What are some RV basics for beginners?

Adventure 4 min read

Are you new to RVing and feeling anxiety? Are you nervous about taking your first trip to the campground? If you are, I get it. I was much like you. When I picked up our first RV, I was incredibly nervous about towing it home. But I gained confidence by the minute and felt comfortable when I pulled into our driveway. By our second camping trip, I felt like an old pro — and I know you will, too.

The greatest adventure of your life is just around the corner. Here’s how you can get to the fun part faster.

Tips for new RV owners

You did your shopping, learned about all the common types of RV on the market, and found the best RV for your family — great! Now you need to know how to get the most out of your rig so you can start enjoying it. The following tips for new RV owners can help.

Record your walk-through on a smartphone

Our first tip for a new RV owner is to record a walk-through with your smartphone. We did not record our first walk-through for the pop-up camper. That was a mistake. Luckily, it was simple to operate, and we figured it out. Our second RV was a travel trailer, which was significantly more complicated. We recorded the walk-through on my phone, and we referenced it again and again until we had all the systems down pat.

Avoid driving at night

As a new RV owner, I know this is hard. But if you can do all your towing during the daylight hours, do it. If you break down at night, it can be tough to find help. Most garages and RV dealers will be closed even if you have roadside assistance for your RV. If you need parts, you may be out of luck until morning. A Friday night breakdown could blow a hole right into the heart of your quick weekend trip.

Batch service and warranty work

You must return your RV for some warranty service. Stuff happens no matter what brand you buy. I recommend batching the warranty work and bringing the rig in at the end of the season if possible. Multiple trips back and forth to the dealer can put a damper on your camping season. Be willing to camp with a few things broken and get them fixed all at once.

Join RV groups and listen to podcasts

RV forums and Facebook groups are incredible sources of support and tips for new RV owners. Join a few of them, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. The RV Atlas Podcasts are another way to learn travel tips and tricks and get info on the latest gear.

Campground tips for RV beginners

If it’s your first time RVing, there’s a lot to learn. In addition to practical matters like how to drive and maintain your rig, you’ll need to get caught up on the etiquette, rules, and best practices for staying at RV campgrounds. When you’re new to RVing, follow these tips, and you’ll be a veteran in no time.

Camp close to home for your first few trips

Should your first trip be to some epic RV vacation on your bucket list, or should you stay closer to home? As an RV tip for beginners, we vote for close to home. You’ll have time for epic RV trips later. Now it’s time to gain confidence towing and learn how to operate your new rig. You also must figure out what to pack and how to pack it. If you forget something or have a problem, you are on familiar turf and can get home fast. Learn more about how to plan an RV road trip.

Reserve a campsite for your first trip

You may envision yourself in a state or national park, roughing it without hookups or enjoying an off-road RV location under the stars. But you probably want to book something other than one of those campgrounds when you’re still new to RVing. Why not? Because a good private campground often has a helpful owner and staff onsite. If you have problems backing into a tight site at a private campground, someone will probably be there to help.

Showing up at your first campground and discovering that you’ve been assigned a tight back-in site can cause a lot of stress to the new RV owner. Eventually, you’ll become a star at backing into tight spots. But if you’re a newbie, we recommend booking a pull-through site for trip #1. A pull-through site is situated in-between two roads, so no backing up is necessary. You pull in from one side of the site and then pull out the other side.

Divide and conquer during setup

Setting up your rig and your campsite gets easier with each trip — and can become part of the fun. But it can be stressful at first. If you have young kids, we recommend dividing and conquering. Someone takes the kids to the playground while someone else sets up camp. Everyone should be helping and have preassigned jobs if you have older kids.

Make friends and share the journey

We were lucky to find another newbie family to camp with by our second trip. We learned together. We shared meals. We watched each other’s kids so we could go on rigorous hikes or moonlit kayak trips. It made entering the world of RVing and campground culture less intimidating. Each family empowered the other, and we made great memories. Eight years later and we still plan trips together.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help at the campground

On our third or fourth trip, I couldn’t get the furnace going and the overnight temperatures were plunging into the 30s. I fumbled around for an hour until a kindly older gentleman walked over and asked if he could help. He got the furnace cranking in less than ten minutes and taught me a trick or two. RV owners are mostly kind and helpful people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Your first time traveling in an RV can be one of the most incredible adventures of your life. To make sure the trip is everything you hoped, get to know your home away from home as well as you can before you set off. Spend some time organizing your RV. Learn about the basic RV hookups and best RV travel apps for your trip.

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