Top 7 Tragic Rookie RV Mistakes To Avoid

Make sure to avoid the following rookie mistakes

You’re out on the road in your new recreation vehicle for the first time and you commit that huge mistake that tells the world you’re a newcomer to the world of RVing. It’s embarrassing and there may be a mess to clean up, but it wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t witnesses to see your mistake.

Before departure ensure all cords and hoses have been securely stored © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the first couple of years of RVing it seemed I learned something new every time I pulled into a campground. Sometimes, it was not the most enjoyable experience but a learning experience. 

Everyone makes rookie RV mistakes, but you can avoid the worst ones if you do your homework ahead of time. Here are the most common mistakes new RVers make—and how to avoid them.

Back-in campsites are more challenging than pull-through sites and require considerable practice © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive-off Disasters

The most horrifying mistake a new RVer can make is driving off while you’re still connected to water, sewer, and/or power. The damage is expensive, and it’s extremely embarrassing.

Forgetting to lower the TV antenna is common mistake of even much traveled RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also make sure you lower the satellite dish and TV antenna, retract the awnings and slides, and pick up and stow any jack pads, leveling boards, or wheel chocks prior to departure.

And don’t forget to check head lights, tail lights, and signal lights, front and rear.

Camping at White Tank Mountains, a Maricopa County Park in Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Your RV before Learning How

It’s Sunday morning and you’ve had your first awesome camping experience in your newly purchased RV. Before leaving the campground, you make a pit stop at the dump station only to realize you have no idea what to do. As you search through the manual, you realize you have a line of vehicles behind you waiting to dump. 

Ensure you know how to use a dump station correctly and have adequate heavy duty hoses © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many new procedures you need to learn—from simple things to more complex items. Before leaving home on your first camping trip, read through your operator’s manual and conduct a practice run of the major procedures, including hooking up utilities, leveling the RV, extending and retracting the slideouts, and dumping gray and black water. 

Driving a large Class A motorhome can be challenging especially on narrow roads with limited shoulder © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Knowing the Size of Your RV

First time RVers often have a difficult time managing the large size of their RV. Usually, cornering and parking are the toughest tasks. Also, ensure know your height and width.

Know and post on dash height of you RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No Plan No Prep

Many new RVers make their first mistakes before they even hit the road. The key to success is in the planning. For a smooth, worry-free trip, make sure you consider all of these things:

  • Your budget. Set aside more money than you think you’ll need—especially for food, fuel, and camping fees. Also, be sure to set aside enough money specifically for an emergency.
  • Your route. Avoid narrow roads with sharp turns, and highways with low bridges or tunnels. There are apps for this.
  • Your reservations. Many an RVer has been denied entrance to a campground because they didn’t have a reservation. Popular camps fill up quickly and RV sites are limited.
  • Your necessities. RVs are tiny places, making it easy to overpack. Make sure you only bring what you need.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather…and an amazing sky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Using a Checklist!

These newbie RV mistakes can be avoided by using a checklist before, during, and after your trip. Update your checklist with every trip—you’re bound to learn a lesson or two as time goes on.

We love pull-through RV sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not Doing a Walk Around?

There are many things that must be done when breaking camp with your RV. Often, a checklist is followed to assure that each item has been readied and checked before hitting the road.

The larger the RV the greater the challenge! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Generally, the last item to be completed is a full walk around. This involves the driver walking entirely around the vehicle and checking everything, verifying that all slides and awnings are fully retracted and locked, jacks are up, all appendages are disconnected from the services and stored, the hitch is secure, tires are fully inflated and not damaged, windows and vents are closed, antennas are down, and no kids, items, or other obstructions lie under the vehicle. The ground should be checked to make sure no fluids are leaking.

Now relax and enjoy the sunset… © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember—everyone’s an RV newbie at some point, and we’ve all made some of these newbie mistakes. You’re in good company, so keep your sense of humor, a toolbox, first aid kit, and consider yourself officially a veteran RVer.

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

Operating an RV: Departure and Setup Checklist

Checklists can make your RV arrivals and departures easier and safer

If you’re new to RVing, you’re smart to wonder about how to drive and operate your RV properly. It’s your home away from home, and should be treated as such. And RVing with Rex has you covered with answers, tips, ideas, and more, so you can hit the road with confidence.

From inspecting and maintaining your RV to knowing how to depart from a campsite and set up procedure upon arrival at a new campground or RV park, having a plan helps everything run more smoothly and ensures you’re informed and in control every step of the way.

Camping at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Below is a Departure and Setup checklist to help get you started. It is meant to be a starting point for your own list.

Departure Checklist

Lower antenna and satellite dish

Retract awnings

Camping at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Return slide-outs to their travel position

Secure loose items inside cabinets

Close and latch shower and closet doors

Close and latch oven, stovetop, and refrigerator doors

Camping at 12 Tribes Casino RV Resort in Omak, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Close and latch all internal doors (bathroom, bedroom, etc.)

Close roof vents and windows

Turn off propane-powered appliances

Close propane tank valve

Camping at Meaher State Park near Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clear the RV of trash

Stow steps, hand rails, etc.

Close and latch external door(s)

Check tire pressure on all tires

Camping at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Disconnect all hookups (electricity, sewer, water, cable, satellite)

Remove stabilizing jacks, raise leveling jacks, and store leveling blocks (as applicable)

Hitch trailer to tow vehicle or dinghy/toad to motorized RV

Camping at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Test hitch connection by driving forward

Check signal lights, 4-way lights, brake lights, headlights, and fog lights

Do a final walk-around

Check mirrors

Checking in at the office at Whispering Hills RV Park near Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrival and Setup Checklist

Once you’ve arrived at your campground, RV resort, or final destination, it’s time to park, set up, and relax. Here are some basic pointers.

Check in with campground office/park ranger station

Obtain directions to campsite

Electric, water, sewer, and cable TV connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon arrival at your site, do a walk-through, and determine best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle

Drive into campsite (pull through or back in)

Check parking job (space, alignment with hookups, clearance for slide-outs and basement bins)

Level RV

Connected to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lower leveling jacks until RV is supported

Unhitch RV and park toad/tow vehicle

Extend steps and restore hand rails and slide-outs to their parked position

Open propane tank valve

RV connections with caution warnings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect to hookups (electricity, water, sewer, cable, satellite)

Extend slide-outs

Raise antenna and satellite dish

Sealed sewer connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set up outdoor gear and awnings

Return items to their parked storage positions

And now to kick back and relax © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams