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9 mistakes that newbie RV campers make

*Be sure to continue to observe social distancing, and check with the campsites, parks and local government about COVID19 policies.*

In light of the COVID19 pandemic, a lot more travelers are looking into exploring the USA by RV. It’s a safer way to travel, while embodying that sense of freedom you can only get from hitting the open road. I think that is a win!

My husband and I rented an RV a few summers ago. And boy oh boy, did we learn a lot. If you’re considering RV travel, I highly recommend renting first. It’ll give you a better idea of what works for your particular needs. is a great resource for finding the perfect rig in the USA. While this is not an exhaustive list of things to consider, I feel this list is the most helpful for those of us who are just starting out. There’s no reason to be embarrassed if you do make any of the below mistakes. They are shared by literally EVERY seasoned RV’er out there. The good news? This community is more than happy to help out the “new kids on the block.”

* is a proud sponsor of my show, Places to Love, but all opinions are my own.*



Mistake #1: Skipping a test drive

rv test drive

It’s a great idea to get the feel for driving your ship on wheels. Unless you’re, say, a bus driver in real life, maneuvering an RV presents its own set of challenges. On our maiden voyage, my husband and I headed to the nearest big parking lot (at a shopping center) and drove around to literally get a feel for how it moved.

Paying attention to the turn radius and overhead clearance. Practice backing into a spot for those RV parks that don’t have what’s called pull-through sites. Trust me, it’s good to have done this at least once in a stress-free setting before parking your rig for the first time at a packed campground… Though I am sure your audience of seasoned RV veterans will find it quite amusing!

I should mention that you’ll start to get confident driving your RV… and then you’ll take a turn too fast. Remember, you always have to drive slower and brake sooner.


Mistake #2: Not watching the gas gauge

gas gauge rv

Running out of gas the in the middle of the wilderness is literally something out of a horror movie. It’s so important to acquainted with your vehicles capabilities, and pay attention to the proximity of the nearest gas station. This is especially important if you’re hauling a camper with your regular vehicle. You may be used to getting a lot more mileage from a tank of gas, but your load could drop efficiency to less than 10 miles a gallon. One other tip here, with an RV you might be driving through more remote places than you are used to and the next gas station might be much further away than you think.

Mistake #3: Forgetting paper maps.

Newbie RV road trip

Our smartphones sure make navigation easy… that is, until you find yourself without service and in the middle of nowhere. (Also see not watching Gas Gauge) It’s important to have a good old fashioned paper map at the ready.


Mistake #4: Forgetting to do a walk-around before leaving an RV site.

We’re all anxious to get on the road, but before you do, walk around the RV. Check the tire pressure. Make sure all the slide-outs are back in. Ensure the outside storage cabinets are closed and locked. Double-check that you didn’t leave your empty luggage next to the RV–you know that kind of thing.

There’s also things you need to do inside, like place coffee maker and toaster in sink so they don’t slide around. The one thing my husband and I just COULD NOT remember was making sure the refrigerator door was shut tight. We’d make a turn and, to our children’s total delight, the door would fling open and 10 apples would come flying out. If you are renting an RV, ask for a checklist.


Mistake #5: Over-packing.

rv trip

It’s so enticing to over-pack when you have all this space! However, an RV starts feeling pretty cramped when things aren’t neatly stored away. You really don’t need every kitchen gadget in the world. One set of plates, bowls and silverware will do. Remember, you have a sink and can wash things! Though it may not feel like it, you are camping. Even if it is fancy camping.


Mistake #6: Not making reservations.

Part of the fun of RV travel is spontaneity. However, if you’re touring in the states, Memorial Day through Labor Day is busy, busy, busy—especially on holidays and weekends. Many great sites fill up early, and if they’re first-come, first-served, you best be at the campground when it opens. It’s always a good idea to book ahead of time or call and find out the best way to ensure your spot in the RV park you want.


Mistake #7: Not being level.

Not only does this mean you’ll be uncomfortable as you sleep, a wonky RV set up means the fridge doesn’t work properly and you run the risk of your food going bad. Most RV’s have some sort of leveling system, so find out where it is and how it works. Also, a small level is a handy-dandy item to have in your tool box.


Mistake #8: Forgetting Tetris-able storage.

Organization and storage are important elements of RV travel. Square containers will just about always fit better than round ones. Ziplock bags pack small and have a myriad of uses.


Mistake #9: Skimping on essential tools.

rv tool kit

You don’t need every tool known to man, but a few items will make your trip so much easier.

  • Duct tape is a must—this is true in almost every life situation!
  • A small level is helpful for ensuring you’re not parked at a slope.
  • A multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver set
  • 1/2-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/4-inch socket set including adapters and extensions.
  • A Leatherman multi-tool
  • Bungee cords with hooks
  • Hatchet/hammer combo
  • Headlamp with extra batteries.
  • Tire pressure gauge.
  • Rubber gloves.
  • First aid kit

What newbie mistakes have you made while RV camping? Share in the comments!

My husband and I rented an RV last summer. And boy oh boy, did we learn a lot. There’s no reason to be embarrassed if you do make mistakes. They are shared by literally EVERY seasoned RV’er out there. The good news? This community is more than happy to help out the “new kids on the block.”

This Post Has 165 Comments
  1. Know how to use the electrical connectors, hose connectors and emptying the gray and black water tanks.
    If renting, be sure to have the emergency road service number of the rental company and what to do in case they are unavailable. Check that your insurance will cover you in an RV. Know how tall the unit is and put a sticky note on the dash for a reminder.

    1. On one of my first trips, my friend and I did our departure walk-around, checking that all was properly stowed and locked. As we drove away, we were alerted to the fact, by another camper, that we had forgotten to retract the awning! Remember to LOOK UP as well as AROUND. !!!

      1. I am sorry I couldn’t quit laughing. That is definitely something I would do. I remember pulling a camper last year to Michigan and back to AZ. We kept having people flashing their lights at us, my friend flew out and drove with me back a bit. Anyway we couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Then it dawned on us that I didn’t have my lights on. We laughed so hard I had to pull over!

