After more than four years of living and traveling fulltime in an RV, I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way. I’m pulling back the curtain on my travel experiences, so you can avoid the pitfalls and enjoy your RV road trip.
Here are eight things I wish I’d known before my first time behind the wheel.
1/ Your RV Is Longer and Taller Than You Might Think
Our 40-foot motorhome has gotten us into some sticky situations. There was that time we went the wrong way down a two-lane country road in Mississippi, taking out a couple of mailboxes with our three-point turn. And I certainly won’t forget that time I pulled into an RV-designated spot at a gas station, even though my husband told me I should always use the larger truck lanes. I didn’t come in wide enough and scraped one of our basement doors against a concrete divider. I never tried that again.
Though you may not have a 40-foot RV, you’re probably traveling taller and longer than you’re used to. As you visit areas you’ve never been to before, it’s crucial you know the size of your RV, especially the height. For vehicles with air suspension, make sure you measure when the vehicle is running, to get an accurate height. And don’t forget to account for the cable satellite or any other modifications attached to the roof.
Some people tape their RV’s dimensions beside the steering wheel. That way you don’t have to remember in your moment of panic. There’s a big difference between 12 feet and 13 feet when it comes to overpasses!
2/ Pace Yourself to Avoid Burnout
We’ve all taken those vacations where we try to fit three weeks of exploring into three days. Don’t come back from your RV road trip even more tired than you were when you left home. Instead, pace yourself by selecting a realistic distance to travel and number of sights to see.
We’re in a slightly different situation since we travel fulltime, but we quickly learned the importance of pacing ourselves. When we started RVing, we were working Monday through Friday, then moving every Saturday. It only took a few months before we reevaluated our travel rhythm out of sheer exhaustion. Now, we move every other week and drive a maximum of 250 miles at a time.
3/ The Most Memorable Experiences Are Often Off the Beaten Path
Our 250-mile limit forces us to stop in places we’ve never heard of. Yellowstone National Park is as wonderful as everyone says. But Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is unforgettable in its own way, and we never would’ve experienced it without going way off the beaten path.
It can be intimidating to go places you don’t know much about. What if it’s a waste of time or a horrible experience? I still have those thoughts from time to time when I’m planning our travels. But then I remember our visits to Sopchoppy, FL; Gallup, NM; and Old Country Store and Restaurant in Lorman, MS. In my experience, the unexpected is the most charming and memorable.
4/ Dry Camping Spots Are the Best
Almost everything I know about dry camping is only a few months old, proof that travel is a constant teacher. It took my husband and me more than four years of fulltime RV travel to get out of our comfort zone to see what dry camping offered. We had always stayed in private campgrounds with full hookups, but we started to feel like we weren’t “doing it right.”
This year as we’ve traveled west, where there’s abundant public land, we’ve stayed at some of the most unbelievable places. Sand Flats Recreation Area in Moab, UT; Upper Teton View overlooking the Grand Tetons in Wyoming; and Bakers Hole Campground in West Yellowstone are three of our favorite finds. We’ve found that sacrificing a few creature comforts is well worth the scenery, solitude, and cost savings.
5/ Food Is an Excellent Way to Experience Local Culture
When you travel by plane, you skip everything in between. Even long distance road trips often spiral you down the interstate for miles without stopping. Our 250-mile travel rhythm is the extreme opposite. By traveling such a short distance before staying in one place for two weeks, we’re able to experience the microcultures of the United States.
Eating out at local establishments is one of the best ways we’ve found to get to know a new area. We experience the culture through its food, support the local economy, and meet the most wonderful people.
We rely on mobile apps to discover the best eats in a new area.
➡️Keep reading: Become an Expert RV Trip Planner With These 9 Apps and Websites
6/ Be Prepared for Outdoor Living
At roughly 200-square-feet, our motorhome feels quite spacious. But RVs really aren’t meant for indoor living. When you’re prepared for outdoor recreation and relaxation, you’re ready to take advantage of everything RV travel has to offer.
After creating my list of RV camping essentials, I was surprised to see how many items were related to outdoor living. With them, you can create a comfortable patio atmosphere, in between activities like hiking and cycling.
7/ Don’t Wait to Plan for an Emergency
This suggestion only takes a few minutes to implement and it’s the most important thing on this list. When you stop for the night during your RV road trip, jot down these two things on a piece of paper or note app on your phone:
- Your address: In case you need to call 911 for an emergency responder, your location is the most vital information the operator needs to send you assistance.
- The nearest hospital or emergency care facility: In case you need to drive yourself or a loved one to get help.
8/ The RV Community Wants to Help
You don’t have to travel fulltime to lean on the RV community. There are so many Facebook groups and pages, membership programs, Instagram accounts, and online forums full of individuals who enjoy sharing what they know. So don’t reinvent the wheel! Use the community to discover the best dry camping locations or find out what that button does on your RV.
And don’t forget, the Adventure KT team is always available to answer any of your RV road trip questions. Happy trails!