Putting your RV away for the winter can be a major mistake. Sure, you might not be able to spend as much time outside in the winter as you can when traveling in the summer, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. If you plan carefully and outfit yourself with the right gear, you might find that winter RV travel quickly becomes one of your favorite hobbies.
Make Sure the RV Is Ready
You might not mind if your windows are a little drafty when you travel in the summer, but that can become a major problem on a cold winter night. Before you head out in the winter, make sure your rig is ready by checking things like seals and insulation. Make improvements where necessary, and even consider spending a night in your RV at home when the weather gets cold to see how it fares. You don’t want to find yourself hours from home and stuck in a freezing RV, so preparation is key when it comes to winter travel.
Make a Smart Plan
While most modern RV’s are relatively well-equipped to deal with winter weather, your rig is still not a 4×4 in terms of its ability to get around icy or snowy roads. You don’t want to put yourself or your RV in a dangerous situation, so only plan to travel on roads that you know are going to be maintained throughout the winter. Also, call ahead if possible to confirm that your targeted campground is open for business and has spots available. Driving around late at night to find a spot might be a ‘fun adventure’ in the summer, but it is frustrating and potentially dangerous in the winter months.
Pack for the Conditions
Be sure to bring along plenty of cold weather gear for your trip when you head out on an RV vacation in the middle of winter. Things like blankets and coats/sweatshirts should be abundant, and you will also want to make sure your sleeping gear is rated to be able to handle cold temperatures. Remember, although your RV has a heating system on board, you can’t necessarily bank on that system to operate properly throughout the trip. If something goes wrong and you don’t have the heat supply you expected, you need to be prepared to get through the nights comfortably.
Since the weather is far less predictable in the winter as compared to the summer, you also need to bring extra food and water to get by a couple extra days in case a snowstorm strands you in place. If you are planning on taking a three-day trip, for example, bring provisions for five days so you can ride it out in the RV if the weather comes in harshly. Of course, you can always eat that extra food when back at home, so it doesn’t need to be wasted if the weather turns out to be just fine.
Many RV’s use propane to power the on-board furnace. If that is the case with your rig, make sure you bring extra fuel as you are going to be going through it far faster than you do in the summer. Since some of the fuel stations near your campground may not be open during the winter months, you want to be as self-sustaining as possible by bringing extra from home.
Travel in your RV is a little bit more work in the winter than it is in the summer. However, that extra effort can be more than worth it when you see some of the beautiful places that you can enjoy in the peace and quiet that usually comes along with the winter months. By traveling smart and planning properly in advance, you can look forward to a great trip in your home away from home.
Buying an RV is an exciting time – that can be a little intimidating as well. Depending on the exact RV that you purchase, it will likely be the largest vehicle that you have ever operated, and that can be a little scary the first time you get it out on the open road. Even beyond the challenges that come with navigating busy streets in an RV, there are a variety of other tasks and skills that you will need to master in order to operate your RV properly and safely throughout your camping trips.
Don’t let that first paragraph intimidate you, however – many people have gone from RV novice to experienced traveler in a short amount of time, and you can do the same. You simply need to understand a few basic things about how the RV works and then practice some skills that will help you along the way. By putting in just a little bit of time, you will be fully comfortable with your RV before you know it.
Following are five shortcuts meant to help you speed up the learning process.
Drive A Lot – Somewhere Safe
When you first take possession of your RV, find an empty parking lot or some other place where you can safely practice driving – and parking the RV without the risk of running into something. There is no substitute for practice when it comes to operating a large vehicle, so put in the time somewhere away from the rest of traffic. Since many campgrounds have tight parking spaces at awkward angles, make sure to do plenty of practice backing up. It can be helpful to set up some cones into a mock ‘camp space’ and then try to maneuver in and out of the spot.
Learn from Other RV’ers
Learning from the mistakes of others is often a good way to improve yourself, and it is no different with RV’ing. If you know a few people who own RV’s already, ask them about their experiences and what mistakes they made when they were first getting started. If you can learn a little about what they did wrong – and what they know now – you might be able to avoid following in their footsteps.
Read the Owner’s Manual
Most instruction manuals, no matter what product they are for, get thrown into a drawer as soon as they make it home and are never seen again. Don’t make that mistake with your owner’s manual to the RV. Instead, actually sit down and read it carefully. You might be surprised at just how much you can learn from the manual, and how many mistakes you can avoid by gathering all of that information upfront. Instead of turning to the manual after something goes wrong, be proactive and give it a read right from the start.
Take a Trip Close to Home
As your first trip in your new RV, consider picking out a location within an hour drive or so from home. A short trip will allow you to get familiar with living in your RV without being too far from home in case you forget something or need to return home because you are unable to get the RV set up correctly. Most likely, you will have no problems and can enjoy your short trip in your new rig – but you will have the comfort of being near to home just in case.