    2. Been fulltiming for 19yrs. All suggestings right on. This was mentioned, but I have to say, a week doesn’t go by that we don’t see someone pull out with their tv antenna up, weather a local antenna or a dish. This is after we see them do a walk around. Look up. Put a list by the steering wheel before turning the key……enjoy.

      1. Check Lists are a must when RVing, I have been RVing since 1966, and still use a list when loading, unhooking and preparing to depart a camp site.
        One important check is putting the step in if your RV is not equipped with an automatic step. Slow down.

      2. It is a real inconvenience to pull your RV into a campsite carefully positioning it to clear for your slideouts, level, connect the electric, fresh water, sewer, and TV cable then realize that you have to make the trip to the grocery store or pharmacy.

    3. Renting from cruise america getting a 30 ft . It’s been a long time since I drove a r v. We are going from Florida to the grand cannon. Any suggestions

      1. Follow the advice in the article. It was right to the point. keep in mind overhead clearance.
        Be SAFE and ENJOY.

      2. We rented from cruise America several years ago and the brakes went out and they had no one tow it for several days. We were stuck with no vehicle for for 4 days. Make sure it has been serviced and the phone numbers on how to reach them in case of a problem.

      3. You tube videos…”keep your daydream”. They’ve made lots of mistakes and offer great tips and lists. Take notes

      4. Suggestions, yes make a reservation as parks NEAR GC fill up fast. There is boondocking free as you head to the south rim

      5. Take your time, drive under the speed limit and enjoy the ride. If you get tired pull over and sleep. That’s the reason for the convenience.

        1. If you buy a class C RV and plan to tow a vehicle- be sure you have a vehicle that can be towed without a tow dolly! It will add extra steps to your list!

          1. As already fuel levels but an add on to that thought. Remember if you are going to need your generator, it will not run with less than a 1/4 tank of gas.

      6. Yes try a different company or be prepared for a very bumpy rife. Their suspension are horrible. Yes I know you should not take a nap while driving but I did and a pot hole threw me off the bed. Another one sent me over a foot off the bed and back down. Seems standard for their rigs. We used them and El Monte loved them, their rig so much better shape and great ride. Have fun and if possible no more than 400 miles a day and that can be pushing it a bit.

      7. Oh man! I’m jealous. I’m also in FL. and that trip is on my bucket list. Not sure it will ever happen but I’m keeping it at the top of my list. Have fun take your time and be safe.

    4. Trudy Lee
      August 2020
      Hi To All NEW & OLD RVers,
      I am a single retired woman having travelled in A and C class Motor homes. I’d like to add part of my check list I have been using for travelling from Alberta to Oaxaca, Mexico.
      1) Gerry can filled with gas
      2) 2 Litres of Oil and ready mix coolant
      3) Advil or Tylenol, Hydrogen Peroxide great for disinfecting cuts and counter tops
      4) Tensor bandage
      5) Rope for Clothes line and pegs
      6) Rubber boots to wear at dump stations
      7) Water hose for fresh water only
      8) Pail, rubber gloves, cotton rags
      9) Shovel – Spade & Blunt nose
      10) Extension cords for indoor and outdoor use, power bars
      11) Buck saw, axes long and short handles
      12) Plumbing tape for water leaks or engine hose leaks
      13) Hammer & Nails of assorted sizes
      14) Multi-Screw Driver, assorted pliers and wrenches, roll of wire
      15) Last but not least Hot Chocolate
      & Baileys (or a great Scotch) for those unplanned rainy days and a good book

      And cudos to all the people who took time to post their stories and ideas

  2. Hi: I hate to say this, but the older I get, the more I appreciate the fact that I married a woman who cleans most of my major messes. This isn’t to say I’m incompetent, it’s just to say that she’s very competent. So, the best thing you can have while RVing is a good life partner!

    1. The only reason she is good at it is because of practice. You couldn’t tie your shoes perfect the first time, took practice. You should practice more on taking care of your own messes so that she can also have an awesome partner. No one wants to be someone’s maid for life.

      1. Man is good at spesifick tasks and concentrate on one thing at a time. Woman can multitask and is much more observant as to what happens around them. It is just the way we are made.

        1. I know the comment is old…but I was thinking the same thing. He was giving props to his wife/partner and she took it to a “whole nother level”.🤨 Kenneth’s post pays homage to his wife.

        2. I’ve been in the Rv business for 50 years and retired now and enjoying the fruits of my labor we had a lot of fun camping and building memories with the family try it you will like it if you are a family person you will never forget the family trips even when the kids go on there own way you will always remember good thing in life have fun go Rv Ing great tips Bob M Ny now in FLa and Myrtle beach SC

        1. I agree . He was making a nice comment about about his life partner and someone had to get nasty. Their comment about what NO ONE wants to do that forever pretty assuming don’t you think????? Keep this thread about RV omg and be nice please.

    2. Don’t forget to raise the step!
      It’s really easy to forget. And close all of the vents that lift or flap open. I had the flap of a stove went to the outside fly off somewhere in Utah. Or Arizona. Or…I have no idea. Luckily stuff like that is usually easy to replace. Have fun, savor the time together and pull over at every tacky stop that you can.

    3. Kenneth You are precious to say your wife is such a dear. And of course you appear to be kind enough to let her know how much in person you appreciate her too. I camp alone usually but I appreciate the things my husband does for me like refiguring my solar battery system last year from a deep cell system to the new Goal Zero Lithium which was quite the job and beyond my abilities. Happy Camping Season to both you and your wife have a great one.

      1. We’ve camped for 50 yrs. It is a well orchestrated process: setup and take down. Both of us have tasks. Sharing responsibilities is half the fun…to see how fast we can setup or to get on the road.
        Worse mistake. We forgot to close the vent over our bed (my job). We drove through torrential rains that day. Our bed was sopping wet, down to the mattress. After that mistake, husband replaced all ceiling vents with hooded ones. Since that mishap, I never forget to check the vents.
        Also if camping with pets, make sure you clean up the site so they (and you) are welcomed back.

