6 Things You Need To Do BEFORE Your Next RV Trip

One of the first things many new RVers discover is that planning an RV trip requires a lot of forethought. You can’t just hitch up your RV and head out for an adventure. A successful RV trip requires weeks and possibly months worth of planning.

The best parts of RVing are the trips themselves but many people are filled with dread when it comes to planning. To help you feel confident about navigating the challenges of travel logistics here are five important things to do before you take your next RV trip.

1. Plan your route

There are a handful of questions to ask yourself when choosing where to travel. What appeals to your lifestyle? Are you looking for hiking opportunities? Or would you prefer to relax? Some enjoy the tradition of returning to a favorite spot whereas others may be inclined to go somewhere new.

Of course, some people know exactly where they want to go next. Whether you’re traveling to the beach or the mountains, you will need to plan and budget your route. To make the most of your road trip, research scenic areas, historic sites, landmarks, and roadside attractions.

If you’re interested in efficiency, you can download an app such as GasBuddy to determine how much you’ll spend on fuel before you even hit the road. You can then figure out how long you want to be on the road or how long you’ll be staying in your desired location.

Here are some articles to help:

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Write your packing checklist

Once you know where you’re going—and for how long—you’ll have a better idea of what items to bring along with you.

It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of your RV trip plans. However, if you’re not careful you could leave behind some important items. I recommend keeping a detailed packing list of everything you want on your trip.

Many RVers find it very helpful to list out the days and plan out their outfits and meals. This can help ensure they have enough clothes and food for the RV trip. You don’t want to hit the road and discover you only have two pairs of underwear for a week-long RV trip. If you do, your first stop will likely be a local Walmart.

Perhaps most importantly, you should make sure you have a first-aid kit on hand. Keeping a tool kit handy is never a bad idea, either. And always store on the curb side.

Besides clothes perhaps (everyone packs twice as much as they need), small personal items are easy to forget. These include your toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant, toiletries, and accessories such as belts, hats, and sunglasses. Plenty of premade packing lists are available online but since everyone is different it’s a good idea to write your own list and check things off as you go. Just don’t forget toilet paper!

That’s why I wrote these two articles:

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Secure RV protection

Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. That’s just the way things are so be prepared. Check the expiration on your insurance policy before you head out. The last thing you want is for something to go wrong only for you to realize your safety net has expired.

In addition, you may want to consider investing in an RV extended warranty policy. Although they aren’t legally required like insurance warranties will cover everything your insurance policy doesn’t. Unexpected breakdowns are often expensive and inevitable. Let your warranty policy administrator cover your repair bill.

Here are some helpful resources:

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Address routine maintenance

As mentioned in the previous section, prevention is important when it comes to protecting your RV. Before heading out, make sure your home-on-wheels is in good running condition.

In preparing for your next road trip check your roof, tires, and tow equipment (if applicable). You should check your RV tire pressure if your vehicle has been in storage longer than a month. Tires lose up to 2-3 psi per month in storage. To be extra cautious, this is also an opportunity to check for air leaks, lug nut tightness, and wear. Examine the tread and sidewalls for obvious signs of damage such as cracks or wear in the tread. Tires should be replaced every six years or earlier if there is obvious wear.

Don’t wait for it to rain—you’ll also want to inspect your roof for leaks. Over time, sun and air exposure weaken seals. You’re looking for cracked or broken seals. To check the integrity of the roof itself, you can do a hand test. If there is white residue on your palm after running your hand along the roof, this may indicate that it’s time to reseal your roof.

If you suspect any component may require attention, it isn’t a bad idea to get an RV inspection. The technician will alert you to any mechanical or electrical problems you may have missed. They will take a look at your filters, fluids, brake system, and so on. RVs continue to age in storage; it’s important to address any repair needs before your next trip.

Read more:

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Have snacks or meals on hand

On long travel days, the last thing you’ll want to do is stop to make an elaborate lunch to satiate your hunger. Always have a few road trip healthy snacks or meals prepared to make your breaks easier and make sure you’re not stuck eating greasy or highly processed fast foods on your route.