Talk to the Salesperson at the Dealership
Most salespeople are only concerned with closing the deal, but they will often be glad to help you after the sale is complete as well. Once you decide which RV you are going to purchase and agree to a price, ask them to walk you through anything you need to know and to highlight mistakes that previous buyers have made. People working at RV dealerships will have an in-depth knowledge of the RV’s themselves and should be well-qualified to get you on the fast track toward becoming comfortable with the operation of the rig.
Getting comfortable with your RV is an important process, but it doesn’t need to be a long one. Ask plenty of questions, get practice in a safe location, and take a short trip close to home as your first outing. Before you know it, you will feel like a seasoned RV owner and you won’t be able to wait until your next big trip.
One of the ways you can get more use out of your RV is by purchasing an RV generator. Most likely, you aren’t always going to be camped somewhere that allows you to plug in to the power grid. When that is the case, one of the best things you can do is have a generator available in order to power up your lights, appliances, and more. Sure, using a generator isn’t quite as convenient as having access to the power grid, but it is certainly better than nothing at all.
When you start to look around the market for a generator, you are quickly going to notice that there is a specific class of generators meant for RV use. You might think that you could just purchase any kind of portable model to do the job, but you are going to want one that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the RV traveler.
A Variety of Power Options
While all RV generators are charged with creating power that can be used to run the RV, there are a variety of different methods that can be used to reach that outcome. There are generators that run on diesel, on gasoline, and on liquid propane. The right pick for your needs depends on your specific RV and your personal preferences. For example, if you happen to run an RV that has a diesel engine, owning a diesel generator makes a lot of sense. However, if your RV is gas-powered, it wouldn’t be a smart choice to go with diesel in the generator as you would need to keep those fuel sources separate at all times.
Remember the Noise Factor
As you shop for a generator, keep in mind the fact that these units are going to make noise as they run. Naturally, it would be great to have a unit that makes as little noise as possible while it runs – for your benefit, and for the benefit of those around you in the campground. Any generator that you come across in the market should have a decibels rating that you can use to compare one to another. While noise level isn’t the only point to keep in mind when shopping for an RV generator, it certainly is an important point to monitor.
Check for Hours
In much the same way that your car’s age can be measured in miles, generators are often evaluated in terms of how many hours they have been used. As a generator ages and accrues more and more hours, it is more likely to break down at some point. Again, just a like a vehicle, you can get the best possible life from your generator by performing basic maintenance and caring for it properly. If you are thinking of buying a used RV generator, check for the hour reading to make sure the unit hasn’t been used too extensively. A good generator should be able to last for several thousand hours or more, and a diesel unit will usually be expected to last longer than a gas model.
There is no one-size-fits-all model of RV generator that will work for all owners. You need to think about your own personal needs and the budget that you have for your purchase in order to come away with a unit that is a great fit. Fortunately, there are plenty of units on the market – both new and used – so you should be able to track down exactly what you need with relatively little effort.
Every RV camper has been there at one point or another – you make a drive of several hours across a couple states or more to arrive safely at your camping destination. You find the perfect spot, get the RV parked and leveled, and get ready to settle in for a relaxing week. Everything is perfect until you step inside the RV to start to unpack – and realize that the contents of your cupboards have decided to ‘redecorate’ the interior. Now, you have a mess to clean up before you can start your trip, and you may have lost some of the items you were planning on using for the week. Not a good start.
Properly packing your RV cupboards for a safe trip to or from the campground is an important skill for any RV owner to possess. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are some basic rules that you need to follow. Once you get the hang of packing your cupboards safely, you should be able to do it quickly and easily for all future trips.
Start with Non-Skid Liner
As a first step, you should consider placing a non-skid liner on the bottom of all your RV cabinets and drawers. This is an inexpensive item to purchase, and will only take a few minutes to install. While the liner won’t keep everything perfectly in place while you rumble down the road, it will help lighter items get a grip and not be so quick to slide. Considering how cheap and easy this tip is, there is no reason to start using your RV without some non-skid liner in place.
Think from the Bottom Up
It might be common-sense, but many RV owners mess this one up. When packing your cupboards, try to place the heavier items on the bottom, with the lighter goods up top. Obviously, if something is going to sneak its way out of a cupboard and fall inside the RV, you would rather it be something light that isn’t going to do much damage wherever it comes down.
When you get ready to start packing, organize your items by weight just outside the RV. Start with the heaviest items, and fill up the bottom cabinets with them. As your items get lighter, you will start to run out of space on the bottom shelves and will need to move higher and higher. Hopefully, when you get to the top of your storage area, you will only have lightweight items remaining to pack.
Use Bins to Keep Control
This is one of the best packing tips that an RV’er can use. Consider purchasing several bins in which you can pack your food, cooking equipment, etc. By containing all of your loose items within some bins, you will achieve a couple goals. First, you will make it less likely that anything will go flying as you make the drive to your destination. The combined weights of the items within the bin will make the bin itself less likely to move – therefore, you should be able to keep everything in place.
