Traveling in an RV is both popular & exciting! But beware, you can’t just hop inside & go – read below everything you need to know to plan your next RV trip!
Traveling across the country in an RV has not only grown in popularity (ever more than before) this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it is also an exciting way to go on an adventure with the entire family! In an RV it’s easy to socially distance yourself and enjoy your home away from home in safety. For those of you that have never owned or rented an RV before, you’re in for a whole new adventure.
But beware, you can’t just hop inside and go!
There are many moving pieces to planning an RV adventure than you may have thought about.
I will share all about our RV trip adventure and more importantly the mishaps in the upcoming posts in this series, along with A-Z tips (presented to you with a twist), and a downloadable packing essentials checklist.
For now, let’s jump into the details of planning an RV trip so you can determine how you can make the most of your next RV adventure!
First up, renting the RV
Figure out all the logistics of renting the RV (Who to rent with? How many seaters? etc) and make your reservations as much in advance as possible. We have always gone with Cruise America and have had a good experience.
Most RV rentals have a limited window of pick-up and drop-off times (thus wastes a day or two of your trip), so confirm those details when you make your reservations and be mindful of that as you plan your trip.
There is essential equipment that you’re going to need before you embark on an RV journey. Now keep in mind that if you rent an RV most will come stocked with the necessary equipment. But it’s always a good idea to check with the rental place beforehand in case you need to grab some supplies.
Just a few of the necessities include –
- A sewer hose: Necessary for obvious reasons 😉
- Wheel chocks: Absolutely necessary for safety. When you park your RV, placing wheel chocks behind the wheels prevents it from rolling backward to keep you safe and secure.
- A water hose: You’ll need a hose that is used for freshwater filling only. Potable water will be available at most campsites and even dumpsites to keep your RV full of water to use for cooking, showers, etc.
- A power cord: Many campers take in the amenities of a formal campground vs. camping out in the wild so a power cord is a must. You’ll need to plug in for the duration of your stay to avoid draining your vehicle’s battery (especially if pulling a trailer). Plus, being plugged into a power source gives your RV battery time to charge in the event you stay somewhere without power.
- Level: Not all spots are created equal and in order for appliances such as your fridge to work your RV needs to be level when parked.
- A Hitch: If you have purchased or are renting a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you’ll need a hitch for your vehicle in order to pull it.
Finding and Booking Your RV Spots
On the journey, it’s important to plan where you are going to stay if you’re taking advantage of the full-service campgrounds with all amenities.
For these spots, you should always plan ahead and book well in advance, especially during peak seasons. If you’re a regular RV camper, some locations even offer membership-based options so you have a more permanent place to stay.
I have to say that planning the journey is one of the most fun parts of prepping for an RV trip! Figuring out how far you want to make it on each travel day and what you want to see along the way, makes it exciting and gives you something to look forward to every day of your trip.
So planning and booking your RV spots accordingly is crucial.
Pro Tip: Choose locations/spots that offer you great views. The feeling of waking up to the sight of snow-capped peaks, sunrise, and/or to the sound of flowing water is an experience in itself! Also, one of the best things about going on an RV adventure.
Everything You Need to Pack for Your RV Trip aka your NEXT ADVENTURE
What to pack? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, let’s talk about things to consider when you start packing.
- One, the weather. Where are you traveling and what is the forecast for the season?
- Two, what activities are you planning to do?
- And three, who is traveling? Are you going solo, just with your spouse or with the whole family?
PACKING LIST FOR YOUR RV TRIP
Once you’ve mapped out these details take a look at this list to create your own version of a packing list.
Duh, the most obvious! It’s crucial you monitor the weather to determine what is appropriate to pack for each person that is traveling. I would always recommend packing a weather-appropriate outfit for each day you will be gone, plus a couple extras in case of spills or accidents or an unexpected change of plans. When traveling with children, be sure to always pack extra outfits as laundry isn’t always easily accessible from the road.
Lastly, regardless of destination, you need to pack a few items to cover you in case of a drastic change in weather. If you’re traveling in mountainous areas it can be chilly even on warm days. Focus on comfortable outfits too! You’ll be sitting for long periods of time on travel days.
This is another obvious one and we will get into the details below on how to pack your food and meal supplies properly!
