4 Essential Road Trip Lessons For First Time RV Owners

Krista Diamond | May 8, 2017 @ 3:00 PM

You can already imagine the open road, the map spread out on the dashboard, the wind in your hair. You just bought your first RV and you are excited, inspired and to be honest, a little bit terrified.

Your first road trip with your new RV brings the promise of adventure, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Somewhere down the road—both literally and figuratively—you’ll find yourself dealing with an unexpected RV issue (Your refrigerator stopped working because the vehicle isn’t level?!?!) and you’ll know exactly what to do. But if you’re a new RV owner preparing for your first road trip, now is not that time.

Most of what you will learn as an RV owner comes with experience, but in the meantime, here are four pieces of essential information that you should take the time to learn before hitting the road.

Get an RV Specific GPS

You might already have your mobile GPS app of choice, but once you get behind the wheel of an RV, it’s time to switch things up.

As an RV owner, you’ve got to consider the length and height of your vehicle when choosing your route. Things like low clearance bridges, narrow, winding roads and cities with streets that don’t allow RV travel will all play a role in your travel plans. Download an RV GPS app like SmartRV Route to your phone to help you find an RV-friendly route. Just be sure to have a car charger for your smartphone. Running this app, or any other RV navigation app (there are several free and paid options) will drain your battery. You can also go old school and buy an actual GPS (yep, they still make them). You can shop for a GPS that’s designed for truckers, who face the same navigation challenges as RV drivers, or you can buy an RV specific GPS, like this one from Garmin. Whether you go mobile or old fashioned, most GPS options for RVs offer voice navigation that’s tailored to the size of your RV along with directions to RV campgrounds and repair shops.

Know How to Boondock

One thing you’re going to learn as a new RV owner is how expensive it can be. Fortunately, there are tricks for cutting costs when you’re road tripping. One of the best ways to save some money is boondocking.

Boondocking is free RV camping (often referred to as dry camping or dispersed camping) outside of established campgrounds. You won’t have access to hookups while boondocking. Purchasing a deep cycle battery to power your generator or solar panels might be something to consider once you get comfortable with your RV but it’s not necessary as a new RV owner. The most obvious—and least glamorous—way to boondock is by parking in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Be aware that despite what you’ve heard, not all Wal-Marts allow RVs to spend the night, so be sure to choose one that does. Because we live in a world where there is literally an app for everything, you can find an RV-friendly Wal-Mart by using the Wal-Mart Overnight Parking Locator App. If you prefer something more scenic, consider US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land. Many USFS or BLM managed wilderness areas allow boondocking. Just be sure to always park in a way that doesn’t destroy vegetation, respect fire regulations, carry out your trash and bury human waste at least six inches deep. Most importantly, research or contact the USFS or BLM area before you head over to find out where you can camp and how long you can stay.

Buy RV Toilet Paper

The black water tank. It’s the bane of any new RV owners existence. Unlike the gray water tank, which holds water from your sink and shower, this is the tank that holds human waste.

And yes, it is really gross. In addition to using a holding tank chemical to reduce odor and break down solid waste, you can make the black water tank less unpleasant by purchasing RV toilet paper. This is actually a lot more readily available than you might think, and it can make a big difference. It’s designed to dissolve quickly so that it doesn’t clog up your black water tank. Many RV veterans debate the necessity of RV toilet paper, but if you’re a newbie who would faint at the sight of a black water disaster, it’s a $3 investment that’s worth making. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, here’s a list of every dump station in every state. You’re definitely going to want to keep it handy.

RV Self Storage

We don’t mean to bum you out, but the truth is, all RV road trips must come to an end. Eventually, you’re going to have to put away your RV for the off-season. For some people, that means October through April and for others that only means a few weeks.

Either way, it’s a good idea to have RV storage at a storage facility. Many apartment complexes and HOAs don’t allow RV owners to park their vehicles outside of their homes. Even if you live in a neighborhood that does allow this, leaving your RV in front of your residence can leave it vulnerable to damage or theft.

RV storage will guarantee your vehicle a safe space that’s free from all of those concerns. RV storage options range from parking lot style storage, stalls that offer basic protection from the elements and totally tricked out storage units with individual alarms, climate control and all the bells and whistles.

The best option for you will be determined by your budget, how long you need storage for and what’s available in your area. RV storage spaces tend to book up fast, so don’t wait until the last minute to reserve yours. Follow these road trip tips, and you’ll be an expert RV owner in no time. Don’t forget to ask your RV dealer and your RV storage facility for additional advice and most importantly, enjoy the journey ahead.

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