Even if something were to move, it will at least be contained in the bin and less likely to do damage or make a mess inside the RV. See-through plastic storage bins with locking lids are great because you don’t have to open them to find out what is inside, and they come in a variety of sizes to fit your needs on the RV. Take measurements to find out what sizes will fit inside the cupboards that you have, and purchase bins accordingly.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Even the most-capable RV packer will make a mistake from time to time. Sometimes, the best way to improve the packing of your RV cupboards is simply to learn from your mistakes. If you have an item or a certain bin that doesn’t seem to behave itself on the trip, try packing it in a different place until you find the right spot for it to ride. It shouldn’t take too many trips to figure out the best location for all of your gear, so there are no surprises when you arrive.
The last thing you want to start off your camping trip with is a mess to clean up inside the RV. With smart packing, and the use of items like non-skid liner and some plastic bins, you can keep your gear safe for the ride to the campsite and back home again. There might be a slight learning curve for the new RV owner, but packing the cupboards safely is a task you can soon master.
It should go without saying that RV travel should be fun. After all, if your trips aren’t fun, what is the point? Whether you are traveling with family or friends, you should be determined to have a good time from the moment you leave the driveway until you return home. RV’ing is all about having a great time and making memories that will hopefully stick with you for a lifetime.
Since it is easy to get stuck in the same old routine when it comes to taking RV trips, many RV owners don’t have as much fun as they should. Following are five tips which can help you put the enjoyment back in your RV getaways.
#1 – Bring Games
This might seem like an obvious point, but it can be easy to forget to bring entertainment while you are busy packing up all of the essentials. Take games that suit your destination and the kind of trip you are planning on taking. Want to relax in the RV? Board games and card games are perfect? Prefer to be outside enjoying the fresh air? Pick from the selection of camping games at your local sporting goods store.
#2 – Meet Up with Others
When possible, try to coordinate your RV vacations with friends or family members who also own an RV. Socializing is one of the great parts of RV travel, and your trip will almost certainly be enhanced by the presence of others. This is also a great way to bring together people of like interests during the trip. For example, if you are traveling with your spouse, you might be able to invite another couple who also enjoys the same activities as you (hiking, fishing, swimming, etc.).
#3 – Go Somewhere New
The easiest way to break up your routine when it comes to RV travel is to simply pick a new destination. The whole point of owning an RV is having the freedom to visit different places – so why continue to go to the same spot time after time, year after year? Do some research online to find new potential destinations and give one a try.
#4 – Document the Journey
For a new experience, try taking pictures and videos all along the way so you can document the journey when you get back home. Even if you don’t plan on sharing these pictures and videos with others, the process of taking them will make your trip more fun and engaging. As an added bonus, you will be able to look back on the images you captured and fondly remember your RV travel experiences.
#5 – Turn Off Your Phone
This is a good piece of advice whether you are on an RV vacation or simply trying to relax at home. When possible, turn off your phone for a period of time so you can free your mind to enjoy the moment. It would be a shame to travel to a beautiful location in your RV only to keep your head buried in your phone the whole day.
Given the significant investment required to purchase an RV, you want to make sure the choice you are making is the right one for you and your family. There are a wide-range of sizes, styles, and designs of RV’s on the market today, so it can be a little overwhelming when you first start out on your RV buying process. Even after you narrow it down to a few particular styles or brands that you like, making that final choice of what to spend your hard-earned money on can be a tough one.
The important thing to consider when making an RV purchase is that the rig should work for you right now, as well as in the future. You aren’t going to want to have to buy another RV after just a few years, so try to plan ahead and balance your needs presently alongside the needs you are likely to have down the road. If you can find an RV that fits both of those sets of needs, you should be looking at a clear winner.
Size of Your Traveling Party
This is obviously one of the first considerations to make when you are RV shopping – how many people will be going with you regularly? For most people, this means thinking about how many kids they have now, and how many they might have in the future. If your children are young and you may have more, the focus should be on making sure the RV is big enough to handle your potentially expanding family. On the other end of the spectrum, those with older children should consider how much longer the kids will be traveling with them. You don’t want to purchase a huge RV to accommodate the whole family, only to be left with a rig that is too large for your needs when the kids move out of the house in a couple years. If this is the case for you, it might be best to consider a smaller RV, even if it means the kids have to sleep in a tent sometimes on your trips. Once the kids are off to college and you are traveling with only your spouse, you will appreciate the smaller RV and the advantages it offers.
Naturally, just as with any purchase, the price of the RV has to come into play. You should set a budget before you ever go looking to buy an RV, and try to stick as closely to that budget as possible. If you spend all of your money making payments on the RV each money, you won’t be able to afford to take the vacations anyway. Find a good balance between features and size of the RV, and the overall cost. You are buying the RV so you can travel around and enjoy quality time with your family – so don’t spend too much money and leave yourself without the budget to take those trips.
