Avoid the most common RV mistakes



Slide 1 of 31: The best laid plans may often go awry but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them, especially when you’re taking your home/bed/hotel on the road for an adventure. If a road trip in your own or rented motorhome, camper van or trailer sounds especially appealing right now, it’s also more important than ever to be prepared. Avoid some common RV mistakes with these top tips, and make sure that all you need to worry about is what hike to take (or perhaps whether to opt for a lake or forest view).
Slide 2 of 31: It’s obviously a good idea to set off on a trip with the peace of mind that your vehicle is in good shape. But it’s also so easy to ignore, especially with all the other planning and (probably) excitement to finally get on the road. And even easier to dismiss if your van isn’t usually unreliable. But make it a priority to get it checked over and serviced by a mechanic a week or so before setting off, allowing time for any necessary work.
Slide 3 of 31: Just because the tires have been checked and pumped up before you leave home, doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way on the road, especially if you’re driving in remote areas and over dusty, gravelly or stone-strewn surfaces. Take a minute to check over the RV’s tires before each journey, even if it’s just a half-hour drive to the beach or the next campsite. It’s worth it to avoid being stranded.
Slide 4 of 31: This might sound like a small thing – but then, most of the freezers you find on board RVs are small too. Teeny-tiny, in many cases. So imagine trying to shoehorn a pizza, packet of sausages or bottle of wine that isn’t quite chilled enough into a tiny freezer that’s already half full of crystallized ice. Check it before you travel and, if needed, defrost just as you would a normal freezer – empty it, turn it off and lay paper down to soak up the water as the ice melts.

Slide 5 of 31: This might be impossible if you already own a tiny camper van. But, if you’re considering renting an RV, choose one with a toilet, sink and (ideally) shower on board. Some campgrounds have reopened without facilities and it’s more crucial than ever to make sure you’re able to stay safe, clean and socially distanced. If you have a larger RV with shower and toilet facilities, check they’re in full working order before leaving – to avoid any nasty surprises. Check out these magical motorhomes you can afford to rent.
Slide 6 of 31: Tough, hard-shelled suitcases are great for minimizing the risk of damage when traveling by train or plane. They’re not so hot when it comes to getting back to nature. Dragging a wheelie case over dirt paths and gravel is frustrating and somehow just doesn’t feel right. A soft weekend-style bag takes up less space, is easier to shove behind a seat (and fold away when empty) and won’t look out of place in the most rustic setting.
Slide 7 of 31: You’ve thrown shorts, T-shirts and a warm cardigan (just in case) in a bag. Now you need to sort out your camper van’s luggage. Think of every worst-case scenario and pack stuff to help you avoid – or cope with – it. This means bringing extra fuel, a spare wheel, water, windscreen wiper fluid and – depending on your route – extreme weather gear like snow chains.
Slide 8 of 31: Give your RV more than a once-over clean before hitting the road to ensure it’s fully disinfected and ready for its foray into the ‘new normal’. This will be more important if you’re renting. Pick a company that has stringent policies in place in light of COVID-19 and insist that the vehicle has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, from the kitchen sink to the drawer handles. You might want to consider taking your own crockery, cutlery, pots and pans too.
Slide 9 of 31: Yes, there’s usually a supermarket or at least a gas station somewhere nearby when you need to stock up on supplies. But traffic can put paid to the best-laid plans and the last thing you want after a long drive is to start scrabbling around for the nearest shop. Take the pressure off by taking at least enough for the first dinner and breakfast. It’ll be so nice to pull into that perfect spot knowing you have nowhere to be for a while.