We love having leftovers from dinner the night before, salads that are pre-made and just in need of dressing, or sandwiches. Nuts, hummus, veggies, or fruit can be another great snack.

Since I’m talking snacks, here are a two related articles:

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tie up loose ends

Now is the time to review your to-do list. Did I pack sunscreen? Did I check the oil? Are the slide outs functional? Is the sink working? There are so many factors to consider when embarking on a road trip. These may seem like obvious factors to address but planning trips can be stressful.

There are so many things to remember and there is so much to do! Make sure your awning is closed and secured. You also don’t want to take off with your leveling system deployed—that is an expensive repair. Items often shift around in transit so make sure loose items are secured and cabinets securely latched. If you’re worried about kitchenware rattling around, consider purchasing the special grippy mats that prevent this. Storage bins, bungee cords, and magnets are your friends.

Planning your road trip should be exciting, not stressful. The more informed you are, the better prepared you will feel on your journey. We want you to hit the road with peace of mind. Good luck and safe travels!

Read more:

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make some priceless memories on an RV Trip

Hopefully, these tips will ease a bit of the stress and headaches of planning an RV trip. Just remember, things can still go wrong even with the best of planning. It’s easy to get frustrated and stressed if that happens but don’t fret. It’s all a part of the experience. I can assure you that years from now, you’re going to look back and cherish the memories you’ll create while on RV trips with your friends and family.

Take advantage of every opportunity to go on an RV trip. Where are you planning your next RV trip?

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.

—Eric Hansen

Taking Delivery of your RV: Do’s & Don’ts

What to expect when taking delivery of your new RV

The process of buying and taking ownership of an RV can be a bit confusing if not downright daunting especially for a first-time RV buyer. Many folks expect the process to be similar to purchasing an automobile and in some ways it is. Shopping, negotiating, and financing will be very familiar to anyone who has ever bought a car. But after that, things get a bit more complicated.

Remember, you are purchasing a house on wheels so the process might take a little longer than you initially expected. Don’t get frustrated. If your dealer takes time to inspect and prep your rig and you take time to learn how to use it your RV experience will be that much better in the long run.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most likely, you will sign a purchase agreement, put down a deposit, and then make an appointment to return and actually pick up the RV. If it’s already on the dealer’s lot your appointment might be a week or two in the future. If you are ordering from the factory, you may have to wait months.

Here’s a list of a dozen do’s and don’ts for taking delivery of your new RV.

Do: Search for a reputable dealer with a robust service department

Sure, you want to get a great price but you also want to buy from a reputable dealer who will service warranty issues in a timely manner and at a convenient location. RV prices are definitely negotiable but you do not want to sacrifice customer service for rock-bottom pricing.

Read online reviews of the sales and service sides of the dealership. You will most likely need to take advantage of the RV’s warranty and you’ll want to be confident that the dealer will be there for you at that time.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t: Expect to take delivery on the day you decide to buy the rig

First-time buyers are often surprised that they can’t take ownership on the day they decide to buy an RV but this is an industry norm. Remember, an RV has a lot more components than the typical automobile and there is quite a bit of work involved in getting it ready for the road and RV park. The dealer will do a complete predelivery inspection (PDI) checking over all the RV systems, cleaning the interior and exterior, and handling dealer-installed accessories and options.

If you buy at an RV show, it’s important to know that you probably won’t be towing the RV home with you. Instead, you will make an appointment to visit the dealership after the show to actually take delivery.

Shoppers, especially first-time buyers, should look for a dealer who is willing to educate them. They should also look for a dealer with a robust service center with positive online reviews.

Do: Research additional equipment you will need to safely tow the RV

Some first-time RV buyers are surprised to discover how much equipment is needed to drive a motorhome or tow a travel trailer or fifth-wheel.