What Kind of Activities Do You Enjoy?
Make sure that any RV you are considering purchasing will enable you to engage in the types of activities that you want to take part in while on vacation. If you like parking your RV and just using it as a home for a week or more, a large Motorhome might be the best pick. However, if you want to use the campground as a jumping off point for all kinds of other activity, you will want to make sure you have a smaller vehicle available and room for any toys you need like watercraft or off-road bikes. This is a purely personal decision, so be sure to take some time and think about where you will be going with your RV, and what you want to do when you get there.
Change is one of the only constants in life, so make sure the RV you purchase is as ready for your changing life as possible. If you are going to own the RV for a decade or more, your life will likely not look the same as it did in the beginning when you first made the purchase. Plan ahead as best you can so your RV will still be useful to you and you won’t be stuck with a rig that doesn’t meet your needs.
When you think of the advantages of RV camping, what do you think about? If you are like most people, the ability to get up off the ground and away from the critters is one of the best things about sleeping in an RV. Even if you love nature and the outdoors, it is still nice to get inside for a quality night’s sleep. However, if some of that nature has made its way into your RV – specifically, ants – one of the big benefits of RV travel will suddenly be gone.
Unfortunately, it is very much possible to get ants inside your RV during a trip (or even while it is being stored). To reduce the chances of this happening to you, use the simple tips below.
Don’t Build a Bridge
This might seem obvious, but ants need a path to get from the ground up into your RV – so don’t give them that bridge. While there are inevitably going to be points of connection from the ground up into your RV, such as the tires and some hoses or cables, you can prevent ants from following those paths by using an ant powder. There are products on the market today that are meant to be sprinkled around your RV in places where ants may attempt to travel. As long as you cut off these ‘bridges’ effectively, you should be able to enjoy an ant-free vacation.
It’s All About the Source
Your goal should always be to make sure you cut off the ants at the source, long before they make it inside the RV. Once they are in the RV, it will be difficult to get them out. Even if you are able to kill the ones you see, there are always many more waiting behind the scenes. Cut them off at the pass by keeping them outside to begin with whenever possible. If you do find yourself in a position where you have ants inside the RV, do your best to track their trail until you figure out exactly how they got inside to start with.
Seal Up Tight During Storage
Make sure your RV is sealed up tightly while it is being stored to prevent ants from taking up residence during the off-season. By simply checking around your RV for any possible openings, you can pretty easily keep ants on the outside where they belong. Also, make sure you aren’t parked under any long, overhanging branches which could offer the ants direct access to your rig. Of course, no old food scraps or anything of that nature should be left in the RV during the off-season, as that would just serve as motivation for the ants to find a way in.
Ants inside of an RV is no one’s idea of a good vacation. Fortunately, it isn’t all that hard to keep the ants out of your RV, as long as you pay attention and have a plan. Simply by being observant and keeping your rig in good condition throughout the year, you can probably avoid the pain of having to fight an ant war inside of your RV.
One of the fears that many new RV owners have is learning how to back their RV into a camping space – or even into their driveway at home. If you haven’t driven a large vehicle of any kind before you purchased an RV, there is no doubt that it can be a little tricky at first. However, with some practice and a few good tips, you should have the hang of putting your RV exactly where you want it in no time at all. Remember one important tip before you start – the space must be big enough for your RV in the first place! No matter how good you are at backing your RV up, it won’t fit into a space that is smaller than the RV itself. Scope out the spot first, and only proceed when you are sure it will fit comfortably.
Getting Some Practice
When you are first getting acquainted with your RV, the best thing you can do is find a large, empty parking lot in which to practice your driving. While this might not be your idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, it is the best way to quickly improve your skills without risking running the RV into any obstacles that might exist in an actual campground. If you would like to make the experience more realistic, purchase a few traffic cones and set them up as a ‘target’ for your parking practice.
While practicing, keep the following tips in mind –
Try to back up from driver’s side, when possible. If you can, try backing the RV in from the driver’s side, so you can look out the mirror right next to you for a good view. It is certainly possible to back up on the passenger’s side, but it is a little bit more difficult.
Take your time. Even an experienced RV driver shouldn’t rush through the backing up process – there is no need to risk a mistake. Take however much time you need to get the RV positioned correctly and in just the right spot in the space you are aiming for.
Practice backing up with a spotter. If you have someone who will be traveling with you regularly (a spouse, for example), practice having them spot for you and direct you through the process. Getting familiar with hand signals and gestures will make the whole thing much easier when you do it for real.
Picking the Right Site
Not all camp sites are created equal, and not all camp sites will be a good fit for your RV. When you arrive at the campground and start looking over the available spaces, make sure to take a moment to get out of the vehicle and walk over the site quickly. Are there any potholes or bumps to worry about? Will you be able to easily level the RV once you get it parked? Is there enough room for your slide outs? All of these questions, and more, should be considered.
