TIPS FOR OVERCOMING A FEAR OF TOWING

I love helping people get started camping, especially those jumping in alone. Many people write to me expressing a desire to join in all the fun. When I ask what is stopping them, the most common reply I hear is a fear of towing. I understand and want to help put your mind at ease. I have a few steps to overcoming a fear of towing.

 

  1. Get in the proper headspace.

The first step to overcoming a fear of towing is to get in the right headspace. Towing is something that can feel like skydiving to a beginner. It seems like something extraordinarily courageous thrill-seekers do, not us common folk. In reality, over one million people a year take to the roads in an RV. It is actually a pretty common practice. That should bring any would-be tower comfort. No extraordinary skill set is needed to partake. I remind people all the time that if any exceptional skills were required, U-Haul would not give little trailers to anyone walking in the door in possession of a valid driver’s license.

 

  1. Do not let other people set limits for you.

Sometimes well-meaning people project their own fears on to us. They are afraid and, rather than break it down to discover what is stopping them, they create an untrue narrative that allows them to stay in their comfort zone. Generally speaking, misery loves company and they want others there too!  Towing is a skill set like driving a car, riding a bike or mastering anything you ever set out to learn. There are do’s and don’ts and tips and tricks that you will learn, practice, and eventually form a muscle memory for. The day will come where it no longer seems like a big deal. It is just what you do. Turn off the nay-sayers and trust your gut.

 

  1. Get started online.

To get started learning about towing head over to YouTube and type in “Learn to Tow a Trailer.”  You will find so many videos and watching a variety of different ones helps you learn the “language” of towing. There are two parts to the process, the hitch set up and the actual towing part. Having knowledge of the components of a towing set up will help you feel confident when you go to purchase your own setup. While watching the YouTube videos you will also begin to learn the principles of towing. How wide to make your turns, when to pivot to get out of a gas station without jumping the curb, and how to back into a campsite. All of this will help you once you are behind the wheel yourself.

 

  1. Rent a U-Haul

When it is time to get behind the wheel and put these lessons to the test, start by renting a small U-Haul trailer and practicing around town during low traffic times. Most U-Haul or trailer rental places have small utility trailers that you can rent for extraordinarily little money. They will help you set it up and you can get the feel close to home and without an expensive RV behind you. Ask a friend to ride along to give you encouragement.

 

  1. Get a towing mentor.

Find a friend who knows how to tow and ask them to let you ride shotgun while they tow. When I took my youngest daughter on a road trip I used the time to explain what I was doing and why. I always scan the road anticipating changes in the traffic flow – merging cars, lane shifts, unexpected slowdowns. I explained why I was changing lanes, speeding up, or slowing down to keep traffic flowing. Before you ever get behind the wheel you need to learn the situational awareness necessary for every responsible driver. You can learn a great deal from someone with a lot of towing miles under their belt.

 

  1. Choose a small RV when starting out.

When you are ready to hit the road, choose an RV that is smaller. Lightweight towables have all the bells and whistles of their bigger counterparts but are easier for newbies to handle. If you want to go larger once you have some experience, you can do so with confidence.

 

  1. Have a reputable RV dealer install your hitch system.

Make sure you purchase your set up from a reputable RV dealership that will make sure your RV and tow vehicle are a good match. They will know what you need and make sure it is professionally installed. They will also teach you how to hitch and unhitch on your own. Having a properly installed set up will bring you peace of mind.

 

  1. Make a video of your hitching and unhitching process.

When they are teaching you, make a video of the steps so that you can review them later. It is also a good idea to write out the steps and create a checklist to follow so you do not forget anything.

 

  1. Start Slow and camp close to home.

When you are getting started, it is best to stick to campgrounds close to home. Travel there at off-peak traffic times and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. RVers are always happy to help others. Also, don’t be afraid to just stick with pull throughs while you are on the learning curve.

 

Tackle towing at your own pace. You only need to make yourself happy and, what we want in the end, is a bunch of happy campers. Towing is something you can master and once you do, the open road calls you to adventure!!

