Our family is currently in the middle of a 5 1/2 month RV road trip across the USA and into Canada. Now that we are 12 weeks into our 22 week trip, we thought that it would be a great time to share some tips for long RV road trips–one for each week of our travels.
Before I begin, please note that we are traveling in a 27 foot Jayco travel trailer. It has one 12 foot slide-out down one side. The whole unit is basically one room except for the bathroom, unless you count the curtains that divide off the master bed from the rest of the trailer as a wall–but I don’t.
If you drive a different type of RV, say a motor home, a fifth wheel, a tent trailer or a ??? (there really are so many types of RVs) then some of these tips might not apply 100%, but most will in some way.
12 Tips For Long RV Road Trips
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1. Pack Less Than You Think You Might Need
Now that we are just over the halfway mark I am realizing there are at least a dozen or so items in our RV that we have yet to use once and others we have only used a time or two.
If I could redo our packing all over again I would take more time studying our itinerary and make a list of supplies we might use at certain locations. Then I would see what supplies serve more than one purpose and get rid of items with overlapping uses.
I would have paid more attention to the average temperatures in the places we were visiting–which would have saved me from packing so many pairs of shorts when we really needed more sweatshirts.
I would have then laid it all out in one room and then gone through it item by item questioning its need.
2. Purchase A Backup Camera
I fought my husband on the need to buy a backup camera. I simply didn’t see why it was so important when we already had towing mirrors on our truck–honey, forgive me; I was wrong (and yes, you now have that in writing).
The backup camera (here is the exact one we have) has made pulling in and out of campgrounds so much easier. It shaved at least 10 to 15 minutes per campground off our set up time. Since ours has a dual camera function it has also shortened the time it takes to hitch up the trailer significantly.
We love that we can tell exactly how many cars we are holding up on narrow highways giving us a heads up that we need to pull over as soon as we can to let them pass–hey, we like to be as friendly as possible.
3. Become Friends With YouTube, TripAdvisor and Yelp
In 12 weeks our RV has developed several small issues that my husband has been able to solve mostly with help from YouTube.
I have become the daily activity planner and have found TripAdvisor is a wealth of information for hitting the best spots in each area. Yelp is my best friend for picking good local restaurants with prices within our budget.
4. Plan Super Simple Meals
Before we left, I printed out all of our favorite recipes and put them in a binder. Within a week we stopped using those recipes. Our RV kitchen is simply too small for complicated recipes that require many ingredients and pans. Plus at the end of a day of hiking, we don’t want to spend that much more time on our feet cooking dinner.
We now keep to simple meals such as burgers on the grill with a side of canned baked beans and mini carrots. Pizza crust isn’t made from scratch like it is at home, but instead bought ready-made and then we put on the toppings and toss it in the oven. We still have spaghetti, but we don’t make the sauce using 4 different kinds of tomato products. Instead we just add browned hamburger to jarred spaghetti sauce.
I guess you can say we switched to semi homemade instead of homemade from scratch.
Try to think of recipes that use two pans at most and can be made in under 1 hour. Make a list of those to refer to before you leave on your long RV trip.
5. Campground WiFi Is Often As Slow As Dial Up
Most campgrounds proudly display “free WiFi” on their websites. Yep, it is free, but it is usually painfully slow. I often have time to straighten up a few things in the RV before it will load one single picture. I do use a USB Wifi Antenna that does help but it isn’t a magic fix.
There are some exceptions to this rule, but if you need WiFi for work I would suggest making sure you have a backup plan.
Oh, and if you are staying in State or National campgrounds using data might not be a good back up plan as I have rarely had cell phone service in either of these places.
I have combatted the slow WiFi and no data connection by doing a web search for places like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Panera Bread so I know the closest place with dependable WiFi near me before we move to a new location.
6. Make Sure You Read All The Additional Charges Before You Book
My husband booked most of our campgrounds for us before we left home. I told him our budget was $50 a night maximum and he did stick to that–but he didn’t read the fine print.
Many times during our trip we go up to pay for the campsite we booked months in advance and find out that yes it is under $50 a night, but that is just for two people. There is an additional charge for each extra person. This has been as high as $8 per additional person in some places, although most seem to charge $4.
Then there are the places with pay showers, which vary anywhere from $1 to $2 per shower depending on the location and how fast you can shower. Yes, we have a shower in our RV, but the hot water tank only heats up about 6 minutes of hot water at a time and takes 20 minutes to do that–so it simply takes too long for 5 showers each morning.
