Whether you’re considering selling your home and switching to an RV lifestyle, or simply want to plan an epic road trip around the country in a rented motorhome, there are a number of things to take into consideration.
Both permanent RV living and simple RV holidays both allow you to travel with your accommodation, giving you greater flexibility on where you can travel and stretching your travel budget considerably, but driving a motorhome is far different than road-tripping with a sedan or SUV.
Traveling via an RV, whether it be a motorhome, campervan, or caravan, allows you to travel while also maintaining many comforts of home since it does pretty much act like a home on wheels.
RVs allow you to ditch expensive hotels and instead opt for sleeping sometimes in stunning natural settings without needing to rough-it by pitching a tent. You can enjoy a comfortable bed, cooking facilities, clean private bathroom and shower, and more depending on the type of RV you purchase or rent.
If you’re new to the world of campervans and motorhomes, check out this comprehensive guide filled with beginner advice, safety tips, and essentials you’ll need to ensure your RV road trip or transition to an RV lifestyle is enjoyable and stress-free.
Advice, Safety Tips, and Essentials for First-Time Motorhome and RV Road Trips
Choosing an RV
Before you begin planning where you’ll travel with your RV, you first need to decide what type of RV you’ll need.
You’ve got everything from small campervans with a basic bed in the back to fully-equipped, hi-tech motorhomes that can comfortably accommodate a small family while also providing kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Obviously the larger the RV, the greater the fuel consumption will be. You may also run into restrictions on where you can park your larger RV such as a motorhome, and the general expenses tend to go up as you keep all your added RV conveniences powered-up.
Another factor to consider is whether you’ll go for a manual or auto RV. While older RVs that towed RV trailers were mostly manual transmissions, today it is quite common to see automatic transmission RVs. Autos will be far easier for most first-time RV road trippers to drive, especially when it comes to managing hill-starts and long drives.
You’ll want to figure out what you’re spacing needs are including the number of people you’ll need your RV to accommodate.
You’ll also then want to see how much you want to splurge on extras such as fine interiors, touchscreen integration, full internet connectivity, solar panels, gas-free cooking, electric-powered awnings, smart voice control technology, etc.
Renting, Insuring, and Possibly Financing Your RV
RV Renting Tips
One of the biggest reasons RVing appeals to many people is that it allows you the freedom to travel and see the world. However, this can be negated if you overspend on your RV rental or purchase and it leaves you with little to no budget to actually travel with it.
When renting an RV, be aware of the many extra costs such as the deposit bond, propane, generator rental, and campground fees. Some RV rental companies may include items like linens, kitchen utensils, propane, and other extras, so make sure you know exactly all that is included in your daily rental price.
Other important tips to remember include booking your RV early, especially during school holidays or peak travel periods, and always compare prices to get the best quote.
It’s also wise to actually research or possibly view in-person if possible the RV rental you are looking at to make sure it offers the space and comfort you need.
Image credit: Cozy Campers Iceland
Purchasing RV/Motorhome Insurance
Whether your campervan or motorhome is parked at a caravan park or active on the road, accidents can be more common since you will spending quite a bit of time in it. Because of this, you may want to consider getting motorhome insurance and possibly look into roadside assistance.
While mandatory third-party insurance is almost always automatically included in an RV rental price, this will only cover injuries to people other than your family.
You will need to purchase additional insurance to financially protect yourself from road accidents that cause damage to your RV, RV fire damage, break-ins and theft, towing costs if necessary, and damage to third party property whether you are renting an RV or purchasing one of your own.
You’ll find there are a number of different insurance policies available, each offering different levels of coverage. The more comprehensive your policy is, the less worried you’ll have to be on the road.
Of course added cover such as insuring tires, underbody damage, and windscreens will all increase your premium.
Financing an RV
Most people are unlikely going to be able to purchase their RV outright, especially those looking at purchasing an expensive motorhome. You’ll want to give as much attention to motorhome financing as you would when looking to a bank for a home loan.
Much like a home loan, an RV loan can be spread out over many years such as a 20-year RV loan. This will allow you to make affordable monthly repayments over time.
The one benefit of purchasing an RV as opposed to renting one is that you will avoid having to pre-book your RV each time you want to take a road trip and in doing so possibly pay inflated rates during peak travel seasons.
It also avoids having to pay a hefty deposit bond which can be in the thousands of dollars for a large motorhome.
Get to Know Your RV
Just like breaking in a new pair of hiking boots with shorter walks before embarking on a week-long trek, it’s wise to get acquainted with your new RV with short trips around home before a heading off on a big road trip to get a feel for how it drives and operates.
You’ll want to brush up on basic mechanic skills since you may run into problems far from services and be forced to do things yourself like change a tire, replace filters, or make minor repairs to your RV and any onboard appliances.
Don’t be afraid to ask the RV rental company how to operate everything in the RV. Operating RV kitchen appliances, pull-down beds, folding tables, and bathroom showers/toilets can be a bit tricky on some motorhomes.
They should be more than willing to give you a rundown on how to operate everything in your RV before they hand over the keys.
Knowing all the ins and outs of your RV before you take off on your trip will prevent having to waste precious time during your travels trying to figure out how to operate everything.
RV Driving Tips
As stated earlier, driving an RV, especially a large motorhome, is very different than driving your average vehicle. There are a number of driving tips that will help you to avoid accidents and adhere to road rules.
