I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
The best RV trips are the result of good planning, but not everybody knows how to create a plan that results in an enjoyable and relaxing vacation. It is intensive research, good organization, and clear decisions that help people to achieve this goal. Furthermore, those who start making their travel plans early have time to figure costs, make reservations, determine timing, prepare their vehicles, and make decisions about activities.
The best way to deal with these tasks is to start early and do them a bit at a time, rather than trying to take care of them all at once just before you leave home. Decisions should always include the thoughts and desires of every person who will be traveling with you because if you don't address everybody's needs, someone will be unhappy and will likely put a damper on any trip you decide to take
The following guidelines are based on my more than 50 years of RV travel experience. If you follow them, you’ll be able to visualize your vacation in advance and create the type of RV trip you really want to have.
Decide Where You Want to Go
Although many people think RV trips should be freewheeling experiences, the truth is that people who don’t have clear-cut destinations often wind up wandering aimlessly, wasting time and spending a lot of extra money. You will need to come to a decision that will include the needs and desires of all travelers, is affordable, and will allow you enough time to be able to travel in a leisurely manner.
You don’t want to become stressed and you do want to leave enough time to enjoy interesting people, places, and things you may run into along the way.
Time Your Trips Carefully
It is a common mistake to think that you can go anywhere at any time you choose without running into problem. Planning vacations around days of the week, months of the year, weather conditions, and special events can protect your safety as well as your finances.
For example, I recently discovered that a camping resort I wanted to visit charges $65 per night on weekends, but only $25 during the week. This information allowed my husband and I to adjust our travel plans so that we could stay longer and save money doing it.
Decide Where You Want to Stay
Much of the enjoyment of an RV vacation is in the traveling. For this reason, you need to choose your stopping points as well as your destination, and do so before leaving home. Pre-planning your stopping points will help you to avoid being stuck without a site or paying for one that is substandard or over priced.
Passport America, Good Sam, and AAA all offer route planners that can help you with this task, allow you to drive shorter distances on better roads, show you how to avoid tolls, and help you to reduce wear and tear your vehicles.
Estimate Your Travel Costs
How to Estimate the Cost of Your Next RV Trip will help you to find out how much you will have to spend for any vacation you may decide to take. Use this information to decide if the holiday you want to take is one you can afford! If you find out that the one you are planning will cost too much, make a more financially realistic plan.
Use Good Information Guides
It’s important when planning travel routes to use accurate information. For example, you can find helpful information about campgrounds in The Good Sam Travel and Savings Guide and great data about rest areas, dump stations and diesel stops in the RVers Friend.
My husband and I use both of these resources often because they help us to quickly find credible information while we’re on the road. Sources such as these help you to decide how far you want to drive in any given day and which campgrounds will be available once you stop for the night. They are also helpful when it comes to estimating your travel costs.
Create Travel Checklists
The easiest way to organize an RV trip is to create a series of checklists that you can use to keep you on task and help you to remember what you need to do and have when traveling.
You will need lists for things such as setting up and breaking down your recreational vehicle, checking mechanicals and electronics, and loading items you will need for your trip.
This is tedious and time-consuming, but if you put the information on a spreadsheet, you’ll be able to use it for every future RV vacation you take.
Prepare Your Vehicles for Travel
Having vehicles that can hold up to the rigors of vibrations, dangerous weather, and poor conditions of all types helps you to avoid travel problems.
For safety purposes, yours should be of good quality and have correctly rated tires and chassis that are properly rated for the loads they carry. Before leaving home, you should always check your RV and tow vehicle for cracks and leaks in belts and hoses, tire damage, water and propane leaks and broken external lights.
You should also make sure to check the following so that you can find and repair any problems before leaving home. Check to make sure
- all filters are clean,
- AC units are working,
- hitch attachments are functional,
- emergency equipment is working,
- air pressure in tires is correct,
- rear camera monitors are in good condition,
- gas and smoke detectors are updated,
- propane tanks are full and functional,
- tires are properly aligned,
- remote mirrors, work,
- fire extinguishers are up to date and working,
- all appliances are working,
- windshield wipers are working,
- entry stairs are doing their jobs,
- oil levels are correct, and
- batteries are working correctly.