 

Janine Pettit is the founder of GirlCamper.com, the largest multi-media site for female campers in the country, and the Editor-in-Chief of Girl Camper Magazine, a print & digital publication focusing on every aspect of the camping lifestyle.

10 TIPS FOR NEW RV OWNERS

Hitting the open road in an RV and exploring America is on the top of many people’s bucket lists. And why shouldn’t it be? Traveling by RV is an incredibly flexible, and incredibly fun way to see our country’s backroads and byways, and its most magnificent places. RVs can also be used as guest houses, home offices, and basecamps for tailgating and day tripping. When you buy an RV the fun does really start on day one, but so does the learning curve. Anyone can own and operate an RV–but there are a lot of things to learn along the way. Thankfully, Go RVing is here to help you learn those things quickly so you can head out there and start exploring with confidence. Here are ten quick tips for new RV owners that will help you conquer the learning curve and take your seat around the campfire under a sky filled with sparkling stars.

 

  1. Should I Buy a Towable or Motorized RV?

The first decision many prospective owners have to make is whether to buy a towable or motorized RV. Ultimately, it’s a win-win proposition, but there are some things to consider. If you already own a capable pickup truck or SUV, you may want to consider a towable, because you’ve already spent a significant percentage of the money you need to spend to Go RVing. If you have two smaller cars that are not capable of towing an RV, then you might consider buying a motorhome. In a general sense, a truck and a towable RV cost about as much as a motorhome.

Airstream and mountains

 

  1. Try to Choose a Dealer that is Relatively Close to Home

It might be tempting to drive a great distance to find the best deal on a new RV, but there are benefits to buying from a dealer that is closer to home. When it comes time to winterize the RV or bring it in for service it is incredibly valuable to have a relationship with a good dealer that is close to home.

Hummingbird

 

  1. Record Your Dealer Walkthrough on a Smartphone

When you take ownership of your new RV your dealer should provide a thorough walkthrough to teach you how to operate all of its systems. It can be a lot of information to digest at once. Make sure you record each part of the walkthrough in separate segments that are easy to find later for reference. Record separate segments for things like dumping your tanks, operating your auto-leveling system, and winterizing your RV.

RV on lot

 

  1. Are You a State Park Camper or Private Campground Camper? Or Both?

It often takes time for new RV owners to figure out what type of campgrounds they like the most. In the broadest possible sense, there are two types of campgrounds–public and private. Public campgrounds are owned by the state, county, or country, and often offer large sites in beautiful settings with few amenities and limited hookups. Private campgrounds are owned by families or corporations and often offer a wide range of amenities and full hookups. Many RV owners like one or the other, but some love both.

Jayco in woods

 

  1. Reserve a Pull Thru Site for Your First Trip

We all need to learn to back up our RV’s as quickly as we can (and it’s really not that hard) but you might want to avoid doing so on your first trip by reserving a pull-thru site. What’s a pull-thru site? It’s a site that is connected by two roads so you can pull in from one road and pull out onto another.  These sites are often not as pretty and private as back-in sites, but they are easier to navigate for a newbie.

Jayco on campground with kids

 

  1. Avoid Driving At Night For Your First Few Trips

For the uninitiated, towing or driving an RV takes some getting used to. It might be wise to avoid driving at night until you get comfortable behind the wheel.  Driving in broad daylight is always a bit easier, and so is navigating a campground and getting situated in your site. Setting up camp in the dark is also more difficult than setting up while the sun is still shining.

