Everything You Need to Know to Plan a Safe (and Fun) RV Road Trip

Unexpected hurdles don’t have to spoil the fun—here’s what we have learned over the years about staying safe and comfortable on the road

If this is your first time planning an RV trip, make sure to start planning well in advance so you have time to wrinkle out any complications. There are numerous resources available to help with your RV itinerary as well as different tips and tricks to have a great RV trip.

Over the past few decades and more than a million miles, we’ve learned—sometimes the hard way—about the many things that can go wrong on a road trip and how to plan for them.

Here are some tips to stay safe and comfortable, no matter what the open road throws your way.

Do your dream but plan wisely © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set a budget

I put this first on the list because it will dictate your overall trip. Setting a budget will determine how far you can drive, your nightly budget for camping and activities. Campgrounds in national parks and state parks tend to be less expensive but often without the services of a private park.

If you drive a shorter distance, your fuel costs will be lower. Setting a budget is an important part of RV road trip planning.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack wisely

Being smart is essential for any road trip but it’s even more important when traveling in an RV. This is because you have limited space and you need to be able to make the most of it.

Here are a few tips for packing wisely for your RV road trip:

  • First, start by making a list of everything you need. This will help you get organized and ensure that you don’t forget anything important.
  • Prioritize the items on your list. You’ll need to decide what is essential and what would be nice to have if space is available.
  • Think about how you’ll use each item during your trip. This will help you determine what needs to be packed and what can be left at home.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack for safety

Unexpected delays and breakdowns are part of the game and if you plan for them they’re easier to deal with. Here are basic items to pack as well as some extra things that are helpful to have on hand.

Items to bring for your vehicle include:

  • Tool kit for basic roadside repairs including wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, shop towels, rags, duct tape, and Rhino tape
  • Extra windshield washer fluid, coolant, oil, and transmission fluid
  • Basic roadside breakdown kit with flares, a reflective vest, jumper cables, a heavy-duty tire pressure gauge, flashlights, and a pair of work gloves
  • Comprehensive and up-to-date paper maps of your intended route and destination
Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here’s what to bring for your safety and comfort:

  • Enough food and water to sustain you and your passenger(s) for at least several days
  • Protection from the elements including a raincoat, good walking shoes, insect repellent, wide-brimmed hat, winter toque, sunglasses, and sunscreen 
  • First aid kit including bandages, pressure dressings, antibiotic ointment, and a sting/bite kit 
  • Can opener, knife, and multi-tool
  • Phone charger and power bank
  • Bear spray for safely repelling curious bears or bad people. Note: Bear spray is very potent, so read about how to use it safely
Lesser Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prepare your RV

Before hitting the road, check your tire pressure, wiper blades, and lights and make sure your fluids are topped off.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your route

There are a many things to consider when planning the dates for your RV road trip and where you will go. Are there timely events you want to attend? If so, you will want to plan your trip around that. If not, it is a great time to look at your destination bucket list. It is also important to consider the weather where you will be.

Whether you’re spontaneous about routes or a meticulous reservation maker, Rex Talks RVing can help you on just about every level. Keep in mind holidays and local events that can make driving through a city or finding a campground difficult. For example, driving through Houston at rush hour or traveling from Vegas to Los Angeles at the end of a holiday weekend can be frustrating and is usually avoidable. 

Don’t forget a paper atlas. There are many areas where a phone-based GPS doesn’t work and other times when you’ll need to find alternate routes. Plus, it’s fun to browse untraveled sections of a map to plot future adventures.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get off-the-beaten path

One of the best things about an RV road trip is that you have the opportunity to explore places that are off the beaten path. This is a great way to really experience the culture and beauty of the area you’re visiting. Additionally, it’s a great way to avoid the crowds and really relax and enjoy your trip. 

Look out for RV-friendly routes and avoid low bridges and narrow roads as appropriate.

Rochester, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know what to do in a weather emergency

Anticipate the weather conditions you might encounter—including tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, wildfires, dust storms, blizzards, and extreme heat—and research how to get through each situation safely without panicking. This is when a weather radio is important.

Covered bridge, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avoid dangerous encounters

It’s easy enough to figure out what wild animals you might encounter like bears and take precautions for them. But also keep in mind unsavory people. If you do not feel safe where you are, then relocate. Trust your instincts.

Fort Stockton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling safely

To stay alert, get plenty of sleep each night, take regular breaks and walk around, have spicy snacks and caffeine drinks on hand, and don’t eat a big meal before driving. If you do need to pull over for a break, do so at a rest area.

Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recreate wisely as you travel

It’s easy to think you won’t get hurt on vacation but it does happen. While enjoying the sights outside of your vehicle don’t take a selfie with a buffalo, avoid swimming in Yellowstone, and look both ways before crossing Bourbon Street—among other things.

Fort Adams State Park, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional tips: 

  • Sign up for real-time, current-location alerts on your weather app or check Weather.gov for weather stations on the radio
  • Keep up your situational awareness as in lock your vehicles when you leave your camp site
  • Keep your fuel tank at least half full especially in remote areas where fuel stations are less frequent
  • Practice defensive driving
  • Stay alert for wildlife on the road especially at dawn or dusk and after dark and on secondary roads
  • Pull over or change lanes if there’s a line of traffic behind you; not only is it annoying but you’re creating a hazardous situation where people will likely try to pass you in dangerous places
  • Pay attention to the mile marker signs on the side of the road as well as the county so you can accurately identify your location for emergency responders or roadside assistance

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign