HELPFUL TIPS FOR DRIVING A CLASS A MOTORHOME

The call of the open road is a dream of many individuals and families. North America is loaded with beautiful, scenic, historic, and family-friendly destinations that can fill a lifetime of adventure—all made super convenient from the comfort of a Class A motorhome.

But driving a Class A—from the smaller sizes at 26 feet up to the larger ones at 45 feet—are not like driving a car or even a big truck. Add on a towed vehicle and you could potentially be driving something as long as 65 feet!

Not to worry. Like anything else, with a little practice in an open parking lot and a patient travel companion, you can quickly master the technique.

 

  1. The Information is at Your Fingertips

In today’s world of information overload, there is no shortage of books, websites, and videos to get you ready for driving your RV. Prior to your first trip on the road—which I recommend doing close to home to get your feet wet for experience—do a web search for videos about how to handle your RV, how to make turns, how to handle a front tire blowout, how to look for other vehicles around you on the road, and how to handle driving up and down hills and mountains. The tire blowout video is particularly important as this event, although rare, creates a dangerous situation for you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road. Several major tire manufacturers provide free, in-depth videos about how to handle and respond to this scenario.

Prior to pulling out of a campsite or hitting the road, make sure all blinds and curtains are drawn back, slides are in and water, electric and sewer hoses are disconnected.

 

  1. Practice Your Skills Before Hitting the Road

After watching those videos, take your RV to a large parking lot like at a mall or empty shopping center. Try all of the techniques you watched, plus skills such as backing up, getting comfortable around objects, and making turns. This may take a couple of times before you feel comfortable and safe trying these with traffic.

 

  1. Prepping for Safe Driving

Although many of us should get into our personal vehicles and do the safety checks that we learned in driver’s education, we more likely just get in and go. That is not, however, the case for a motorhome.

Because of the size of a Class A and the many blind spots that they inherently come with, it is important to do a set of tasks and checks before pulling the RV onto the road.

First, purchase a tire pressure monitoring system for your RV and your towed vehicle, if you have one. These small sensors monitor the tire air pressure in each tire and alert you if the tire air pressure drops below a certain level. Tire problems are inevitable when traveling in an RV and since you cannot see the tires on the RV or your towed vehicle while driving, these sensors may prevent a lot of damage, expense, and injuries.

Second, if traveling with a partner, develop a set of hand signals for safety checks and moving the RV, such as moving from a parking spot, pulling in and out of a campsite or storage, and checking lights. This set of gestures could save your marriage, as directing an RV driver into a campsite is one of the biggest arguments seen at the campground. Possible gestures may include a fist for stopping, thumbs up for brake lights and turn signals, extending your left hand or right hand for moving right or left, and folding your extended arms up for coming straight back. Remember that the driver is looking for your signals in a six-inch-wide mirror as you stand up to 70 feet behind him or her. Be deliberate, be visible, and remember that if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Having a headlamp is a good idea as well for giving directions at night. Walkie-talkies or cell phones can work too to help with this communication.

Although slides should always be in when driving your RV, if you need to adjust the RV slightly in the campsite, be sure to stand wide enough so the driver can see you giving the hand signals for moving back and stopping.

 

Third, clean your side mirrors and rearview camera. Having these accessories free of obstructions will help overcome the challenge of blind spots. You cannot see out the back of your motorhome so your rearview camera is what gives you a second set of eyes behind you. If it is dirty, you will not be able to watch for any potential issues.

Fourth, raise all blinds and pull back all curtains near the driver. This includes the curtain next to the driver seat, the curtain next to the passenger seat, and any blinds on the seats immediately behind the driver and passenger seats. And of course, don’t forget the curtain across the front windshield.

 

  1. Avoid Annoying Backtracking

Know the height and length of your RV to avoid having to backtrack onto a road that can accommodate the dimensions of your RV.

Although most interstates and major highways are tall enough for your motorhome because they have to accommodate semi-trailers that can be as tall as 14 feet, you may encounter lower overpasses, bridges and tunnels as you get on state and county roads closer to your destination. By knowing the height of your RV, you can avoid clipping off AC units, satellite dishes, or even worse, the top of your RV, damages that can lead to expensive repairs.

