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Introduction To RVing For Beginners: Rookie Mistakes To Avoid
The RVing lifestyle is all about freedom and relaxation; it’s a way of life that has been embraced by so many people around the world. But RVing is very different than camping, and RVers need to be prepared before they set out on their first RV trip. This post is about RVing for beginners.
If you’re thinking of becoming an RV enthusiast, or if you’ve just purchased your first RV, there are some rookie mistakes to avoid in order to ensure your trip is as safe and comfortable as possible.
Rookie RV Mistakes Can Ruin Your Trip
There are rookie RV mistakes that can ruin your trip before you even leave. Knowing the mistakes that others have made before you will turn out to be a great resource. Here’s a list of RVing rookie errors to avoid:
Mistake 1: Did You Choose The Wrong RV For Your Lifestyle?
You want to choose the RV that best fits your needs and lifestyle. You don’t want to end up with an RV you hate because it’s too small, not modern enough, or doesn’t have all of the amenities you thought would be included when you made your purchase.
It is also important to not purchase something that is outside of your budget range. Buying a used RV is a popular choice that helps RVers to save money on their monthly budget. There are some tips for the buying process in this article.
Renting the type of RV that you are wanting to purchase before you go full time will assist in the decision-making process. Be sure to look at storage, floor-plan, warranty, size, and more. There are so many things to consider.
Check out this article on RV rentals.
Mistake 2: Not Understanding YOUR RV
When you purchase your RV, make sure that you get a thorough walkthrough before driving away. Understanding how the electronics, leveling system (if it has one), the tanks, and other aspects of the rig will help you easily and safely transition into the full-time RV life that you are looking for.
A great tip is to videotape the walkthrough so that you can refer to it in the future. Pick-up day can be very stressful, exciting, and overwhelming. It will be very difficult to remember every detail that the seller shares with you.
Mistake 3: You Forgot To Bring an RV Checklist With You or Use One You Have
This is a rookie RV camping mistake that can make or break your trip.
If you are going on a long-term RV adventure, create an RV packing and departure list to ensure everything has been packed and is in working order before leaving the driveway!
After all of the excitement wears off from buying your RV, it will be time to hit the road and RV camp!
- Be sure to have a departure plan and checklist. If you forget to walk around and follow this checklist, you could end up with RV problems on your first night, which can be very stressful.
- It is just as important to follow a setup list for when you arrive at your destination site. You don’t want to arrive and rush setting up and accidentally miss an important step that can cause damage to your vehicle.
This article has a lot of comprehensive checklists for travel day.
Mistake 4: Did You Level The RV?
When you are safely parked in your RV spot, don’t neglect to properly level your vehicle. RVs are not like cars on the road. When you park your RV, make sure it is level to avoid any damage or problems with how your RV runs.
Make sure that you are using the proper procedure (depending on your type of rig) and tools. Tools that you will need include a great level, leveling blocks, chocks, and more.
Mistake 5: You Forgot to Fuel Up The RV and Propane Tanks!
Don’t forget to fill up on RV gas before you head out for your trip. You must know where the closest filling stations are located around your campsite, just in case they run out of RV-friendly fuel.
The last thing that you want to do is finally be on your way and end up on the side of the road because you forgot something as simple as fuel.
Use an App like GasBuddy to assist in finding the proper fuel stations on your travel route.
This article has other helpful apps that RVers can benefit from.
You will want to make sure that your propane tanks are filled before your trip. Without propane, your fridge won’t run properly while not connected, and you won’t be able to heat up your space during cold temperatures.
Mistake 6: Putting the Wrong Fuel In Your Vehicle
Let me tell you from experience that you want to pay attention when you arrive at the fuel station. You may be tired from travel, overwhelmed with all of the new things that you are doing. This is one thing that can cost you a TON of money.
BP fuel stations are tricky. They have green handles for their regular gas and black handles for diesel. This is a stark contrast to all other stations. Putting the wrong fuel into your drive vehicle or motorhome has disastrous consequences that you don’t want to experience. Just use the correct fuel and trust me on this one.
Mistake 7: Did You Check The Tires?
It would be a huge mistake to forget to check the tire tread and pressure before leaving for any trip. RV tires are not the same as most other vehicles. RV tires must withstand high temperatures, provide great traction, and carry a hefty load.
You don’t want a flat tire or one that doesn’t have enough air in it because of poor maintenance, do you?
A bigger concern is having a blowout while on the road. This can lead to an undue accident or damage that is easily avoided. A tire pressure monitoring system is a great investment and will bring you some peace of mind when traveling. It will provide you with constant updates on tire pressure and temperature.
Check out this article on RV tires!
Mistake 8: Did You Check The Batteries?
Another pre-trip mistake is to neglect your batteries. If your vehicle has been sitting for a while or in storage, you will want to make sure that the batteries are in good shape and are charged properly. Failure to do so could result in a dead RV battery when you get on the road.
Check with your RV manufacturer, dealer, or repair shop for instructions and advice regarding what to do if your RV’s batteries are weak or completely discharged before taking off.
It’s also a good idea to invest in RV Accessories that will help you monitor the health of your RV batteries.
