What You Need to Know Before Taking Your First RV Trip
Taking an RV trip has been on my family’s travel bucket list for years. The idea of exploring several places in a short amount of time—without having to unpack and repack—appealed to us. It seemed similar to taking a cruise. With our oldest almost ready to head off to college, the time had come to go RVing and tick it off our list. What could be better than hitting the road with two teens in a tiny space?!
Thanks to Go RVing we recently embarked on our first RV trip in a Minnie Winnie 31K. We ambitiously wanted to see as much of the southeastern United States as we could in just one week. Our route took us from Florida to South Carolina, staying in three campsites in three states. We had a great time and learned some valuable lessons on the road. Hopefully, these tips will benefit other first-time RVers and help to make your trip a success.
Parks and Campgrounds
Do your research and choose your campground wisely. Consider the following criteria when deciding where you to stay on your first RV Trip.
Privacy – Not all campgrounds are built alike. Some campsites have RV parking spots that are divided by thick trees or brush giving your space from your neighbors. Other campgrounds are parking lot style and the only thing that separates you from the next RV is a picnic table.
There are three types of places to park your RV:
- RV Resorts are like glamping. They have a full set of amenities and are built for long-term RV stays or those who just can’t go without. They can have clubhouses, organized social activities, water parks, restaurants, and recreation centers.
- RV Parks have all of the basic hookups to water, electric and sewer but might also have showers, laundry facilities, swimming pools, and a general store.
- RV Campsites are pretty bare bones. You are not likely to find any type of hook up, you are there to enjoy nature at its finest.
Transportation – If you are not towing a car you will need an alternate type of transportation to get out and explore. Some campgrounds provide shuttle services so guests can enjoy the surrounding area. There are also bike rentals that will deliver to your campsite. If all else fails it is easy enough to call a taxi or Uber.
In St. Augustine we went on the Old Town Trolley Tour. These Hop-on, hop-off tours are great for sightseeing when you don’t have a car. As an added bonus it also included free pick up at our campground.
Wifi –Check to see if the campsite offers wi-fi and then try to reserve a campsite close to the front office where the router is likely located. But even then, don’t count on it working all the time. If staying connected is important to you then bring a hotspot device or increase your data plan.
Where to Eat on an RV Vacation
Cooking at Your Campsite – While compact, RV kitchens are surprising well equipped. Before you set out on the road it is important to decide if you will be the kind of family that cooks in your RV or over a campfire or goes out for most meals. Keep in mind food storage is limited and refrigerators are smaller than standard size.
Eating Out – Knowing that we were going to be out exploring most of the time we planned on eating out for lunch and dinner. We only bought enough supplies for breakfast and some snacks. To that end, it is nice when a campground has restaurants within walking distance. At North Beach in St. Augustine we enjoyed meals at Aunt Kate’s on the bayside and had an oceanfront dinner at The Reef.
What to Pack
Use this guide as an RV Checklist:
Packing Cubes – We quickly discovered just how tight storage space can be in an RV, especially for a family of four. There were only a few overhead bins and some small vertical closets with no real shelving. I have never been so thankful to have my clothes organized into individual bags that I could just pull out of the cabinet.
Flashlight – In addition to having a lantern for sitting outside at night, bring flashlights or headlamps. These are extremely helpful if you find yourself walking a few blocks to dinner or using any of the campground facilities at night.
Power Cords – Outlets are in weird places in an RV. You will find them on the ceiling above the sink or underneath the table. Bring long phone and power cords for your electronic devices.
Travel-Sized Toiletries – With storage space at a premium, smaller is better. Mini travel toiletries and beauty products are the way to go on an RV trip.
Headphones– It is possible to have too much together time on any vacation, but this is especially true in the tight quarters of an RV. We were grateful that everyone had headphones to use in the evening so they could listen to music or books on tape. It gave us little space from each other.
Linens – Forgo that full set of sheets and blankets on the pullout beds. Use sleeping bags instead. They make for quick clean up when it is time to close up the bed in the morning and make room in the RV for living space.
Outside Mat – Despite the fact that we took off our shoes the minute we walked in the door, the RV floor got dirty quickly. I would use a sand-free mat to wipe off your feet or even put a large plastic tub outside the door to hold all of the shoes.
Tool Box – No one should ever go RVing without duct tape, zip ties, fuses, and a full set of screwdrivers.
Rubber Gloves – Hooking up the sewer lines is a dirty job. You don’t want gray water or dirty water on your hands. Disposable gloves are even better.
GPS – Navigating an RV on the road is much different than a car. You will want to invest in a GPS system that is specifically made for RV travel. It customizes your route based on the height, weight, width, and length of your RV. Additionally, it can warn you about narrow roads, sharp curves, and steep hills.
Other RV Travel Considerations
Itinerary – Don’t try to do too much. Allow yourself time to enjoy the campground and the surrounding area. If you’re near the beach like we were in Florida and South Carolina you will want some downtime too. I suggest staying a minimum of three nights at each campsite.
Video Tape the RV Tutorial – When you pick up your RV you will have a demonstration on how to set up and use everything. Videotape it. It is overwhelming to try to learn everything about RVing in 60 minutes or less. You will be grateful to have the tapes for reference the first time you turn on the generator, level the RV or dump the wastewater.
Sleeping –There is no way to escape the noise or the movement in the RV. Once the first person uses the restroom or starts the coffee maker in the morning you’re all going to be awake.
Gas – RVs are not known for getting great gas mileage. Depending on the size of your tank, it can cost between $80-$100 to fill it. Therefore you should budget for this expense depending on how many miles you plan to cover.
Music – We created multiple playlists by decade for this trip. We thought it would be a good opportunity to school our kids on music from our childhood.
Flexibility – Most of all like any other type of travel, you need to expect the unexpected. Something is bound to go wrong.
Have you ever taken an RV Trip? We’d love to hear about it.
Disclosure: Thank you to GoRVing for providing the RV rental and campsite reservations and thank you to Visit Florida and the Florida Historic Coast for hosting some of our activities and meals. No other compensation was received for this review. As always, this post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.