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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.