A Guide for First Time RVers: What You Need to Know to Get Started

My husband and I bought our RV in November 2021. While it was smart to buy an RV on the off season, it meant we had to wait 5 months until RV season started! 

We did a TON of research prior to our first RV season. We wanted to make sure we were well prepared and knew as much as possible. 

Here are the biggest lessons we learned as first time RVers: 

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Popular Campgrounds Fill Up Quickly

But there are always other options.

I was really concerned when we first started that we’d need to make reservations way ahead of time for every campground and we found that really wasn’t necessary. 

However, some campgrounds DO fill up quickly. This year we wanted to grab an oceanfront campsite at Bar Harbor KOA. When I went to book this campground in January, there was only one more oceanfront site, for the entire summer left. We found certain state parks and national parks also fill up incredibly quickly. It’s important to have a general idea of where you want to go, knowing you might not always get your #1 choice. 

You Travel Slower in an RV

When you’re planning a roadtrip, you’ll typically use google maps to determine the distances between destinations. But if you have an RV it’s best to add a few hours. It’s best to go slower and take your time. 

On long drive days we make sure to stop every 150 miles or so to stretch our legs, use the bathroom, and let the dogs run around.

Start Small and Local to Gain Confidence

We were a bit nervous for our first trip. We weren’t sure if we would know what we were doing (hint, we didn’t!). Plus, in case we didn’t hook up the RV right or had something go wrong on the road, we wanted to be closer to home. 

Read More: 7 Best Tools for Your Next Thrilling RV Road Trip

Make Sure You Have a Good Travel Partner

Great communication is key to a good RV trip. 

Before we arrive at the campground we make a game plan. It’s important to know who is going to do what. 

We use walkie talkies when backing up the RV. 

We make sure to talk about our budget for each trip ahead of time so we’re on the same page. 

Find a travel partner who enjoys the same type of trip as you. 

Do you want to wake up early to catch the sunrise?

Are you planning to spend time with friends late into the night?

Do you like to visit cities or state parks?

My husband is the BEST travel partner!

You Save a lot of Money Making Your Own Meals

Our favorite RV breakfast ideas: Overnight oats, oatmeal, smoothies, breakfast sandwiches. 

Our favorite RV lunch ideas: Classic PB and J, chicken and hummus wraps, tuna melts, BLTs.

Our favorite RV dinner ideas: Local favorites (steak in South Dakota, Maine lobsters, etc). 

Any meal tastes 10x better when you eat it outside!

Track Your Expenses

We created an excel spreadsheet to help track our rv season planning. During the trip we use a simple notebook to track daily spending including gas, food, activities, and any souvenirs.

There’s an RVing Style for Everyone

When you look around a campground, you’ll see every sort of RV you can imagine. And not only that, but you’ll also see a wide variety of people that RV. This is great news for you because you are found to meet interesting people wherever you go!

  • Luxury RVers
  • Full time RVing families
  • Solo female van lifers
  • Retirees
  • Young couples

Read More: How to Pick Your Next Memorable Vacation Destination

Camping at Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia

Plan for the Worst and Hope for the Best

  • You may get sick. We spent 2 days exploring Nova Scotia before we both got Covid. 
  • Things will break. On our trip to South Dakota a window broke, our sewer hose got disconnected, and our dining table kept coming loose. 
  • You’ll get lost. Bring a paper map as a backup. This is our favorite road atlas.
  • The weather won’t be good
  • Your neighbors might be noisy, bring a noise machine! Trust us. When we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in New York, I swear we were right next to a racetrack. Since that night, we have never slept without our sound machine. 
Lesson learned: Don’t try to bring mace into Canada.

Be Prepared

  • Always have a first aid kit. I would also bring your preferred choice for common illnesses like headaches, upset stomachs, heartburn, etc. 
  • Have enough tools to fix your RV, even if you don’t know how to, you can usually find someone at your campground who does. 
  • Wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, the correct drill bits for various RVs

Roadside assistance packages (make sure it includes a trailer)

A Few Helpful Products We Love!

There were so many RV products we thought we needed. Here are a few of the products that were actually useful!

Research Your RV Specifically

There are a lot you can fix on your own with basic knowledge and the right tools. Then if needed you can follow up with a professional shop. We did this when our window broke in South Dakota.

What tends to fail on your RV?

What should you know about?

We wanted to know everything there was to know about our Forest River RPOD 192.

Know Your Towing Vehicle’s Abilities

  • What is your vehicle’s towing capacity, payload capacity?
  • Do you need to modify your vehicle to make it better at towing? We only had a Toyota Tacoma so we made a few adjustments including a trailer brake controller, an upgraded transmission cooler and a digital readout. for transmission temperature, and rear airbag suspension. 
  • We also added a weight distribution hitch with sway control.
    • Purchase a road map that includes mountain grades. We love this one. 
    • Know the correct tire pressure for your unit.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know: Towing an RV with a Toyota Tacoma

You’ll Have Fun No Matter the Destination

Don’t worry about planning the perfect trip, just get on the road!

South Dakota

Have a Plan But Stay Flexible

Leave lots of room for exploring but know the top things you want to do to make the most of your time.

I use Google Maps to save ideas of places I want to go. 

When it comes to planning day to day itineraries, I like to have a few things each day we could do but I try to keep things flexible. 

For example, I may have a few hikes picked out, but I won’t hold us to a certain day just in case something else pops up.

If You Want to Make Friends, Bring Your Dog

People love dogs.

Buddy and Jack love RVing!

You’ll Quickly Get Into a Rhythm and Routine

We found things work best when Ben sets up the outside parts of camp and I set up the inside of the RV. Same goes for tearing down camp and getting ready to hit the road. 

This also applies for trip planning. We find things work best when I find things to do and Ben book’s the campground and plans the route.

Have Two of All of Your Essentials

This made packing so much easier. I made sure that everything we needed in the RV was already in there. For example, buy a second set of toiletries, make up, clothes, kitchen utensils, etc.

You’ll Quickly Learn Your Preferences

  • How long do you like to drive in between destinations?
  • What kind of campgrounds do you like?
  • Who do you like to travel with?
  • What activities do you like to do while RVing?
  • Do you like cities or rural settings?
  • Do you like shorter getaways or longer trips?

Final Thoughts

If this is your first year RVing, get ready to have a blast! I hope these tips will help you feel more prepared and confident for your adventures ahead. Enjoy!