When we bought our first fifth wheel trailer, our truck needed a hitch and brake controller installed. We had to get that work done before we could safely tow the trailer home for the first time.

Even if your vehicle is already equipped for towing, you’ll still want to research towing equipment in advance—for instance, sway bars and weight-distributing systems if you’re buying a travel trailer. Some buyers are successful with including this equipment in their RV price negotiations so it’s definitely worth a try.

On the other hand, some dealers will install the cheapest equipment when it’s included in the purchase order so it’s worthwhile to know the most effective and efficient equipment on the market, rather than relying on package deals.

Check this out to learn more: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Compare interest rates if you plan on financing the RV

First-time buyers are often surprised at the differences in auto and RV financing. Typical RV loans will range from 10 to 20 years and the interest rates will likely be higher than those for a new car purchase. Avoid being captive to whatever loan terms are offered by the dealership. Arrange for financing in advance. Then you can use these preapprovals to better negotiate with the RV dealer’s finance department.

Do: Research extended warranties in advance

Everyone has an opinion about purchasing extended warranties but the bottom line is that there is no obvious answer to the question of whether or not you should buy one of these service packages. The key to purchasing an extended warranty is to research providers with good track records.

Handy people may prefer fixing problems with their rig on their own though buying a replacement appliance can be pricey so figure that into the equation when considering a warranty purchase. Other buyers will enjoy the RV only if they have the peace of mind an extended warranty can offer.

Either way, you want to do your research ahead of time and have an educated response to the high-pressure sales tactics that sometimes occur during the purchase process. Be aware of what is included in the warranty and what is excluded.

Here is a helpful resources: Best RV Roadside Assistance Plans for Peace of Mind

Do: Set aside time for a thorough RV walk-through

I get it. You want to get that RV on the road. But now is not the time to rush out of the dealership. When you show up to take delivery of your RV, the dealer will give you a walk-through of your new rig, demonstrating the systems and appliances from extending down the stabilizer jacks to filling up the freshwater tanks and opening the awning. We’ve purchased three Class A motorhomes from a wonderful dealer and every walk-through has taken over two hours from start to finish.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Record the walk-through on a smartphone or other device

There’s a lot of information to take in on an RV walk-through and even seasoned RVers get overwhelmed. Don’t rely on your memory to take it all in. I highly recommend using a smartphone or other device to record the RV tech’s lessons on every system. Record each RV component individually so they are easy to reference in the future. For example, have separate videos on the automatic leveling system and the macerator for dumping the holding tanks, both new pieces of technology that we knew would take us awhile to learn how to operate.

While recording, also ask your service tech to demonstrate how to winterize and dewinterize the RV. Having reference videos for your personal rig is priceless.

Do: Ask the dealer to test all the RV systems

A reputable dealership will allow you to test the systems including running water and checking that the water heater is actually heating the water, the water pump is actually pumping water, and all the electrical outlets are working. The dealer will also take time then and there to fix any small issues that are found.

I’ve heard complaints that some dealers balk at testing everything during the walk-through. I encourage buyers to be persistent with this request as it is incredibly frustrating to uncover problems on your first outing that could have been fixed at the dealership.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Test the air conditioning, refrigerator, and other appliances

Make sure that you run the air conditioner (and heat pump or strip) and turn all the appliances on and off and then on again during your walk-through. I highly recommend testing the refrigerator on both the electric and LP-gas settings. Ask to do this at the beginning of your walk-through and then check in at the end to make sure the fridge is cooling down (in most cases, it will not be down to the proper temperature during that time since that generally takes hours). This is a great time to ask the service tech to show you the fuse box and to ask about spare fuses. Some manufactures provide spare fuses with a new coach.

Don’t: Take ownership until the RV is in tip-top operating condition

An RV is a big purchase and there is a huge learning curve even for experienced buyers. If you don’t feel like the dealer has given you a complete walk-through or if you have concerns regarding anything operating correctly, do not take ownership of the RV. No issue is too small to address.

