Recreational vehicles can introduce drivers to new experiences on the road. Lessons learned here can be applied to their daily life using their regular vehicle.
The RV lifestyle inspires millions of people. High-flying celebrities are buckling up in these vehicles and hitting the road triggering onsets of wanderlust the world over. People love the RV experience but sometimes underestimate the number of lessons that can be learned here as a road user.
Driving an RV can be incredibly informative. In many cases, it may even help you drive your normal vehicle more proficiently. Here’s a quick breakdown of how that could be possible.
Learning about the Vehicle Infotainment System
Some RVs come equipped with infotainment systems already installed. These systems can also be installed in your standard automobile but the RV often serves as an introduction to them.
The tech has many useful features, including, but not limited to the following:
Touchscreen equipment to access and manage all features
Building your awareness levels
RVs are great to drive but they also require a level of perception and awareness that’s greater than the typical road user might expect. They’re larger vehicles, presenting different types of navigational and maneuverable challenges.
You can be more keenly aware of blind spots when driving an RV. Moreover, you may also adapt to the size of your vehicle and whether it can get through certain spaces well. With these concerns, you may pre-plan journeys optimizing your routes so that you don’t find yourself in tight squeezes.
Unfortunately, many tragic accidents can occur due to blind spots on vehicles. Many of these incidents can be prevented if drivers do their due diligence. RVs might provide the wake-up call you could need as a driver or reaffirm the discipline behind what you already know.
After all, regular vehicles have blindspots too and drivers of them still need to contend with uncomfortable spaces as well when parking. Patience is a key virtue behind the wheel and RV drivers need it greatly. Regular road users, on the other hand, can lose their tempers quickly. Ultimately, you may well become a more attentive and calm driver for your experience with an RV.
Better braking practices
Some road users stop their vehicles at the very last minute. This is not a smart thing to do. When a vehicle’s brakes are used, the kinetic energy your vehicle creates when moving is converted into heat. After that, the energy is lost and it’s replaced by consuming more fuel.
So, excessive and sudden braking is a problem. Further complications can occur:
Losing momentum unnecessarily and needing to accelerate in faster and more frequent spurts. Fuel is wasted when stopping and starting in traffic as the vehicle needs to use more fuel inching forward than it would when maintaining a regular speed.
Sharp braking increases wear and tear on the brakes making them less effective over time as well as delaying response times.
Where do RVs fit in this picture? RVs have a greater stopping distance compared to regular cars. That means driving one can help you anticipate stops and form the habit of switching gears and slowing down when approaching one rather than sharply braking at the eleventh hour.
Effective braking can also lead to better fuel efficiency. This is one of the main concerns on most drivers’ minds today. Any solution or strategy that can minimize fuel costs is undoubtedly worth exploring. So, that’s another important way RVs can help you drive your normal vehicle, helping you adopt driving techniques that improve fuel conservation and reduce your spending on gas.
Greater Driving Versatility
A lot of people can feel very nervous about driving. It’s completely understandable.
Driving an RV is undoubtedly more involved than driving a regular vehicle. However, as you can see so far, there’s plenty of room for crossover. Once you’ve mastered driving an RV, you may find that you become a more confident road user, adopting a more versatile skillset with more confidence in what you’re doing.
You may also respect the road more. Many drivers can take liberties and underestimate the breadth of their responsibilities. Driving an RV can keep you grounded and ensure you never take driving for granted improving the safety of yourself and others.
Yesterday was history, today is reality, and tomorrow is opportunity.
Whether your motorhome is a smaller Class B, a Class C, or a large Class A rig like ours, backing up a motorhome can be a concern for every RVer. Backing up a Class B van is undoubtedly far more manageable than backing up a Class A motorhome, but backing up a motorhome of any size or type probably isn’t high on anyone’s list of things to do just for fun.
We travel in a 38-foot Class A diesel pusher, so I understand the challenges that come with backing up a larger rig. Although after nearly three decades on the road, it’s something we’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of times.
How do you back up a motorhome?
In a word, carefully! But seriously, backing up a motorhome, even backing up a large Class A motorhome, is like anything else we learn to do well—it requires practice and more practice.