Specifically, it is important to check for any serious potholes or bumps that could interfere with the backing up process. You will be moving at a slow speed when backing in, so putting one of your tires into a hole could be a serious problem. When in doubt, don’t risk it – just move on to another space that you are confident in getting in and out of safely.
Have Two Trained Drivers
One potential problem that you could encounter on an RV trip is having only one person who is comfortable and experienced driving the RV – and backing it up. Even if one person is going to be the main driver under normal circumstances, there should be another person who has practiced at least a little bit and feels confident driving in case of emergency. That way, in case the main driver were to twist an ankle or fall ill and be unfit to drive, the other person could step in as needed.
Just like riding a bike, backing in an RV is something that you will get more comfortable with given time and practice. Don’t get frustrated if you have a little trouble at the start – there is nothing unusual about that at all. Given a good amount of practice time to work on your technique, you should expect to be putting that RV right on the spot time after time in the very near future.
If you have kids, they are probably one of the main reasons you purchased an RV in the first place. Most kids love to go camping, and traveling with an RV instead of staying in a tent makes for a much more enjoyable experience for the whole family. Your RV will provide many of the comforts of home, without the hard work that is required to set up and live inside of a tent for a few days. Without a doubt, there are many RV owners who were first motivated to get into this lifestyle by the prospect of providing a great time for their kids.
So, if you would like to make sure your kids are having fun on each RV trip that you take, it would be smart to plan your trips with them in mind. After all, even though kids tend to love RV travel, not all RV trips are created equal. By picking out a destination and activities that appeal to kids, you can set yourself up for an enjoyable experience from start to finish.
Plenty of Action
With few exceptions, kids like to stay busy. For you, a vacation might be a chance to slow down, get away from work, and just relax. However, most kids don’t like to relax. They like to be on the go, doing one thing after the next throughout the day. With that in mind, make sure your destination will provide for plenty of kid-friendly activities that keep them engaged and excited. You don’t want to wind up with bored kids who can’t find anything to do, as expecting them to just sit around for long periods of time is unrealistic. Plan for plenty of action throughout the trip to make sure they are having fun as often as possible.
Limit the Road Time
Going along with the previous point about kids getting bored, you might want to keep them in mind when deciding how far from home you are willing to drive. It might be good for kids to learn how to sit still in the RV for a period of time, but pushing that time too far is just asking for trouble. Pick out a destination that is a reasonable drive from home so that your kids aren’t bored before you even get to the campground to start your trip.
Find Ways for Them to Help
There are plenty of chores involved with owning and operating an RV, so it is a great idea to find ways to have the kids help get this work done. Asking them to help will give them a sense of ownership in the process, and it will also help you to get everything done faster. Of course, any task that you assign to the kids should be simple, and it needs to be safe for them to perform. Always supervise what they are doing, and teach them how the RV works at every opportunity. As they get older, you should be able to get more and more help from them, and they just might grow up to own their own RV’s one day.
Caring for RV Toilets When Parked
One of the biggest advantages to owning and traveling in an RV is having access to a toilet at all hours of the day and night. While the tent campers are scrambling in the dark to find shoes and a flashlight in order to walk up to the camp restroom, you can simply take a few steps into your RV bathroom and be back in bed within seconds. Certainly, more than a few campers have been sold on owning an RV simply for the presence of a toilet alone.
Of course, if you are going to enjoy the luxury of having a toilet nearby, you need to give it proper care while you are parked and enjoying a camping trip. RV toilets don’t require a lot of care to keep in good working order, but there are a few important steps that need to be taken to ensure the short and long-term health of your toilet and tanks.
Using RV-Safe Products
The toilet in your RV is not the same as the toilet in your house, and it should not be treated the same. You need to use products that are specifically designed for use in RV’s to make sure that your toilet and tanks keep working properly. Specifically, using toilet paper that is designed for use in an RV is important. This type of toilet paper breaks down easier than ‘normal’ toilet paper, making it easier to flush from the tanks and helping to prevent clogs.
Don’t Flush Anything Else
Nothing other than the ‘essentials’ (waste and toilet paper) should go down the toilet in your RV. If you get in a habit of flushing other items, you are only inviting trouble and asking for problems when the time comes to drain the black tank. Resist the temptation and dispose of all other items in the trash so that you don’t cause issues within your tank that become bigger problems later on.
Keep the Black Tank Closed
If you are going to be parked at the campsite for a considerable time, you might leave the grey water tank slightly open so that it can drain as it is used. While this can be an acceptable practice is some situations, you should not do this with your black tank. The weight of the accumulated waste helps to force everything out of the tank when it comes time to drain, so you want to keep the black tank closed while the RV is in use – until you are ready to dump it.
