Have you ever watched someone trying to learn a new skill? Think of children learning to ride a bike. At first, they will require a lot of assistance, such as training wheels or a parent running alongside. Eventually, they’ll make some independent strides of their own—with plenty of wobbling and crashing involved. After a while, they’ll get it. And they’ll soar off down the street on their way to many wonderful adventures.
New RV owners may find themselves facing a similar learning curve. If it’s been a long time since you learned something new, it can be intimidating to suddenly find yourself in a situation where you’re wondering, “How in the world am I going to get this trailer through a tight gas station parking lot? Will I be able to empty the black tank without spilling it everywhere? Am I properly lighting this propane stove, or am I going to damage my rig?”
We’ve been RVing for 8 years now, but we still remember the nervousness we faced before our first trip. Even once we became seasoned RVers, we still faced the same apprehension every time we pulled out for a journey with a newer, bigger rig. The good thing is we can assure you that our unease was soon replaced with enthusiasm as we became accustomed to our new equipment.
The greatest adventure of your life is just around the corner–and we want to help you get to the fun part faster. Thanks to our years of experience, we have the following tips to help you make your first RV trip a success:
- Camp Close to Home for Your First Few Trips
You finally bought the RV of your dreams…now it’s time to hit those dream destinations, right? Not so fast. For your first few trips, you’ll want to book campgrounds close to home. This will allow you to gain confidence as you learn how to operate your new rig. Also, it takes a few trips to figure out what to stock in your RV. If you camp close to home, you can easily run home to grab the must-needed items, and you’ll be in familiar territory.
- Reserve a Private Campground for Your First Trip
If you want to spark an internet debate, just ask the people on an RV forum whether public parks or private campgrounds are better. While no one can debate that beauty and solitude are often found in our nation’s state and national parks, there are some added amenities that make private campgrounds a perfect choice for your first trip. First, they often have full hookups. Until you understand your rig and your family’s needs, it’s better to have electricity, water, and sewer onsite. Also, private parks often have helpful staff members who can assist with things like backing into a site for the first time.
- Reserve a Pull-Thru Site at Your First Campground
There are many beautiful campsites in this nation. Some are easy to pull right into, while others require backing down a long driveway at a 30-degree angle while trying to avoid some trees. You will eventually be able to veer your trailer into practically any spot with ease, but you can avoid some headaches for your first trip by booking a pull-thru site. A pull-thru site is one that is situated between two roads, making it easy to pull right in when you arrive and pull right out when you leave…no backing up required. On your first trip, you have enough to worry about without having to angle a trailer into a spot. Keep it easy peasy with a pull-thru!
- Divide and Conquer During Setup
Arriving at a campground is a little different from arriving at a hotel. There are quite a few tasks that need to be done in order to secure your trailer and set up a cozy campsite. Doing these for the first time takes a lot longer than it will once you learn your rhythm and routines. If you have younger kids, the easiest thing to do is to get them out from underfoot so one adult of the family can truly concentrate on setup, while the other concentrates on keeping the kids happy and safe. If you have older kids, they can help with the setup process.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Even if you’re not usually the type of person to ask for help from random strangers on the street, you’ll learn that this is a wonderful benefit from campground culture, when needed. As you are learning to operate a new rig, there will, undoubtedly, be some tasks you forget how to do or never learned in the first place. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of your neighbors were in your shoes at one time or another and will kindly pay it forward.
- Don’t be Afraid to Say No to Help When Backing In
One of the silly things that stress us out is feeling like other RVers are judging us when we are backing in the rig. For reasons unknown to us, there are some people who like to kick back in their camp chairs and watch other RVers set up camp. Some will eagerly jump in and offer to help, which is great—except when it isn’t. If you don’t want the help, don’t worry about politely declining with a simple, “Hey, we are new at this, and we want to learn how to do it. We’ll let you know if we need some assistance!”
- Expect the Unexpected—and Don’t Let it Get You Down
Things may go wrong, as they inevitably will. Perhaps you didn’t understand how long to cool the fridge and had nowhere to put your piles of groceries. Perhaps you found out something isn’t working in the RV or broke something that was working. Stuff happens. Try not to lose too much of your vacation time fretting over mistakes and mishaps. Do your best to problem solve and move on.
- Avoid Driving at Night
If at all possible, plan your early trips to include driving and setting up during daylight hours. Driving at night can be risky. If you have a breakdown, you’ll have a harder time finding help since the auto parts stores, garages, and RV dealerships will be closed. Setting up at night can also be immensely more difficult due to the lack of sight.
- Breathe. Go Slow. Have Fun.
Things will eventually get easier! You will soon be able to set up camp blindfolded. Until then, all you can do is be patient with yourself as you learn. Don’t be too critical on yourself…and don’t forget to have fun along the way.
Once you get your first-time jitters out of the way and gain some useful experiences, you can rest easy knowing that the road ahead is much smoother, with far fewer pit stops. You will get the hang of operating, maintaining, and towing that beautiful new RV. It won’t always be easy, but it will definitely be worth the effort, especially when you finally do take that dream rig to your dream destinations. Pretty soon, you’ll be like the kid on the bike, pedaling fast with a smile on your face.