If you’re just learning how to back up a motorhome, find a large, open, empty parking lot and spend some time getting a feel for the following tips. As you begin your practice sessions, be sure not to position yourself near objects that could cause damage to your motorhome or anything in the area. You want to give yourself as much freedom as possible as you master these tips about backing up a motorhome.
While I understand that backing up a motorhome can be intimidating for many reasons, I’m confident that you’ll become more at ease with the process with practice and the mastering of these tips. Even if you’re backing up a Class A motorhome, the more you understand about the process, the easier it will be.
TIP 1: Take a mental picture
Before backing up a motorhome, stop the RV and get out and walk the site while making a mental picture of the area you’re about to back into. Make a mental note of any and all obstacles. Since your motorhome is tall, think in three dimensions looking for trees, poles, and any other obstacles.
Extra pro tip: Know in advance how to pace off your rig’s length. For example, I know that I pace off exactly 12 steps plus two feet (two of my feet) to equal the length of our motorhome. As a result, I can enter walk into any site and know if we’ll fit, even before bringing the rig into place.
While backing into the site, if you’re unsure about anything at any point, get out and look (known by the acronym GOAL by professional drivers).
TIP 2: Use ALL of your tools when backing up your RV
When backing up a motorhome, it’s important to use EVERY tool at your disposal: All mirrors, both flat and convex, your windows (yes, if your driver’s window allows it, you can stick your head out while stopped), a spotter (if available), and your backup or side-view cameras (again, if available).
The helper/spotter must be aware of your plans (where do you want to actually stop/park the motorhome), be in your mirrors all the times and both have established signals to help each other. A Walkie Talkie is an awesome tool for this.
If things are really tight and you don’t have a spotter, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. If it’s just too tight, consider approaching from the opposite direction or even request another site altogether. Usually, approaching a site that requires backing into is easier from one side rather than the other.
A note of caution about spotters: A well-intentioned helpful stranger with whom you have no real rapport or understanding can back you into something (especially an obstacle that’s high up that they may not think to look for, like a tree limb). While they may mean well, you’ll be the one who’s left to deal with the damage. So choose your spotter carefully.
For example, if you’re backing up a Class A motorhome, you may not want to choose a neighbor with a Class B van to back you if there are folks a few campsites over with a Class A motorhome. Experience appropriate to the rig you’re backing up is most helpful.
If you have a traveling companion, formulating a language that you both understand well before backing up a motorhome at a campsite can be very helpful. Hand signals should be clearly understood and walkie-talkies are often even better. Be sure to take that partner along with you for parking lot practice.
TIP 3: Don’t be driven by pressure
Never let pressure, nerves, or anyone else drive your RV for you. That means that if you’re trying to maneuver in a tight spot and you’re not 100 percent sure that you’re clear of that power pedestal or tree or picnic table… stop! Don’t continue moving just because stopping and getting out and look (GOAL) may block the campground roadway or make other campers think you don’t know what you’re doing.
First of all, they’re strangers so why should you care what they think of you as you’re backing up your motorhome. Second, anyone who’s had experience backing up a big rig and in particular backing up a large Class A motorhome knows that it can be a delicate process especially when the space is tight. They’ll also understand that nothing is more important than avoiding contact with a fixed object or other obstacle.
We’ve seen accidents where drivers were too embarrassed to simply stop, get out of the rig, and evaluate the situation. And all because people were watching them!
It’s ultimately far more embarrassing to succumb to pressure, appear cavalier, and hit something that causes damage to your rig, someone else’s rig, and/or the campground pedestal than it is to GET OUT OF YOUR RIG and size up the situation from outside the RV and THEN resume backing up your motorhome safely.
TIP 4: Beware of reverse off-tracking when backing an RV around a corner
When backing up a motorhome around a corner (or any other time you’re not rolling perfectly straight back) beware of something called reverse off-tracking. It’s a seldom-discussed related danger when backing up that you need to be aware of it.
When backing up a motorhome with the wheel turned to the right, the left side of the rig sweeps out to the left basically moving diagonally/sideways. Even though you’re sitting right there in the driver’s seat on the left side, it’s easy to forget about that sweep. This could allow you to strike an obstacle with your left side, right down below or behind the driver’s seat unless you remember to monitor the convex mirror and/or out your left window.
Open your driver’s window when maneuvering back into a site for just this reason. You can stick your head out to look straight down and along the left side of the rig if needed. That’s especially important when items are low and/or close along the left side like a picnic table or fire pit. The open window also allows you to hear better including instructions from your spotter.
Of course, you can’t as easily look down along the right side or stick your head out the right window. That makes the right front corner one of the most vulnerable spots when backing into your site.
When backing up a motorhome with the wheel turned to the LEFT, the situation is even more insidious because now your RIGHT side (which is, by definition, your weak side because you’re sitting on the left) is sweeping across toward the right, basically moving sideways/diagonally as you back up.
Taking that mental picture in advance will allow you to know that there’s a picnic table, fire pit, or other obstacle down there. On that note, keep in mind that a mental picture won’t take into account obstacles that move like a youngster riding a bike or chasing a ball or a dog that’s off-leash.
Important note: Monitoring the right convex mirror is the key in this case but not an absolute because it can’t see everything. When I’m backing up with the steering wheel turned fairly hard to the left with my right side reverse off-tracking toward my weak right side, that’s when I’ll often ask my spotter to watch my right front corner near the entrance door. Not doing that is a common cause of damage to the side of an RV in the area close to the front end. It’s also a good way to yank the front bumper off, too, by getting it hooked on the bumper of a car that’s down low and out of sight.
Having a spotter there is sometimes even more important than having them behind me. I can see behind the RV pretty well in the backup camera but I’m blind down low near the entrance door where that picnic table or car may be lurking waiting to damage my right side.
TIP 5: Whenever possible, back to the left when backing up a motorhome
This means positioning yourself whenever possible with the spot you’ll be backing into on the left side of your RV. We do this because the left side is our strong side due to the fact that our vehicles have the steering wheel and driver on the left. In countries where the driver sits on the right, the right side is the strong side.
It’s easy to remember that the left is your strong side because you sit over there allowing greater visibility in both the left-side mirrors and out the driver’s window. As a result, backing up a motorhome or any large vehicle to the left is always easier than backing up to the right.
There will, of course, be times when the campsite you’re backing into may only be accessible from one side. For instance, if you’re on a one-way street through the campground and/or the sites are at an angle. But when you have the option, approach the site from the direction that will allow you to back to the left.
TIP 6: Line yourself up while still driving forward
Always, always, and always (did I say always?) pull forward more than you feel is necessary. Watch professional truck drivers—they always pull up much more than needed and have themselves positioned where they want to be—before backing up.
You absolutely want your rear most wheels past the apex of the turn. I’m referring to the curb cut/opening that you are trying to back into.
Again, watch truckers—they will always pull their trailer wheels past the opening they want to enter. The rear wheels of your RV are the same. They MUST be past that area to allow you to back in quickly and professionally.
Take control! The road is only so wide and you really can’t or at least don’t want to go on the site on the other side. Most campsites require you to back into a space on the driver’s side. If you are too far over to the right when you start to cut your front wheels you’ll be driving on somebodies site!
The most common difficulty newer drivers have is steering while backing. Sawing the steering wheel back and forth too much or too far is a common challenge to overcome.
When you pull up and past your driveway/campsite entrance, position yourself so you are on the wrong side of the road. It won’t hurt! Put your 4-way flashers on and be sure nothing is coming towards you and steer over to the opposing lane and past your driveway. Now, when you start to back into your driveway/parking spot you’ll be able to quickly do so, without cutting your front wheels onto someone’s site.
That wasn’t so bad was it?!?
Have a good helper that knows your plans, pull forward past your entry point and start from the wrong side of the road.
Everything will fall right into place—quickly and professionally!
TIP 7: Pay attention to your right quarter vision when backing up an RV
You may have noticed that when you pull up to a stop sign where the cross street is angled about 30-60 degrees from your position with the left turn being shallow and the right turn being sharper, you’re unable to see down the road to the right. That’s because the vast majority of RVs don’t have a continuous row of windows down the right side, like a car does.