Dump When Tanks Are Mostly Full
Allow the black tank to fill most of the way before going ahead with dumping. Trying to dump a partially full tank can become problematic, especially if there is more solid waste than liquid. When this happens, the solid waste will tend to accumulate in the bottom of the tank and is less likely to be flushed out successfully on the first try. You will then have to do further flushing procedures to get the tank properly emptied – probably not how you want to spend your vacation.
Use Tank Cleaning Products
There are plenty of chemicals on the market to assist in controlling the odors within your black tank and you should use these on a regular basis. Not only can they help to manage smells, but also to maintain the working order of all the parts within your tank. However, some of these products can be harmful to the environment, and even the sewer that your tank is flushed into, so make sure to purchase chemicals that are environmentally safe. Each of these products will have slightly different methods for their usage, so be sure to always follow all directions provided.
One of the best things about the toilet inside your RV is that it can be mostly maintenance free for the majority of the time that you are parked and enjoying a relaxing camping trip. As long as you follow some of the basic rules of using an RV toilet, and empty your tank when it is mostly full, you should be able to avoid major problems trip after trip. As you gain more and more experience using your RV, the process of caring for your toilet and tank will become easier and easier, and you will be able to complete all of the necessary steps in a short amount of time. With the maintenance complete, you can get back to relaxing in your RV, and remembering how nice it is never to have to walk to the restroom!
Buying an RV is a large purchase – there is no doubt about that. Since deciding to buy an RV is one of the biggest expenses you will incur in your life, it is only natural to hesitate before actually signing on the dotted line. How do you know when the time is right? It’s one thing to wander the RV dealer lot and look at all the great new models that you can pick from, but it is a whole other thing to actually spend the money and take one home.
Numbers Don’t Lie
The first thing you should do when trying to decide when the time is right to buy an RV is sit down and go over your budget carefully. With an estimate of how much the monthly payment would be on an RV in hand, take a look at your current budget and decide if there is room to add an RV payment while still living comfortably. If the new payment on an RV purchase is going to put you too close to the ‘edge’ financially, you may want to wait a bit longer.
Watch for an Opportunity
Some payments that take up a chunk of your budget, such as your mortgage, likely aren’t going away anytime soon. However, there are other payments that may be due to come off the books, opening up room in your budget for an RV purchase. For example, if you own a car that you are close to having paid off, you may want to think about buying your RV shortly after the car loan has been fulfilled. If the monthly cost of your new RV is going to be similar to the car payment you just finished, there really won’t be any change to your monthly budget outlook. As long as you have the cash available for a down payment, buying an RV when another big payment goes away is a reasonable option.
Look for Sales
Just like any other purchase you make, it is smart to be patient while looking for an RV until you find a great deal that is just too good to pass up. Often, RV dealers will put the previous model year inventory on sale when the new models are set to arrive, so keep your eye out for any upcoming sale events. Also, the end of the summer season is usually a common time to see sale prices, and dealers may be more-willing to negotiate in the fall as they are heading into the quiet winter months. Since finding a sale on your RV purchase could potentially save you thousands of dollars, it is certainly worth the effort to locate a great price before making the purchase.
You don’t want to rush the purchase of an RV. While you are probably excited to get started with your first trip, buying an RV is a major financial decision that needs to be carefully considered before you jump in. Once you have done your homework and found the room in your budget for the RV purchase, you can sign on the dotted line with confidence.
If you are going to use an RV to do much of your traveling, you will probably want to have another vehicle that works well with your RV to get you where you need to go. Obviously, if you are going to pull a trailer or a fifth-wheel, you will need a truck that is capable of handling the job of towing your RV to the campground. Even if you are going to purchase a Motorhome, however, you will likely want to look into getting a small vehicle that you can tow behind the RV so you can get around with ease while you are camped. Trying to move the Motorhome each time you need to go somewhere gets old quickly, and just isn’t that practical.
As you are shopping for an RV and thinking about which option will be best for you and your family, it makes sense to consider the passenger vehicle you are going to use as well. While you might be able to afford the cost of the RV on its own, the cost of the truck or other vehicle that you will need could put it out of your price range. Only when you think about the big picture of the two together can you really understand how much it will cost you.
Below we will look at the process of picking the right vehicle for the job, either for towing your RV or for being pulled behind your Motorhome.
Finding a Truck to Pull Your RV
In most cases, you will actually end up spending more money on your truck than you will on the RV you are going to pull with it. Unless you already own a truck capable of the job, you need to think about the shopping process in two steps – the truck and the trailer/fifth wheel. It makes the most sense to shopping somewhat simultaneously so you can see what kind of models are available on both sides and then start to narrow down your choices. However, to get started, make a trip to the RV dealer first and pick out a couple trailers that you might be interested in. You don’t have to get too serious at this point – just get a general idea of the size and weight of the trailers you will be considering. From there, you can head to the truck dealer and find some models that are capable of handling the job. Once you get an idea of what you are looking at with both the truck and trailer, you can then get more specific about your search.