Slide 10 of 31: We’ve all done it: packed enough tinned tomatoes, sausages and pasta to last a dozen trips but forgotten to keep a bag of potato chips in the front of the van for on-the-road nibbles. Gas station snacks can be limited at times so it makes sense to prepare before you hit the road each day, boxing up some crunchy veg sticks, pieces of cheese, nuts – whatever you might want to keep you going, so long as it’s easy to eat and mess-free.
Slide 11 of 31: Having a few ideas for lovely meals to cook at camp or just for lunch at the beach will help ensure your road trip meals are more of a joy than a chore, and also help prevent over-shopping. It doesn’t need to be anything super-fancy. Adapt your go-to recipes for the camping stove or barbecue, or find inspiration online.
Slide 12 of 31: Pack a cool box or bag and throw in a few storage containers that you can keep leftovers in. Not only will all of these things help ensure your supplies don’t spoil (or smell), they'll make it much easier to follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles of parks and campgrounds. Speaking of which, take plenty of bags you can use for garbage. There might not always be a trash can you can use while traveling or staying overnight, especially as some facilities may be reduced due to coronavirus.
Slide 13 of 31: If your RV is on the smaller side, don’t make the mistake of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. You’ll regret it when things start to lose their place and you’re having to wade through piles of clothes, bags, pots and pans day and night. Instead, think about items that can have multiple uses and earn their place. A large cool box works as a bench, for example, while a linen or cotton towel doubles as a blanket or tablecloth.
Slide 14 of 31: The more basic sites can often be in the most beautiful locations and – in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – more of us than ever will be keen to stay somewhere with fewer crowds. Do some research to find the best spots. Some locations that have previously been in high demand might be easier to nab a spot at now, particularly as reservations are often being required so parks can keep numbers down for social distancing. Read our guide to the best US spots to relax in your RV.