    4. Picked up camper from dealer in ohio and pulled to Wisconsin. No drive around and inspection. Didn’t get hitch I wanted and dealer set up wrong too low in truck. Fifth wheel. Anyway hit the side rails on truck for damage and popped back window getting in driveway at home.. 1st day with trailer. Luckily different dealer put right hitch on and adjusted correctly. Works fine now

      1. When I retired I bought a 33 ft motorhome with a Jeep that I tow. I then started a project of playing the oldest golf course in every state in the US and all ten provinces in Canada. My learning curve had to be fast and furious but I’d like to reinforce some of the advice already given.
        1. Walk around your RV as the last thing you do before getting behind the wheel. Power cords are expensive to replace.
        2. Empty your gray and black tanks whenever a dump is available, You don’t need to be lugging that water around at 8 lbs a gallon.
        3. Keep only enough fresh water to handle your needs for flushing, washing dishes etc while driving, if you are boondocking then fill it up.
        4. When filling up with gas leave plenty of space between the rig and the pumps, the last thing you need is to take a pump out because your back end swung around, usually a good idea to pull forward 20 ft before starting to turn.
        5. Add 1/4 cup of household bleach to your fresh water tank and run all taps if you’ve had your RV sitting in storage for a month or more. Algae and scum can form on tank walls and pipes.
        6. Buy an inline carbon water filter at Walmart for $10 the next time you stay in their parking lot. It will keep the bad stuff out of your tanks when you are filling or using direct hookups.
        I could go on forever, but most importantly get out there and experience this great country you’ll have a blast.

      2. A good thing to remember is to check all hose fittings. Under sink in kitchen and bathroom, under fridge for drain and water heater connections etc. These often come loose. If you purchase a new rig, that is the first thing I would check as the dealers don’t always tighten these down. No fun having them leak and get your floor all wet after doing dishes or taking a shower.

  3. Good stuff to know, thanks for the insight . We miss seeing you on the Travel Channel. Happy Trails, J.D. Warren, Annapolis, Md.

  4. All very good tips!!! When we started rving we had a checklist for everything outside that needed to be done and a list for everything inside that needed to be done before heading off on our next adventure. Also there is a great free app called “rvparky” that I use all of the time to find gas stations, campgrounds, rest areas, and Wal-Mart. You can choose what you want it to show you to suit your needs. Happy travels!

    1. Hi Jacqui,
      We are totally new to the RV life. Would you mind making your Outside & Inside Checklists available to us? We could use all the help we can get!!
      Thank you,

      1. I would love a checklist I will be full-time RVing in the next couple months I’m a lady alone with a small dog and a reasonable checklist for me to use would be wonderful

        1. Oh my people lets get together at the next campground and PRINT out our own CUSTOM check lists. Even laminate it. I mean bring that printer and laminator and paper and you certainly can make as many as you need. I took notes from these six listed here along with several wonderful ideas from all the people sharing their information. I do not have a smart phone but do have paper maps including water proof map covers for all of them and though I have
          big printers at home we have 1-2 small less expensive but very adequate printers to hit the road with us and surprise they do not take a lot of power to run. The full size laminator might be a bit much for our solar lithium battery but not our tiny 9 inch version. A box of precut paper and or standard copy paper take some sheets out and add in a few lamination pockets and you have plenty of black and white even color printing to make those lists. Share with your fellow campers if they happen to see yours and you’ll be making camping friends for years to come. A lap top small printer with or without a small laminator. If not print out a good check list from these hints and suggestions right here today before you leave home and have ready to take. I suggest if you are not laminating use good white card stock or light colored card stock. Lime green or yellow to catch your eye. Hapy camping everyone.

      2. New to RV camping? Make your first camping adventure a solid week in your driveway! You will learn tons like what did I forget, what can I live without and is that mattress really as comfortable as I thought? It gives you the opportunity to make changes while you are still at home!
        Two of the most important things to take along that no one has mentioned?? Pack your patience and your sense of humor!! They are as important as the duct tape! Take your time and enjoy!

        1. I agree with you 100%, take your time . You will always find bumps in the road. Keep a good sense of humor, Catherine knows that at the end of a travel day after driving for 6-8hrs, I want to get the basic set-up done. Then a COLD beverage and let me wind down some. Driving a large rig can be very stressful and having that understanding helps. Remember you’re doing this to relax and have fun. Your destination is only part of the adventure, the journey getting there is part of the fun as well. Enjoy the ride.

  5. Another tidbit, when learning to drive one of these or bigger, place a 2 liter bottle half full of water sideways on the dash. When you make a turn your goal is to have the water not move. Whatever you feel in the front is amplified BIG time in the back.

      1. That’s a great tip. We just got back from our maiden voyage and that is what scared me the most! I do all of the driving because my husband has severe arthritis in his hands, but today I feel like I have it holding that thing on the road.🌼

    1. I like that idea. I can see it working good enough. My parents had a Pace Arrow they had trouble on turns because it was long behind the rear wheels/ bedroom area, I bet that idea would’ve helped earlier in the game.

    2. Must do before moving a rv.

      I. Make sure all ceiling vents are closed or just barely cracked.
      2. Make sure all cupboards are securely closed.
      3. Make sure the refrigerator is latched. Or be prepared to clean up a mess. Think blueberries all over the camper.
      4. Make sure all cords and hoses are unhooked. I rinse the sewer hose before stowing it. Take the time to neatly stow the electrical cord and your drinking water hose. If you have kids they can be taught to do this at about 10 years old. I did the hose and electrical cords for my Dad from age 12 when we bought our first rv.
      5. Make sure all outside compartments are securely closed or locked.
      6. Don’t forget to pick up your leveling blocks before you lock the storage.

      We keep our refrigerator locked at all times. Just so we don’t have a repeat of the blueberry mess. It is always the last thing I check before starting the rv. That happened over 45 years ago and it is a lesson that became a habit over the years.