Of course, if you already own a vehicle that you plan to use to haul your RV, the process is much simpler. First, figure out how much your vehicle is capable of pulling comfortably, then start your RV search using that as a limit. As long as you don’t purchase an RV that is too large for your vehicle to pull, you should be in good shape.
Finding a Vehicle to Pull Behind Your Motorhome
For those who are going to purchase a Motorhome, it might be a little easier in that many people already own a passenger vehicle that can serve the purpose of the tow-behind. Generally, this just needs to be a small car or 4×4 that can seat enough people for your needs and get you around the areas where you will be traveling. If you like to go exploring into the mountains or off-road on your trips, make sure the vehicle that you designate as your tow-behind is up to the job. While you can pull a newer car along for this purpose, many people choose to use an older car that they no longer use on a daily basis as their go-to option. The choice is yours.
While owning an RV is a great opportunity to take some exciting vacations and see many new places, it is often necessary to pair one with another vehicle to maximize your experience. Depending on the type of RV you choose, you may need to buy a big truck to haul it – or a small car to pull behind it. Remember to consider this additional vehicle as part of your RV purchase and make sure that your budget works when you start to add in all of the expenses of both the passenger car and the RV itself. Once all those details are worked out, you can get down to the business of enjoying your RV vacations!
Far too many RV owners put away their vehicles for the winter season and simply forget about them until spring and summer roll around – and that is a shame. While the weather might not be quite as lovely during the winter months, there is still plenty of fun to be had if you know where to look. You probably won’t take a big, week-long vacation like you might in the summer time while the kids are out of school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a long weekend to somewhere new and take advantage of being a proud RV owner.
It is impossible for us to pick out specific places you should visit during the winter months, because that will depend greatly on where you live and what you have access to within a comfortable drive of home. However, we can provide some great tips for how to find the right places to enjoy an off-season getaway in your RV. One of the common complaints that RV owners have is that they don’t use their vehicles enough – so think outside the box, and use the tips below to help you locate some great spots to enjoy your RV all year round.
Find the Path of Least Resistance
One of the major hurdles in the way of enjoying a great RV trip during the winter months is the conditions of the roads. Where you might not worry about heading over a mountain pass in the summer, it could be a completely different proposition if the snow has started to fall at higher elevations. As you are thinking about options for a winter RV trip, take a look at the map around the area where you live and find the roads that are likely to be in good condition all year round. Most likely, those will be roads that are through higher population areas, and don’t venture up to altitudes that are too lofty. After you have charted one or two courses from your home that you would be comfortable traveling in your RV even in the winter, you can start to look along those roads for camping opportunities.
You might not be able to find a *warm* destination for your winter RV trip, but you can look for spots that will at least be more comfortable than others. Often, if you head toward the coast you can find more moderate temperatures during the colder months of the year. Camping near the coast – if that is possible based on where you live – can also be fun for those who enjoy a good storm while they are out with nature. Areas inland, and at higher elevations, are likely to be colder during the winter months, so they should probably be avoided for most people (unless snow is what you are looking for!).
Stick Closer to Home
When you plan a big summer vacation in your RV, you probably look for places that will allow you to put some miles on the RV and get a good distance away from home. That could mean you are overlooking fun places to camp that are within just an hour or two drive from home. Winter just might be the perfect time to try out these campsites that you would otherwise drive right past. Shorter drives are great for a quick weekend trip so you don’t have to spend too much of your time on the road. Also, staying close to home provides you with a better opportunity to bail out of your trip and head back home if the weather doesn’t cooperate and you end up stuck inside the RV.
Most likely, you will always use your RV more in the spring and summer than you will in the fall or winter. However, don’t rule out taking an off-season trip just because the temperatures have dropped a bit and the clouds have come back. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your RV outside of the summer, starting with the quick tips above. To find your own perfect winter camping spot, do some homework and pinpoint a few options within a short drive of your home. If you get a chance to visit them all over a period of time, you will hopefully uncover one or two hidden gems that you will choose to return to year after year.
There are a lot of features that you need to research before buying an RV if you want to make a good decision that will work out in the long run for you and your family. The length and type of RV, the number of people that it can accommodate, the kitchen and bathroom facilities, and more all have to be taken into consideration. Another element that sometimes is overlooked – but is very important – is the gas mileage that you will get from your new RV. Gas mileage is an important element in the overall cost of ownership of the RV, beyond just the purchase price and any insurance costs.
It Matters for All Kinds of RV’s
It is pretty easy to evaluate the gas mileage that a Motorhome will get, as that information should be provided for you by the manufacturer or the dealership – much like when you purchase a car. However, it can get a little bit trickier if you are buying a trailer or fifth wheel to pull behind your existing truck. You might know what kind of gas mileage your truck gets currently, when not pulling anything, but what kind of mileage will it get with the trailer hooked up? That is an important question that you need to find an answer to.
