The first thing new RVers realize is their RV is a little longer than the family sedan. While the family sedan is easy to fuel up at most fuel stations, negotiating a motorized RV or trailer (with a combined length up to 60 feet in length or possibly longer) requires a little skill and planning.
The skill part can be learned by hands on experience (hopefully without any seriously negative consequences), however the following information can greatly help with the planning part.
The first thing to learn is where to fill up near your home before leaving for a trip. For instance, those with trailers have it easy as they can fuel up the tow vehicle without the RV. Owners of motorhomes don’t have that luxury. As a result, they`ll need to find a station with easy access.
The trickier part is to know where to stop for fuel in an unfamiliar area. Typically, you will want to locate a “travel center” verses a mainstream gas station. Travel centers normally cater to automobiles and semi trucks. They are designed to accommodate the length and limited maneuverability of larger vehicles. Many will have designated spacious service islands for RVs with an adequate turning radius. These dedicated lanes offer gasoline, and diesel too.
Travel centers also offer other services such as dump stations, propane sales and potable water faucets. Places like Flying J and Pilot Travel Centers also allow RVers to stay the night for free. In addition, most have a convenience store, restrooms and restaurant for weary road warriors.
Those traveling toll expressways in the eastern half of the United States will find “Travel Plazas” conveniently in the median of the highway. This allows easy on/off access and many of the same services as travel centers.
However, the words “travel center” or “travel plazas” do not guarantee 100 percent easy access and maneuverability. Here’s where a little time and planning can really help. By knowing your fuel capacity and your average miles per gallon you can determine in advance where you will need fuel.
First, determine where the travel centers/plazas are located along your route. One recommendation is Trip Wizard to find gas service centers (and RV parks). It determine what stations are in the area where you will require fuel. They will also be able to tell you the price and if diesel is available. Once you have found a travel center in the area where you will need fuel, enter the location into Google Earth. Then, zoom in and take a look via satellite at the access points. You will see how much room there is to maneuver around the fuel pumps.
Next, click on the street view setting on for a ground level view of the access from the street, noting any tall curbs or other obstructions. Now, you have all the information you need to safely stop, fuel and meet the other needs of your RV in one convenient location.
Learning the ins and outs of travel centers / plazas, just another adventure in RVing!.
Oh, and if you learned some of your maneuvering skills the hard way, please share using the comment box below, so that others might not repeat them.
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.