Avoid Driving at Night if Possible

 

  1. Divide and Conquer During Set-Up

Setting up and breaking down camp can be a fun part of the process if everybody helps out and completes assigned tasks. Our boys are each given specific jobs when we arrive at the campground and they are expected to complete them before they take off to have fun. They also help pack up at the end of each trip. If everyone pitches in we are often up and running (or kayaking, swimming, or sitting around a campfire) in a snap.

interior of hummingbird

 

  1. Ask for Help At the Campground if You Need It

RV owners are notoriously friendly and helpful people–and many of them are handy too. If you arrive at the campground and need help getting your furnace going or deploying your awning, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Once you become a crafty veteran you will pay it forward by helping someone else out.

exterior storage

 

  1. Join RV Facebook Groups to Get Help

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of RV-centered Facebook groups that can be incredible resources when it comes to answering technical questions and getting recommendations. We moderate The RV Atlas group and make sure it stays friendly, helpful, and crank free. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to certain types of RV’s and even specific brands and nameplates. These types of groups can be lifesavers when it comes to answering specific questions about your exact make and model.

computer screen with facebook group

 

  1. Have a Sense of Humor and Adventure When Problems Come Up

Stuff happens and problems will occur. When they do, it’s important to maintain your sense of humor, and your sense of adventure. Just remember, the things that go wrong become the stories that you tell friends around the campfire. Overcoming challenges also builds resilience and self-sufficiency–two traits that RV owners are known to have in spades.

pets in truck towing RV

 

If you are just starting out on your journey as an RV owner we wish you luck and all of the joys and blessings of the open road.  Adventure is out there waiting for you and so is the RV of your dreams. We hope you get out there and grab them both.

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of The RV Atlas podcast and the authors of See You At The Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors.

TOP TIPS FOR RVING WITH KIDS

We are so thrilled that your family is starting RVing! We know that there seems like so much to learn just to get started and we are here to help. RVing has changed our life for the better and we bet it will change yours too. Here are the top 5 things we wish we knew before we started RVing with our kids.

 

  1. Give everyone ownership in the trip. When sitting down to plan the trip, try to get the whole family involved. You are not always going to be able to allow everyone to pick where to go, or what to do, but if the kids are involved in the planning, they become invested in the outcome. It also can be a teaching moment. Things could turn out to go wrong, and if everyone is in on the planning, there’s less chance that blame is assigned. Don’t forget to build in some extra time to explore on your jounery. (Tip – We use RV Trip Wizard to help plan our RV trips)

 

 

  1. Choosing the right campground can pay huge dividends. If you have a multi-day trip to your final destination, then where you stay along the way can have a huge impact on the outcome of the trip. We always try to find family-friendly campgrounds (KOA’s and Jellystone). They will have better playgrounds, pools, jumping pillows, and even mini-golf! Some even have mini arcades and ice cream shops. There’s no better way than to have the kids hit the playground to work some energy off after a long travel day. When we pull in and set up the RV, my wife loves to have me take the boys to the playground while she finishes the inside setup and gets dinner ready. Playgrounds add so much more for children to have fun and get out the excess energy. ( TipTravel time – try to keep it under 300 miles per day. If you’re pressed for time, then try to travel when the kids are sleeping or napping. Most importantly, travel safely)

 

 

  1. Find your way. There are many types of RV trips. Some families love to head off to a secluded Mountain spot, beach camping is a fantastic way to enjoy the summer, or even camping at Disney. There’s truly something for everyone. We learned there’s no right or wrong way to go RVing. Choose whatever works best for your family, and don’t forget to give the others a try, we love them all!

 

 

  1. Campgrounds are friendly places. As an African American family, we were very concerned that families of color just don’t RV. To be perfectly honest, we weren’t sure we would be welcomed. We’ll admit, we have been pleasantly surprised. Over the past six years, we have seen a rise in minority camping and younger families RVing. There are minority based RV clubs that can be found online and via social media platforms. Groups like NAARVA, Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, @brownpeopleCamping, and many others. Through all of these groups/clubs, minorities can find other families or campers to meet up with, travel with, or simply share the unique experiences as minority RVers. Our kids have never had a problem finding other kids to play with at campgrounds. Don’t be afraid to be friendly and making new friends!

 

 

  1. Bring a little bit of home along with you. With your family being new to RV travel, you might want to let the kids bring toys, special blankets, pillows, etc. It will give them a taste of home when they are away. We have an 11-year-old that brings his red blanket with him. He often gets carsick (even in a motorhome) when we travel. When he does feel carsick, having his blanket from home is just that little extra special piece of comfort. He also sleeps so much better with the same blanket. As much as he loves traveling in our RV, it feels more like home with his blanket.