Some roads, such as a couple in the mountains of Colorado and California with tight switchbacks, limit the length of vehicles. Longer vehicles cannot make these tight turns. Taking these routes will get you stuck and traffic snarled until you can figure out how to maneuver out of the situation. Signs will warn drivers as you approach roads with height and length restrictions. Some travel apps now have filters where you can designate the height and length of your RV so you can avoid issues of road limitations.

 

  1. Give Some Space

Because of the long length of Class A motorhomes, they make wide turns. As you approach a turn, make sure you clear the corner and other vehicles. Practice in open parking lots prior to driving your motorhome on the road to help prepare you and develop the skills.

As you drive on the highway, be aware of your surroundings. Give plenty of room when passing, don’t cut too close in front of other vehicles, be prepared for others cutting close in front of you, and don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Remember that a large RV will take more stopping distance than a smaller car.

Also, be respectful of other drivers. Motorhomes drive much slower—typically an hour slower per four hours of estimated drive times—and may cause a back up of vehicles behind you. Use slow-vehicle pullouts whenever possible and make sure to allow others to pass you by staying in the slow lanes on highways when not passing other vehicles. And have some fun communicating with other drivers by using your courtesy lights—labeled ICC on the panel to the left of the steering wheel—to tell other drivers it is safe to pass and as a thank you when they have let you pass.

 

  1. Climb Those Mountains

My boyfriend and I like traveling in the mountains. We also live in Colorado, a state abundant in towering mountains and high elevation roads and mountain passes. When driving our RV, we have to make sure it is ready with the power it needs to get up the steep inclines and that it will safely make it down the decline on the other side.

When driving uphill, switch to low gear to produce higher RPMs for more engine power.

The technique is the same for going down inclines, but you can also use the engine brakes for additional slowing and control. Avoid riding the brakes, which can cause them to overheat and potentially fail.

A motorhome travels along the Kuskulana Bridge on a cloudy day on the road into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

 

Bonus tip

Make sure the steps out the main door are fully extended before stepping out of the door. This could be a hard fall if the steps are not in place.

For more helpful tips about driving, owning, and traveling in your RV, visit www.gorving.com.

 

Dawn Wilson is a professional photographer and writer specializing in wildlife and outdoor destinations. She is the President of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and has traveled extensively since 2015 using her RV to document North America’s wildlife and wild lands. She lives in Estes Park, Colo. with her boyfriend, Richard, their husky, Kealy, and their two cats, all of whom have traveled in the RV with them. Visit her website at www.DawnWilsonPhotography.com or follow her on Instagram (@dawnwilsonphoto).

10 TIPS FOR COOKING IN AN RV

Figuring out what to cook can be one of the more challenging aspects of traveling in an RV. Operating in a tiny kitchen space, with limited storage, all while living in a state of transit isn’t exactly easy to jump right into. That’s why we’re sharing our top tips to make cooking in your RV feel less stressful and more like a vacation!

 

We run the camp cooking website Fresh Off The Grid and have spent over two years living on the road. During that time, we’ve gathered a lot of experience about the best ways to cook on the road. While we’ve accrued a few cooking “hacks,” we have actually found the most effective way to make your RV cooking easier and more enjoyable is to have a plan ahead of time.

 

So to help in that process, we’ve compiled ten tips for cooking in an RV.

 

1.) Plan Out Your Meals

For shorter trips, map out the number of days and the number of meals you plan on cooking. Having a plan for each meal will help you develop a grocery list and will ensure you’re never caught scrambling.

 

2.) Keep it Simple!

When selecting your meals, stick with simple meals that use cooking methods you’re familiar with. It’s a good idea to cycle through the same breakfast and lunches every couple of days, but it’s nice to have something unique to look forward to for dinner. If you’re looking for some simple camping recipes, here are a few of our favorites:  Easy Camping Meals

3.) Bring a Camp Stove

Cooking inside the RV can be great – especially during inclement weather. But on a warm summer day, at a beautiful campsite, it’s nice to cook outside. Consider buying or renting a portable propane camp stove so you can set up your “kitchen” on any picnic table.

