What to Pack for Extended RV Trips

Here are the essentials for an extended RV trip including snowbird travel

Over the course of 22 years of our snowbird RV lifestyle, we have learned what we really need to pack and what we can do without. Our list of “essentials” has changed over the years based on changing needs and available storage space.

It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before leaving on our snowbird journey we go through the RV to determine the items needed and those no longer required.

It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following is a list of the items we currently pack into our RV for our snowbird travels to the U.S. Sunbelt. It should be noted that the majority of these items are never removed from the RV.

It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hopefully, if you are new to the snowbird lifestyle the following list will provide some assistance on the essentials required when planning an extended RV trip.

It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inside Items

  • Laptop computer, printer, camera, lens, and camera bag
  • Manuals for the motorhome and toad
  • Atlases and maps
  • Campground directories (Good Sam and Big Rigs)
  • Office supplies
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kitchen Stuff

  • Place setting for four people
  • Eating utensils
  • Coffee mugs and assorted glassware
  • Placemats
  • Small, medium, and large pots w/lids
  • Electric fry pan
  • Salad spinner
  • Roasting pans
  • Air tight plastic containers of various sizes for food storage
  • Toaster oven
  • Slow cooker
  • Kettle
  • Kitchen knives
  • Mixing bowls
  • Coffee maker
  • Cutting boards
  • Assorted utensils (spatula, ice cream scoop, can opener, measuring spoons, peeler, etc.)
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outside Items

  • Camping chairs
  • Folding tables
  • Outside mat
  • Tire covers
  • Tarp
  • Jack pads
  • RV Leveling Blocks (plastic stacking blocks in carrying case)
  • 5 gallon bucket
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utility Hookups

  • Fresh water hoses
  • Water pressure regulators
  • Sewer hoses, connections including clear plastic elbow, and support
  • Disposable plastic gloves
  • Coaxial TV cable
  • Progressive Industries Electric Management System
  • 30-amp extension cord
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cleaners & Lubricants

  • Windex
  • 303 Aerospace Protectant
  • Meguires RV wash and wax
  • Long adjustable pole with attachments
  • Silicone and white lithium spray lubricants
  • WD-40
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tools & Maintenance Items

  • Basic tool kit (Screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, hammer, tape measure, etc.)
  • Assorted screws, nuts, bolts, and washers
  • Heavy duty tire pressure gauge
  • Folding shovel
  • Duct and Gorilla Tape
  • Spare oil, hydraulic fluid, transmission fluid for motorhome
  • Distilled water
  • Funnels
  • Work gloves
  • Portable collapsible ladder
  • Heavy duty clippers with extendable handles
It all fits somewhere. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Safety & Emergency Items

  • 4 fire extinguishers—bedroom, entrance, storage, and toad
  • Emergency road side reflective triangles
  • First aid kit
  • Spare batteries for LED flashlights, CO, smoke, and LP gas detectors
  • Battery jumper cables
At the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wow! When I actually sat down and listed our stuff and it sure adds up. It’s hard to believe it all fits in our rig, but it does. Fortunately, our Dutch Star diesel pusher’s ample storage space and a decent amount of extra cargo weight capacity.

At the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along with the reliability of Newmar motorhomes and the quality service provided by our dealer—Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia—the ample cargo carrying capacity was one of the reasons we chose it. Something to think about if you’re buying a rig for extended RV trips.

At the Newmar Service Center in Nappanee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.

RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:

  • Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
  • Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
  • Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
  • Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks

Winterize Your Home

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Pack the RV

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:

  • Clothing for all types of weather
  • Toiletries
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
  • Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
  • Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
  • Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:

  • Passports and other travel documents
  • Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Smart phone and internet service
  • Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous

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

7 Campground Hookup Essentials

Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping

You’re out on the road in your new recreation vehicle for the first time and pull into a campground or RV park. You commit that huge mistake that tells the world you’re a newcomer to the world of RVing. Everyone makes rookie RV mistakes, but you can avoid the worst ones if you do your homework ahead of time.

Pull-through site at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the first couple of years of RVing it seemed I learned something new every time I pulled into a campsite and hooked up to the utilities. Sometimes, it was not the most enjoyable experience but a learning lesson.

Pull-in sites with a view at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Over the years, experienced RVers develop a mental “checklist” of items to inspect, clean, and prepare for when hooking up at a campground or RV park.

Following is a list of seven campground hookup essentials to follow:

Choose a Site That Best Meets Your Needs

Pull-through sites with a view at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You may want the patio side away from the glaring afternoon sun, or you may want to look out on a beautiful sunset. North facing campsites will have the sun warming the patio early in the morning. 

Back-in sites at Gulf State Park near Ocean Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The closer to the bathhouse, Laundromat, garbage bins, and dog park, the more traffic and noise. If you need Wi-Fi, check with the campground host to see if the signal is strong enough to get to the site you’ve been assigned.