 

 

BONUS TIP

Turn mistakes, and mishaps into memories….Don’t forget to pack your sense of humor! If something can go wrong then it will go wrong. It’s murphy’s law. Don’t let it spoil your trip. On our very first RV trip, two days after the test drive and purchase, we had problems with the RV. We were driving from Atlanta to New Jersey to visit family. On the way up, we stopped in North Carolina for a one-night stopover. Our rear AC unit stopped working. Of course, we contacted the dealership and they felt so bad and they hired a mobile RV tech to come and fix the problem. After three hours on our roof, the tech still couldn’t get it to work, so we continued to New Jersey. A few days later as we readied to head back down to Atlanta, our second and final AC unit broke. Keep in mind this was July with temperatures reaching 90 degrees. There was no fixing it that far from home. The best advice the dealership could give us was to try to start driving early in the day and don’t stop. They encouraged us to make the long drive back to Atlanta where they would replace the units, and that’s just what we did! We had a choice to laugh or cry. We chose to laugh and drive the 10 hours back to Atlanta. That trip could have broken our spirits; instead, it has given our family a great story to tell around the campfire. TipLife can give you lemons, and when it does, just grab some water and add some sugar and make lemonade!

 

So there you have it and welcome to the wonderful RV community. We hope to see you at the campground soon……

 

Keith and Tia Sims – Soulful RV Family

 

8 GREAT LAKEFRONT CAMPGROUNDS WITH GORGEOUS VIEWS

For an RV owner, there are few things better than scoring a great site on or near a beautiful lake.  Whether you love to fish, kayak, swim, or just take in the soothing views from your camp chair, lakefront camping is highly desirable. But that also means that lakefront sites can be challenging to reserve and can require advance planning and research. There are hundreds of great lakefront campgrounds in the United States, so where should an RV owner even begin to look?

 

Well, how about right here!

 

Below is a list of eight great lakefront campgrounds with gorgeous views. All of them are directly on, or steps away from lovely lakes. The time to start planning your next RV adventure is always right now. So let’s dive in!

 

Shelter Cove RV Resort (Odell Lake, Oregon)

The RV sites at Shelter Cove are top-notch. They are quiet, shady, and spacious–and many of them are just steps away from world-class fishing and boating on Odell Lake. During our stay, we rented a pontoon boat from the campground’s on-site marina and headed out onto the lake for swimming and a picnic lunch.  Shelter Cove felt like a dream from a storybook to me. If you have an RV and love to fish or kayak, I can think of no better place in America.

 

Jedediah Smith Campground (Crescent City, California)

The location of the Jedediah Smith Campground is stunning.  Camping among the old-growth redwood trees along the Smith River is peaceful and restorative to the soul. Kids can spend the entire day swimming and splashing in the river while you relax on the shoreline and dive in for a dip if you get hot. The Hiouchi Trail runs along the Smith River and takes you to Stout Grove–an incredible spot for viewing the redwoods up close and personal. It is one of our favorite family hikes of all time. RV sites are not directly on the water here, but they are very close.

 

Holiday Park Campground (Traverse City, Michigan)

Traverse City is an absolute gem, with great coffee shops, independent bookstores, breweries, restaurants, and a hip, cool, and outdoorsy downtown vibe. Holiday Park Campground is 15 minutes from town and has a hipster charm all its own. The setting is quiet and bucolic, and the waters of Silver Lake are crystal clear and warm for swimming. This used to be a seasonal campground for Airstream owners only–with a few rental sites for transient campers. The restriction was lifted many years ago–but there are still dozens of sites occupied by classic Airstreams–which makes for some serious RV eye candy.

 

Old Highway 86 Campground (Table Rock Lake, Missouri)

Old Highway 86 Campground is a gem in the often-overlooked Army Corps of Engineers network of campgrounds. It is situated on a peninsula that juts out into Table Rock Lake so every site has views of the water–and many of the sites (about 75 percent of them) back right up to the water. If you travel with kayaks or SUP’s there may be no better place to camp in the entire midwest. If you don’t have a site with direct water access there is a sandy swimming beach with picnic tables and there is a public dock for launching. Camping just doesn’t get much better than this. Anywhere.