 

 

4.) Print Out / Save Recipes

Don’t rely on cell service wherever you’re camping. Print out or save the recipes locally to your phone, so you can reference them no matter where you are.

5.) Prep Ingredients Ahead Of Time

Before your trip, prep as many of your ingredients ahead of time as possible. Chop veggies, prep your meat for kabobs, build homemade marinades, sauces, and dressings.

6.) Consider a Drinks Cooler

Nearly all RV’s come with a built-in fridge, but it’s worth considering bringing a small portable cooler for drinks. Especially if you’re going to be hanging out outside, having a cold one nearby can be really handy.

 

 

7.) Snacks

Three meals a day is a great starting point, but don’t forget about snacks! Fruits, trail mix, and cheese sticks are great options while on the road. Chips & dip, cured meats, olives (and anything else that would go on a cheese plate!) are great snacks for camp.

8.) Coffee Plan

Make sure you have a solid coffee plan in advance. Are you buying preground beans or your bringing a grinder? For two people, we find the AeroPress to be the best option with the least mess. For larger groups, we prefer a good percolator. Keep in mind that you may not have access to power all the time, so be sure to bring a non-powered coffee maker, even if it’s just as a backup.

 

 

9.) Bring Essential Cooking Equipment

Particularly if you are renting an RV, consider bringing some of your more essential cooking equipment from home. A sharp chef’s knife, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, a good coffee system, flat metal skewers. A rental will probably have all the basics, but they will probably be just that: basic.

 

10.) Progressive Cleaning

No matter the size of the RV, counter space is always limited. Don’t let dirty dishes and unwashed cookware pile up. Clean as you go. Not only will this help keep your tiny kitchen space from getting cluttered, but it will also save you from having to put in a Herculean effort at the end of the night.

 

Bonus: If you are looking for a few tried-and-true camping meals, here are a few to get you started!

 

Megan and Michael run the blog, Fresh Off The Grid, your online destination for all things camp cooking. From recipes to instructional guides to gear reviews, their mission is to help you elevate your outdoor experience through food and drink. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight backpacking recipe or quick & fun car camping meal idea, you will find it at Fresh off the Grid.

TOP 10 TIPS FOR NEW RV OWNERS TRAVELING WITH A PET

Pets and RVs just seem to go together for many people. A primary reason for buying and traveling in an RV is so you can take your pets with you. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Go RVing, 68% of RV owners bring a pet with them. Most are dog people 92%, and 14% bring cats along on RV trips. If you are a pet owner new to RVing, or an RVer with a new pet, there are many things to research, learn and consider to help make traveling with your pet a pleasant experience for both of you.

 

Several years ago, we traveled with two dogs who have since passed. Gracie, our West Highland White Terrier lived until she was 17, and Buck our Australian Terrier was 12 years old when he died from cancer. They were completely opposite of each other. One good (Gracie), one bad (guess who). One shy (Gracie), and one rambunctious (guess who). The only thing they had in common was, they both liked to travel in the RV. We learned a few things about traveling with pets the hard way when we first got them.

 

You know your pets better than anybody else, but when you travel in your RV with pets there are some things you should be aware of.  Our furry family members, just like kids, feel calmer when their routine is adhered to as much as possible. With that said, here are some things we learned about traveling in our RV with pets.

 

  1. Take your pet’s favorite bed with you

There is just something familiar with the smells of home. Our dogs always know when their beds are carried out of the house and into the motorhome, some kind of adventure is around the corner.  Having their own beds in the RV makes them more comfortable. Fur Baby Tip: When you are traveling to your destination, stop frequently so your pets can stretch and relieve themselves. We try to stop every few hours, at a minimum.

 

  1. Crate Your Pet While your RV is on the Road

RVs don’t have seat belts for our fur babies. To keep your pet safe when driving down the road, whether you are in a motorhome or a tow vehicle, keep them safely tucked away in a pet carrier with a comfy blanket or two. There are many unforeseen dangers for an unsecured pet.

 

  1. Water and Food

Take the food they are used to and a couple large water jugs of the water your pets are accustomed to from home, so they can drink water they are used to. Water sources can vary from place to place and just like a change in food can upset their digestive system, water variations can too. Fur Baby Tip: If we use all the water from home during our trip, we substitute it with bottled water.