The mirrors won’t do the required job here either because the flat mirror only sees into the distance mostly straight back along the RV and the convex mirror doesn’t see very far into the distance and mostly downward preventing you from getting an all-inclusive view of objects above ground level such as tree limbs.
That area, generally about 30-60 degrees off your right side is often mostly blind and you need to be aware of that and aware of what’s potentially lurking there. The left side is easier than the right because you can simply look out the left window at almost any angle especially if you’re able to stick your head out. Again, this is part of the reason the left side is your strong side and the right side is your weak side.
When you in this situation, you again can ask your spotter to watch the right side rather than the back at least until you clear any potential conflicts on the right. Then, the spotter can return to the rear of the motorhome to finish backing all the way into the rear of the site.
Conclusion: You can handle backing up a motorhome
These are seven tips I think will be helpful to you when backing up a motorhome. So now you’ve got some extra ammunition to make your RVing experience a little safer, easier, less stressful, and less likely to result in damage to your RV or anything else.
With a bit of practice, you’ll surely find yourself more at ease when backing up a motorhome—and safer and more confident, too.
The 330 Rule will save you from RV burnout and enable you to have a more enjoyable experience overall
If you haven’t heard of the 330 Rule, get ready for it will change how you travel!
The idea is to get somewhere while it is still early enough to explore, chill-out, and enjoy the place when you’re not exhausted from driving mega miles. Is there anything worse than pulling into a campsite after dark? Less mileage and stopping early should be your travel style of choice.
The 330 Rule is a rule I (try to) live by when on the road. I learned the hard way that traveling without it leads to exhaustion and frustration. Here’s what it is and why you should (try to) follow it, too.
The 330 Rule goes like this: Don’t drive more than 330 miles in a day and arrive at your destination no later than 3:30 pm.
When we first started, I would hit the road and keep hitting the road until we crammed as much into one day as possible. In my mind, the more we drove, the more we would see, and the more fun we’d have. I recall a 2,000-mile trip we made in three and one-half days. And yes, it was tiring and exhausting! And, I vowed never again!
Well, we quickly learned that long days of RV travel don’t work out well. Sure, we covered a whole lot of the map in a matter of days but it sure wasn’t as fun as it could have been.
That’s why we adopted the 330 rule and have tried to live, or rather, traveled by it ever since. I’m going to explain what it is and why every RVer needs to know it.
What is the 330 Rule?
I had a fulltimer explain this to me early on. The 330 rule is you “stop when you have driven 330 miles or its 3:30 in the afternoon.”
The idea is to get somewhere while it is still early enough to explore, chill out, and enjoy the place when you’re not exhausted from driving miles upon miles.
In our early days, I looked at the daily driving mileage as a challenge—the more the better.
I kept trying to set another personal best. Its 650 miles, by the way! Silly! Stupid! Really stupid!
There’s really nothing worse than pulling into a campsite after dark. It can even stray into bad camping etiquette.
You might think that if you leave at 10 a.m., you’ll have plenty of time to get to your campground by 3:30. But we all know that life on the road is almost always more unpredictable than that. You could have a tire blow out. Or you might want to stop at a roadside attraction or historic site along your way. Before you know it, the sun is setting, and you’re now pulling into an unfamiliar place in the dark.
Arriving before 3:30 gives you ample time to pull in safely and get level. It gives you time to properly set up and hook up, minimizing chances of human errors and extra stress. You can relax and explore the neighborhood.
Why should you follow the 330 Rule?
There are two main reasons every RVer should try to adhere to the 330 Rule. The first is health and safety-relate. The second is sanity-related.
It’s safer and better for your health
Pushing yourself too hard when driving isn’t great for your health and can even be downright dangerous. I certainly crossed the safety line when I pushed myself to drive those 650 miles in one day and 2,000 miles in three and one-half days.
Drive alert—protect yourself and others on the road. Drowsy driving significantly increases the risk of accidents leading to a troubling number of injuries and deaths every year.
