Tips for First Time RVers: Everything you need to know!

Congrats, you’re about to go RVing for the first time and excited to hit the road! We’ve been there and learned a lot of lessons along the way. To help you prepare, I’ve laid out our biggest tips for first time RVers and everything you need to know for your first RV Trip!

We did our research and knew a small fraction of what to look out for, but there’s nothing like getting on the road yourself and learning lessons as you go. 

We’re broken out the tips into each stage of your RV vacation.

* This site contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.

Camping at Wild Duck Adult Campground in Scarborough, Maine

Read More: How to Plan an Unforgettable Two Week RV Road Trip

Purchasing Your First RV

Do Your Research Before You Buy Your First RV

We watched so many videos and highly recommend checking out channels like Big Truck, Big RV.

We currently have a Forest River RPOD192 and love it! But we did a ton of research before we pulled the trigger.

Ask yourself these questions before you buy a RV:

  1. Is this the right size RV for this stage of life?
  2. How much are we willing to spend on an RV?
  3. Can we afford this unit?
  4. How do we plan to pay for this unit?
  5. Can our current truck tow this RV or will we need to upgrade?
  6. Is this RV brand known for quality construction or will things break easily?
  7. Where will we store our RV?
  8. Are we prepared to winterize each year and properly care for the RV throughout the RV season?
  9. How often will we go RVing?
  10. Who will be going on our trips? (pets, kids, friends, etc)

Know What Kind of Traveler You Are

This is really important to note when you’re considering the size, layout, and quality of RV you’re looking for. 

You may fall into one of these categories:

Weekend Warrior – folks who RV mostly on the weekend and locally

Seasonal – folks who like to park their unit at one campground for an entire RV season

Full Time – those who want to make RVing their lifestyle and live on the road

As much as possible RVers – folks who like to go on as many trips as their 9-5 jobs allow them using PTO and weekends

If you know you’re only going to be using it for a few days at a time as a Weekend Warrior, then you may be willing to sacrifice on quality. At the same time, if you’re looking to RV full time or for an extended period of time, you may want a higher quality unit since you’ll be spending so much time in it. 

As Keep Your Daydream always says, “Start small, start now”. 

Read More: 15 Best Gift Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee – we knew we wanted an RV that would allow us to go long distances so we looked for quality construction and a unit we could safely tow

Know Your Truck’s Towing Capacity

If you want more info on this topic, check out our post here on towing with a quarter ton truck. 

Even if you have a larger truck, this is important info to know! 

Walk through as many RVs as possible. 

If you’re lucky enough to have RV dealerships close to you, take a whole day and walk through as many RVs as you can. Get a feel for what you like and don’t like. It’s funny how even something small can make you not want to buy a unit. 

This also really helped to understand what layout we wanted in an RV. 

We knew we wanted a full bath and no slide out which meant the specific layout we wanted was harder to find.

Living in a small space, even for a few days can be challenging so you want to pick a unit you can be comfortable and functional in. 

Packing and Organizing Your RV

Congrats – you bought your first RV! Now it’s time to get ready for your first trip. One key to a successful RV trip is packing and organizing your unit efficiently.

Keep a Double Set of Items In Your RV

When you’re thinking of packing your RV for a trip, consider which items you use most in your house.

If you can afford to do so, buy double of those items and keep them in your RV.

This is really helpful especially if you are weekend warriors or if you travel often. I like to keep a separate supply of toiletries, hair dryer, toothbrush, etc. 

Same thing goes for kitchen supplies, bring everything you need and keep it in the RV so you don’t have to pack and unpack supplies every time. 

A side note, if you plan to bring towels, we highly recommend these microfiber towels. They dry incredibly fast and are perfect for the shower, beach, kayak, etc. 

Organizing Your RV For First Time RVers

Who doesn’t love the organization section when shopping!

You’ll know your RV best and what you need most. To help you get started, these are a few of our most used items below.

Don’t be afraid to use items from your home that you already own. There really isn’t a need to buy new items unless you absolutely need them.

