Awww, the open road is wonderful. The grassy plain is turning into a thick forest. No one would’ve thought the United States was so big and so vast, but it is. The world isn’t all too small after all. Yellowstone was a treat. Now it is time for Zion. If you want to experience these parks and more like them, then you need A Beginner’s How to Guide to RV Camping: Tips and Advice.
Let’s get started.
For Your First Time, a Rental is Your Best Bet
You do not know if you are going to fully commit to RVing in the future, so you should start slow. A rental is the way to go. An RV is a lot to take on your plate. You have to regularly maintain it and they take up a lot of space. If you’re usually used to driving around in a Volkswagen beetle, an RV is going to be a lot to handle.
You also do not want to spend a lot of money without fully knowing what you are getting into. Renting gives you a taste. Outright buying implies you are familiar with RVs, but you’re not. For the vast majority of beginners, it is best to play it safe and stick with a rental to start. If you’re hesitant about whether or not the RV life is for you, a rental clears up the issue really quick.
If You Are Going to Buy, Get it Used
A brand new RV is expensive, often running well into the six figures. As soon as it rolls off the lot, it drops tens of thousands of dollars in value. Unless you have the dough to dish out, you shouldn’t have to drop that kind of cash.
Buy one which is two to four years old already. It has some new amenities and it is a little worn for the wear, but your bank account won’t take the punishment. If you know someone who has lots of experience with RVs, take them along with you to inspect the RV. They will know all the ins and outs of the vehicle, so you aren’t left a chump at the end of the day.
What Should I Pack?
You should pretty much follow the same packing list you would for a car camping trip. Since you are going to be living in basically a car for the foreseeable future, you have plenty of room to spread out. I temper this point with a word of warning. More stuff means more stress. The more you have to look at, the more you have to worry about. If you are a minimalist, then life is more of a breeze. You can focus on what matters like friends, the sites, scenery, family, and living in the moment.
Otherwise, you should bring food, clothing, and anything else your RV needs to function. Since you are going to be living in a house on wheels, you pack it full of stuff you would have in your home. You need to make the best use of the space.
What Are the Different Types of Campsites?
You can find RV parks of all shapes and sorts. Some range from the luxury campsite with every amenity you can imagine to the dirt cheap with only basic hookups.
When it comes to the RV resort, the top of the line of all RV parks, your vehicle should be new or nearly new. People tend to not like eyesores in these types of campgrounds. They will have WiFi, hookups for everyone, swimming pools, hot tubs, and anything else you can imagine. They can reach quite the level of luxury. RV resorts tend to be more expensive. So if you are on a budget, you do not want to spend too much time there.
RV parks fall between a resort and campgrounds. They are have all the hookups but you won’t be getting any WiFi. They are designed for RVs. Call ahead to see if you can reserve a spot in advance. These types of sites are probably where you will be spending most of your time.
RV campgrounds tend to be more basic. They might have hookups, but they definitely won’t have WiFi. You will find tent campers on these grounds. It is not unusual at all. Be careful when driving in these areas because sometimes these campgrounds are not designed for big vehicles like an RV. They often can only take a truck or SUV. You do not want to drive down the road and get stuck.
Follow This Campground Setup Checklist
If this will be your first time arriving to a campground, do not worry. I got you covered.
- Look for low hanging branches and ground obstacles. You do not want to run anything over as you pull in or be unable to extend your awning because of some branches. Make a close inspection and then make your decision.
- Find the electrical, water, and sewage hookups.
- Bring your RV in close to the hookups. Level your RV as needed with jacks and stabilizers.
- Block off your wheels. You do not want to wake up in the middle of the night rolling down the hill. It would be a disaster.
- Connect all your appliances to the hookups and switch to their source.
- When you hook up the sewer line, wear gloves. It can get nasty and smelly.
Pests Can Be a Problem
You see! That’s how we get ants. No one likes them, except maybe entomologists. Those people are weird.
Be Sure to Cover Up Any Holes You See.
You need to check to make sure your RV doesn’t have any holes in it. All it takes is a 1/4″ hole and a mouse might surprise you in the middle of the night. Cover up any holes you see with expanding foam.
Screens are another area of concern. They do not work as well as they should when they have gaps and holes in them. If you see any cracks around the creasing, grab some caulking. If you see any holes in the screen itself, then you can find a screen repair kit at many hardware stores.
How Do You Deal with Bugs?
Bugs are a thing. Do not fret though. All it takes is a little brain power and you won’t be having any trouble with them.
When it comes to spiders and eight legged arachnids, citrus smells are sure to deter them. Orange peels and a can of orange febreeze keep them away. A mild water/lemon solution works quite well too.
When it comes to ants, they are little more tricky, but not an insurmountable problem. The first step is prevention. Where there is food, there are ants. Be sure to clean up your kitchen after each use and pick up any scraps you see to throw in the trash. As the debris piles up in the trash can, empty it out on a regular basis. Your counter tops might be clean because you threw everything in the trash can, but your efforts won’t stop the ants from climbing into the bin.
When it comes to moths, cedar shavings and moth balls work quite well to prevent them from chewing through your clothing.
You can get either one of the deterents at a hardward store.
Store any food you have in sealable plastic or glass containers, bug can eat through cardboard or plain old plastic bags quite easily. They sure as heck won’t get through a hard plastic or glass.
If you have tried all the ‘natural’ anti-bug solutions, you can always grab some bait traps or a spray. I would prefer you not use these because you are living in your RV after all. Anything pesticide you use inevitably moves up the food chain to you. If you do use a spray, spray it on the outside of your RV.