Do: Schedule a shakedown trip as soon as possible

Some of the best dealers have on-site camping for customers to fully test their new rigs and get any bugs out of the system. Our dealer provides four full-service sites for delivery of new RVs and other customers with service appointments. We stayed on site several days to have all issues resolved and questions answered. Since we were on our way south for the winter we wanted to ensure that we were knowledgeable of all aspects of our new coach.

Of course, not everyone is so lucky to purchase from one of those dealers but a close-to-home camping trip is always a good idea with a new RV. Find a full-hookup site near your home or RV dealer and put the RV through its paces. It’s better to discover issues on a shakedown weekend than hundreds (or thousands) of miles away on a bucket-list adventure.

Read: RV Driving Tips: 20 Ways to Stay Safe and Calm

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t: Sweat the small stuff

Even if you do everything right, something may go wrong soon after your RV purchase. RVs are homes on wheels and they pack a ton of technology into a really small space and then we haul it around the country. Things are going to break. Don’t let a loose cabinet or a faulty Bluetooth stereo keep you from having the time of your life in your brand-new RV. If it’s not a big problem, don’t turn it into one. Keep a running list of small warranty items to address on your next visit to the dealer and head back out on the open road.

Worth Pondering…

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

—Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

10 Basic RV Maintenance Tips Every RVer Should Know

Here are basic RV maintenance tips that can save you time, money, and headaches

Your RV brings you and your family countless hours of enjoyment and you likely intend to enjoy using it for years to come. Taking good care of your investment is a good way to prolong the lifespan of your RV and make your camping and road trips fun and safe. Just like your car and home need routine maintenance, your RV needs to be properly cared for to remain in good condition.

RV Repairs are a costly part of RV ownership. But, regular preventative maintenance can help reduce the chances of these expensive repairs from happening. It’s far easier to prevent a problem than to repair it. Stay ahead of the repairs and stay on the road with my tips every RVer needs to know.

This handy RV maintenance guide will help you learn about general RV maintenance and specific tips for using RV service centers, mobile techs, and roadside assistance.

Motorhome at dealership for service © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. It helps to be handy

If you love heading into the great outdoors on an RV road trip, you know that not every camping adventure goes smoothly. Mechanical and functional issues with your RV can quickly bring your road trip to a standstill. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can make many minor RV repairs yourself to get back on the road sooner.

Many RV repairs will be small issues. These could range anywhere from a loose piece of trim to broken door hinge or even a leaky outside seal. These are things that if you are able-bodied can be handled with a quick trip to a hardware store and a bit of your time.   

Carrying basic tools with you is important for any RV repair project. Also, a variety of screws, drill bits, sockets, and wrenches are recommended. And, never travel without duct tape and Rhino tape.

Waiting at dealership for service © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The waitlist at any RV service center will be long

The RV industry experienced a major boom during the pandemic. More rigs were sold than any other time in history. This also means they have been built faster than usual for the manufacturers to meet demand. Faster almost always means a drop in quality; therefore, many new RVs are now requiring repair. 

Many turn to their RV service center and shops authorized by their manufacturer’s warranty. Because there are more RVs and potentially more issues than in the past, the wait times for an appointment at an RV service center can be weeks or even months. 

>> Related article: 7 Essential RVing Tips for the Perfect Road Trip + Resources

Also, bear in mind that even when you do get in for service your RV may not be repaired in a day. The service center needs to communicate with the manufacturer to authorize repairs and reimbursement. The onsite RV tech will have to confirm and/or verify the issue. Parts have to be ordered and received. 

Meanwhile, more RVers are lining up to get service. If you do opt for an RV service center, check online reviews thoroughly before choosing a shop. Not all service centers are created equal.

Mobile RV tech © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Mobile RV techs can save you considerable time

If your repair isn’t warranty-based, a mobile RV technician can be very helpful. For starters, they come to you. Many RV techs aren’t allowed to perform warranty repair based on a variety of state laws. Check with your manufacturer if you’re under warranty and if your RV and location allow for certified mobile techs to help you out. 