The essentials are items that are sometimes forgotten about during the hustle and bustle of packing. Toothpaste, and your toothbrush, shampoo, and conditioner, body wash, medications, hand soap, sanitizer (super important right now), deodorant, sunscreen/aloe vera, cleaning supplies, dishwashing liquid, paper/reusable towels, bear spray, bug spray, toilet rolls, utensils, cutlery, dish drying mat/rack, trash bags, extra paper/plastic bags, towels, other linens (sheets, blankets, pillowcases), and pillows are just a few items I list under essentials to ensure they are not forgotten.
4. Activities for the kids (and adults)
RV travel consists of a lot of driving. It’s important to have an arsenal of fun activities to keep your kids entertained and having fun so they enjoy the experience. More on the specifics below! And don’t forget to pack a few games for the adults too.
If you want to use the campfire in the RV campsite then plan for it and bring additional supplies accordingly. S’more anyone?
If you don’t have one of these amazon basics bags, how are you even traveling? Especially with a toddler and those million loose items 😉
How do I pack all this stuff?
Next up, the how to? So above I mentioned many different must-haves when packing for an RV trip and you may be sitting there wondering how am I supposed to get all of that into the limited storage in an RV?
The answer: creatively!
Plus, here is everything you need to pack like a pro!
Here are some of my favorite methods for packing all of the items you need in the small space you have.
- Utilize the storage spaces that are built-in. Use closet space to hang your clothes so you’re not tripping over bags during your trip. There will be drawers you can use for clothing items as well. Using packing cubes allows me to get more items into the space that’s available.
- Shoes can take up a lot of space in an RV and get in the way so ensure you’re only packing what you need and place them in the bottom of the closet when not in use to minimize clutter by the door. Our RV also had extra space that we could access from the side of the RV (next to the main entrance door) so our bag of shoes went there. Be sure to pack a pair of slippers to use inside the RV/in the shower.
- Place your bathroom essentials and extras, including towels, in the bathroom cupboards. This hanging toiletries bag makes life a lot easier, whether traveling in an RV or staying at a hotel.
- Place linens, pillows, etc directly on beds when you can so they are in place and out of the way. Note: this may not work for holding couch and table beds. Pro Tip: Carry lots of extra fleece blankets and pillows if you are traveling in the colder months. You might have to use double layers as the bed can get really cold.
- Food storage wise, every RV will have a pantry-style cupboard or regular kitchen cupboards. By meal planning it will ensure that you only purchase what you need so you won’t be looking to store items you don’t have room for, plus it keeps you on budget! RV fridges and freezers are small so you may also want to carry along a cooler with ice in an outside compartment to keep extra water and other drinks cool. More on meal planning below.
- For dirty laundry, linens and towels, find a spot out of the way for a laundry hamper. This gives everyone a central drop spot and is easy to pack out of the RV when your trip is over. Again, you can utilize the additional space next to the main RV entrance door.
Breaking Up The Trip- Beat The Boredom
This piece of the puzzle is especially tricky when traveling with kids. They will only be interested in looking out the window for so long.
We love taking along travel-sized board games, coloring and activity books, a reference list of games we can play by communicating (ex. Eye Spy), and small toys. Here is a list of ideas for toddlers. Depending on the age of your child(ren) your list will be different. While we limit screen time at home, electronics have their place on long trips and can be effective to help pass the time for young children so bring along your tablets. By packing a variety of items, you will be able keep your kiddos amused for hours on end, making the trip more enjoyable for you all.
Another way to break up the trip is by scheduling planned stops. Before you head out, research interesting places to visit on your route. By working these stops into your travel plan it can give your family something to look forward to on a travel day if they are bored and gives you the opportunity to truly take in the benefits of RV travel by seeing what there is to see along the way!
Remember, when planning your trip it’s important to create a realistic travel plan that involves stops along the way. Create a plan around your family’s patience level and the ages of your children.
Pro Tip: Be prepared to make a stop when you come upon beautiful scenery along the way, there is something about kicking your feet up in the middle of nowhere and enjoying a hot cup of beverage.
Planning Your Activities
When researching stops to make along the way to break up your trip, also spend some time checking out landmarks, attractions, and more along the way. There are so many great opportunities to visit museums, national parks, historical landmarks, and attractions regardless of the route you are on.