Slide 15 of 31: This is a sensible move even in a ‘normal’ climate – pulling up to that campground you read about, only to be turned away, is miserable after a long drive. In light of coronavirus, it’s even more important to have a firm plan and (where possible) reservation, at least for your first night. Check online to see whether you can book before you go. Some places, including US national parks, now require advance reservations, even at grounds that have previously been first come, first served.
Slide 16 of 31: So you’ve arrived at the perfect private RV resort or the most picturesque park and there are several campsites available. So, which one? It’s easy to rush this decision, especially when you’re excited or tired after a long journey. Try to consider the practical as well as the pretty. Yes, the lake view is spectacular. But, if the ground is a little uneven, you might wake up with a squashed face and a dizzy head. Drive around until you’re sure. Better still, see if the campground has any pitch pictures you can check out before you go.
Slide 17 of 31: If you remember one thing (apart from your camper van, that is), make it biodegradable wipes. Not just one packet. Take wipes for skin, wipes for hair, wipes for cleaning down cooking areas, wipes for sticky ice cream hands... all the wipes you can get your (non-sticky) hands on. Apart from comfort and cleanliness, it means you’ll be less restricted by campground facilities.
Slide 18 of 31: It’s more important than ever to be stringent with hygiene. Make sure each person in your party has a bottle of hand gel containing at least 60% alcohol (the minimum required to effectively kill coronavirus) that they can use before and after going into shops, topping up the gas or fuel, opening gates and so on. And, as well as the usual cleaning wipes, pack anti-bacterial cleaning wipes for surfaces including the steering wheel and door handles.
Slide 19 of 31: Wearing a face covering is mandatory in some countries and US states, either for particular situations or whenever in public. Check the destination for the latest information. Even if it isn’t required where you’re going, it’s sensible to wear one in public places like shops, eateries, gas stations and any busier areas where it could help protect those around you.
Slide 20 of 31: It’s always important to know the regulations that apply to the destination you’re visiting – and it’s never OK to leave a trace. These concerns are heightened due to the pandemic and guidelines will likely have changed because of COVID-19. Even if you’re heading somewhere you know like the back of your hand, take a little time to research the latest rules before you leave. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US National Park Service guides are good places to start.
Slide 21 of 31: Load your phone or tablet with maps before you head off or pack the old-fashioned paper kind. Or just scribble out some (reliable) directions. Basically, don’t rely on using GPS on the go. It’s likely you’ll lose service during your trip, especially if you’re seeking out solitary serenity in nature. You can download Google Maps to use offline, which will be handy if you’re following a set route. Having a backup that isn’t on your phone is a good idea too, though, to allow for drained batteries and spontaneous detours.
Slide 22 of 31: It’s a common mistake even for seasoned RV-ers: you’re so excited to hit the road, see everything and do everything that you overestimate how tiring traveling can be and forget to allow time to actually enjoy it. Even if you need to book campgrounds in advance (which might be necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions), try to include some stays that are two nights or more – and don’t choose spots that are a 12-hour drive apart.
Slide 23 of 31: Take a box or bag (or several bags) where you can dump your ‘dirty’ stuff, like muddy hiking boots, wet waterproofs, dusty clothes and so on. Or designate a space where you can keep grubby gear away from everything else, especially your cooking and sleeping areas. Being organized will help keep your RV clean, tidy and a lot more pleasant to be in.
Slide 24 of 31: Planning a playlist might be the last thing on your mind before a big trip but you won’t regret it. You may, however, regret having a five-hour drive stretching ahead of you with no option to bellow along to your favorite tunes – especially if all you can find on the radio is a faint crackle. Save some offline playlists via a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music so you’ll always have some uplifting tunes on the road and by the campfire (if campground regulations allow).
Slide 25 of 31: That is, sweat the small stuff before you leave – so you don’t have to sweat about not having the small stuff while on your trip. How many times have you been stranded without a corkscrew, or only realized how important a flashlight is when you wake up in a pitch-dark campground, desperate for the bathroom? Not to mention a pack of playing cards and a spare pillow. Now take a look at the most unique place to camp in every state.
Slide 26 of 31: Of all the things worth making a little extra room for, we reckon this comes pretty high on the list. A gazebo will be your best friend if it rains or is too hot. And it gives you that extra bit of space in which to cook or simply relax. You can get pop-up ones that are lightweight and attach to the side of an RV, so there’s no need to heft heavy weights around. An awning works too.
Slide 27 of 31: Depending on the location and time of year, bugs can creep up on you and become your biggest bugbear. They can even ruin an otherwise perfect trip. Pack a spray and also think about stuff you can set up around your campsite. Large citronella candles or oil-burning lanterns will work hard to deter insects like mosquitos and midges while also providing soft, pretty light. This is the best weekend road trip in every US state
Slide 28 of 31: Even experienced RV drivers may struggle at times without an interior mirror, especially when reversing in tight spaces at campgrounds and gas stations. Nervous and newbie RV drivers will be especially glad they invested in a backup or reverse camera. They’re pretty easy to install, not particularly costly – and priceless if they can help to prevent an accident.
Slide 29 of 31: However distracting the scenery and however focused you are on trying not to take a wrong turn, don’t forget to check the fuel gauge regularly. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere is no fun and neither is paying over the odds for gas at a station that knows it’s your only option for hundreds of miles. Both are easily avoidable – look up stops on your route, if you can, and top up well before the red light kicks in.
Slide 30 of 31: You might be pretty sure you tucked away the awning properly, tightly secured the pop-up roof and closed every latch and drawer inside the van. It only takes one thing to go flying or spring open while on the road, though, to – at best – distract you and cause a mess and, in a worst-case scenario, cause an accident. Make it a habit to have a walk around inside and out every time you’re about to get back on the road. Now discover the world's most beautiful natural wonders
Slide 31 of 31: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recommends staying as close to home as possible when visiting parks (and traveling in general) to reduce exposure to and the potential spread of coronavirus. While many places are opening up, the ongoing and dynamic nature of the pandemic means plans could be disrupted at the last minute, so it’s sensible to not stray too far – no matter how loudly the open road is calling you. Take a look at the best place to stay with your RV in every state

Get in gear

Schedule a pre-trip check

Check your tires as you go

Defrost your freezer

Have an onboard bathroom

This might be impossible if you already own a tiny camper van. But, if you’re considering renting an RV, choose one with a toilet, sink and (ideally) shower on board. Some campgrounds have reopened without facilities and it’s more crucial than ever to make sure you’re able to stay safe, clean and socially distanced. If you have a larger RV with shower and toilet facilities, check they’re in full working order before leaving – to avoid any nasty surprises. Check out these magical motorhomes you can afford to rent.