 

Jellystone Lakes Region (Milton, New Hampshire)

This brand new Jellystone Park is located on the shores of Northeast Pond and has two of its own private, sandy beaches for swimming and kayaking. Basketball, volleyball, tennis, and soccer are available for the sports nuts in your family. So is giant chess, if you are feeling silly and cerebral. RV sites near the water are nice–but I also love the wooded and shady sites a little further back.  The world-famous White Mountains are just a bit further north if you want to do some serious hiking or drive up to Mount Washington.

 

Keuka Lake State Park (Finger Lakes, New York)

The campground at Keuka Lake State Park is located in the heart of New York’s wine country and would be perfect for a romantic RV trip without the kids. But if you bring the kids they will have a blast too. The sandy beach and crystal clear waters of Keuka Lake are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and romping around in the sand. The campground is not directly on the water but is just a short walk away.

 

Otter Lake Camp Resort (Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania)

Otter Lake Camp Resort is a family favorite that many RV owners return to summer after summer. The 60-acre lake is perfect for fishing and kayaking and many of the RV sites are directly on the water. Families that love sports will have endless options here including basketball, tennis, and racquetball. The indoor and outdoor pools are also popular, and so are the themed weekends and organized activities.

 

Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA  (Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)

This delightful KOA is located on the privately-owned 377 acre Oakland Plantation–whose history predates the Civil War.  We loved kayaking on the lake and spotting alligators resting in the sun along the shore–but we definitely skipped swimming here! Our boys also spent hours swimming in the pool and playing basketball while we were able to relax and read at our deluxe patio site. Proximity to downtown Charleston is very good and there is excellent regional food nearby.

 

 

We hope you find the lakefront RV site of your dreams and get to hit the open road sometime soon! Planning and daydreaming about your next epic trip is always a huge part of the fun! Just don’t forget your sunscreen, okay?

 

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-author of See You At The Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors and the co-host of The RV Atlas podcast.

8 GREAT LOCATIONS FOR A ROMANTIC RV VACATION

Do you have a deep desire to escape the stress of everyday life and #roamoutside with the person that you love the most? Maybe it’s time to plan a romantic RV vacation and reconnect in one of our country’s most beautiful locations. If you do some advanced planning and pick the right spot there’s no reason why you both can’t end up breathing fresh air at the top of a mountain or with your bare feet in a clear mountain stream. The best part might be that each night will end in the comfort and privacy of your own RV, with your own bedding, bathroom and kitchen.

 

If you are ready to plan that long-deserved romantic RV vacation then here are eight great locations that are worth visiting. Because it’s never too soon to start mapping out your next great getaway!

 

Lake Placid / Whiteface Mountain KOA 

This pretty and peaceful campground is located at the base of Whiteface Mountain, just 15 minutes away from downtown Lake Placid and the dreamy waters of Mirror Lake. Epic fly fishing and hiking opportunities abound just minutes from the campground–and more adventurous souls can walk right from their sites down to the Ausable River for epic cliff diving or lazy summer swimming and picnicking.  The campground also has a gorgeous main lodge where you can enjoy coffee and a quiet breakfast on the back deck. During the fall, peak foliage is just as magical and colorful as it is anywhere in neighboring New England. Ask for a campsite near the river for more privacy and seclusion.

 

 

Sandy Pines Campground, Maine

This magical retreat in Southern Maine feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Kennebunkport. It is perched on the edge of a salt marsh and filled with shady roads lined with beautiful birch trees. The RV sites are spacious, shaded, and perfectly manicured, and many offer privacy and plenty of room for campfires. Get a site away from the pool area to avoid the crowds on hot summer days. Guests can rent paddleboards and kayaks from a local vendor and have them delivered right to the water’s edge. Bring your bikes and you can ride to the beach and spend the day relaxing in the warm sand. But just make sure you grab coffee and breakfast sandwiches at the charming camp store first! Sandy Pines is on point and on-trend for those that like to camp in style.

