YOUR FIRST RV TRIP: TIPS FOR SUCCESS

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:

 

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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!

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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!”

 

 

  1. 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.

 

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

STOCKING YOUR NEW RV

You’ve just purchased your first RV, so now it is time to stock your rig with everything you’ll need to get rolling. It’s tempting to head straight to a camping store or to hop online and order EVERYTHING. New grill? Cute pillows from Etsy? All of the camping chairs? Those items are fun, terrific purchases; however, you might want to pause and prioritize before you find yourself dropping $1000 on gear you might not want or need.

 

The ultimate goal with stocking up is to have everything you will need and nothing you won’t. When we first started RVing, we hauled many of our regular household items out to the RV for each and every trip, and then we hauled those same items back into the house.

 

Of course, this process got tiresome after a bit. However, it helped us figure out which items we used the most. Those went to the top of our packing list. Over time, we bought dedicated gear that stayed in the RV and continued to use a checklist to repack items as needed.

 

You can use our complete stock up checklist as a starting guide for your first rig. Over time, you’ll learn which items you can’t live without and which ones you never touch. Then, you can develop and refine your own personalized packing list. Here’s an overview of some of our essential recommendations:

 

 

RV Tools and Safety Gear

Tools and safety gear are less fun to purchase than the cute or kitschy camping décor many of us covet; however, these items ensure your safety and security while on the road or in a campground. Put these necessities at the top of your list—or else!

 

To set up camp, you’ll need the following items:

  • Chocks
  • Leveling boards
  • Sewer hose (the stinky slinky)
  • Potable water hose
  • Water pressure regulator
  • Surge protector
  • Electricity converters (to move between 20, 30, and 50 amp)

 

The following basic tools and gear can help you roll safely down the road and repair small problems:

  • Basic tool box
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Fuse replacement kit
  • Replacement bulbs
  • Air compressor
  • Jumper cables

 

Other overlooked safety gear might include a rechargeable flashlight, a fly swatter, a water filter, and latex gloves. These will come in handy!

 

 

Camp Furniture and Outdoor Gear

Once you’ve safely set up your rig, now comes the fun part of turning your campsite into a pleasant outside living space. You can always start with relatively cheap versions of these items and then upgrade over time. After five years of traveling, we’ve become camp chair connoisseurs, with each family member having a favorite style, but trust me, we didn’t start off that way.

 

Here are some items you might want that will make your campsite even cozier:

  • One camp chair per person
  • An outdoor rug
  • Table cloth
  • Lanterns

 

Now, comes the fun part. You can truly personalize your campsite with the following gear:

  • Awning lights
  • Pop up shelter
  • Rope lights
  • Hammock
  • Outdoor games

 

What’s a campsite without a campfire? If you forget to stock these items, you’ll miss out on this revered camping ritual:

  • Firewood (note: some states do not allow the transport of firewood from area to area)
  • Fire starters
  • Lighter & matches

 

 

Kitchen (Indoor & Outdoor)

Ah, the kitchen. Some people use camping as a chance to take a break from their culinary duties, while others take pride in becoming the consummate camp chef. No matter which one of these is your goal, you’ll likely need some kitchen essentials.

 

Of course, you’ll need the basic eating utensils. Consider purchasing unbreakable items, whenever possible. Our rule of thumb is to pack one for each per person, plus a couple of extras.

  • Plates & bowls
  • Silverware
  • Cups and mugs

 

Next comes the cookery. Think about the wares and utensils you will need to prepare the types of meals you cook most often. Consider stocking the following:

  • Nesting bowls
  • Cutting board & quality knife set
  • Cooking utensils (spoons, ladle, tongs, peeler, whisk, etc.)
  • Collapsible colander
  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • Pots, skillets & baking wares

 

We don’t store food in the RV when not in use, but these pantry staples can be kept in airtight containers, ready to load:

  • Salt, pepper, & other seasonings
  • Nonstick spray
  • Oil & vinegar
  • Coffee (don’t forget the filters and coffee maker)

 

Finally, you’ll want these miscellaneous kitchen items to help keep your kitchen clean and functional:

  • Dish towels & washcloths
  • Sponges
  • Can opener & bottle opener

 

If you’ll be using an outdoor grill, be sure to include the specialty supplies to accompany your grill.

 

 

Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the places you’ll want to have well stocked. Health and hygiene are pretty essential! Take care of those with these items:

  • Shampoo, conditioner & body wash
  • Toothpaste & toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush
  • Shaving cream & razors
  • Hand soap & sanitizer
  • Towels, hand towels & washcloths

 

Bedroom & Closets

We highly recommend having dedicated bedding for all of the beds in your rig. Bonus points if you have pillows and blankets you can leave in it—those are the biggest pain to haul in and out! Whether you buy new or choose to use spares you already have, here are just a few of the main items you’ll need for your beds and bodies:

  • Pillows
  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Laundry hamper
  • Jackets and rain gear
  • If you have old shoes and spare clothes that can “live” in the RV, it’s nice to leave them packed, just in case you ever take off without these essentials (not that we’ve ever done that!)