 

  1. Vet Checks

Have your vet check your pet before you hit the road so all vaccines are up to date, and you can inquire about any other health precautions you should take. Did you know your dog can catch canine influenza? Dogs are susceptible to the virus at any given time, but dogs that go to dog parks or are in contact with areas where many dogs gather are at a much higher risk of contracting it. A flu vaccine is advisable when you are traveling. Bring your pet’s records with you to include proof of rabies vaccination and a current health certificate. Make sure you have a current picture of your pet in case they get lost, and having them micro-chipped is a necessary precaution. Fur Baby Tip: Make sure you register the chip number in the National Pet Microchip Registration Database, your veterinarian can assist you.

 

  1. Ask About Pet Policies

When you make campground reservations, always ask if the campground is pet friendly, and what their pet policies are. You can usually find this information online too. Some campgrounds, and/or destinations you travel to have Breed Specific Legislation or BSL laws or insurance guidelines that prohibit dogs they consider as bully breeds. Ask or research the campgrounds you plan to stay at about BSL laws.

 

  1. Local Emergency Information

When we arrive at the campground, one of the first things we do is look up the number of a local vet and/or pet hospital in the area in case of an emergency. This is easily accomplished with a “veterinarian near me” search from your phone or computer. Keep the info handy in case there is an emergency. Fur Baby Tip: This is when a pet portal comes in handy if your veterinarian at home offers this service. A pet portal lets you log in to your local vet, and access all of your pet’s records. Look into it before your trip. You can log in from your phone or a computer, and it makes getting information to an emergency vet much easier.

           

  1. Protective Items

Bring paw booties!  Healerspetcare.com or Ruffwear.com are great options. You want to protect their paws from the hot tarmac, or sand as well as any rugged terrain you might take them on. We also take a raincoat in the correct size for our dogs. You would not believe how yucky a wet pet is in an RV. The raincoat keeps them nice and dry. Fur Baby Tip: I also keep a towel next to the entry door so I can wipe their paws off as they go in.

 

  1. Day Excursions

An RV can get extremely hot or cold inside. Always make sure there is some type of ventilation and/or heat and air. Always have fresh water available for your pet. If your travel plans include day trips or extended travel away from the campsite, please keep this in mind. If we are only going to be away for a short time, we turn on some calming music or we put the TV on a channel that won’t have loud sounds. This helps distract them from outside activity. If you plan to be away from the RV and your pet for an extended period of time, it is advisable to look into a nearby pet boarding facility or doggie daycare for the day. Some campgrounds do offer kennels and boarding services for pets. Another concern is, you never know if the power will go out. There are pet monitoring systems you can purchase, that allow you to monitor the temperature, and offer video and/or audio capabilities. If you go this route, make sure you are close enough to the campground or RV to get back in the event something happens. Fur Baby Tip: If you are just going out for lunch or dinner, call and check; some restaurants with outdoor seating allow your dog to go with you.

 

  1. Pet Etiquette & Tips

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules of the campground and any other area you take your pet. If you use a tie-out anchor (never leave your pet unattended). Give your pet plenty of room to move, but be cautious of traffic and obstacles that they can get hung or caught on. Make sure they are always leashed when you walk them or have them outside with you. Campground pet etiquette is a must. Be considerate of other campers where your pet is concerned. Always pick up behind your pet.

  

  1. Creative Pet Containment

Some pet owners get creative with pet containment systems so their pets can enjoy and share time outside with them. It is important they have shade and clean water. Make sure you are always in attendance when your pets are outside with you.

 

I know I said this is my top 10 pet tips, but it is important to share this tip too. Perform a daily health check on your pet. When your pet is away from home, and off their regular schedule, it can affect their health. Watch for any signs that are out of the ordinary. If you prepare before your trip, you should have a wonderful adventure along with your pets!

 

Dawn Polk, along with her husband Mark Polk, started RV Education 101 in 1999. Dawn, Mark and their two elderly rescue dogs Roxie and MoMo enjoy traveling in their RV together finding new adventures. For information on using, enjoying, and maintaining your RV visit RV Education 101. Be sure to check out their RV Online Training Site too!

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. 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.

 

2. 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. 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.

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