      1. Just a few more:

        ; Antenna down, steps up.
        : stabilization jacks up and lock. Handle stowed
        ; awning closed and secure
        ; Check lights, turn signal & stop on tow vehicle, camper and motor home
        ; Diesels – check / fill DEF tank
        ; Windows closed and locked
        : Turn off 12 v system
        ; Clean Vehicle windows and mirrors
        ; Check tire pressure, all around, (Including the spare). Make sure lug nuts are tight

        1. Additional checks:
          Make sure covers are on bumper after inserting septic hose
          Attach cover on black/grey water septic outlet
          Shades up so they don’t rattle
          Drawers and cabinet doors closed
          Shower door latched

          1. In the checklists I haven’t seen To make sure the umbilical cord is hooked to your truck if you are pulling a trailer or fifth wheel. I failed to do this on one leg of my journey one time. Our fifth wheel is so light I did not notice the difference In the braking. The worse part is knowing that my brake and turn signal lights were not working either. We were extremely lucky we didn’t cause an accident.
            Lesson learned!,

    1. Cellphone leveling apps are not all that reliable Packing a small electricians level and “eyeballing” your rig is much easier

      1. To be sure your rig is level for the fridge to work properly, put a level INSIDE the fridge. There are differences between the fridge and the floor …

        1. I’m A newbie with class C Integra Odesey. I have not gone any where yet. I want to join a group of folks who like Rving and can show me the ropes. I hope to make good friends in the process. Hope someone reaches out as this single man is flying solo????

          1. alot of churches have camping groups that welcome folks. might want to try that. also check with camper dealerships for suggestions. and campgrounds may also have suggestions as they book groups. good luck & don’t forget to visit PA –PA Dutch food will put #s on ya!! and *just watch out for our world famous potholes–hahaha!

          2. Hi Mike Stevens,
            So, how did you do in your new RV? I am a newbie traveling solo as well. Any tips for me?


          3. Mike we are also new owners of an Entegra Odyssey. We got it Nov of 2019 and have used it 5 times now. I am pretty knowledgable about all issues so if you need any help, feel free to email me.


            Bob Wehr
            Andreas, PA

    1. Trish, Oh so fun I still tent camp. I have tried to talk myself into a tiny camper or small van Rv but just not there yet. Though I find myself looking more and more into it. After camping over 50 years often as a lone female (there are suprisingly a lot of us ladies of all ages out camping in Rv’s and tents.) my husband has never been into camping and he is fine with me on my own. But I’m here today because a lot of the hints apply to tent camping too. I’ve added a lot of special items that could be added to an RV in the future that past 5 years including lithium solar charged batteries. I made my own folding solar panels out of two semi flexible 50W solar panels. The book is light weight easy to use can be hung either direction provides 100Watts and folds flat in it’s heavy duty cordura fabric case. Originally made 3 years ago for two deep cell batteries with boxes for solar charging but they died last year so switched to a single lithium. Worked amazingly well. Kept the battery topped off at 100% daily and nice thing is you could run the dometic freezer that kept us in ice for two campsites and their coolers 24 hours round even during charge time which the deep cell system didn’t allow. I even have a porta potty identical to many of the smaller RV’s have and now won’t go without it. No more tripping over roots etc. to midnight trips to the outhouse. But oh yeah I’m looking at the Lance 1475 for light weight full bath perfect for 1-2 people. And variety of tents would expand to accomodate more guests if need be. Happy Camping Trish hope to see you up here in the NW Rockies of MT.

      1. I have been camping for about 40 years , had no major problems but I use a hardware store plastic spring clamp on the antenna crank when traveling ,then when camping I put the clamp on the stearing wheel , its in the way for driving.. Have fun.

      2. Try a Casita trailer if moving up from tent. 17 ft including tongue. Lightweight, has stove, fridge, sink, microwave, small table chairs, double bed. Small bathroom, too. Fiberglass. We love it! Good for those up to 6 ft tall. Fan, electric heater and AC. Pull it w Toyota highlander. Tows easily. Your non renter hubby may love it!

  6. Be sure to check your route. Some tunnels and road do not allow rv’s or propane tanks. Not fun to figure that out right before you enter, or worse, when the blue lights are behind you. Some of the roads in and around national parks out west are I paved and not great so before you do damage to a rig you don’t own and have to pay for…check the route.

    1. Been RVing for awhile. It’s always a good idea to invest in a good RV GPS. You can, for example, put in your type of RV, it’s highth and how wide and long it is and the GPS will select only routs your rig will fit through and even avoid bad 90 degree narrow turns your rig can’t negotiate. Good Sam puts out a great one that will fit anywhere inside any kind of RV or car or truck. It’s portable so you can use it on any vehicle you like.
      It also has literally all the RV parks in North America and there rules directions from your location and contact information and much much more you will be very happy to have.

      1. We bought the Garmin for trucks and RVs, you put your height and weight of your unit in it, it will redirect you if are coming into construction or a bridge that is to low for you. Great GPS

          1. Thank you for the wonderful, informative article and fabulous and helpful supportive comments!!!

        1. Go to Camping Worlds website or Good Sam’s website you’ll find everything you will need, I also recommend a book titled
          “The Next Exit” this book tells you everything that you might need while on the road at every Exit on ANY Interstate highway your on in the USA. Great Book.

  7. Great ideas and thoughts, for your few mistakes. Actually there are so many mistakes that are made with / by “NEW-BEES” that they can not be counted on fingers and toes. And typically everyone new-bee or not make mistakes. This is why the communications need to be well used for everyone. Sometimes it’s about being to tired, stressed, or even mad. (Hopefully not because of drugs or alcohol). You will have the best time when you are well rested, good spirited, and relaxed. Please do your best NOT to be distracted with anything like family members, food, pets, maps, any electronic devices, or in a rush. Just try to remember that if you are in an RV it’s because you are trying to have enjoyment and to get away from stress. Safe travels….