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

If you are camping in extreme heat, check to see what side the refrigerator will be parked on during the heat of the day. Your refrigerator will run more efficient if it’s not in direct sunlight in the hot afternoon.

Inspect the Site

Inspecting the site at Coastal Georgia RV Resort near Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Upon arrival at your site, do a walkthrough, and determine the best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle. Inspect the site for low hanging limbs and other obstacles that are in the way of an extended slide, broken glass, or other sharp items. Look down; look up. Check line of site for a satellite dish. Be aware of location and height of utility box in relation to your hookups and slides.

RV Leveling

Level sites at Cajun Palms RV Resort near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Level the rig before extending the slideouts. A level coach means a level chassis which means a solid and flush sidewall for the room to extend out.

Electrical supply

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

First step is to make sure the circuit breaker on the campground pedestal is turned off. Attach your RV power cord to an electric management system and plug into the pedestal. There are numerous choices in the marketplace but we believe the Progressive Electric Management Systems are the best. These units continuously monitor the power supply coming into your RV and if it detects a variance outside of the tolerances will shut the power down. Without the device, a power spike or low or high voltage can damage to your electrical system.

Sanitize

At the very least, check the electrical supply at the campground before plugging in by plugging in a GFCI tester. 

Sanitize the city water faucet before connecting your water hose and pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sanitize the city water faucet with ½ cup bleach in a gallon of water prior to attaching your pressure regulator and water hose. Fecal coli and other pathogens can form on exposed fixtures and a simple spray will provide a sanitized environment. Make sure you use an approved drinking water hose for the supply and store it away from the drain hose equipment. Make sure the valve is set to city water, not “fill tank” if you rig has this feature.

Dump Hose

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

Connect your dump hose to the dump station if applicable but leave the valves closed. Open valves let odors into the rig and worse, allow liquid to drain out and solids to stay in the tank and pyramid.

Propane Tank

Open your propane tank slowly! There is an excess flow valve designed into the POL valve connected to the tank and opening it fast with shut down the valve until pressure subsides which can be several minutes. Check the stove and oven before opening the valve to make sure they are not on.

And it was another beautiful day at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

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

—Stephen Covey

5 Tips for Safe RV Travel

Plan to travel safely with these tips

It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and spring has finally arrived. That means more motorists on the road and as the spring and summer travel season to picks up.

RV travel can be enjoyable but these large recreational vehicles demand respect. RVs are not particularly difficult to drive but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your travels safer and more relaxing and enjoyable.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Checklist

Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up, or steps extended. Use a step-by-step checklist and conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away. A pre-departure checklist should include the following:

  • Check propane level and fill if needed
  • Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels
  • Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required
  • Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational
  • Turn propane off at the tank
Sunset Valley RV Resort, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Safety Check

Before leaving ensure you conduct a thorough inspection on your RV. Do a final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving on your road trip. Check all doors to make sure they are properly latched, disconnect power, water, and sewer lines.

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Look for any leaks and ensure your propane and smoke detectors are in working condition. Always test your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it is working properly. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are only noticeable when you’re awake, they include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, headache, throbbing in the temples, weakness and sleepiness, and inability to think coherently.

As a final step prior to departure, check mirror adjustments. Adjust the side-view mirrors to barely see the side of your RV. Adjust the convex mirrors to include blind spots, keeping in mind that distances may be distorted.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Drive Safely

Be extra cautious when driving or towing an RV. RVs brakes are different from those in a car or SUV. Since most RVs have air brakes rather than hydraulic brakes, braking will have a different feel. Turning a corner in an RV is very different from a car. You need to compensate for the additional weight, height, and length. Slowly approach your turn and make sure you finish the turn before straightening out.

Experience is a key. The best way to become a good RV driver is by practice.

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Know RV Height, Width & Length

Some of the most common RV accidents include hitting bridges, underpasses, and gas station overhangs.

Post your exterior height, width, and total length in the motorhome or tow vehicle where it can easily be seen while driving.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Height: Measure to the highest point such as air conditioner or satellite dish

Width: Measure to the outermost points such as mirrors, awnings, or handles

Length: Measure from the front of the vehicle to the end of the towed vehicle or trailer

Also keep in mind that a typical highway lane is 10 feet. Most RVs are about 8.5 feet in width.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tips to Backing up an RV

Have the co-pilot get out of the vehicle and scan the site before backing up, checking for site obstructions, overhanging branches, levelness of site, and location of utilities.

Adjust the mirrors to tilt down enabling you to see the lower rear corner of the RV.

Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The co-pilot should stand at the back of the site slightly to the side of the vehicle. Make sure that you can see the co-pilot in your side-mirror. The co-pilot should use hand signals that you both understand.

Back in slowly and very carefully.

Practice makes perfect. Try backing up in a big parking lot before tackling a campsite.

Blakes Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Remember, safety is no accident.

Worth Pondering…

Take your time.

Slow down.

LIVE.