 

 

Wow! That seems like a lot of stuff. Just remember, you don’t have to pack EVERYTHING on this list. Start small, and add only the gear you think you will use. Once you have a handful of trips under your belt, you’ll develop a rhythm and routine all your own. Soon, you’ll have a good idea of your perfect stock up list. Until then, feel free to consult our Complete RV Stock Up List as a starting point. Then, get out there and make that new rig the cozy home on wheels you’ve always dreamed of!

 

PICKING UP YOUR NEW RV AT THE DEALERSHIP

Woohoo! You’ve taken the plunge and purchased an RV. All you have to do now is drive it home, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, the process of taking home a new (or new-to-you) RV is a little more complicated than the process of buying a car.

 

Whether you buy your rig at an RV show or a dealership, there will be a few steps in between the purchase and the time you hit the highway with your new home in tow. The following tips will help you enter this process with your eyes wide open:

 

 

Understand the Behind-the-Scenes Process

Before you can take your new rig home, the dealership wants to ensure the RV is ready for you…and ensure you are ready for the RV.

  1. The dealership must ready the RV for transfer. First, the dealer must do a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) to confirm the physical condition of the RV has been checked and all systems are operational. Next, the dealer may need to install any options you requested or any items that generally are not on/in the rig while it sits on a lot (such as televisions, propane tanks, and upgraded air conditioners).
  2. In order to ensure you are ready for the RV, your dealership should schedule a complete walk through. And when we say complete, we mean complete. Since the walk through can take several hours, your dealership will have to schedule it at a convenient time for both parties. The tips in the final section of this post will help you make the most of your walk through.

 

 

Consider your Gear and Equipment

When RV owners think about gear and equipment, we are sometimes tempted to focus on the fun stuff…like patio lights, camp chairs, and colorful décor. However, there are many more important items necessary for the safety and security of the amazing rig you just purchased.

  1. Make sure your tow vehicle is properly outfitted for towing. This can be confusing, so you’ll want to double check all of your specs. Tow capacity, hitch weight, payload, and more all come into play. Some vehicles don’t come equipped with trailer brake controls or proper towing hitches. Figuring this out before you arrive to pick up your rig will save you the embarrassment, time, and extra expense of finding out too late.
  2. You may need a weight distribution and sway set up. You may scoff when the dealership offers to add these on at an additional cost, thinking it’s an unnecessary upsell, but in this case, the dealer is right (if you have a longer/heavier rig). If you don’t bring in your own safety equipment, you’ll need to buy it before you can roll off the lot. The good thing is that these additional expenses can sometimes be added to your loan if you are financing the RV. Research your options and reasonable cost estimates before you go.
  3. Purchase the necessities. Honestly, there is some non-glamorous gear you need to safely and efficiently set up camp. Brace yourself for the additional costs, so you won’t feel shell-shocked on pick-up day. Before your first outing, you’ll minimally need a good sewer hose and proper connectors, a water pressure regulator, a good surge protector or EMS (electrical management system), and power converters (to allow you to move between 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp setups, as appropriate). All the other fun gear is the icing on the cake.

 

 

Make the Most of your RV Walk Through

We cannot emphasize enough how important this step is. A proper RV walk through will lead to many happy trips ahead…a rushed or incomplete walk through will lead to tons of frustration. Most importantly, you don’t want to get your RV all the way home and then discover several reasons why you need to take it back!

  1. Record everything on your smart phone in individual files you can label for later reference. Don’t record the whole walk through in one swoop—you’ll be left searching through an hours-long video. Instead, make a short video of the hitching process, one for tank maintenance, one for fridge operations, and so on. Don’t be embarrassed. You will be thankful for these videos in the months and years ahead. If there are two of you, one person can focus more on doing the recording while the other focuses more on actually listening to the technician.
  2. Force the service technician to show you everything, and we mean everything. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If the technician points at something, feel free to ask them to explain how exactly it works. Trust us, it’s much better to try to figure out the propane heating system with the help of a technician instead of wrangling with it on a freezing cold night with no backup! This is also a good time to ask about maintenance for all these systems, as well.
  3. Put the RV through the paces. The dealership may have your rig set up when you arrive, but you still need to learn how to do all that set up for yourself. Ask the tech to allow you to open and close the awning, the slides, the stairs, etc. If the air conditioner and refrigerator are already on, turn them off and start again. Also, if your rig comes with electric awnings, stabilizers, etc., learn how to manually operate each, in case of a power outage or other problem.
  4. Inspect everything. Inspect every nook and cranny of the exterior and interior. The manufacturer may have missed small items or others may have come loose during transportation. Inspect all the systems. Attach a water hose, and run the sinks, toilet, and shower. Look underneath for leaks. The most common complaint we hear is from people who discover a leak on a trip and have to schedule a time to take the RV back for repairs. Even if the rig is winterized, don’t skip this step! The dealership may be able to fix several items right away.
  5. Prepare for towing. Don’t focus your entire walk through on your new rig. You should also bring your tow vehicle over and practice setting up and using the weight distribution, sway system, and trailer brakes before pulling away.
  6. Plan a shake down trip. Don’t haul your rig across the country without doing a shake down trip first. Camp close to home or in the driveway (but don’t run the AC unless you have 30 amp) and play with all of the systems to see if you can operate everything independently.