  8. Remember the sewer hose that came with your RV will not work in all full hook up locations. You will need to have a hose to sewer pipe connector or as we found out a much longer hose

  9. We consider ourselves Newbies still after about a year in our RV, but here are 2 more things to know #1. Plastic, plastic, plastic. Your kitchen moves, so everything slides and bounces. No glass. #2, because of #1, do not take any speed bumps, pot holes or curbs for granted even at 1 mile per hour. There is a slingshot effect that literally will hurl things in every direction.

  10. Another tip for the big riggers is to make sure you know the length limit of the park you are going to. Here in Wisconsin the length limit for our state parks and forests is 35 feet.

  11. Another mistake. When plugging into campground power. Before plugging into the power source. Make sure the
    breaker switch is in the off position, then plug in. I saw a person get shocked because the plug had a crack in
    it and another. When the person plugged in to power they blew their whole electrical system, power surge . Not good.

  12. …and PLEASE, for the love of all things fragrant and bright, do NOT leave your black water tank open when using full hook-ups! By the end of your trip, you will have earned yourself one rock hard, almost-impossible-to-get-rid of, dreaded Poop Pyramid! Please remember- when it comes to the black water tank, water is your friend! LOL

    1. I didn’t bring a portable waste tank. I should have strapped it to the ladder on my RV I was at a site that didn’t have a full hookup. I thought my tank was going to be enough but it wasn’t. Also I now bring a surge protector and use it. I was at a campground that had old boxes and one entire side of the campground took a hit. Luckily I had no damage but I had to replace my electrical cord.

  13. All I can say is “know where your water heater by-pass is and how it works for your camper type” just say’n

  14. Thanks for all the great tips, mirrors in the right spot to see well, I almost took out a car my first trip, my mirrors tended to shift in transit so check them as part of your departure check list. In my defense he was driving too fast weaving in and out of traffic, so watch out for the speed demons. Also I like to stay in the inside lane and let others who feel the need for speed fly by, and gives you only one lane to worry about. I also try to stay off major hi ways and toll roads, the road less traveled is much less stressful in a big rig.

  15. I dropped the ball on storing the satellite dish. Luckily it wasn’t completely demolished when we hit a low hanging tree but, it was an expensive lesson nonetheless.

  16. We are new bees and we bought slap braclets and write everything we need to do before leaving an RV park we slap them around the steering wheel as we do 1 thing we take the bracket off then we know if we have done everything course tly

  17. Never be afraid of asking another Rvers for help if you don not how to do something we have all been in your spot before its call experience by doing. Just this weekend had to help someone who didn’t know how to get his sewer hose out of the bumper, it was just stuck.

  18. My husband and I have been looking to buy an RV and I loved your tips on the best way to avoid mistakes when buying an RV. I really liked your advice to take a test drive and pay attention, not just to the way it drives but also to the turning radius, overhead clearance, and trying your hand at backing the RV to see how it handles. We will have to remember this when we starting looking at different RVs.

    1. Rachel if you and your hubby buy a rig KNOW matter the type or size take the first weekend (better to take 4-5day) and camp at a Campground very close to home. You will learn about your RV, you will make a list of things you need to add, and you will have the opportunity to meet people with experience that can help you out. Happy camping hope to see you on the road.

  19. Thanks for the tips on mistakes that you should avoid when buying an RV and traveling with an RV. You definitely want to have a paper map with you just in case your GPS or other electronics fail, so you still know where you are going. It’s probably a good idea to bring things like books and what not so you have something to do if your power goes out.

  20. We are newborns to RVing. We so desperately wanted to be able to go for the weekends and/or a week or so to visit kids/grandchildren, we bought a used RV and haven’t a clue how to do anything. We don’t know how to turn on the power/generator or plug in let alone leveling. So my suggestion to all who want to start RVing is make sure you know something and if you don’t, ASK!! We didn’t even ask. Now big beast in our driveway and haven’t a clue what to do with it.

    1. I suggest going to an RV repair/Supply location and pay them to test it and give you a walk through. We did a walk through in our new trailer and we learned a lot, and it was our 3rd RV. Have fun!

    2. The place you bought it from, go back and have them show you. Pinterest has boards about RVs. We left in ours and who helped us the most was other campers. Find a friend who has one and have them help you with a checklist in the order you hook up and a checklist for leaving. You learn as you go with your first one. Enjoy

    3. We bought ours used several years ago from local dealer. (We made the leap from tents to a “fiver”, skipping the in between steps). The walkabout was good for starters, but realised quickly that we needed owners manual. The first was the one from the manufacturer – downloaded/printed via internet. It even had a couple checklists, which we’ve updated as we learn new ways. It’s also fairly generic, so we’ve made specific notes in it – eg. the water/waste section now has notes on tanks capacities. We keep this in a binder with others we’ve added as needed — like for the hitch, solar panels / charging system we’ve added, fridge, toilet (had to fix flush valve once), &c.

  21. I just accomplished my life long dream of owning an RV and I am in love with her ????. I named her Classy and you guessed it she’s a Class-C, my parents can’t believe I’m the one behind the wheel. I use to buy a lot of stuff from Craigslist and got extremely comfortable driving a huge
    U-haul truck. My advice to anyone that doesn’t want to spend the money renting an RV is to rent a U-Haul big truck and see how comfortable you feel. It’s a lot cheaper than renting an RV and it will give you an idea of what it feels like behind the wheel of a 20 foot vehicle. My Jayco Eagle is 28 feet long and sits on a Ford E-350 Chassis and she is perfect for me . I spent a lot of time in my driveway and just had our first adventure and I can’t wait for many more. Thanks for all the great advice.

    1. This is great advice! I want to try driving a big truck before I buy my future home Class C, but the cost of renting a rig around Seattle is what I’d planned to put down on a purchase! I drove a deuce ‘n a half in the Army, but that was a while ago.

  22. Back to stuff moving around while driving…I’ve been wondering about buying some little spring rods for some of the cabinets and the fridge. Thoughts?

    1. I did that for my glasses, I bought nice plastic glasses and non breakable dishes . For the dishes to not rattle I bought these plate pads that are rubber, the spring rod helped greatly.