A few of our favorite organization items are here:

  1. Foldable laundry basket
  2. Small hooks for keys, leashes, hats, etc
  3. Small basket organization for pantry items, movies, dog supplies
  4. Adjustable broom
  5. Shower hooks
  6. Closet organizer

Tips for Towing Your RV For First Time RVers

So you’re packed and now it’s time to hook up the truck to get on the road!

For those of you who are first time RVers, towing will be a bit scary at first. We are very conservative towers, meaning we take extra precautions that some might think are silly. But in our opinion, it’s better to be safe and slow.

Be Patient and Drive Slow

Although you may feel like your truck can keep up with traffic just keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm your set up. 

Be respectful of other drives and keep to the right. 

Remember, you’re on vacation so you have all the time in the world to get there!

Strap Everything Down

This was a really quick lesson we learned. We learned that using bungees to keep cabinets and doors close was vital. Don’t forget to strap down your bathroom door too!

We also like to remove our toiletries from our shower and our shower head and place them on the shower floor. 

Similarly, we remove heavy items from the shelves if we have any concern they could damage the shelf. 

Things Will Break…It’s Okay

You’re towing your home on wheels and that’s a lot of moving parts. We’ve had our dining table break, a window shatter, our sewer piping fall off, etc. Parts will break, it’s almost inevitable.

BUT don’t fret! Just know these things will happen and it’s just a matter of finding a solution in the moment. There are tons of RV repair shops throughout the US and Canada, and you’ve bound to find someone to help if you don’t know how to solve the situation. 

Bring the Essential Tools

Everyone overpacks tools for their first few trips. You won’t quite know which tools you’ll need to bring and that’s okay. It’s better to be over prepared and not use a tool than not have what you need. 

Our top used tools: 

  1. Adjustable screwdriver – For smaller fixes and power drill for larger projects on the road and corresponding chargers
  2. Universal drill kit with adjustable bits
  3. Socket set and wrench – It’s best to look at your RV and estimate which socket set would cover the bolts and nuts on your unit.
  4. Tire changing equipment – A tire patch kit or air compressor, the proper sockets and make sure you can either use your vehicle’s jack or buy a jack to lift the RV. 

Do a Double Check Before Leaving

It’s super helpful to double check that bungies are secured, your storage doors are locked, your RV lights are working, and your stairs are put away. It’s takes 5 minutes and can save you a headache in the future. 

Of course, your unit might have more items to double check, but this is a reminder to find out what those items are.

We created our own checklist to help us remember what to do each time. We quickly memorized the list and didn’t need it after a few trips.

Try to get into the habit of doing this anytime you tow your RV. 

Tips for Setting Up Camp for First Time RVers

You made it to camp – yay! Before you can totally relax, we have to make sure to set up camp safetly and smoothly.

Scope out your site before you pull in. 

This is really important when pulling into an uneven site or one that features nearby trees. For those of you with larger rigs, you’ll want to be extra careful of your surroundings as you pull in. 

You’ll also want to notice where the hookups are and determine if you need a longer sewer house for example. Some sites are oddly set up and the hookups will be located far away.  

We’re the black Toyota Tacoma second from the right! Heartland RV Park and Cabins in Hermosa, South Dakota

Communication is Crucial When Setting Up Your RV

Before you even pull into the campground, discuss a game plan. Establish who will be responsible for doing what, what the overall plan is, and who will be watching dogs/kids if needed. 

Speaking of dogs, we found these outdoor leashes to be super helpful when setting up camp. Just hook the pups and go about your business setting up camp. 

Share the RV Set Up Workload

On that note about making a plan, we like to know exactly what the other is doing so that we can evenly share the workload. It’s not fair if one partner does all the work while the other gets to relax. 

We like to split duties into “inside/outside” duties. Ben will set up the water/electric/sewer, as well as unhitch the truck. 

While Ben’s taking care of the outside, I’ll tackle the inside. I’ll set up the beds, un-bungie the doors, set up the dining table, etc. 

This system of splitting duties proves to be both an effective way to get the work done and it also gives us a breather after spending a long car ride together:) 

Planning Your First RV Trip for First Time RVers

This might be my favorite part of any trip. The planning is where your imagination gets to run wild as you dream of all the possibilities. Here are a few strategies to make sure you plan just enough to make your trip unforgettable. These tips are especially for first time RVers and will layout everything you need to know to plan your first RV trip!