 

 

This is a lot to take in all at once, but trust us, it is better to go slowly on pick-up day in order to go faster later. Take the time to become familiar with your new RV before you hit the road. Before long, you’ll be operating your new RV like a pro! Our next blog post will help you have a great first trip.

 

RV BUYING GUIDE: THE RV PURCHASE PROCESS

This is third blog post in a six-part series aimed at new RV owners. The first post gave tips for choosing the right RV type. Should you buy a Class C, a Fifth Wheel, a Toy Hauler, or some other RV type? We attempted to help you answer those questions. In the second post we gave valuable tips about how to pick the perfect floorplan.  

Now it’s time to dig down deep into the RV purchasing process…

 

The first thing you need to understand is that shopping for a new RV is very different from shopping for a new car or truck. While there may be some similarities, there are many more differences. Chances are you have dozens of car dealerships, representing every major brand, within a short drive from your house.

This is not the case with RV dealerships. They can be spread out far and wide. So while you may have a local RV dealership nearby (we consider a dealer within two hours drive to be “local”), you may also need to drive a few hours to a non-local dealer to find the RV of your choice, or you may need to buy at an RV show. These are all good options, but there are some important things to consider with each.

 

 

PURCHASING FROM A LOCAL DEALER

 

  1. Purchasing local is very convenient for shopping: Shopping at a local dealer saves you precious drive time and if they have your dream RV, may just be the ideal situation.
  2. Purchasing local is very convenient for warranty service after the sale:  Every RV needs to go in for either warranty service or basic maintenance at some point, and when the dealer is close to home a trip into the shop can be very convenient–or at least not too inconvenient!
  3. But a local dealer may not have your dream RV, or a preferred brand: Very few dealers carry every, or even most, RV brands. So, if there is a certain dream RV that tickles your fancy you may need to expand your search geographically to find it.

 

 

 

Purchasing From A Non Local Dealer

  1. Purchasing from a non-local dealer greatly expands your RV brand options: If your local dealer doesn’t carry your favorite brand don’t despair, just get ready to drive further to find it.
  2. Expanding the reach of your search may also increase your bargaining power: The more dealers you look at geographically, the more bargaining power you have when it comes to negotiating a purchase price.
  3. May not be convenient for warranty work or maintenance after the sale: This might be our most important tip–so listen up! If you do end up buying your dream RV far from home, are you prepared to drive it back for warranty work and maintenance? We strongly recommend that you call around to your local dealers to see if they will do warranty service on an RV purchased at another dealership. Having a game plan for this type of situation will save you a lot of irritation in the long run.

 

 

Purchasing at an RV Show

 

  1. RV Shows have a carnival like atmosphere making for a fun shopping experience: We love going to RV shows because they are a complete hoot! RV owners are a tribe of happy and adventurous folks–when we go to shows we feel like we are among our people and you will too!
  2. Free educational seminars prepare you for RV ownership: Many RV shows have free seminars about maintenance, RV travel, and RV culture. As a potential newbie RV owner there is so much to learn, and you can learn a whole lot of it by attending a good seminar.
  3. Many brands and floorplans to explore all in one place: While a good local dealership may carry three or four brands and dozens of floorplans, a good RV show will give you a chance to look at dozens of brands and hundreds of floorplans. A massive national RV show will enable you to look at the vast majority of RV’s in production. Bring good walking shoes!
  4. RV Show pricing is very good because many dealers are competing in one place: If you are not a big fan of heavy negotiating, but you still want a great price, an RV show may hit the sweet spot for you. RV show prices really do tend to be very competitive–dealers are competing with each other and they are motivated to move a lot of inventory in one day.
  5. But you don’t get to drive the rig home that day: You will need to pick up your RV at the dealership even if you buy it at a show. They will want to prepare the rig for you, and give you a walk through to teach you all of the RV’s systems and operating procedures.

 

 

And that is the topic of our next blog post in this series! We will give you a detailed list of items and systems to check while your dealer is giving you the walk through, so that you can be fully prepared to bring your RV home and start enjoying it!

