Does camping invoke feelings of tranquility and restfulness in you? Do you envision pulling out of your driveway, travel trailer in tow, and watching your busy, hectic life slowly fade in the rearview mirror? The Great Outdoors, here you come! Your first-ever RV road trip is underway! But wait! Before you pull out of your driveway, and even before you load up your rig, there are some RV-specific things you should know beforehand to help your trip go smoothly. I’m not saying that your trip will go off without a hitch! Mistakes will be made, and accidents will happen. Pulling a big rig down the highway and living out of it for days, weeks, or months is not a walk in the park. But it sure is fun! And just like your mother always told you, practice makes perfect, and this is true for RVing as well. Read through these common mistakes new RVers make so hopefully you can avoid the embarrassment (and cost) of making these mistakes yourself.
Choosing the wrong RV- This is a big one! Do your research before purchasing your new RV to ensure that you choose a style, size, and floor plan that fits your life and budget. Selling or trading in a barely broken-in RV because it’s not the right one for you is a costly mistake. Typically an RV depreciates by 10-15% once it’s driven off the lot. Within 2 years, it could be down 30%! That’s a lot of money to be flushing down your foot-flush toilet. Exceeding your RV’s weight limit- I know, it’s hard to decide what to bring and what to leave behind when packing for such an awesome trip. You want to bring everything, but do you need to bring everything? No, and if you load up your RV with everything you own, you’ll exceed your rig’s weight limit. Know your RV’s GVWR (total weight of the RV and everything you pack in it). The GVWR includes the water in the tanks and any after-market accessories you added (TV, A/C, etc.). Make a list to help you determine what is a need and what is a want. Leaving the awning open during a storm- Awnings are one of the most popular (and loved) RV accessories! They give us a shady and cool place to kick back on a hot summer day near the Grand Canyon. It takes care of us, so take care of it! If you hear of inclement weather coming or if you’re leaving your campsite, secure your awning against your RV. Storms can come up with little warning in the summer months, and you don’t want to find yourself trying to piece back together your broken awning. Even the smallest items can do damage when they're sent flying at 60mph! Forgetting to batten down the hatches- Make sure you latch your RV’s cupboards, secure the refrigerator door (if possible), and tie down anything that might become a projectile object before hitting the road. Running over your chocks- You set the chocks in place to keep your RV from rolling once it’s unhitched from your tow vehicle. So when you do want your RV to roll (onto your next destination), remove the chocks. Don’t drive over them! I know, they’re easy to forget about all tucked in and snug under the tires. But add REMOVE CHOCKS to your exit checklist so you can keep using the same ones over and over. Not separating your holding tank accessories- Your fresh-water tank hose has no business mingling with your black-water tank hose. To avoid cross contamination, keep your hoses separate and use an old garden hose to rinse the black tank. No touching allowed! Being an annoying campground neighbor- When you set up camp in a tightly packed campground, be aware of your RV neighbors. Sure, everyone is there to have fun and relax, but that doesn’t mean that blaring music and drinking games is everyone’s idea of fun. So be respectful of those around you, and know that campgrounds are often filled with families with young children. Not double, triple, and quadruple checking- Do a FEW (not ONE) walk-arounds of your RV before you hop in the driver’s seat and put your truck in gear. Check that the awning, jacks, chocks, antennas, windows, stairs, and more are securely stored for travel mode. Winging it with reservations- Many RVers have spent precious family vacation time driving from one campground to another begging for an open campsite. Don’t be that RVer! Do your research on when national park campgrounds and private campgrounds start taking reservations for the up-coming season. They vary by location, but some don’t open for reservations until about 6 months before the summer camping season begins. And when they do, you want to be ready because the national parks fill up fast! Not budgeting for gas and other expenses- Traveling across the country with a trailer in tow sounds like an economical way to travel. You don’t have to pay for hotel rooms. You can make all your meals in your RV. Sounds easy on the wallet, doesn’t it? Until you start adding up what you’re spending at the pump for fill ups. Towing anything heavy behind your vehicle is going to seriously hurt your gas mileage. Can you live with getting 8 mpg in the mountains of Wyoming? You can always hope for low gas prices and a strong tailwind. Ignoring the freezer- When storing your RV for any length of time, you’ll want to defrost your freezer to avoid the bulky build-up of ice on the inside. The last thing you want to see when you open your freezer door to pack your homemade goodies for your trip is an ice jam taking up half the space. Simply unplug your fridge/freezer and use a hairdryer to speed up the melting process. Just make sure you keep the hairdryer away from the plastic walls. Leaving food in the fridge when you store your RV- When you store your RV, make sure you take everything out of your refrigerator and give it a good cleaning before you close it back up. Or better yet, leave the door open after you’ve cleaned it to avoid any stale smells when you open it the next time. Staying connected when driving away- If you haven’t seen this happen yet, you most likely will when you’re on your trip. Someone is in a hurry to get out of the dump station (for a number of reasons) and they forget to disconnect their sewer hose. It drags behind them down the road amid the sounds of honking and yelling from other motorists. Learn from their mistakes and ALWAYS double check that you’ve disconnected not only the sewer hose but also your utilities before pulling away.