The obvious factor that makes driving an RV difficult is that they are commonly quite large. Driving all this extra size and weight means having to somewhat retrain how you drive. You will need more space to make turns, meaning you will want to allow more space on the sides of your RV and make wide, slow turns.
Larger RVs also equate to longer break times, meaning you will want to put more distance between you and the drivers ahead of you. The longer break times will also factor into how quickly you break for stoplights, going down hills, and avoiding potential wildlife collisions on the road.
Weather such as rain and high winds can also impact a large RV more so than a smaller vehicle. Always drive more slowly in wet weather and you may need to pull over or altogether avoid driving in especially windy weather due to the greater instability high winds can impose on tall RVs.
Because you’re likely to be driving more slowly than other drivers, always stick to the lane closest to the shoulder when more than one lane is present or as close to the shoulder as safely possible when just one lane is available. Not only will this allow others to pass you, but it may also give you extra width on the driver’s side to better avoid crossing over the center line and impacting oncoming traffic.
Very importantly, be aware of how high your RV is. You want to make certain you have the necessary clearance to clear tunnels, bridges, fast food drive-throughs, and parking garages.
When it comes to parking, you are wise to let a fellow passenger help guide you so you can avoid hitting other vehicles and ensure you are properly aligned in a parking space. Parking a large motorhome can present many blind spots along with the general greater degree of difficulty in maneuvering such a large vehicle.
Understand the Costs of an RV
I touched on this earlier, but really understand all the costs associated with driving, operating, parking, and maintaining an RV.
While it may seem that RV travel is far cheaper than staying in hotels, it can quickly prove to be quite expensive when you add up all the additional and hidden costs.
I’ve talked about the need for comprehensive RV insurance and paying caravan park fees which can be pricey at popular campgrounds where you opt for a prime-location powered site.
Daily electricity hook-up charges along with waste disposal fees can add up quickly. You then have to factor in your driving fuel usage and propane for cooking and enjoying hot showers.
Be aware of all the costs associated with your RV and budget your travel accordingly.
Planning Where Your RV Will Take You
Deciding on which RV you will rent or purchase is one thing, but then you also have to decide on where you want to take it. Many times, where you want to go or the number of places you wish to see and the distances between them will determine the type of RV you go for.
You have to decide what kind of RV travel you want to enjoy. Do you want to be constantly on the move, doing a full tour of a country or continent? If this is the case, a smaller campervan that will allow you to save on fuel and offers easier navigation may be the best option.
Alternatively, if you are looking to head to a single caravan park or just a few destinations in which you will set yourself up for weeks or months at a time, you may want to go with a more comfortable motorhome to enjoy all the extra conveniences.
Plan your route carefully, and decide if it will be suitable for your chosen RV. You may have to tweak your itinerary according to what your RV capabilities are.
You may also want to consider towing an RV camper as opposed to getting a motorhome, or at least tow a smaller vehicle behind your motorhome to make checking out local attractions easier and possibly more fuel efficient.
Be Smart with Belongings and Storage
While large motorhomes do provide far more space than smaller vehicles, you still want to be smart with what you take with you and how you store your belongings.
Failure to minimize what you bring or not cleverly storing things to maximize space can cause you to constantly live day after day in clutter which will become stressful over time.
Remember, the whole idea around RV life is to simplify life and learn to enjoy experiences over possessions. The goal is to select only the items that will prove most useful and actually serve a purpose. Minimizing the amount of belongings you have will also help save you fuel costs.
Effective storage can easily be achieved through the use of labelled tubs placed underneath beds and bench-style seats. You can opt for fold up tables and chairs along with furniture that can transform to serve several different purposes to further maximize space.
Things tend to move around quite a bit in an RV while driving, so you’ll want to strap things down to prevent breakage. This means not only securing items in drawers and cabinets, but also securing the doors of drawers and cabinets from opening through the use of bungees or latches.
Other things that can keep your belongings in place include using velcro strips, magnets, tension rods, and adhesive putty. Door pocket-organizers can also come in handy for securing items and maximizing space, as can suction cup hooks and racks that can be utilized in the bathroom.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Bluetti
Additional RV Tips
A few bonus tips that can make RV holidays more enjoyable include getting an RV power converter, switching to LED lighting to save on power usage and therefore costs, and investing in a water pressure regulator to help keep your water pressure from fluctuating when hooked up at a caravan park.
RVs generally use both AC and DC power. An RV power converter allows you to power all of your onboard RV appliances and electronics, converting AC (120V) voltage to DC (12V) voltage, and allowing several 12-volt DC appliances to be run at the same time without draining the RV’s battery.
A 12v RV TV will run on the RV batteries and doesn’t require hooking up to shore-based power, but they can be expensive. In order to use a less expensive traditional TV that you would normally use at home, you will need to use an inverter, be hooked up to shore power, or use a generator.
When it comes to lighting, LEDs are best. There are three main types of lights that can be found in RVs and they include hardwired overhead lights that are operated via a wall switch plate, dome lights that operate off the RV’s electrical system, and simple battery operated lights that can be mounted on walls.
A water pressure regulator will help you better deal with keeping the water pressure consistent, but to achieve higher water pressure for RV showers you may need to look into a pump that offers a higher flow rate or invest in a specially-designed high-pressure shower head.
I hope these RV tips offer you a bit of insight on what you can expect when renting and driving an RV. With proper research and planning, an RV lifestyle or simple RV road trip holiday can be an exciting and more flexible way to travel and see the world.
Utilize these great RV tips along with keeping these extra camping tips handy for when you’re planning your next road trip adventure.