 

 

RV BUYING GUIDE: FINDING YOUR RV MODEL AND FLOOR PLAN

10 Tips for Finding the Perfect RV Model and Floorplan

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised–and a little overwhelmed–at how many options there are out there! Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floorplan that will suit you best.

There’s definitely something for everyone out there, and we want you to find your perfect match. So here are our top 10 tips for finding your perfect RV model.

 

  1. Know Your Numbers.

 

Research your tow capacity and payload capacity if you are purchasing a towable. Don’t take guesses or rely on social media for this information. Use your VIN to get the specs directly from your vehicle manufacturer. If you are buying a motorhome, double and triple check the weight of any vehicle you are planning to tow behind the RV. These are the first specs you should look at when shopping. Believe us, picking out an RV that doesn’t work with your current vehicle situation can be expensive and unsafe.

  1. Count the number of dedicated beds you’ll need.

 

We highly recommend looking for RV floorplans that will provide a dedicated bed for anyone who will be sleeping in the rig most of the time. When shopping for their first RV, some folks think it’s no big deal to make up the dinette or pull out the sleeper sofa every night. We know from experience that this can be a frustration in the long run.

Solo campers or couples who need just one bed will find tons of great options across every RV type. Families with one or two children will be happy to find bunk models in travel trailers and motorhomes. If you are traveling with more than two children, travel trailer and fifth wheels offer many bunkhouse floorplans with 3-4 beds in a separate sleeping area.

If you are looking for a small towable that still offers dedicated beds for everyone in the family, check out the Murphy bed floorplan options. This latest trend has grown pretty popular over the past couple of years, so there are quite a few of these models out there!

 

  1. Decide on a wet bath, dry bath, or no bath.

 

Some shoppers love the idea of having a large, private bathroom no matter where they travel. Other folks are just fine with the idea of using campground comfort stations. This is a pretty important part of the RV experience, so make sure you get what you want in this department.

Many smaller RV options like Class Bs, Small Travel Trailers, and Truck Campers only offer wet baths, bathrooms where there isn’t a separate stall for the shower. Think hard about whether this will be a deal breaker for you.

 

  1. Decide if you’ll want to boondock or camp all four seasons.

 

Another trend in the RV industry is more models that offer four season features like insulated walls and underbellies. If you want to camp year-round, or at least in the cooler shoulder seasons, look for RVs that include these options.

And if you are looking to boondock (dispersed camping in places without hookups), make sure to search for RVs with larger fresh water, gray water, and black tanks. Other attractive features for folks looking to get off the grid are on-board generators and solar prep.

  1. Think about how much time you plan on spending inside the RV.

 

There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Will everyone be able to eat a meal, play a board game, or watch a movie? Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floorplan will support that dream.

  1. How much cooking do you plan on doing in (and out) of the RV?

 

Once again, there is no right answer to the question of cooking in the RV. Some people use their RV kitchens all the time like us, and some people have never even turned on the oven. If the RV kitchen is a major draw for you, look closely at storage, counter space, and refrigerator size. If you love to cook in the open air, check out all the amazing outdoor kitchen options. However, if you don’t cook a lot while RVing, skip the outdoor kitchen to get more interior space and storage.

  1. Will you need to work in the RV?

 

The ability to work remotely leads a lot of people to check out the RV lifestyle. If you have to punch the clock, you might as well do it in a beautiful location, right? So, if you’re planning to work on the road, make sure you choose a floorplan with a spot for you to comfortably set up shop. Many people are using the flexible space in toy haulers to set up mobile offices. Another popular option right now are fifth wheel models with office space in the middle.

  1. Visualize where all the stuff will go!

 

Storage varies drastically in different models and floorplans, so think specifically about the things you want to pack. From the big stuff like bikes, kayaks, and golf carts, to the little stuff like clothes, linens and towels, food, and kitchen supplies…actually imagine where all your stuff might go.

  1. Can you access all the important features in “Travel Mode”?

 

One of the greatest benefits of RV travel for our family is being able to use the bathroom and have a healthy lunch in our RV kitchen while at rest stops. If this is also important to you, make sure you can access everything you will need even with the slides in. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Don’t be embarrassed to ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to double check!

  1. What extra features are important to you? Every RV is a bit different than the next, and some options will be more important to you than others. That’s why it’s important to have a list of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” before you even start looking. Here are a few features that may or may not be on your list depending on your RV lifestyle:

 

  1. Large awning
  2. Exterior bathroom entrance
  3. Outdoor shower
  4. Power and automated systems for stability jacks, tongue jack, and levelers
  5. Smart technology and outdoor entertainment

Take your time and have fun with this part of the RV shopping experience. There are so many great RVs out there right now, so make sure to find the perfect one for you.

 

We’ll see you at the campground,

Stephanie + Jeremy