Are You Ready to Live the RV Lifestyle? 11 Tips for Getting Started

An RV Lifestyle can be very rewarding for those who are prepared

You’re ready to live that RV life? How exciting! There are many things to know before you hit the road, so I’ve rounded up a few essential tips to get you started.

Camping at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go old school

While we’re all pretty used to having Wi-Fi and phone service everywhere we go, you might find yourself in some off-the-gird situations. So, I suggest you go old school. Take photos and screenshots of all of your necessary documentation that can only be found online. In addition, it’s never a bad idea to have photocopies and printouts.

The same goes for your maps and reservation information. Those hard copies could be your saving grace if you find yourself in a pinch, either out of service or with a dead or broken phone. Imagine making the whole trip without internet or access to your devices. Round up everything you’ll need. If you don’t need those hard copies, no problem. But if you do, you’ll never regret having them.

Camping at Capital City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Checklists for everything

Before you go, make sure you have everything you’ll need during your trip with an RV camping essentials checklist. Just like pilots have a pre-flight checklist it’s important to have pre-departure checklists for your RV.

Every checklist will differ depending on the RV type and gear. The important thing is to make comprehensive lists and check them EVERY time you leave.

There are certain RV camping essentials you need to take with you such as your RV paperwork (insurance, registration details, roadside assistance documents, and road maps). You also need to make sure you pack other RV essentials such as electrical or battery equipment, a tool kit, and a first aid kit. 

Related article: Why RV?

If you plan to prepare meals in your RV (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll need to ensure you have all the equipment and supplies you need. For example, you’ll require bowls, plates, cutlery, cups, pots and pans, knives, chopping boards, and matches. You’ll also need to pack products to clean these items once you’ve used them such as sponges, detergent, and trash bags.

Camping at Arizona Oasis RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seize the opportunity

If you come across a fuel station, a place with a clean shower, or a grocery store with RV parking, take the opportunity to stop. You never know when you might find yourself in a pinch, so grab those opportunities when they arise.

Camping at The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course, Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start with your needs

As you’re packing, consider what you need rather than what you want. You can expand your packing list as you gain experience but starting with the essentials will help you pack efficiently and save space. Packing the non-essentials makes it easier to forget the things you really need. Aim to have as little clutter as possible and keep it simple.

Camping at Ramblers Rest RV Park, Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask for advice

Remember the community that surrounds you. Get involved! Don’t go it alone. Your fellow RVers are your friends. Networking with them will produce a more successful experience for everyone. They can provide moral support, maintenance help, babysitting for your pets and belongings while you’re away, and guidance when planning your routes. Ask about the best places to go, stop, and stay. Reviews can be misleading and you can only learn so much online. Personalized recommendations are ideal when possible.

Related article: 11 Ways RVing Beats Flying

Consider following some RV bloggers online and on social media to get an idea of how they live their lives and get recommendations for the can’t-miss places. Join a forum to get started and don’t be afraid to keep an open mind.

Camping at Creek Fire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your RV inside and out

You need to know everything there is to know about your RV from the exact exterior measurements to your plumbing and electrical systems. You need to be the expert.

Each RV we’ve owned has come with a suitcase of user manuals. There is an instruction booklet on everything from operating the furnace and air conditioner to cleaning and servicing the RV and awning and everything in between. There is even a manual on RV tires.

Read through every manual. There are also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on proper tire inflation. We’ve referenced all the information many times throughout our years of RVing.

When a fuse goes out at 1 a.m. you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our current motorhome has three fuse/breaker boxes and one of them is outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.

Gather all documentation and study it as much as possible before heading out. It’s always a good idea to do a few shorter practice trips before you drive into RV living.

Camping at Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Save money on camping

Of course, RVing comes with its own expenses and also certain sacrifices; like anything in life, it’s a give and take. But if you do it right—by, for example, joining a discount camping club like Passport America to save 50 percent on your campground accommodations—this unique traveling life can give you physical as well as financial liberation. In fact, many RVers are drawn to the small life in order to pursue minimalistic, debt-free living.

Camping at Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everything has a place

Just like the cupboards in a house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands.

Related article: Why are RVs So Popular?

It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go—and where they are when you unpack.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park. Waveland, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure you’re insured

You’ll want to talk to your insurance provider and learn about all the types of insurance you might need. From RV insurance to medical insurance, you don’t want to find yourself in a sticky situation without proper coverage.

Boondocking along Scenic Utah Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Budget for RV living

As mentioned before, one of the advantages of RV living—or at least one of the reasons people most frequently site for taking on this lifestyle—is its affordable nature. But it’s not always that simple.

RVing does include many costs and they’re quite variable so there’s no way to really talk about the average cost of RV living. For example, you might spend $85 a night at a posh RV resort with all the amenities or absolutely nothing for a great boondocking site on public lands. Your fuel cost will vary depending on the model of rig you purchase, your speed, weather conditions, the terrain, and how often and far you drive.

Related article: 7 Confessions of a Snowbird Living the RV Lifestyle

With careful planning, RVing can be a viable way to save on your living expenses. For one thing, you simply can’t buy as many new items when you don’t have very much room to store them in.

You can create a budget either through the many budgeting apps or the old fashion way. Be sure to include major camping expenses such as campsite fees and fuel and also food, license and registration, maintenance and repairs, and entertainment. Don’t forget about regular expenses like cell phone bills and the occasional purchase of new clothing and supplies.

Camping at Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy the Journey

Most importantly, enjoy the journey. There are headaches associated with RV living but there are many more pleasures.

Worth Pondering…

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin