14 RV Travel Tips From Seasoned RVers
If you’re new to RVing, these RV travel tips will make a huge difference in your camping experience. If you’re a seasoned RVer, you may have already learned some of these things the hard way, but there may be some tips you had not yet considered.
1. Plan ahead
It is always less stressful when you have a plan and you are executing it. When we first started RVing, the only tools we had were large paper maps, a notebook, and the Woodall’s Campground Directory. These were crude and ineffective trip planning tools, but it was all we had.
Now you can use RV Trip Wizard, Campground Reviews, and the RV LIFE App with RV-Safe GPS to help you plan everything from how far you can travel comfortably in one day, to where to get gas, how to find RV camping resources that are part of your membership clubs, and what route to take to avoid unsafe roadways.
2. Shorten your travel distance to a comfortable drive
There was a time, many years ago, when we would drive our 33’ motorhome for 12 hours straight. We were weekend warriors then and were only able to cobble together a few extra days for a bit longer trip on rare occasions.
When the 4th of July fell on a Wednesday, we celebrated because we generally would expand that into a 5-day weekend. On those occasions we’d try to get as far away as possible, but that meant we were driving long distances over many consecutive hours.
Fortunately, I was younger then and I found driving the RV to be about as relaxing as driving a car, but looking back on it now, I have to admit, there were many times I should not have done that because it just wasn’t safe.
Everyone has their own threshold of driving tolerance. For some who can get on the road early, it may be 400 miles. For others, it may only be 200 miles or maybe you want to limit your day by drive time, not miles.
RV Trip Wizard lets you do just that. You can plan your drive time by distance or hours and set distance rings radiating out from your current campsite, so you know about where you’ll be at the end of any travel day. You can download the maps and info so even if you’re high in the mountains with no cell service you still have your trip information.
Regardless of what your personal preferences are, you should limit the time you spend behind the wheel on travel days.
3. Get your chores done early to get an earlier start
When you know you have a travel day coming up, get as many of your chores done ahead of time as you can. Get the laundry washed, folded and put away, the refrigerator stocked up, boil some eggs, make your sandwiches, get your truck gassed up before you hook-up to the trailer, and pick-up and stow the gear around your campsite, so on travel days you can get as early of a start as possible.
4. Watch the weather
One of our top RV travel tips is to watch the weather on your travel days. If the temperature plummets and the roads are icy or frosty, you may need to alter your travel plans.
Don’t take chances on snowy, icy, or frosty roads. It’s hard enough to drive a car in these conditions, but having the extra weight of an RV can make those conditions extremely dangerous.
Don’t be caught off-guard. Even heavy rain and wind can be dangerous when driving an RV or pulling one. Get several good weather apps and study each one to see which one most reliably predicts the weather wherever you are.
One app may say the winds will be mild while two other apps report high wind warnings. After using these apps for some time, you’ll get a sense of which ones are typically more accurate.
Don’t get discouraged because they don’t always agree. When one app reported dangerous winds in the Grapevine outside of LA and another reported mild wind conditions, we actually called the State Police to get their real world driving conditions before we drove our rig into hazardous crosswinds.
5. Stay south of the snow zone
By planning your travels using RV LIFE’s RV Trip Wizard, you can plan to be south of the snow zone year-round. If you’re a full-time RVer, then being a snowbird (going south in the winter and north in the summer) makes sense. You may want to spend your summers up north to enjoy the milder temperatures and lovely places to camp, but even birds know when it’s time to head south.
Don’t wait too long and get caught in snowy conditions. It makes it much harder to travel after the weather turns cold and it can be hazardous and uncomfortable to be in an RV in extremely cold weather.
6. Know when to postpone your travel plans
Driving an RV or pulling a trailer or 5th wheel in extremely windy conditions can be both stressful and dangerous. In our travels, we have seen several rigs on their side because of the wind.
Recently, a truck pulling a trailer was forced off the side of a bridge over a 200-foot canyon on I-84 in Idaho. The trailer was lying on its side near the edge but still on the bridge. The truck and its occupants were completely off the bridge and were dangling precariously with only the safety chain between the truck and trailer holding them there.
The couple and their two dogs were successfully rescued after the longest hour of their lives, as they dangled helplessly hundreds of feet above the river and wondered if the safety chain would hold. This accident was the result of the strong winds blowing across the bridge.
I’ve driven our motorhome in heavy winds and frankly it’s exhausting. It feels like you’re continually fighting to maintain lane control and every overpass and passing truck creates more challenges. If you can postpone your travel plans and let the heavy winds blow on by, I’d recommend it. At the very least, if you must drive in strong winds, think about shortening your trip, and at the very least….slow down.
7. Know your RV dimensions
The new online apps, especially the ones from RV LIFE, have taken most of the stress out of planning, navigating, and locating suitable stopping points in your journey. Now with RV-Safe GPS, your specific RV dimensions are calculated into your route planning. You get turn-by-turn real time navigational information which will get you exactly where you want to go.
If you want to experience the frustration of just using paper maps, turn all your apps off and just reference whatever paper maps you happen to have in your rig. You’ll quickly discover that paper maps don’t have all the roads, just the major roads, and figuring out what exit to take is more of a guessing game than a certainty.
I’ve done it both ways, and frankly I can’t figure out how we ever got to our destination before the creation of RV Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App. These aren’t just handy in an RV, they are a necessity.