Ditch a hard-shell suitcase

Remember your RV’s luggage

Get it clean (or cleaned)

Take at least a day’s worth of food

Don’t neglect the nibbles

We’ve all done it: packed enough tinned tomatoes, sausages and pasta to last a dozen trips but forgotten to keep a bag of potato chips in the front of the van for on-the-road nibbles. Gas station snacks can be limited at times so it makes sense to prepare before you hit the road each day, boxing up some crunchy veg sticks, pieces of cheese, nuts – whatever you might want to keep you going, so long as it’s easy to eat and mess-free.

Have some recipes ready

Pack stuff to pack it up

Go for double-duty gear

If your RV is on the smaller side, don’t make the mistake of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. You’ll regret it when things start to lose their place and you’re having to wade through piles of clothes, bags, pots and pans day and night. Instead, think about items that can have multiple uses and earn their place. A large cool box works as a bench, for example, while a linen or cotton towel doubles as a blanket or tablecloth.

Swerve the facilities – and the crowds

The more basic sites can often be in the most beautiful locations and – in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – more of us than ever will be keen to stay somewhere with fewer crowds. Do some research to find the best spots. Some locations that have previously been in high demand might be easier to nab a spot at now, particularly as reservations are often being required so parks can keep numbers down for social distancing. Read our guide to the best US spots to relax in your RV.

Book your campground in advance

Choose your spot carefully

So you’ve arrived at the perfect private RV resort or the most picturesque park and there are several campsites available. So, which one? It’s easy to rush this decision, especially when you’re excited or tired after a long journey. Try to consider the practical as well as the pretty. Yes, the lake view is spectacular. But, if the ground is a little uneven, you might wake up with a squashed face and a dizzy head. Drive around until you’re sure. Better still, see if the campground has any pitch pictures you can check out before you go.

Load up on wipes

Don’t forget the anti-bac

Stock up on face coverings

Learn the latest advice

It’s always important to know the regulations that apply to the destination you’re visiting – and it’s never OK to leave a trace. These concerns are heightened due to the pandemic and guidelines will likely have changed because of COVID-19. Even if you’re heading somewhere you know like the back of your hand, take a little time to research the latest rules before you leave. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US National Park Service guides are good places to start.

Download maps in advance

Load your phone or tablet with maps before you head off or pack the old-fashioned paper kind. Or just scribble out some (reliable) directions. Basically, don’t rely on using GPS on the go. It’s likely you’ll lose service during your trip, especially if you’re seeking out solitary serenity in nature. You can download Google Maps to use offline, which will be handy if you’re following a set route. Having a backup that isn’t on your phone is a good idea too, though, to allow for drained batteries and spontaneous detours.

Keep your schedule loose

Have a dirt box on board

Don’t take away the music

Do sweat the small stuff

That is, sweat the small stuff before you leave – so you don’t have to sweat about not having the small stuff while on your trip. How many times have you been stranded without a corkscrew, or only realized how important a flashlight is when you wake up in a pitch-dark campground, desperate for the bathroom? Not to mention a pack of playing cards and a spare pillow. Now take a look at the most unique place to camp in every state.

Grab a gazebo

Bear the bugs in mind

Depending on the location and time of year, bugs can creep up on you and become your biggest bugbear. They can even ruin an otherwise perfect trip. Pack a spray and also think about stuff you can set up around your campsite. Large citronella candles or oil-burning lanterns will work hard to deter insects like mosquitos and midges while also providing soft, pretty light.

This is the best weekend road trip in every US state

Invest in a backup camera

Plan your pit stops

Take a walk about

You might be pretty sure you tucked away the awning properly, tightly secured the pop-up roof and closed every latch and drawer inside the van. It only takes one thing to go flying or spring open while on the road, though, to – at best – distract you and cause a mess and, in a worst-case scenario, cause an accident. Make it a habit to have a walk around inside and out every time you’re about to get back on the road.

Now discover the world’s most beautiful natural wonders

Stay close to home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recommends staying as close to home as possible when visiting parks (and traveling in general) to reduce exposure to and the potential spread of coronavirus. While many places are opening up, the ongoing and dynamic nature of the pandemic means plans could be disrupted at the last minute, so it’s sensible to not stray too far – no matter how loudly the open road is calling you.

Take a look at the best place to stay with your RV in every state

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