Drowiness affects your ability to drive safely:
Makes you less able to pay attention to the road
Slows your reaction time if you must brake or steer suddenly
Affects your ability to make good decisions
According to the Sleep Foundation, drowsy driving is most likely to occur in the late afternoon when most people are naturally sleepier and between midnight and 6 am.
That’s why stopping by 3:30 pm (before late afternoon) is the safest!
Driving long hours can also lead to multiple health concerns including Sitting Disease. And yes, that is a real disease and a real health risk for RVers. Blame it on our sedentary lifestyle, our desk-bound working days, our computer and smartphone use, TV watching, and yes, driving long days.
The fact is, the average person these days sits—at a desk, in the car or RV, or on a couch—nearly eight hours every day, sitting, planted, not moving.
It will keep you sane (and married)
The second big problem of pushing yourself beyond 3:30 and 330 miles is you’re almost guaranteed to end up frustrated and grumpy—and fighting with your spouse or travel companions.
If you arrive at camp late or after extensive driving, you’re exhausted and still have to set up camp. This often leads to touchy nerves, bickering, and downright fights between travel companions. That’s NOT a great way to start your camping trip.
Adopting the 330 rule will keep you sane and it will also keep you happily married!
Our road trips have been far more enjoyable ever since.
You may have heard of another RV rule of thumb called the 3-3-3 Rule. This rule is similar to the 330 Rule.
The 3-3-3 Rule is as follows:
Don’t drive more than 300 miles in a day
Stop by 3 pm (or stop every 3 hours, depending on who you ask)
Stay at a campground for a minimum of 3 days
The 2-2-2 Rule is similar to the 3-3-3 rule. The 2-2-2 rule is driving fewer than 200 miles, arriving at your campsite no later than 2 pm., and staying for two nights. This gives you time to drive less during the day while still allowing time to relax without having to pack up immediately the next day. If you want to stop at more places along your route, this guideline might be better for you.
The 4-4-4 rule is a bit different from the others in that the first three is for driving less than four hours. The rest follows suit: Arrive no later than 4 pm. and stay four nights or less. By driving less and staying in one spot longer, you may not get to all the places you want to see, but you can make the most of the destinations you do reach.
Do you follow a version of the 330 Rule?
Whatever RV rules you choose to follow, keep in mind that they’re guidelines meant to keep RVers safe and happy. You don’t have to go everywhere and see everything. It can be tempting to try to do it all but by trimming down your expectations you might have more worthwhile experiences on the road.
Have you ever tried the 330 Rule? How did it work out for you?
To Each His Own
I won’t go as far as saying every RVer needs to abide by the 330 Rule. However, I will say that I do highly recommend it.
Big RVs are packed with amenities and camping comfort but they also call for added planning and a bit of flexibility when you’re on the road
Traveling in a large RV offers perks beyond just added floor space. Big rigs host large fresh water and holding tanks, residential refrigerators, roof space for solar panel setups, and power generators—allowing for extended stays in dispersed and non-serviced locations. Bonus amenities such as washers and dryers, full-sized showers, king-size beds, multiple living spaces, and extra storage capacity can typically be found in RVs that are longer than 35 feet.
Whether you’re a weekend traveler, a part-time RVer, a snowbird, or live in your rig full-time, navigating roads and campgrounds in a big rig often entails a bit of extra planning.
RVs are long, wide, and difficult to maneuver. But, don’t forget—RVs are tall, too. This means when it comes to overhangs, bridges, canopies, and power lines, you have to be careful; RVs and low clearances don’t play well together. Here’s what you can do about it as an RV driver starting with knowing the exact height of your rig.
Not how tall the owner’s manual says it is but how tall it really is? You simply have to go out and measure it yourself. This way you know for sure and that helps you better plan your traveling route without worrying about losing your satellite dish under a lower-than-expected bridge or underpass. The highest clearance is typically found toward the center of an underpass.
Always check the weather forecast when you’re driving or towing your big rig. The flexibility to leave a location early or late depending on wind or precipitation conditions could save you from a frightening driving experience or serious accident.