8. Read campground reviews
The same thing can be said for Campground Reviews. This RV LIFE website goes hand in hand with RV Trip Wizard. You can see all the campgrounds along your route near your next stopping point, which is calculated by either distance or drive time.
You can even sort these parks by your preference for memberships, amenities, or park types, etc. Then by referencing the integrated Campground Reviews, you can see what other RVers have experienced in these campgrounds. Before all this was available, we used the big Woodall’s Campground Directory as our only guide to finding a campground in an unfamiliar location.
The problem was the ads were about ½” high and 3” long. All that could be listed was the name, address, and phone number for the campground. But back then, cell phone hadn’t yet been invented, so calling a campground from the road while you were driving to that stopping point was not practical.
We would pick a likely campground based on nothing more than its name, try to find it by using our paper map, which often turned into a frustrating exchange between the navigator and the driver. When we finally arrived at a campground, we learned quickly to park the motorhome on the outside of the campground and walk into (and sometimes through) the park to see if our 33’ motorhome would fit and if there was room enough to turn around without removing the toad.
Now with Campground Reviews, you can read all about the park, amenities, interior roads, any surprises on the road as you approach the park, and so much more. With one-touch dialing on your cell phone, you can call ahead and reserve a space, and then navigate right to the park without any battles between the navigator and the driver.
9. Travel in the daylight
This one RV travel tip will eliminate so much stress on travel days and if you’ll make it a habit, you’ll also be much safer as you travel. Just make it a rule: Always drive in the daylight. It’s easier, safer, and more enjoyable.
If you need to cover more distance, then leave earlier. Driving in the daylight will greatly reduce the likelihood that you’ll hit an animal in the roadway, or encounter a drunk in your lane. If you have trouble with your rig and you’re broken down on the side of the road, it’s much safer in the daylight, and you’re more likely to find the help you need quicker during business hours.
We used to drive long into the night, and I am amazed that we did not get in wreck doing so. Limited visibility, animals in the road, tired distracted drivers, and fatigue, all add up to an accident waiting to happen.
Do yourself and your family a favor and make the commitment to drive your RV only during daylight hours. When you arrive at your destination, it’s easier to navigate within the park and it’s easier to set-up your rig if you can see.
10. Take breaks from driving
Another travel tip many seasoned RVers employ is to take breaks often during your drive time. Just a 10-minute break to stretch your legs, go to the restroom, and get a snack, will make the drive time more relaxing.
Additionally, I would advise you to eat a light lunch. Don’t skip it. The extra fuel will keep you alert, but don’t eat a large heavy lunch because the blood in your body will flow more to your stomach than your brain and that can make you a little groggy. Eat a wholesome light lunch to be as alert as possible.
11. Have a Plan B
Use RV Trip Wizard to plan your trip, but don’t be too rigid. Have a Plan B. Maybe you experience engine trouble or can’t get all the way to your desired destination before sunset. Maybe you encounter strong winds and need to tuck in somewhere to wait it out. By being flexible and having a Plan B, you will reduce your travel stress.
Everything doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would, and knowing that you’re flexible enough to adapt to whatever challenge you confront will help you enjoy your journey.
12. Keep vehicles in excellent repair
This seems obvious but when you follow RVers on Instagram or Facebook, you’re constantly reading about people who have some difficulty with their rigs, from blown-out tires, to worn-out wheel bearings, to broken hoses, and onboard fires. The more you invest in preventative maintenance, the better off you’ll be out on the highway.
Don’t ignore the basics of oil changes, brake jobs, battery replacement, and certainly get all those malfunctions that just pop up fixed as quickly as possible. The more confidence you have in your vehicles, the less stress you’ll feel on the road.
This goes for both the vehicle you drive and the vehicles you tow. Keep track of all your RV and vehicle maintenance with an online tool like Maintain My RV, which also sends timely reminders when important maintenance is due.
13. Keep distractions (pets/kids/radio) under control
Driving requires a high degree of attention, but driving an RV or pulling one requires even more attention, so you need to control the internal distractions in order to focus on your driving. Pets wandering around inside your motorhome or kids crying or fighting with one another can be very distracting. Even the radio pulls your attention from outside to inside your vehicle and all of that can diminish your perception of dangerous conditions that are developing in the traffic flow.
If you travel with pets, confine them. If you have children, give them things to keep them busy, and tune the radio to something that you can relegate to a less active level of attention.
14. Don’t drive drunk or drowsy
It seems like this would not need to be said, but unfortunately some people think a little alcohol won’t affect them and certainly pharmaceutical drugs will be okay, but that is not always true. Any amount of alcohol will alter your vision and some prescription drugs are as bad as illegal narcotics. All of them can slow your reaction time, dull your perception, and generally render you unfit for driving.
If you need prescription drugs, can someone else in your party do the driving, or can you drive for a short time before taking your drugs, or can your doctor prescribe a drug that would be safe for travel days?
All these RV travel tips may seem obvious, but remember to follow these simple guidelines faithfully. If you compromise on drive time, or drive after dark on rare occasions, or let the dogs bark and bounce around while you’re driving, you may be putting yourself and everyone else in danger.
For more RV travel tips, check out this video from EnjoyTheJourney.Life:
The many RV forums online are also full of useful RV travel tips. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and much more. There are also RV-specific forums such as Air Forums, Jayco Owners, and Forest River Forums.
I am an author and writer, my partner is a web designer. We are full time RVers traveling around the US and Canada. We’ve been RVing for over 20 years and we’ve traveled more than 130,000 miles in an RV.