Also be sure to change out the bait traps on a regular basis.
How to Save Money on the Open Road
RVing can cost quite the pretty penny. Lot owners shake you down for parking and dumping fees. National parks cost an entrance fee. And gas prices keep going up. Ouch! Do not fret though. You can still see the country on a budget. You just need to learn a few tricks of the trade.
Don’t speed. Stick to under 55 mph. You’re on vacation. There’s no reason to rush. If you rush around, then you aren’t really on vacation. You’re driving like a pizza delivery driver on a Friday night. Take life slow and you will have more time to smell the roses.
Also, do not drive in hurricane weather. In other words, don’t drive in high winds. The poor weather slows you down and affects your gas mileage.
Go waterless. The heavier you are, the worse your gas mileage. If you can pick up any water at your site when you get there, then you do not want to bring any along with you. On a similar note, dump all your doo-doo before you hit the road. Again, this helps to minimize weight.
If you want free television signals, install an antenna on your roof. It might not give you the best signals, but you will get plenty of different stations. You won’t need to do a direct cable hook up.
If you plan to stay at one place for a significant amount of time like three weeks or a few months or so, lot owners often give a discount for longer stays. It does not hurt anyone to ask.
Join an RV club. People in groups tend to save more money. You can get deals on lot fees, fueling up, entrance costs, dumping fees, and the like. Good Sam, Passport America, and RoverPass are all good options to consider with large member bases.
How to Manage Your Biggest Expense – Gas
When it comes to saving money on gas, you have a lot of options at your disposal. Your best bet is to join a gas company credit card or a rewards program. For each dollar you spend, you are going to now rack up points for you to then cash in later. Speaking about finding cheap gas, you should avoid gas stations right near the highway. They are often the most expensive. If you head a little off the beaten path, then your wallet won’t take as much as of a beating.
Be sure to download an app like GasBuddy. It helps you to find cheap gas near you. Be sure to also monitor when you break when driving on the highway. Sudden stops really tear into your gas mileage. Regular maintenance is also essential to reducing fuel costs. (I’ll get into that in greater detail in a moment :)).
Regular Maintenance is Essential
As I said earlier, proper RV maintenance increases your gas mileage, saving you a good chunk of change. The video below does a helpful job of explaining all you need to do.
- Check your brakes regularly. You do not want to be caught speeding down the hill to only then have to honk to tell people to get out of your way because you’re going to crash.
- Also check the batteries regularly. Most RV batteries will last anywhere from three to five years. Take note of when you last bought yours.
- Use biodegradable toilet paper. It might be tempting to stick with your regular household brand, but do not take the risk. They can clog up your pipes. No one wants that.
- Weigh your RV once a year. If you have tendency to accumulate a lot of things, you risk exceeding the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). If you exceed the GVWR and keep on driving, then you can wear out your tires and it becomes easier to hydroplane and harder to stop.
- Check your tires on a regular basis. Solid tires will keep you from slipping and sliding down the hill. Worn down tires risk a potential crash.
- Clean out your water tank every now and again. Use bleach and water to flush everything out.
- Get a surge protector. When I travel, I bring my laptop along with me and always use a surge protector. I do not want my precious laptop to blow out on me. No way Jose! I need my laptop for this blog!
My Top 5 Tips to Have a Good Time
1. Get to Your Destination Early to Avoid the Crowds.
When you arrive late in the day, you might not even get a good spot. You will be left with whatever the lot owner has to give you. You won’t have any choice. More than likely, you will also be more stressed. Start the day early, take life slow, and you will turn out fine.
2. Pack Light and You’ll be Swift.
It might be tempting to bring a lot along with you, but more things often means more stress. My Dad is moving out of his house right now and it might as well be a carnival. He has so much stuff to move! That’s what you get for being a pack rat for twenty-five years. Don’t let the same mistake happen to you. 80/20 all your things. You should ask yourself, “what 20% of items am I using 80% of the time?” If you haven’t used something in a while, you can probably throw it away or give it away.
On a similar note, keep your gear organized. Put your belongings in bins. When everything has a place, your adventure is less of a headache.
3. Do a Dry Run in Your Driveway.
It’s better safe than sorry. If you ever run out of sugar, you can just go inside and grab it. More than likely, you also have a lot more resources at your disposal. If you don’t like the RV life, you can just head inside and sleep on your bed. No one will look at you twice.
4. Get a Basic RV Tool Kit to Prepare for the Unexpected.
Accidents happen. A tool kit is mandatory. You need one, no ifs, ands, or buts. Every now and again something will break down. It happens. Don’t panic. The problem only takes a little intuition and thinking to solve. You’ll be back up and running in no time flat.
5. Plan Your Route Out in Advance.
Pull out a map and start thinking ahead. A plan, a man, a canal, Panama! When you know what lies ahead, then life is a lot more manageable. Your adventure is not improv. You don’t think everything on the spot. It is important to think this through. You are driving a 3 ton behemoth around after all.
Do You Want to Sit More Comfortably?
You should now be all set to go. The open road awaits you. Imagine the sites you will and the sound you will hear. You are taking part in one of America’s favorite past times. If you do your research, you will turn out just fine.
If you want to enjoy the experience even more, then a chair will help you to relax. Not just any chair though, you should check out a featherweight in one of my previous articles, The Best Lightweight Folding Camping Chairs of 2019 (do not fret if it is 2045 and I have not updated the year yet here; I update these types of articles on an annual basis :)). Your butt deserves a break. Just imagine sitting around the campfire with friends and family. Ah! It is a dream come true.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!