If they don’t hold their charge it’s time for new ones, and if they are not holding enough power (or any at all) due to age or wear-and-tear it may be better off just replacing them.
Check out this article for more information about RV batteries.
- Investing in lithium-ion batteries is a great tip for new RV owners. This type of battery is lighter, lasts longer, and holds a stronger charge.
Mistake 9: Not Understanding the Maintenance Schedule For Your RV
Owning an RV is a bit more daunting than a regular car/ truck. It requires a special amount of seasonal and annual maintenance. It is a huge and costly mistake to not know/ follow the maintenance schedule recommended by each manufacturer.
Check your manual to learn more about the RV manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.
Here is an article on Winterizing for those who plan to travel during the cold winter months.
Mistake 10: Not Knowing Your Weight Limits/ Did You Overpack?
Another rookie mistake is not knowing the weight limits and capacity of your particular RV. This information can be found by looking over your manual, talking to the dealer, or by contacting the manufacturer.
Overloading your vehicle can be dangerous for many reasons. It can lead to RV accidents and make it difficult to balance the RV when driving or turning sharply. You want to avoid this at all costs during all RV road trips!
Check out this FAQ post. It contains towing GCWR and GVWR (gross combined weight rating and gross vehicle weight rating) information.
Mistake 11: Making Bad Financial Decisions/ Not Making a Realistic Budget For RV Life
Full-time RVing can be more expensive than you considered. It is important to do your research and make a realistic budget. The quickest way to end this dream of RV life is to overspend.
Eating Out Too Much:
- One way that new RVers overspend is by eating out too much at restaurants. If you are a full-timer, one the of first things to realize is that you can’t live every day like you are on vacation.
Not Cooking At Home in Your RV:
- One thing that experienced RVers learn quickly is the importance of using the outside and RV kitchen to prepare and cook meals. This will save you tons of money.
Check out this article on cooking appliances and meals for your RV.
Overextending Your Budget:
- A budget is meant to be followed. The quickest way to kill a trip is going over budget. RVing can be expensive even if you’re just on a small RV vacation, so it’s important to set your limits and stick with them.
Spending Too Much at The RV Park/ Campsite:
- As an RV rookie, you can sometimes end up paying too much for nightly camping at RV parks. Be sure to do your research ahead of time and find the best deals. Take advantage of money-saving memberships and longer stays to reduce the costs of RV park sites.
This article discusses the actual costs associated with full-time living.
This article discusses many ways to save money while RVing.
This article gives information on many different membership programs available to RVers.
Mistake 12: You Didn’t Make Advanced Reservations For Your RV Camping Trip?
You are ready to head out on your first adventure. You have spent time learning about your rig, how it works and have packed the necessities. A big mistake that many people make at this stage is assuming that you will be able to find available RV sites.
Many places are booked during the heavy travel months. You need to be aware of this fact and plan on reserving your sites in advance.
Mistake 13: It’s a Big Mistake Not to Plan Your Route
You are now the proud owner of a new travel trailer or fifth-wheel/ new RV. It is so exciting to start experiencing travel in this way. Don’t make the mistake of not planning a manageable route to your destination.
You are carrying a ton of weight. Some bridges have weight restrictions. You are very high and wide in some recreational vehicles. Some overpasses are lower than your clearance. Knowing these things in advance will save you from pulling all of your hair out during your first trip.
- Many RVers depend on an RV GPS. DO NOT RELY ON GOOGLE MAPS!!! This app does not take into account your size and weight. You will quickly find yourself on a road that you cannot navigate. Trust me, some roads are challenging to turn around on. Be safe and invest in an app that is RV-specific or an RV-specific GPS.
Know Where You Want to Go and When You Want To Be There:
- Plan your route ahead of time. Know how long you want to travel, where you plan on stopping, and how many miles you will go in one day.
- The 3-3-3 rule is a great one for new owners to follow. It means you can travel no more than three hours, stop at each destination for at least three days (at a minimum), and only drive a maximum of three hundred miles per day.
Mistake 14: Trying to Travel Too Far In One Day
As stated above, trying to drive too much in one day can be not only daunting but it can also be dangerous. It is very different traveling by RV than it is by car.
You must be aware of your surroundings and limitations. You need to stay within a comfortable driving distance for your RV, not just your car. Keep you, your family, and your belongings safe.
Mistake 15: Not Taking a Practice Run For Full-Time Living
Make sure that you know that the RV lifestyle is right for you. Many jump into owning an RV, selling their sticks and bricks, and are quick to attempt this nomadic life. What if you put yourself in that situation only to find that this lifestyle is not a good fit for you?
- This is where RV rentals come in. Take a practice run. Spend some time traveling in an RV and living in one before you make any life-altering decisions that are difficult to reverse. This plan will also assist you in figuring out storage, driving, and what type of RV is right for your needs.
Mistake 16: Not Practicing Driving
Driving an RV can be intimidating, especially with a larger model. It is a serious undertaking that requires practice and focus. Be sure to practice driving and backing in a large parking lot before taking to a long road trip.