It’s especially prudent to consider weather conditions when planning to traverse a route with numerous sharp curves or steep grades. Big rig engines are subject to overheating when pushing or pulling up long grades. When the outdoor temperature is high, the risk of engine overheating rises. If you don’t have a substantial braking system on board or the weather is not optimal, routing around long or steep downgrades may be worth the added time and fuel.
The taller and longer the RV, the more susceptible it is to strong crosswinds. The National Weather Service says that winds of 30 miles per hour will make it difficult to drive high-profile vehicles. If wind speeds are any higher, namely higher than 40 miles per hour, it’s best not to drive big rigs. A crosswind that strong can easily knock over these taller vehicles.
Before you set out on a trip, be sure to check wind advisories along the route. If you know where and when there will be inclement weather you can modify your route, postpone the trip, or find a safe place to hunker down and wait out the weather.
Consider commuting with empty holding tanks. Not only do full tanks decrease fuel efficiency and tax an engine, but added liquid weight can decrease braking efficiency.
RVs have advanced in both design and size but not all campgrounds were built or have been upgraded to accommodate large or heavy rigs. Confirm that a campsite can accommodate a big rig by verifying that both the campsite you’ve selected and the access roads to that camping space can support your rig’s overall length, width, weight, and ride height.
If the campsite pad is dirt or grass, make sure you have the correct tools to level your rig. Heavy rigs and their levelers are known to sink into soft pads—including asphalt. Wet weather can further impact a site’s ability to support larger rigs.
When researching, consider the campsite’s stated length and width. Look out for any mentions regarding vegetation overgrowth or low-hanging tree branches. Be prepared to respect the boundaries of established campsites. It’s necessary to choose another option if you suspect or realize your rig might negatively impact campsite conservation.
Keep reports of a campsite’s grade in mind. Most refrigerators need to be level to function properly but RVs with longer wheelbases (especially Class A motorhomes) can be difficult to level in a site with a moderate grade or more.
Check out the campground’s official website, read reviews left by previous travelers, utilize satellite-based mapping tools, and/or contact the RV park to confirm the accuracy of the information.
If you arrive at the entrance to your destination and are concerned about accessibility, scout the area. While this practice is typical for RVers with big rigs exploring dispersed camping areas, it’s also good practice when pulling up to any campground with dubitable access. Unhooking a towed vehicle, dropping your tow-behind RV, or walking the route may seem like a hassle but it can save you stress, time, and money.
Driving fatigue besets many big rig drivers more quickly than when driving an automobile. Also, big rig-accessible rest stop locations aren’t as readily available, especially on secondary highways. Planning possible break locations ahead of time at rest areas, truck stops, or big box store parking lots makes for a more enjoyable and safe journey.
Big box stores and grocery chains typically feature large lots with ample, big rig-friendly parking options during local operating hours and are often within walking distance of restaurants and coffee shops.
It’s in everyone’s best interest that large RV operators move slowly and methodically even if that means holding up traffic. When the opportunity to allow more agile vehicles to pass arises, it’s courteous to permit that.
Careful research when traveling with your large rig will lead to an enjoyable and safe adventure. Equip yourself with a plan, a backup plan, and flexibility for all your big rig travels.
Tips to make sure you’re safe on the road this holiday season
The latest numbers are in and according to AAA, the 2021 holiday travel season is in rebound mode with 53.4 million people expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday alone! That’s the highest single-year increase in travelers since 2005.
And, the vast majority of those, 72 percent, will travel by car or recreational vehicle. Yet some may travel in a vehicle that isn’t ready for an extended road trip. The last thing you want to deal with on a road trip is to be faced with trying to repair a broken-down vehicle in an unfamiliar town.
Going on a winter road trip requires a little more planning than a road trip during the warmer months. You’ll need to consider the route and RV parks as well as factors such as potential road closures or snowy conditions.
No worries—I’ve compiled eight winter road trip tips that will get you on the right track for your holiday getaway!
1. Choosing A Route
Choosing a destination is no doubt one of the most fun and most important parts of any trip! The route you’re taking to get there, meanwhile, can be just as vital—while the destination might also count, the journey can be just as memorable.