Even though the dealership selling the RV doesn’t necessarily know the specifics of your vehicle and its performance, they are still a good place to start for this information. People who work at an RV dealership will be knowledgeable in a lot of areas related to RV’s, and will have had to answer this question many times before. If you can provide information about the current gas mileage of your truck, the salesperson at the RV dealer can likely give you a good estimate of what to expect when pulling a given RV.
Add Up All Costs
The reason it is important to consider gas mileage is that you need to understand and be prepared for all costs of RV ownership, not just the purchase price. Beyond the cost of buying the RV, things like insurance, maintenance, storage, and gas mileage all should be taken into consideration. Once you have the full picture in your mind of what it will cost you to own and operate the RV, you can better decide if it is something that you can afford of if you should consider a smaller and less expensive model. This ‘number crunching’ might take a little effort upfront, but it will be well worth your time before you commit to a purchase.
Think About Where You Drive As Well
Gas mileage depends mostly on your vehicle and the RV, but it can also be influenced by where you drive most of the time. If your trips consist mostly of freeway driving on open roads, you should be able to get the possible gas mileage from your vehicle. However, if you are frequently driving up into the mountains on steep, winding roads, expect to fall well short of your mileage expectations. This isn’t necessarily a reason to completely change your RV purchase plans, but it is just another minor factor to add in to the overall equation.
Use the Internet to Your Advantage
When trying to get the information you need regarding gas mileage, the internet can be a great resource. Search for the exact vehicle/RV combination you are thinking of using and you can probably find estimates on gas mileage from people who already are using that same setup. Their real world experience can be very useful to you in finding out if the numbers you have come up with will actually be realized when you start out onto the road for your first trip.
Gas mileage might not seem like a huge factor in the grand scheme of buying an RV, but it can play a big role in how much the rig costs to operate on an ongoing basis. Those who like to take long trips across several states should be particularly concerned about gas mileage as the price of filling up the tank time after time can really add up. Try to find the best combination of reasonable fuel economy along with the model of RV that you are looking for to end up with an RV that you love.
When you finally complete the long drive to your campsite and have the RV backed into the space, all you want to do is relax, get some food cooking, and start enjoying your vacation right away. There will be plenty of time for those activities for the rest of your trip, but for now, you need to make sure to get the RV leveled so it can serve as a good home-base for the rest of the vacation. Leveling your RV is something that you will probably get better at with experience, but there are a few tips that can help you get on the right track quickly.
Once you have taken the time to get the RV leveled, you should be able to enjoy your time sleeping and relaxing inside the rig without feeling like you are living on a slant!
Have the Right Gear
I think every RV traveler, at one point or another, has used the pop-can-on-the-floor trick to figure out if the coach is sitting level or not. While this might be a handy little trick, nothing works quite as well – or as accurately – as an actual level. Make sure to have at least one level with you for the trip, and two would be even better. As soon as you back into your spot, you can set up the levels and get a good idea of just how far off you might be. From there, the adjusting can begin.
Leveling blocks are the next piece of the puzzle that you should have along for the trip. Once the levels have done their job of telling you which direction the RV needs to be tilted in order to find a level position, you can use the leveling blocks to actually make it happen. There are many different brands of leveling blocks available on the market today, and you can find them in RV stores or, of course, on the internet. Also, something called a wheel chock is another good piece of gear to have along. This is a block that gets placed behind or in front of a wheel to make sure it doesn’t roll off the leveling blocks. Place the chock on the opposite site from the leveling block so you can secure the wheel and keep it from rolling when it’s not supposed to.
A Little Trial and Error
No matter how much you practice the art of leveling your RV, there is always going to be a little trial and error involved. No two campsites are identically alike, so you will need to keep checking the level and making adjustments until you are satisfied with the position of the rig. It helps to have a good set of leveling blocks that give you some flexibility so you can make small tweaks as the process moves along. It might be frustrating to spend some of your time on vacation worrying about getting the RV level, but it will be worth it once the job is done.
Lower the Jacks
Your RV should have stabilizing jacks installed that can be lowered to give the RV a solid footing for the duration of your stay – if it doesn’t, consider having them installed. There are both electronic jacks, as well as hand-crank models available. You shouldn’t be using these jacks to level the RV as much as just to stabilize it so there isn’t much movement while you walk around inside. For this reason, try to get the leveling done right first, then put the stabilizing jacks down and settle in.
It isn’t much fun to try and sleep in an RV that isn’t level, so take the time to get the job done right before you start enjoying your trip. Just like anything else when you travel, preparation is the key. If you have the right equipment, and understand the process of leveling the RV before you ever arrive at the campground, you will be ahead of the game. If you wish, you could do a dry run at home practicing getting the RV level using your blocks and wheel chock. Even after just doing this a couple of times, you will probably find that the job is pretty simple and you should be able to get it done in a matter of minutes when you reach your vacation destination.