- Take your time. High speed should be avoided. The weight and size of an RV can make stopping quickly difficult. You do not want to be in a situation where you need to stop very suddenly. Give yourself the proper amount of space and time. Attempt to relax.
- Understand tailswing. This is a very dangerous situation that RVers often experience when backing up. An RV has an area behind it (sometimes quite large) where you can hit things with your tires or trailer if you are not careful while backing up. This is referred to as “tail swing.”
- Know your dimensions prior to stepping on the gas pedal. Be aware of how your vehicle turns and where you can fit. RVing is all about adapting and being flexible.
- You do not want to be in a situation where you cannot back up, turn around, or fit into certain spaces because of your RV dimensions.
Check out this article on RV Driving for new RVers.
Mistake 17: RVing For Beginners: Not Knowing How To Get Your Mail?
If you are traveling for a long period of time or planning on living full-time in your RV, you will need a way to pay bills, receive mail, and register your vehicles, etc. How do full-time RVers get mail?
Most full-time RVers use a mail forwarding service. Be sure to know how to receive mail on the road so that you can stay current on all of your responsibilities.
Check out this article to review different mail forwarding service options.
Mistake 18: It’s A Mistake Not To Know About Campground Etiquette
One thing that bothers the RV community at a crowded RV park/ campground is when people don’t know or don’t follow common rules of etiquette. There are some general rules unique to RV life that are important to know.
Read this article on the most common rules of camping etiquette.
Mistake 18: Not Having Emergency Supplies and Roadside Assistance
Don’t end up causing a bigger problem on the road by not having a safety plan for when situations arise. Be sure to have emergency supplies such as road flares, triangles, flashlights, and more.
Another great tip is to invest in roadside assistance. It is very difficult to change an RV tire. Best to have a backup plan in case of a roadside emergency.
Good Sam has a great roadside assistance plan. You can check it out on their website.
Mistake 19: Not Having Your Insurance Up To Date
One of the biggest mistakes that someone new might not realize they are making is that their RV insurance might not have the correct coverages, be up to date, or be current. It’s extremely important that you have your RV insured at all times.
If it is an older RV, make sure you check with the company about age limits for coverage because some may no longer provide coverage on RVs over a certain age.
Having insurance is a legal necessity but also gives you peace of mind knowing that you will be able to mend any damage to your RV. Things break, accidents happen. Insurance is necessary. Stay on top of it.
Mistake 20: Do You Visit Only Touristy Spots?
One of the greatest benefits to RV travel life is being able to see new things and explore this great country of ours. Don’t only stick to very touristy spots. You will miss out on so many wonderful experiences, people, and places.
Mistake 21: Not Checking Out Your Campsite
When you arrive at your campsite, prior to parking your rig, make sure to get out and look around. Look for low-hanging branches, objects on the ground, and the overall size of the site. This will help to prevent any damage to your vehicle/ vehicles and also make backing in or parking a much easier task.
If the site is too small for you, speak to the ranger, front desk, or camp host and request a more suitable site.
Mistake 22: Not Using a Spotter or Backup Camera
Backing up the rig is a most challenging feat. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to help you become more successful. Practicing in a parking lot when you are first starting out will help a lot.
- Walkie Talkies: Walkie talkies save marriages. You can also use a phone if you do not have walkie-talkies. These devices assist in communication with your spotter. The spotter can see how the rig moves, how much room you have, and any potential hazards. This information must be given to the driver to help avoid any problems.
- Hand Signals: Hand signals are also a great way to communicate. When using mirrors, the driver can see and receive information from the spotter. Make sure that both people understand and agree on the meanings of all hand signals.
- Back-up camera: It is a great idea to invest in an RV camera with night vision. These devices help back up when parking and also when maneuvering through tight spaces. They can also assist with hooking up the RV or disconnecting.
This article has information about different backup cameras available for RVers.
Mistake 23: Don’t Forget to Put Up Your Awning
Awnings on RVs are fantastic. They help shield the inside space from heat and they provide a great outside hang-out area. If you are in an area where the weather shifts quickly, it is important to be ready to retract your awnings to prevent any damage from the elements. Forgetting to do so can be a very expensive mistake.
It is also recommended that you put in your awnings any time you plan to be away from your home on wheels.
**Extra Tip: There are many different forums and blogs where new RVers can find tons of information. Do a search on Facebook or Quora to find these types of resources.
Conclusion To RVing For Beginners: Avoid These RV Rookie Mistakes
In this post, we’ve covered some of the most common mistakes that new RVers make. If you do your homework and avoid these pitfalls before setting off on a full-time adventure in an RV, then it will be easier to have a successful experience. Do you know of any other rookie mistakes? What are your favorite things about living life on the road? Reach out and let us know!!
If you are looking for a great article on camping for newbies, check this out!
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- Sustainable RV Travel: How To Make Your Trip More Eco-Friendly
Hello! My name is Cortney. I am 45 years old. I live full time in a 33 foot airstream trailer with my husband of 21 years. I run my own business out of my tin can and love living small. I have two grown kids and three pets. I have worn many hats including mental health counselor and truck driver. My husband is prepping for retiring from the Navy in the next five years. He has been serving for over 22 years faithfully.