When planning a winter road trip, choosing a route can be even more vital. Even Interstates and well-traveled highways can experience closures due to weather conditions. Even if you’re escaping the cold to go somewhere warmer, you’ll likely need to travel in winter weather for at least part of your trip.
A couple of tips that can help: travel on major routes as much as possible especially when traveling in colder areas. While back roads and scenic routes can no doubt make for a memorable trip, they may also be less maintained in the winter and in some cases are closed to winter travel. They’re also traveled by fewer people meaning that if you should run into trouble, finding assistance could require a long wait.
2. Consider Your Vehicle
For travelers planning to drive over Thanksgiving, here’s one thing to put at the top of your to-do list: making sure your vehicle is ready for a long trip.
Skipping that task could mean waiting a while on the side of the road before help comes.
AAA estimates 400,000 Americans will need roadside assistance during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The three most common issues are dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts.
Most vehicle problems like these could be prevented with a pre-trip vehicle inspection. Before you hit the road this Thanksgiving, make sure to check everything from the battery to the tires. That could make the difference between spending Thanksgiving at the table or on the roadside.
Winter months can bring about all manner of difficult weather—rain, snow, ice, hail. When you’re planning a winter road trip, take into consideration the capabilities of the vehicle you’ll be taking when choosing a route. Cars with all-wheel or four-wheel drive may have an easier time driving in snowy conditions.
You may be required to use winter tires (more commonly called “snow tires”) or to carry chains. Fitting a set of snow tires may be the best thing you can do to improve your safety margin and reduce your anxiety level on snow-covered roads. Proper winter tires provide far more traction in snow, slush, and ice than even the best set of all-season tires. Being aware of your vehicle’s capabilities will allow you to plan a trip that is both fun and safe!
3. Assemble a Winter Emergency Kit
If you’re traveling through any colder or snowy areas, you’ll need an emergency kit designed for cold weather. Your winter emergency kit should include basic survival supplies, safety items, car/RV maintenance tools, and winter clothing. These items will help you stay comfortable and hydrated if you ever get stuck on the side of the road or have to wait out a storm.
Your general emergency kit supplies should include a first aid kit as well as supplies geared towards cold weather. Emergency blankets, for example, don’t take up much space to pack and can be incredibly helpful in staying warm should you be stranded. Other things to consider packing include flashlights and extra fresh batteries, snow shovel, cat litter (or sand), ice scraper, snow brush, triangular caution signs, jumper cables, toolkit, duct tape, smartphone charger, drinking water, non-perishable snacks for people and pets, paper towels, and gloves.
Related to the above tip—road conditions can change rapidly during winter. A clear road one day may experience snow or freezing rain overnight. Because of this, it’s a good idea to check road conditions as frequently as possible. Referencing closures from previous years when planning your route can also add an additional layer of assurance to your road trip.
Finally, check out what sources you can rely on for updates for the route you’re taking before you head out. This way, you won’t need to find a weather station on your radio or app for your smartphone while on the road.
5. Schedule Extra Time
This is a good idea for road trips any time of the year. Planning some extra time will create a helpful safety net should anything unexpected arise. Because there are several additional factors to consider in the winter such as potential snowfall or road closures, this becomes even more crucial when traveling in winter. Consider adding a few hours to your plan each day. Worst case scenario—everything does go according to plan and you end up with some extra time to explore a stop or enjoy your destination.
6. Have a Backup Plan
Most likely you’ll arrive at your destination with only minor setbacks if any. In the event that a setback delays your journey a backup plan will help ensure you still have a good trip, even if it’s not what you originally planned. Consider cancellation policies when booking an RV park or other lodging as well as the potential for extending your stay if weather or road conditions require it. Also, consider an alternative route as well some activities or stops along this route.
Packing for any trip can be difficult! There’s always the question of what to bring. While you have some more freedom packing for a road trip over a plane trip, it’s still important to pack efficiently. For a winter road trip, this means that you’ll want to keep cold-weather clothes easily accessible. The last thing you’ll want to have to do is unpack a full suitcase to find a pair of gloves at the bottom.