Mobile techs are usually experienced on a variety of RV types; they are often great troubleshooters and it is in their best interest to be quick about the work so they can get to the next customer.

Motorhome at Canyon de Chelly National Monument campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Parts might be hard to come by

Having extra parts on hand for common issues can save time, money, and frustration. In addition, if you have an RV service center or mobile RV tech do repairs for you, having those parts in advance can mean a huge difference in time if you cannot get them ordered quickly.

>> Related article: 12 Simple RV Maintenance Tips

Waiting at dealership for service © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Does warranty coverage work?

There are countless anecdotes on the internet about how a manufacturer’s or third-party extended warranty didn’t cover the repairs someone needed. Read through these warranties in detail and ask questions for clarifications. 

Always get the name of who you spoke with and have a copy of the details forwarded to you in an email or a text for future reference and proof. The warranty industry is in the business of not paying when they don’t have to or can get out of it, much like insurance.

There are worthwhile warranties and there are others you’ll want to avoid. Check online rviews and discuss with other RVers before signing on the dotted line.

Motorhome heading north from Flagstaff to Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Utilize family and friends with expertie

If you can wait and it isn’t a critical repair, the next time you visit with friends or family, perhaps they can assist you. They may have more experience, skill, tools, or even just more strength! There’s no shame in asking for help. That’s what family is for, right?

Mobile RV tech © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Roadside assistance can be useful

Whether you live your life on the road and your travel coach is your home or you’re a weekend warrior using your RV for short trips with the family, a roadside assistance plan is an absolute must and it’s important to have the best RV roadside assistance plan possible. We’ve never been without one—and we wouldn’t be without it—despite the fact that in our 20+ years as RVers we’ve only very rarely used it.

There are many sources of roadside assistance available. You may even have multiple roadside assistance packages that you aren’t aware of as they can be offered by your RV insurance company, RV manufacturer, cell phone plan, or even credit cards in some cases.  And you can purchase additional coverage through a number of avenues.

>> Related article: Safety Dance

Having a good roadside assistance package can make the difference between spending the night beside the highway and arriving within a reasonable time to your destination.

Bear in mind that like insurance policies and warranty coverages there are details and fine print to examine when comparing these assistance packages.

Coach-Net has been providing assistance to owners of towable RVs and motorhomes for more than three decades and their reputation is excellent. Coach-Net is the roadside assistance plan I know best because it’s the plan we use.

Motorhome at rest area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Have your manuals, diagrams, and build sheets handy

RV parts change from year to year and even have different build-outs within the same model year. The maufacturer should provide you with a parts list of what is installed including model and serial numbers. If not offered at time of sale, ask your dealer for one. Knowing which model of refrigerator or furnace you have can help you find the right parts faster. 

Check condition of tires prior to leaving on a road tip © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Your insurance might be helpful

Since RV repairs can be very costly, assistance from your insurance company will be helpful. Class A motorhome windshields, for example, can cost thousands to replace. 

>> Related article: How to Keep Your RV Drains Clean, Fresh, and Functioning Properly

An RV roof that is damaged can also be costly to repair but often an insurance company will require a separate policy or rider to your current policy to cover a roof. Discuss your policy in detail with your insurance agent to ensure you have the correct coverage for your RV type and budget. When possible use an insurance company that specializes in RVs.

Camping at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Preventative maintenance is your best friend

Many repairs can simply be avoided by performing routine RV maintenance. Be sure to check the caulking around windows and seals and strip and replace it when you see flaking or gaps. 

Periodically check every screw you can find. Ensure you lubricate things that move. Check your roof for worn-out lap sealant around vents and fans. Catching symptoms early can help you avoid costly future repairs such as leaks. Check deep-cell batteries monthly and add distilled water as required. Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs. Keep all of your documents in one place.

Worth Pondering…

Have you put…

Step up

Antenna down

Wife in?

—sign at a Dickson, Tennessee campground