 

 

Atlantic Oaks, Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Atlantic Oaks is a simple campground–and it is simply delightful. The location in Eastham, near the Cape Cod National Seashore, is nearly perfect. The campground is also sandwiched between two classic seafood shacks that both offer up excellent lobster rolls and crab cakes. You can’t go wrong at either place. There is also a drive-in movie theater close to the campground if you feel like catching a date night movie. The Cape Cod Rail Trail runs directly behind the campground–and connects to the stunningly beautiful Nauset Bike Trail which will eventually drop you both off on the windswept beaches of the National Seashore. There may be no better place for a romantic stroll on the entire east coast.

 

 

 

The Campground at James Island County Park, South Carolina

The RV sites at James Island are large, private, attractive, and offer full hookups at county park prices. This is an absolutely lovely place to take a bike ride or an evening stroll before settling in around the campfire. The campground is nestled into a quiet section of this vast and entertaining county park where getting bored is never an option. Traveling with a pup? Head to the gigantic doggy park and let them run off-leash and meet some new friends. Downtown Charleston is nearby and it is one of America’s most gorgeous and romantic cities. Take an evening stroll through the historic waterfront district and build up an appetite for the city’s legendary food and drink.

 

 

Anchor Down RV Resort, Tennessee

Located about 45 minutes north of Gatlinburg, this RV resort opened just a few years ago and the word spread quickly. The campground is on the shores of Douglas Lake, and the campsites are becoming legendary. Many have large, custom stone fireplaces with stunning water and mountain views. Prepare a romantic meal right at your site and plan on an evening of quiet conversation as the sun melts into the water.  If you are looking to get wet Anchor Down has all of the resort amenities you could want–including a pool and lake beach with swimming and watercraft rentals. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also nearby for endless outdoor adventures.

 

Photo compliments of Bill Sferrazza

 

Rafter J Bar Ranch, South Dakota

Rafter J Bar Ranch is one of the most romantic campgrounds in the country. The sites are incredibly spacious for a private campground, and the views of the Black Hills that rim the campground are close to spectacular. The large heated pool and hot tub are absolutely perfect after a long day of hiking or exploring Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore–and you will love the on-demand outdoor fireplace for warming up right after a swim. The beauty and stoic grandeur of South Dakota’s Black Hills is often overshadowed by points further west–and you rarely hear it mentioned as a great location for a romantic getaway. But that just means there will be more room for both of you to #roamoutside and enjoy the best that mother nature has to offer.

 

 

Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, California 

Flying Flags offers a luxurious California camping experience that may be unrivaled in the entire Golden State. Their “ultra-premium” RV sites with covered patios and outdoor kitchens are super swanky for those who like to roll in style and their resort-style amenities make it perfect for a romantic getaway. Make sure to sample local wines or a craft cocktail at the Sideways Lounge located right next door at the Sideways Inn–a sister property. You can take your drinks to go and walk right back to your site for a campfire if the evening air is cool. If the weather is warm hit the pool and hot tub area. Flying Flags looks like something ripped from the pages of a travel magazine.

 

 

Salt Creek Recreation Area, Washington State

This stunning and romantic campground is situated on a bluff above the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the vast majority of the sites have views of the sparkling water. The tide pools located just steps below the campsites will keep you occupied for hours if you feel like taking a lazy stroll. But there are also plenty of outdoor activities for thrill-seekers and nature lovers. Whether you love hiking, biking, kayaking, bird-watching, or surfing there is something for you on-property or nearby. Downtown Port Angeles is also close and filled with hip food, coffee, and shopping. Summertime on the Olympic Peninsula is near wild heaven and a perfect place for a great escape with someone you love.

 

 

We hope you find the romantic RV site of your dreams and get to hit the open road sometime soon! Planning and daydreaming about your next epic trip is always a huge part of the fun!

 

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-author of See You At The Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors and the co-host of The RV Atlas podcast.