    2. Get the nonstop mats and cut them to size…put them under and between plates or whatever else you don’t want rattling or moving. If you can’t find the real thin nonstop mats yoga mats will work if you cut them to size.

  23. we do our FIRST camp out with the new RV in OUR DRIVEWAY….it be amazing how many little things you forget to throw in….easy to run into the house and get them… second tip given to me by some FULL TIMERS;
    when you get your new rig, full the black water tank with water and RED food coloring…then go to a dump station and practice emptying your black & grey water holding tank(s). red colored water is an easier mistake to clean up then “the other stuff”

    1. This “red water” tip is pure genius. Don’t forget to flush the toilet bowl water after the water is disconnected before moving the rig (less slosh).
      De rigor:
      Laminated pre-departure checklists (like an airline pilot!), secure EVERYTHING, plan route, make as many reservations as possible in advance, have an RV road service provider like CoachNet which can help talk you through issues, and DO invest in a heavy duty sewer line with a rack and a cap – good drainage and deodorant/enzyme pods are essential.

  24. Have been RV almost 2 years in a 30’
    Class A. We are thinking about towing a car. Any suggestions on what is a good car to tow

    1. We spent nearly a year finding a car we would like to tow. Ecwryrine we saw one st a campground we annoyed the owner with questions. Jeeps seem the most popular. Lots of Fiat Pops. All sorts of stuff…almost all standard.
      You have to decide if you want to trailer, dolly tow, or flat tow (all four wheels on the road). We wanted to flat to an automatic. We bought a 2018 Chevy Sonic LT RS. After about $4000 of Blue Ox tow gear we have a great little car to toe. She follows along very nicely .
      No matter what and how you tow, do your research, do your research, and do your research. A 2018 Sonic RS can be flat towed but a 2017 cannot. Ask the service department at the car dealership. They can tell by VIN what can be towed.
      When you tow with a Class C or A, remember you can’t see your “toad” behind you.
      We have a full time rear facing camera that looks back at our Sonic and the traffic coming up behind us. We have the monitor on the dashboard where we can watch it.

  25. >Mistake #4: Forgetting to do a walk-around before leaving an RV site

    Ha, it only takes one time of one of your exterior cabinets emptying itself as you pull away to never forget to do a walk around ever again. I know from experience 😛

  26. Wife and I are researching new class c rvs and would like to know what books or mags to get to find out the best and safest and well built for the value .

    1. I would love suggestions to retired lady alone getting ready to buy RV would love recommendations. Class C Is what I want on the smaller side just me and my little dog. I’m looking at the conquest I like the layout of the smaller one because I want a full bathroom and walk around room by the bed

  27. LISTS! I have been planning my RVing for years. I make lists. In fact I am now copying and pasting ideas from this site. I have lists with items I will need along with photos and prices. I have a list of Hacks. DIY ideas that are fun to do and make sense. Check List after check list. I make check lists in my Memo program so I can add the boxes to check off. I save Maps and Phone lists on my tablet in case something should happen to my phone. I like to over prepare, or atleast have backup copies of info. Then all info is copied to my laptop and a hardcopy is printed. Making copies helps me remember. And with my memory that’s a good thing.

  28. I’m reading this as I’m spending my first night in our new RV. It’s not level and we are feeling it. Should have read this last night, lol. I would also say hook up water at home before you take out your RV for the first time, especially if it’s used. We didn’t do that and found a leak in our sink when we got here. No biggie but would have been nice to fix before hand.

  29. I’ve read through most of these and agree with everything. After my second 6 month stint in an RV park in AZ, I pack kitchen items small and lightweight. Two changes of sheets, etc. When getting ready to leave a park, I start in the bedroom and look at absolutely everything that could cause me problems when I close or open the slides. I go room by room and I do it myself. Don’t let others help or if you do, be sure and follow up.. For instance, someone was going to drop the table leaf and forgot. Once you’ve done it a few times, it will be a piece of cake! Enjoy your RV’ing. We have a 2017 40’Cardinal and love it and all the people that we have met along the way!

  30. I especially found the tip about bringing paper maps with you, especially if you headed for somewhere you haven’t been. I find myself losing cell signal when I need it most. But this tip has really helped me recently.

  31. I thought it was very helpful that you mentioned some of the tools you will want to have for some rv repair needs. I’ve been wanting to get an rv to camp in with my family and wanted to know some things to do and some things to avoid. I’d love to try renting an rv and see how we like it.

  32. Before I bought my camper I spent hours watching tutorials on camping on YouTube. You can learn everything you need to know there and even get lists for setting up and taking down. One important item to remember before leaving your campsite is to turn off the propane gas at the tanks.

    1. I am not sure if this was brought up, but I get excited about our next adventure reading these posts and want to share our biggest mistake and hope if can help others. Before purchasing our own pull behind, we rented one and had a great time setting up our deer lease for the upcoming season, here in Texas. As we are loading up and hooking up, we hear a pop in the the back of the camper. Oops, we hadn’t removed the stabilizer blocks and lifted the stabilizers. Sure enough, the back stabilizers had just buckled and one even broke. A $1,500 mistake we will not forget. Checklists are key…Happy Camping everyone!

  33. We just started rving full-time in January of this year. Our biggest problem is realizing this is not an automobile! Don’t forget. Slow wide turns just like the truckers use !

  34. There is a slight lag in the GPS distance for the upcoming turns so sometimes I get a last minute instruction. I have learned not to react quickly with this 30,000 pound vehicle. Just go around the block or into a large parking lot to get back to the turn. Much safer-they are not sports cars! Remember, It’s all part of the adventure.

  35. I appreciate the tip you offered about test driving an RV or camper before finalizing your purchase. My wife and I would like to drive across the country on a grand road trip next month, and a camper seems like a great way to do that. We’ll be sure to look further into our options for getting one and test driving it in the future.

  36. I made the mistake of not locking the fridge door and securing the coffee pot.Rookie mistakes but caused me to make sure each time i got underway everything is secure.