I’m a big believer in planning your activities ahead for a few reasons.
- It gives you the ability to pack what you’ll need to enjoy the activities. For example, if you’re hiking you’ll need different items than if you’re going to the beach.
- You can buy tickets in advance. This will ensure you can get in to what you want to see or do and also helps you budget for your trip.
- It helps you determine a timeline for your trip, giving you the ability to also schedule your campsites in advance if you plan to stay in full-service campgrounds.
Meal Planning 101 for RV Travel
Meal planning is one of the trickier things to do when prepping for a trip. There isn’t a ton of space like we are used to in our homes so by prepping you can save yourself the headache of trying to store unnecessary items.
Write out your travel schedule with the number of days you will be away. By writing it out you’ll have a comprehensive list of what you need to buy or bring from home to have everything you need.
Fill in your meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day you’ll be traveling. Beside each meal in the plan, write down the ingredients (as well as utensils) you will need and how much of each. Be sure to include your spices here too. You can even pack ingredients and label them accordingly so it is easy to just grab what you need, cook, eat and go.
Pro Tip: Pre-prep some of your meals to make things easier /quicker on the trip. I had planned and half-prepared some meals at home so they required minimal prep/cook time in the RV.
If you’re heading on an extended trip, you may find that storage is an issue for your food. Maximize space in the cupboards of the RV for non-perishables, even if you need to add less used or items you won’t need for a few days in high-up cupboards out of the way.
Fridge/freezer space is another tricky one. To maximize these spaces, portion out your perishables and mark them with dates as needed. Lay frozen items flat in the freezer so you can stack other items on top. Items like eggs can take up a lot of space in a carton so maximize the space by setting them on top of other items such as a block of cheese to maximize vertical space. By only packing what you need into the space you won’t be overwhelmed by clutter.
Condiments are another thing that take up a lot of fridge space so where you can purchase smaller sizes of these items, making room for other food items.
Also, if you are going on a long trip there is no need to bring everything from home for the entirety of your vacation, you can simply do a quick grocery run while on the trip.
Who needs food when you can bring your wine as you travel, right? Just kidding! I will probably have to write a whole post on just meal planning and prepping for RV.
We crave more spicy Indian food when we are on the road, biggest advantage of RV tripping is you can enjoy some delish comfort food when you want, where you want!
The day before…
Pick up your RV the previous day if possible so you can load everything into your RV the previous night (trust me, it does take quite a bit of time) and hit the road early next morning.
Pro Tip: When you pick up the RV thoroughly check to make sure that everything is in order and working fine. Some appliances/utilities though look simple are not the most straightforward to use (trust me, speaking from experience), in such cases ask your rental place to give you a demo. Determine if you need additional heaters if you are traveling in the fall and winter seasons. Also, be sure to check with the rental place how their emergency contact, tow service, etc works.
We also did a bit of additional cleaning before we loaded the RV.
Practice Makes Perfect
Think about your daily driver. It’s likely a smaller car, SUV, or truck, right? Most of us aren’t prepared for the size of a motorhome or the length of a truck/SUV and trailer. Before embarking on the open road for a lengthy period of time, consider doing a shorter test run to practice. You’ll need time to get used to the size and movability of the unit you’ll be traveling in especially because you’ll need to park and back into small, tight spaces and travel through crowded locations such as large cities.
Pay extra attention to the height and weight of your unit so you can be certain you’ll fit under overpasses, bridges and to help you determine if you need to cross certain weigh scales.
Lastly, you need to be aware of the speed you are driving at. You cannot expect to drive the same speed limit as you normally would because of the size and weight of your unit. It will take longer to stop a vehicle the size of an RV or vehicle + travel trailer combo. Consider that when you’re traveling along too!
Also, note that in some areas and also inside parts of some national parks RVs are not allowed. So look that up before your trip and plan accordingly.
P.S. Despite all that planning and prepping things went south on our RV trip, oh well! It was beyond anyone’s control and we made the most of the situation, more on that in the next post!
Planning an RV trip will be one of the most rewarding and fun things you have ever done! And remember that every time you plan a trip, the prep will get easier each time.
So if you’re planning your first or next RV trip I want to hear where you’re headed! Or share with me the best trip you’ve ever taken vis RV travel and what tips do you have?
Live (and travel) with no excuses and no regrets.