Thankfully some sites are way under our $50 a night limit so we are staying within our $1500 a month budget for campground fees. However, it all could have been avoided if the time was taken to read all areas of the campsite agreement before booking.
psst…the additional person fees have only happened to us in privately owned campgrounds. However, we have run into pay showers at both privately owned campgrounds and State & National campgrounds.
7. Maximize Storage Areas Before You Leave
A few weeks before we left I dragged my husband out to our travel trailer with a tape measure, pen and paper. We then spent about half an hour going over ways we could alter things in the RV to maximize storage.
He built storage cubbies at the end of our bed to hold my laptop and the two laptops the kids use for school. He added a shelf under the bathroom sink, and another in the cabinet above the kitchen sink. He put a small shelving unit in above the toilet.
He also built me a cover for on top of the stove (pictured above) that doubles our counter space when we are not actively using the stove top.
He made two other tweaks for me that are not for storage, but sure make life easier. He put a lip on all the shelves so that when we travel nothing can bump against the cupboard doors causing them to open and have things fall out. He also put in extra supports in the dining room bench seats for our teenagers who tend to plop their bottoms down with gusto.
I cannot stress enough how much these changes have made living in 300 square feet with 5 people so much more doable.
8. Don’t Buy A New RV For The Warranty
Even though we have owned several RVs, this is the first brand new RV we have ever bought. We thought the warranty would come in handy and it would if it didn’t take them 3 weeks to fit us in every time a problem pops up.
Since staying in one place for 3 weeks would really mess up our travel plans, my husband just ends up finding a video on YouTube that helps him fix the problem himself. If that fails, he strikes up conversations with other campers until he finds one that has had that problem with their RV and can show him how to fix it.
We both agree if we were to buy new again it wouldn’t be for the warranty–it would simply be that we were getting an awesome price and the exact floor plan we wanted. Chances are that even if we did find these two things, we would buy “slightly” used to save even more money.
9. Be Prepared To Stop Weekly Grocery Shopping
For the first two weeks I would plan a menu for 7 days just like I do at home and then went shopping. It led to overstuffed cupboards and a crowded fridge and freezer. It took us 5 minutes to get out what we needed and put it back. NOT FUN.
I started planning and shopping for just 3 days at a time and now there is no over crowding. We feed three adults and two teenagers. You will have to adjust how much food you can fit based on your family’s needs.
10. Buy Mattress Toppers
For the first several weeks of the trip my husband kept complaining that his shoulder hurt and my hip hurt so much during the day that I was limping.
I kept suggesting perhaps it was our thin RV mattress and finally during week 6 my husband caved and let me buy a 4 inch mattress topper for our bed (ours is like this one but not the same brand). My hip pain is gone and so is his shoulder pain. I do have to hop up into bed, but I can live with that.
11. Give Your RV Some Homey Touches Before You Leave
RVs are factory made and therefore rather sterile. If you are going to be on the road for weeks you are going to miss home now and again, but you miss it less when your RV has some personal touches.
For me that meant hanging some wooden quote art on the walls, making sure we brought along some throw blankets and throw pillows, and creating a bulletin board for postcards of places we have seen along the way.
12. Bring Along A Toolkit
RV maintenance–much like home maintenance–never ends so you will need a few basics. I asked my husband what were three tools he couldn’t live without on a long RV road trip and here is the list he gave me:
- a good drill
- a folding shovel (for unexpected snow storms and leveling small patches of dirt under trailer supports)
- a caulking gun (for applying roof gunk to leaks–yep, new trailer and it leaks)
He then kept on listing more tools he felt were essential so I turned those suggestions into a list of 15 Essential Tools For An RV Toolkit
If you are a longtime RV owner who has taken a long road trip or two in your RV, I would love for you to add your tips in the comments below! Let’s help each other out.
Other posts of Camping:
- Our RV trip page, where we traveled each week of our 22-week journey
- 10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks
- 10 Ways To Save Money On Camping
Love to travel? So do we! Check out our travel blog The Parents Flew The Nest.
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When we camped with pay showers they had a nice laundry area in the next room. We filled an empty milk jug with hot water in the laundry room sink, poured it over ourselves in the shower, soaped up and shampooed, then we only had to pay once, just to rinse. This was nice since there were 6 of us, and you usually had to pay twice to complete your shower.
Thanks for the tip! That is a great cost saving idea. Now that we are in Canada it appears that $1 for a 5 minute shower is the norm. We all seem to be able to complete one in that time–although it did turn off half way through shaving my second leg this week.