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19 Things You Should Know Before Your First RV Trip

Most people dream about RVing around the United States or Australia at some time in their lives. 

The idea of unbridled freedom to go wherever the wind leads. Being comfortable in your own home in unfamiliar territory. Never needing to pack or unpack, working as you travel, and sleeping wherever and whenever. It’s like cruising, but on land, and we love cruising

Our RV in Monument Valley, Arizona

But first we want to give a big thanks to TMS, Go RVing, El Monte RV and KOA Kampgrounds, who helped put together our very first family RV trip.

I’ll admit, for the first few days I was unsure. It was huge. It was small. It was new. But by the end of our 1-week road trip around Utah and Arizona I was sold. Why hadn’t we undertaken our whole #motherofallroadtrips in one of these? 

Leaving Las Vegas for our first family RV trip

If you are looking for itinerary inspiration through Utah and Arizona, then check this article. But if you want to know whether you should take your family in an RV or just take the car, this article is for you. Below I’ve covered 19 pros and cons I learned on our first RV trip so you can be better prepared when you embark on your own trip in a home on wheels.

But before we get started, let's take a walkthrough our RV…


Advantages

 

1. Unpack once

Probably my biggest benefit is that you only have to unpack once. It’s just like being on a cruise ship where you unpack once and still get to visit multiple destinations, except you’re on land. Once you unpack that very first day and have everything in place, you can hit the open road and never worry about packing suitcases again.

2. You can cook

There are multiple benefits to having a kitchen. One, it’s cheaper. Grocery shopping is much more cost effective than eating at restaurant. Two, it’s healthier. You can control what’s going in your food and how much you are eating. Temptation is weaker when you have only options in the fridge that you want. Three, you don’t have to wait. When my kids are hungry they are hungry now. We had stopped briefly in Page, Arizona while a small issue in the RV was being repaired and my kids complained of hunger. So we cooked a healthy meal right then and there. Presto!

A campground BBQ? Great idea! Don't worry, no sausages were harmed in this photo.


3. Sleep anywhere

As you drive down long dusty roads, there are times you just want to pull over and sleep. In an RV you can stop at a Walmart, some Casinos and campsites. The seats are also much more comfortable than a regular car, and kids can easily sleep with their seat belts firmly tightened. As a bonus benefit, use your own pillow and blankets so there’s no getting used to a new hotel bed each night.


4. I need the loo

Just like food, when my kids have to go to the toilet they have to go now. Finally, we didn’t have to pull off a highway and find the nearest gas station, we had a toilet with us wherever we went. Same applies to a shower. If you jump in a river, slide down a muddy hill or just have a bad hair day, you have a shower with all your own toiletries within arm’s reach.

5. Use time more wisely

With built-in seatbelts, our dining table was transformed into a workstation. This meant my husband, Josh, was able to process photos and write articles while I drove the RV. It also meant the kids were able to complete school work, paint, draw, play UNO, and more with much more space and comfort than the usual car trip.


6. Campsites are fun

Typically, a small road-side hotel/motel is a place where you go to your room and sleep. Campsites, on the other hand, are social. It’s easy to make friends with your neighbours, there are playgrounds and mini-golf, go-karts and swimming pools. A campsite is set up for you to enjoy yourself and share it with the people around you.


7. More spontaneity

There is so much freedom with an RV. Campgrounds are generally more accommodating with extending stays at the last minute. You might fall in love with a national park and decide to stay right there in the middle of nowhere. Or perhaps make new friends as you eat dinner together. I loved the spontaneity of RV life.

8. Bring the bike and all the bags

There is plenty of storage in an RV. We easily fit all our suitcases, my sister’s bags and even my daughter’s bike. Compared to a car, getting luggage in and out is much easier too. However, collecting souvenirs and knick-knacks is easier too with all that room (I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing Tongue Out.


9. Charge your electronics

RVs have electrical outlets for charging laptops, phones, iPads, cameras, Wi-Fi hotspots, and more. Very handy, nay essential, on a long trip.


10. Setting up camp is easy

Setting up a tent night after night can get tiring, but in an RV everything is ready. Pull into the lot, roll out the awning (in our case, push a button), plug in the water and electricity, and enjoy. Instant home wherever you are.


11. Easy to drive

Surprisingly, the RV was easy to drive, both in cities and highways. One of my unfounded fears was being trapped in a shoebox-on-wheels with a max speed of 50mph (80km/h), but driving was just plain fun. 

Big mirrors like this made it easy to spot nearby traffic


Disadvantages

Ok, so it can’t all be rainbows and sunshine. Here’s the lowdown on what to expect when you’re expecting… your first RV road trip.


