RV travel can be a great way to see the country. But you’re doing it in “a house that is always in an earthquake and … things fall apart constantly,” points out Mark Ganter, who camped for a dozen years with his kids.
Ganter is among the savvy campers who wrote in after we told the story of four families who traveled 2,000 miles through Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. Those families came back with a few lessons learned about RV travel. Now we’re sharing the hard-earned wisdom that flooded in from veteran RVers:
Planning and preparing
- Test your parking skills ahead of time in a deserted lot.
- Know the restrictions where you’re going. If you’re headed into Canada, the taboos include pot, certain firearms, large volumes of alcohol and significant amounts of certain foods. Brush up on what the Canada Border Services Agency allows.
- Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas around. And refill the tank when it’s half-full, rather than risk running out in a rural area.
- Get creative about finding places to camp. Federal government maps at blm.gov/visit show where you can boondock (camp without water, sewer or electricity hookups).
But there’s no service
- Figure out if you’re going to be out of cellphone range by checking the maps that major carriers post online, then plan accordingly.
- If you won’t have cellphone service, download maps ahead of time (one reader likes Google Maps; another suggests the Gaia GPS app).
- Take walkie-talkies to stay in touch with friends if you’re caravanning.
What to pack
- Take a mini leaf blower to whoosh the dirt out of your RV. Take a doormat, too — but don’t drive off and leave it at the campground like some people we know (cough, cough).
- Going somewhere chilly? Cut out foam panels for all the windows.
- Pack some fun, too. Charlie Tiebout takes chalk and marks out a campground bicycle course, then holds S-L-O-W races, timing how slowly kids can ride around the course without putting their feet down.
Head off trouble
- Get to your campsite before darkness falls. Getting situated and eating dinner in the dark “can be hazardous. Yes, there’s a story,” Jamie and Londe Richardson of Seattle write.
- If something breaks and you can get online, use YouTube to learn how to fix it.
- Learn what every switch in your RV controls. “I had a master breaker that controls all electricity in the RV and the seller never told me about it,” Carl Douglass writes. “I found a RV technician at home on a Sunday afternoon who took two minutes to correct the problem. He saved our RV vacation.”
- Ask for help. “All RVers have experienced problems and are normally very helpful,” Douglass says.