  37. Download Google Earth and check out the campgrounds location. It’s not unusual to place a campground close to a railroad track. In 2014 on our road trip to Glacier National Park, my husband and I stayed at a campground, and I counted 13 trains that came through that night each time blowing its whistle. No sleep that night.

  38. It is better to have a travel trailer than an RV.
    Watch the RV videos on YouTube.
    Have a essential list in your trailer that you check before and after you leave for your trip. (The list grow all the time that you travel)
    Have two pair of keys.
    Ensure to keep the tools that belong to the trailer stay in the trailer all the time.
    When the trailer is at home it must be plug, you must have a 30 or 50 amp plug at home to do so.
    Do your homework….
    Do not believe in the salesman of the trailer store…
    Took us a year before we bought our trailer .
    We were prepared for the adventure.
    One thing if your site don’t have sewer tap watch out how you use the water in the trailer. The tank in the trailer is not that big.
    We still learning.
    Don’t stress enjoy your trip….

  39. I may have miss this suggestion but… Watch your tail swing if you have to do any sort of u-turn. A lot of new RV drivers don’t realize how far the back hangs from the rear axle. That tail swing can get you into a pickle if you have to do a u-turn.

  40. We have a checklist we follow each time we break camp. Step by step by step. We flat tow a car do we have a checklist for that to. Takes us about a half hour to be ready to roll but it’s worth taking the time.
    We might add a few things. When we park in a site we sanitize both ends of our fresh water hose and the supply spigot. Our fresh water hose is white and the hose we use for rinsing our waste hose is grey. The grey hose is stowed in the waste water compartment and our white hose is in a fresh water compartment.
    Before we power up the RV we test the camp power point. We use a surge protector, plug it in, turn the power on and check the lights on the protector. Then turn off the breaker and hook up the RV. Then power on .
    We also changed our compartment locks to barrel locks.

  41. Totally agree on everything, but gotta really agree on paper maps. GPS has tried to send me down some terrible roads.

  42. Having read all of the comments out of the USA ( God Bless America) then look at Australia we live in the Indian Ocean side where Western Australia is as big as Texas and California combined, the population of WA is just over two million of which 1.998 million live in the city of Perth ,traveling over here is NOT for the feint hearted we have driven for hour ( in the Outback) and never spotted another vehicle not even a kangaroo, you need to carry …everything …and even more a Sat phone a radio and plenty of mechanical knowledge should the inevitable happen . Those travelers that hire a RV (Maui /Apollo etc) are very brave people as they often go out unprepared and never enough time to go where they want to go , oh once last comment never ever drive at night over here as that is when the Kangaroos, Emus , wild cattle come out to play … have fun Gudday

  43. My husband and I recently borrowed his parents’ fifth wheel for our first RV adventure. We should have read this post before doing it, but I’m happy to say we did everything on your list and had all the recommended items, thanks to his dad stocking the RV with tools, a level, duct tape, etc. Unfortunately, none of the prep helped us avoid a blown RV tire (we later discovered the tires were over 8 years old…), but otherwise I’d call our first time a success!

  44. If you go through customs and they go through your rig, check before you pull away that they closed all your cabinets! We assumed they did and by the time we stopped again everything was all over the floor!

  45. If you’ve never driven a large vehicle or towed a trailer, please find a huge empty parking lot and practice, practice, practice before hitting the road. It is a very different type of driving and you cannot maneuver near as fast as an automobile.

  46. Our worst newbie mistake was parking our Motorhome in a resort for a month, thinking we could let the black/grey water hose stay open to the sewer. (I hear you laughing!)

  47. We owned a truck camper for many years so were familiar with most of the systems involved in an RV but recently bought a Class A which really is a new experience. Once we felt confident and ready to travel our maiden voyage included 3 local parks over 3 nights. My wife and I wanted to practice setup and take down, using checklists, navigating, etc… practice practice practice..

  48. Make sure your awning has some kind of locking mechanism. Our first RV was a used 1996 Hornet Class C and we knew absolutely nothing about RVs. While driving on I-90 across South Dakota in 40mph cross wind gusts, our awning unfurled, ripped, and twisted the hardware. We had to detach the awning from the RV which required my husband to stand on the roof on the side of the interstate in those strong winds. What a harrowing experience! Our new RV has an electric awning with an interlock that the dealer said couldn’t come loose. But you can buy awning locks if you need one. I highly recommend it!

  49. Since good functional lighting in your outdoor living space, especially at the picnic table and grill, don’t forget your EZ-UP Camping & Patio Lights which one clamps onto a table and the other one is a tripod style and is mobile. Good lighting provides ambient, task and accent lighting that dramatically enhance the outdoor living space.

  50. Take a “test run” at a campground not too far from home. Plan a couple of nights and see who it goes to get the feel for your new camper or RV. You will know what you need then.

  51. This is a great web site. I have owned a Class C RV with my late husband and have just purchased a travel trailer with my son. I also have rented RVs twice with only inexperienced ladies as travel companions. I felt fairly confident about this new adventure. However, I can’t tell you how many good tips I read, and I read them all. Many were very informative. Makes me realize how blessed I’ve been in not experiencing some of the problems outlined. Ignorance is bliss, but I don’t want to push the bliss part any longer, so I am going to follow all the safety precautions outlined above. Many of the comments were very entertaining as well. Easy to identify with the mishap of other RVers as I experienced many of the same things. Only thing I could add would be to not forget to include the A/C unit to the height of your RV. We drove our Class C under a carport over a circle driveway when dropping off our dogs for boarding. The RV fit but the A/C did not. There were water sprinklers hanging from the roof. We broke them off and water came pouring down and all the fire alarms went off outside and inside. The manager didn’t know how to turn off the water or the alarms so we had to wait for the fire department. Besides being totally embarrassed by the kaos we caused, it also coast quite a bit in repairs🤩

  52. We’ve decided in a smallish RV that we can pull our Jeep with. Any suggestions on make, model, type for 2 future RV amatures?