13. Wi-Fi woes

Like in most public locations,Wi-Fi that is shared with others can be temperamental. It’s no different at campgrounds, and usually more miserable than a hotel. Also many campsites have just 1 router so if your lot is far away from the main building/office, you could be out of reach and out of luck. Thankfully we have a TEP Wireless Wi-Fi hotspot, which worked in most spots around the US… except the middle of the Arizona desert.

Yep, it works out here in Horsehoe Bend!


14. A place to stay

If you are use to road tripping, then a hotel is generally an easy thing to find. In addition to clear roadside signage, there’s a bunch of established apps and websites for sourcing accommodation. Wrapping your head around campgrounds is a different beast and they’re usually much further out of town. Still, you always have a Walmart as a backup. Check out the KOA website to find a list of over 500 campgrounds around the US. Or take a look at these other handy resources: ultimatecampgrounds.com (best interactive map), uscampgrounds.info (neat colour-coded legend).

Our RV in Hurricane, Utah


15. Where’s the water?

Getting use to the ins and outs of an RV can be time-consuming and kinda…well, gross. Thankfully I have a man to drain the sewerage for me and he rarely complained of the smells. Remembering to fill up the fresh water reserve (for dry camping or boondocking) can take getting use to. The moment that shower starts sputtering is usually when I remembered oh, now’s a good time to check the water levels.

16. Tight quarters

RV living offers pretty tight quarters. If you have more than 4 people in your vehicle, space can be a precious commodity. And taking a shower is a very interesting experience. Granted, it’s roomier than a car. Although I’ve never tried to have a shower in a car before.

In saying that, most campgrounds have nice showers, and long-term RVers who are in the know usually use those.

17. Gas mileage

Fuel is, of course, more expensive. It not surprising that a vehicle weighing 3 times more than the average family car will get worse gas mileage. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected, or perhaps it could have been the extra-large fuel tanks which meant we didn’t have to refuel as often.

Tip: Remember to turn off the propane valve (to automatically extinguish the pilot light) before entering a gas station. Petrol fumes and open flames don’t play well together.

Interstate 15 in Nevada, driving from Las Vegas to Zion National Park


18. Where do I park?

Parking options are more limited for an RV. You probably will not be parallel parking in front of quaint little coffee shops or zipping through drive-thru restaurants. Large parking lots (such as Walmart) are pretty easy to navigate, and as a courtesy you should park further away from the building entrance to avoid congestion and teeny tiny parking spaces. It also pays to memorize the height of the roof. Then you can determine whether entering a covered parking garage is a good idea, or if a Starbucks drive-thru foamy latte is in the realm of possibility. Generally, the answer on both counts will be no.

19. Packing up

If you plan on staying at the same campsite for awhile sometimes disconnecting all the hookups and collecting all your outdoor chairs, tables and accessories can be time consuming. It would be so handy to bring along a small car for day trips and leave the RV in the campsite (either in a fifth wheel style RV, or flat-towed/flatbed trailer/tow dolly behind the RV). A small car can also save on gas costs. If we were going longer than 3-4 weeks next time, I’d seriously consider that option.

The Verdict

In my opinion the advantages of RVing far outweigh the disadvantages and I would do it all again without a second thought. My kids were happier, the journey felt more relaxed, and as a frequent traveller, I appreciated the sense of familiarity. It’s safe to say our first time RVing was a complete success and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again. Now, where should we go?

Here's what you have to say...

"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by Megan Cherry on
You covered everything! Great read! We absolutely loved our 3 month RV road trip of the States! Best trip we've had thus far!
Posted by Kristen Bennett on
Great all round tips. Thank you :) Looks like you had lots of fun. We would be travelling as a family of 5, so good to know we could squeeze in a 5th person. I would need reliable Wi-Fi to convince teenage son to travel though lol!
Posted by Joe Citarella on
You are pretty spot on. Love the bathroom and sleep just about anywhere. Hate the set up and breakdown. Do love that we added in motion satellite so the kids can watch movies as we go. Also we still have unlimited data through Verizon for Wi-Fi..
Posted by Anna Suznjevic on
you are my leader! Thanks for answering a million questions I didn't even know I should be asking. Great post. Only 6 weeks to go. Eek
Posted by Kathryn Burrington on
I recently spent two weeks driving around Canada in an RV and had a fabulous time. Finding places to park can be a pain but other than that it's a great way to travel. The campsites we visited were all excellent and all so different from each other. After some initial confusion all the technicalities of RV life became second nature. I'd highly recommend it.
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