you are worried about people who don’t have your cell number being able to reach you while you are out on the road, invest in a wireless answering machine that will allow you to listen to messages that are left on your home machine while you travel. This can be a great peace of mind if you are worried about bills or evens that may take place in your absence.
Tip 45 – Keep Your Cool
RVs are large vehicles and they require a lot of power to run. This can be really hard on the engine and the battery of your vehicle. Try to plan your travel so you are driving in the cooler parts of the day, such as in the evening or in the first half of the morning. This may be difficult if you are trying to plan a sleep schedule, but it will help out in maintenance in the long run on expensive pieces such as the engine.
Tip 46 – Take a Test Drive
Whether you are planning to rent or buy the RV, do more than just drive it around the lot. It is going to be your home for the next few weekends or months, so it is of highest importance that you are comfortable in it. Feel free to lie down on the bed, or stand in the shower. Make sure everything is big enough that you can see yourself living in there for extended periods without feeling trapped. If you are going to be traveling in a group, invite everyone into the RV at the same time so you can get a feel for how it is going to be when you are actually out on the road.
Tip 47 – Ditch the Dishes
It will save on water and needed storage space if you bring paper plates and cups along with you on your trip. It will also cut down on the time you spend cleaning up after meals. Many dinners can be prepared in foil dishes, too, which only need be discarded after the meal. Store any sponges and soap that you bring to wash dishes in a bucket. This will cut down on water damage from leaking bottles and sponges.
Tip 48 – Make a Menu
An awesome time and money saving tip for on the road travel is to plan your meals in advance. You can even make and freeze them depending on how much time you plan to spend out on the road. This will save both time and money trying to find a place to eat out. Not to mention you can make a lot healthier options.
Tip 49 – Bring a Map
In a world that is full of smartphones and GPS many people feel like it is unnecessary for them to bring a map, but cell phones break or get lost, and it is easy to lose the signal out in the mountains or desserts. Always bring along an up to date road map as a backup to keep you from getting lost on your journey. Teach all of your passengers how to read the map, not only will this be better for safety, it will be a good memory and a great skill for your young travelers as they grow up.
Tip 50 – The Journey Is Half The Fun
The journey is half of the fun of the trip. Keep in mind that the adventure of getting somewhere is often as memorable as the destination itself. Keep a light and happy tone to your trip, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Make the entire trip fun from start to finish, and you are guaranteed to have a great time.
We hope you enjoy your experience in RV living, and that you are able to use these easy and fun tips to make your travel experience stress free and memorable. It doesn’t matter if this is your first RV or one of many, or if you are renting or buying. Whether you are taking a family vacation with the pets and kids, or a retirement trip with your wife, this book is everything you need to know for extended trips away from home.
Even if you are only living in your RV on your weekend camping trips, these practical tips will help you keep your RV in the best shape possible for many enjoyable trips for years to come. Happy travels!