Setting out on any great adventure for the first time is both exciting and daunting, and doubly so when it comes to RVing. It’s not quite as simple as hopping into your new rig and hitting the road!
You may have never driven such a large vehicle before, and there’s so much to learn about how everything in your rig works. As RV newbies, you’ll no doubt be busy figuring out the difference between your various battery systems, why it’s important to level your RV before you run the fridge, and all the (not-so-)dirty details about the black- and greywater tanks… not to mention the learning curve associated with simply driving the darn thing in the first place!
But as much time, research, and preparation as your first time RVing requires, it doesn’t have to be scary. Sure, you’re going to run into some metaphorical ruts in the road — and maybe even some literal ones, too. But luckily, you’re entering a notoriously helpful, friendly community, and one that welcomes RV newbies with wide-open arms. After all, we were all there once.
To make your transition just a little bit easier, we’ve put together this simple list of seven tips for RVing beginners. It’s no ultimate guide to everything you need to know; that’s what the rest of the blog is for! But these are a few things we here at RVshare wish that someone had told us before we started out on our RVing adventures. Hopefully, they’ll help you get started on the right foot.
1. Make a budget.
Whether you’re going to be a full-time RVer or just adopting it as your new favorite way to take a weekend vacation, know this: no, it’s not necessarily a cheap way to travel.
Many people mistakenly assume that RV camping is a dirt cheap way to see the country, or a great alternative to shelling out a monthly rent or mortgage payment. And it certainly can be a relatively affordable way to live… if you make it one.
But there are expenses that come along with RVing, many of which are unavoidable. For example, you’ll need to pay registration and insurance on your vehicle, not to mention any monthly payment you might owe if you took out a loan to buy it. Then there’s fuel to think about, and RVs aren’t exactly known for being lean, green monsters when it comes to gas efficiency. You may also need to keep your propane tank filled, not to mention the food you need to fuel yourself and your family.
Furthermore, many newbie RVers are surprised to learn that campgrounds are almost never free, even if you’re out in the wilderness. You can find free boondocking spots, sure, but you’ll be subject to certain restrictions, and you won’t have any hookups for water or electricity. You’ll still need to pay to dump and fill your tanks when you get back to town.
In short, you should know what you’re getting into financially before you set out on your grand adventure. Making a budget ahead of time will save you some teeth-gritting down the line. Oh, and don’t forget to include a nice, cushy emergency fund, because something will break down while you’re on the road. It’s nigh guaranteed.
2. It’s alright to be slow.
We mean this two ways.
First of all, literally, physically, while you’re driving down the road, you’re probably going to want to take it a little easy. Your RV most likely weighs way more than anything else you’ve ever driven, and it’s big, which means it has a tendency to be blown around by ambient wind or large trucks driving by. Braking takes longer, and curves and grades offer a whole new level of white-knuckle nervousness. So go ahead and slow down — just stay in the right lane so those eager folks in their sedans and compact SUVs can zip by you!
The second way we mean this is on the larger scale: the familiar RV newbie trap of trying to see too much at once. We know that incredible feeling of liberation all too well; it’s so tempting to try and hit as many destinations as possible as soon as you can. But if you try to do too much, you’ll do nothing but wear yourself out… and the whole point is to enjoy your travels, right?
Take your trip as slowly as if you had all the time in the world. You’ll more thoroughly enjoy the destinations you do manage to hit — and you can always take a dedicated trip to those other places later.
3. Plan ahead — but not too far ahead.
This goes along a little bit with what we were saying in the second bullet point.
Basically, you want to have some idea of where you’re headed when you start driving in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll barely know which way to go! Plus, if it’s a popular travel season, like summer, you may find yourself without a nice place to camp once your eyes start feeling heavy.
But if you schedule out your whole vacation ahead of time, you don’t give yourself any opportunity for those spontaneous decisions that make road tripping so unique and so much fun. So even if you’re the kind of Type A personality who’s tempted to have every day booked from dawn until dusk, be sure to give yourself a little room for flexibility. You’ll be glad you did when life’s beautiful little surprises inevitably find you on the road.
4. When you set up and break down camp, do a walkaround and keep a checklist.
It might seem like no big deal to set up camp — just put down the leveling jacks, plug into the electricity, and hook up the water, right?
Well, maybe not. Do yourself a favor and create a camping set-up and break-down checklist, and perform a thorough walkaround any time you’re getting ready to drive your rig.
Trust us — you *will* forget about your antenna or stairs at least once otherwise. You may even end up dragging your sewer cable down the street. 🙂
5. Don’t take off without a decent set of tools.
We mentioned it briefly above, and you’re more than likely about to find out for yourself: when it comes to RV camping, things will break. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Your RV is subject to constant temperature fluctuations, movement and vibrations. It simply makes sense that things will occasionally fall apart.
Don’t sweat it — expect it. And bring tools.
And don’t worry: if you’re not “handy” yet, you will be soon.
6. Learn to conserve water, even when you don’t necessarily have to.
Even when you’re hooked up to city water and sewer, it’s a good exercise to get used to conserving water as much as possible so you won’t have to pull up camp prematurely when you finally do set out boondocking. Take your rig on a practice run while you’re still in range of a dump and fill station, relying on the tanks to get a feel for just how much potable and wastewater your RV really holds. Figure out how to shower quickly and efficiently, turning off the tap while you soap up. Rely on low-cleanup meals to avoid excessive dirty dishes.
One good tip for extending the length of your water tank capacity: consider reusing your greywater, the relatively-clean wastewater that’s drained from your sinks and shower, for flushing the toilet later on. And carry extra potable water so you don’t only have your clean water tank to rely on!
7. Don’t panic!
At the end of the day, RVing is all about adventure. And like we said, things will go wrong.
The most important thing to remember is that this is why you chose this crazy lifestyle in the first place: To see the world, to be challenged, and to experience life head on. You can do it, and we’re all standing by to help you along the way.
And guess what? It’s gonna be an incredible journey.