You should also make sure that your vehicles match the trip you plan to take. If you try to use one that isn't suited for the type of trip you plan to take, you’ll be creating problems for yourself.
Load Your RV Correctly
The last thing you want is to have a highway accident because your coach is not properly balanced. Your vehicle’s axles are weight rated, and you should always make sure not to overload them. How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort provides good advice that will help you to pack your travel unit correctly.
Carry the Right Equipment
When you’re on the road, you need to be prepared for just about every eventuality. For this reason, you should carry equipment such as
- a first aid kit,
- fire extinguishers,
- a cell phone,
- spare tires, and
- any other items that you think you may need. I even carry a snake bite kit!
Find Ways to Save Money
RV travel has become extremely expensive, but you can make your trips more affordable by doing things such as joining a good discount camping club and staying at free campgrounds. Camping on the Cheap. How to Save Money When RVing and How to Save a Small Fortune on Your Camping Costs show you what you can do to reduce your expenses.
Other Helpful Tips
Other items you should include in your planning are to
- gas up before heading out,
- make sure your coach is well stocked so that you have what you need,
- spend your first night in a local campground so that you can return home quickly if necessary, and
- divide chores among travelers so that no one person ends up doing all the work.
Add Interest to Your RV Trip
Many people think that the best way to vacation in an RV is to drive from one place or attraction to the other so that they can actually see all of the things they came to see. However, those who choose to travel this way often find that after awhile they become bored and begin to feel isolated. For these reasons, some even give up RVing.
You can’t have a great trip if all you want to do is be entertained. To really enjoy your vacations, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and interact with people. Here are some ways you can do that.
1. Reach Out
Learning to reach out to people you meet as you vacation can often make your trips more interesting and enjoyable. It helps if you have an outgoing personality, but even if you don't, once you see how much fun it is to meet new people, you'll be happy to start conversations. It’s as simple as saying “"Hey, nice coach. How old is it?" and moving on from there! Every person has a story, and many are entertaining and interesting. It doesn’t matter if it is another RVer or a celebrity, because the rewards you get from introducing yourself can be great.
For example, a few years back my husband and I introduced ourselves to Ted Hustead, the founder of Wall Drug. We had a terrific conversation, and at the end, he gave us an autographed copy of Free Ice Water: The Story of Wall Drug, which tells how Wall Drug grew from a small mom and pop pharmacy into the most famous drug store in the world. It is a one-of-a-kind book that we have kept to this day, not only because it’s a great read, but also because of the memories that are attached to it.
Swallowing our inhibitions has given us access to fun activities such as wild animal feeds, campfires, mountain man rendezvous and even a wild buffalo roundup, all of which we would have missed had we not stopped to say hello to people.
Anybody can visit a big national park, but veering away from the normal tourist routes within the park to find special fishing spots or quiet scenic overlooks can lead to all sorts of adventures. For example, we ran into a mule team while fishing "off the grid" in Yellowstone! That was a fantastic experience that few other travelers there had because they "stuck to the plan" while we explored! It pays to leave the beaten path to see what lies beyond!
To add excitement and delight to your RV vacations, you need to be willing to experiment and do things you have never done before such as eating unusual foods or riding a horse. If you really want to have fun, you need to be a bit brave.
Few people would dare to attend a real Native American Pow Wow on reservation lands, but we did. Everybody thought we were crazy, but we had a wonderful time and also learned a great deal about the Lakota Sioux. Not everybody is as adventurous as we are, but we have found that experimenting has really enhanced our trips.
These are things that make trips interesting
Make Your Next RV Trip a Winner
As you can see, planning a really good RV road trip requires a lot of effort, but the results can be fantastic. Hopefully you will use the tips in this article to make yours the best ever!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on June 15, 2016:
Karen Hellier: Glad you liked it. Most people don't realize all the things that need to be done to get ready for a trip, so this article gives them a "heads up". Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Karen Hellier from Georgia on June 14, 2016:
Great article with some very thorough RV trip prepping trips. Thanks so much for this. Hopefully I can use these tips someday and do an RV trip.