Make Loose Plans When Planning a Trip

It’s easy to get caught up in the planning stage and want to map out each and every minutes of your trip but it’s not recommended. 

Instead leave room for spontaneity, adventures, and time to stumble upon those hidden gems. 

We love knowing the big bucket list activities in a destination, but we tend to keep our days open. 

This is how we found a hidden beach in Nova Scotia, were surrounded by a herd of buffalo at night in Badlands National Park, and had the best ice cream of our lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

Don’t Forget to Explore Your Backyard

When we think of vacations, we often daydream of exotic locations far away from home. 

But in reality, you could have a wonderful experience 20 minutes down the road in a place you’ve never been. 

Adventure is what you make it. So, if you believe a true vacation is only when you fly or drive for hours away from home, you’re missing out on memorable experiences in your backyard. 

Not to mention exploring closer to home is a heck of a lot cheaper than your dream vacation to Bora Bora. 

The first year we had our RV, we planned the entire summer only to cancel all of those plans when we changed our mind.

We’ve found that we like to plan a few big important destinations or activities but try to stay as open as possible.

A view of Long Lake from Colonial Mast Campground in Naples, Maine – less than an hour from where we live

Book Priority Campgrounds in Advance

On the flip side, if you do plan to visit popular destinations, keep in mind you’ll want to book these campgrounds well in advance. 

Even smaller campgrounds in lesser known areas can fill up. That’s why we booked our stay at Sunset Point RV Campground in Lubec, Maine a year in advance. There are two oceanfront campsites and we wanted to be sure to grab our spot when we had the chance.

The view from our campsite at Sunset Point RV Campground in Lubec, Maine

Use RV TripWizard to Plan Your RV Route

I’m obsessed with this tool. It’s been super helpful when we plan long distance trips across the US. But you can use it for smaller more local trips as well. There is an annual fee, but I think it’s well worth it. 

What I love most about this site is that you can plan future trips which for a planner like me, is super fun! 

For more tips on my favorite trip planning tools, click here for 7 Best Tools for Planning an RV Road Trip. 

Be clear on your budget  

Although budgeting isn’t the sexiest topic, it’s essential to know what your budget is when planning a trip. 

Try your best to pay for your trip with a savings account and avoid funding your vacation with a credit card. 

Grocery Tips While Camping

You’re done setting up plan, you planned an epic day tomorrow, and your starving! What’s for dinner?

Here are a few tips to keep the hanger at bay.

Make Easy Go-To Meals While Camping

We tend to keep it super simple while camping. When you’re on vacation, the last thing you want is to spend a lot of time inside your RV cooking and cleaning.

Here are a few ideas for quick, easy meals while camping:

  1. Breakfast for dinner
  2. BLT’s
  3. Hotdogs & beans
  4. Burgers
  5. Quesadillas
  6. Fajitas
  7. Simple salad
  8. Charcuterie board 
  9. Tuna Melts
  10. Pasta with Sauce
Keeping meals simple while RVing. We love to make easy sandwiches when exploring.

Have a Meal Ready for Your First Night at the Campground

We love to do a simple meal of rotisserie chicken, baguette, veggies, hummus, and a yummy cheese. You can also look to see if the campground has any on-site dining options.

Have a Meal Ready for When You Get Home

Likewise, you won’t want to cook when you get home and have to unpack.

Have a frozen meal ready to go or pick up pizza on the way home. It will be one less thing you have to think about.

Shop with a Grocery List – Even on Vacation.

I know you’ll want to indulge while you’re on vacation and I want you to too! 

But it’s helpful to go grocery shopping with a list so you don’t totally overbuy. 

Decide How Often to Eat Out

We choose a few different times throughout the week to eat out and will make the rest of our meals at home.

This helps us eat a little bit healthier and is way cheaper than eating out most meals. 

If yummy food is important to you while on vacation, just budget this in to your plan!

My husband is such a good chef that we opt to eat at home and save money:)

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing like RVing and getting on the open road. You’ll love the freedom and adventure RVing can give you. I hope these tips for first time RVers is everything you need to know for your first RV trip!