  53. Our first camper was a Palomino pop-up that slid into the back of our pickup truck We acquired dozens of stickers for the back, and learned so much in 4 seasons of travel all over the Southwest US. This year, we sold it and bought a 19’ travel trailer with a bath, shower, and toilet inside. For the two of us, it’s perfect and we don’t have to trek 1/2 mile for a wash house anymore! Big lessons learned; put a checklist on the passenger’s windshield visor. Change the locks on the outside storage bins. Bring a good 12” level. Keep your grey/black water hose and equipment in a separate box and stow it in a garbage bags. Never use your water hose for anything else! Save money by buying a used rv or travel trailer.
    A chunk of dry ice in your fridge is really helpful when temps outside get over 90. Be on “island time”….you’re on vacation, so enjoy it and relax.

  54. We are seasoned travelers and are currently on our second RV trip (one way from Florida to NY). Some of our tips:

    Before your trip, download the Google map for all of your locations so you have your maps even if you don’t have cell coverage.

    If you’re renting an RV be sure to bring a door mat for outside the camper door to help keep dirt and debris out of the cabin.

    A bucket is a necessity for doing dishes… you’ll want to do dishes outside in the bucket to keep your gray water tank from filling too fast.

    Bring lots of disposable plastic gloves for dealing with the tanks.

    When planning your meals, make sure they can be prepared in the camper or on the outdoor fire. We had a couple rainy days and some fire bans and couldn’t cook outside… all my meals required cooking over the fire and we ended up eating sandwiches when the fire wasn’t available.

    If you can, bring a cast iron skillet for cooking outside. The cook wear provided by the RV company isn’t made for over fire cooking. Some portable fire/outdoor cooking utensils also help a lot.

    The fridge is really small. Bring a soft cooler to store your drinks and save the fridge space for food.

    As Samantha mentions, don’t even think about going out without a reservation! I researched sites at Campendium to make sure we had a good idea of the site layout and privacy. They usually have a link to the reservation system.

    Hope this helps!

  55. Hello all!
    First timer here with a question.I am wondering if we can hike to nearby popular trails after we parked in the campgrounds?
    How do I know if the how trail has a parking for RV? Most popular trails that I know, i dont see RV parking so, I’m wondering how it works because we love to hike

  56. We bought a first time camper in march 2019. I had looked at them years. We both had items we couldn’t do without. Two sleeping areas. I have the jimmy legs & my hubbie snores badly. He had to have a couch & I had to have a stove. I will say our first time….we did run ourselves out of gas. Not b/c we didn’t watch the gas guage….we did. However the navigation system said we had 3 gas stations ahead. 1st gas station was outta business. 2nd was closed on Sundays and the 3rd was out of business. So we run outta gas in the panhandle of Oklahoma. With one house. I asked my husband about a gas can….he said he didn’t think to pack one. Now to be fair….I am the planner. He didn’t think we would need it. I’m also the extrovert & I love meeting new people but not under these circumstances. Walked to this house. Had a real nice gentleman who was 89 years old agree to help us. My saving grace? He had military stuff everywhere & I’m a navy brat! He had a gas can filled with gas. We of course paid & thanked him profusely. Our next time through we visited him & got his address where I drop him a card now & then. We never go without a gas can & lesson learned we never allow ourselves to get lower than the last quarter tank. Who would have thought that 3 gas stations wouldn’t be available in a 20 mile line but they weren’t! We have fallen in love with the camper life…so much so….my husband upped his retirement date… 24 months we will be selling our home & in an RV full time…..traveling & enjoying ourselves! I can’t wait to start our next big adventure!

  57. After 22 years in the army and 17 years as a parts manager in the rv business, due to our bad backs we decided to sell the house and move to a condo. Two weeks later we bought a trailer then a truck. Best decision we have ever made. During the past 4 years of traveling this wonderful country we have met so many wonderful people. Suggestions park the rv in driveway, with the kids, if you have them. Declare the house off limits, you are going on a vacation. Pack everything you THINK you might need, don’t forget food, medicine, pet supplies etc. we lived in the trailer for a week. Then we went a park for another week. Decided what we had to have with us and kept what we needed. Sold the house in 3 hours and hit the road. Like people have said on this site. Fuel we get below half a tank we start looking. We only travel an average of 150 miles a day. There is no point in driving, in our opinion, more it is stressful enough without adding being exhausted. Make reservations. We travel one day, explore a day or more depending on location. You can setup meet your new neighbors and have a couple of hours of our time. We don’t have a plan we look at what’s coming up and go from there. When you leave the park I strongly suggest you dump the black and gray tanks before leaving just in case you have to dry camp. Split the chores if you are a couple. I make the bed, do the laundry, mop the floors and help with the dishes. There is no reason one person should do everything. I could make this into a book but during our 4 years we have only met one person that was not friendly and helpful. Last suggestion just go and have a wonderful time. Read the comments posted and I think most of your questions will be answered if not just ask your neighbors. Safe travels. Enjoy life

  58. 1. a 6 foot ladder, strapped to your rig. multiple time we or our neighbor campers needed one.
    2. 300 miles a day, max.
    otherwise you’ll just be beat from the mental exhaustion from dealing with drivers who think you can stop on a dime or evade their lane-changing stupidity.
    3. brakes on your toad- real important for those grades that approach 9 percent, and also for the drivers in item 2 above.
    4. don’t trust your gps.
    we loath anything that puts us 12 miles from the campsite in the middle of the lava tubes
    (some of you know exactly where that is)
    we also have strong feelings about anything called a ” frontage road”
    (some more of you will understand the irony in that!!!)
    but other than that, every other suggestion that has been posted is worth it’s weight in sanity.

  59. I have a small erase board where I write the name of the campground and site number. If there is an emergency during the night you don’t want to be hunting for this info. We changed out the door lock for a keypad. So nice not to have to carry the key with you on a hike. Changed the locks on the storage bays to barrel locks. Made several sizes of microwave bowl cozies. Safer to remove hot food from the microwave which is above eye level. They pad and silence rattle while driving. Always try to have things which have more than 1 use

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9 Mistakes That Newbie RV Campers Make



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