Consider bringing a bag or bin for shoes/outerwear as well. If you’ve been walking through snow or slush, this is a great way to make sure any runoff won’t result in a puddle on your car or RV floor. Finally, make sure to bring a blanket or two to stay cozy on the trip.
8. Winter Driving Tips
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all if you can avoid it. Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work and allow extra time to reach your destination. If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your vehicle is prepared and that you know how to handle road conditions. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop.
Use low gears to maintain traction, especially on hills. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads. Don’t pass snow plows or sanding trucks (and never, never on the right).
Keep your lights and windshield clean. Replace windshield wiper blades. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists. Brake gently to avoid skidding. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before you need them in an emergency situation.
Watch carefully for black ice. If the road looks slick, it probably is. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses, and infrequently traveled roads as these will freeze first.
Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
And finally, Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.
Every year wildlife collisions are the cause of hundreds of thousands of vehicle accidents along North American roads
Colliding with deer, elk, bear, and moose is potentially fatal for drivers and passengers and is likely to cause significant damage to your vehicle—and to the animals. To avoid a collision, whether driving a car, truck, or recreational vehicle, be alert and know what to do if you come head-to-head with one.
It is important for motorists to have information about the factors that influence animal behavior. This will lead to an increased level of understanding about when, where, and why wildlife is most likely to be present near the road. Animals are active 24 hours of the day and all year round, but records kept by insurance and government agencies show that there are peak times when wildlife-vehicle collisions are more likely and drivers should be especially alert.
Drivers need to be alert and cautious because moose are on the move, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Moose are more likely to be crossing roadways at this time of year, especially after dark or early in the morning as they move from wintering areas to spring feeding locations.
More moose are hit by motorists in the spring than at any other time of the year. There is another peak of activity in September and October, the breeding season for moose. Moose are especially difficult to see at night because their fur is very dark, and they are so tall that their eyes are normally above most headlight beams, and therefore their eyes may not reflect the headlights.
Drivers need to be especially careful and people should enjoy watching moose from a safe distance. Moose can be unpredictable and dangerous if you get too close and they feel cornered or get irritated.
Most literature suggests that dusk and dawn are traditionally times of high wildlife-vehicle collisions. Light levels are low and animals are active at these times.
Based in British Columbia, the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP) reports that 35-45 percent of all collisions with wildlife in British Columbia and Alberta occur between 7:00 p.m. and midnight with Fridays accounting for 15.8 percent of all collisions.
Deer are involved in approximately 80 percent of wildlife-vehicle collisions. May and November have the highest rates of collisions involving deer.
Moose are involved in approximately 7 percent of all wildlife-vehicle collisions. Due to the extremely large size of these animals, (a mature bull moose may weigh up to 1,200 pounds), there is a significant chance that a moose-vehicle collision will result in a human fatality.
Elk are involved in approximately 3 percent of wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Wild animals are a threat to motorists, but there are measures you can take to avoid hitting them. Collisions occur most often in prime deer, elk, and moose habitats such as forested areas and waterways. Heed the warning signs and increase your roadside awareness. If you see a deer, elk, or moose crossing sign, be extra alert and slow down. These wild animals crossroads for a wide variety of reasons and at different times of the year. They cross the road randomly as well as at their regular crossings.
Reduce speed. Speed is a major factor in collisions. Wildlife experts have recommended 55 mph as a suitable speed for wildlife zones in good weather conditions as it provides you with some reaction time to stop. Also, the faster the speed, the worse the collision!
Drive defensively. Actively watch for wildlife movement or shining eyes on and beside the road. Drivers should be cautious between dusk and dawn. Light levels are low and animals are active. Always be aware of the danger.
Observe your surroundings. Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife. Look on the roadsides, the shoulders, down into ditches (they love the grass there), median strips, intersecting roads, on the road itself and try to spot any signs of movement, flashes of eyes, or body shapes. Be sure to scan both sides.
In most vehicle collisions, particularly fatal ones, you usually don’t see the animal before it slams into you. That’s why the best way to keep bear fur out of your grille is to slow down, stay alert, and continually scan the ditches for glowing eyes.
But if all that fails and you’re finding your car hurtling directly towards Bambi, there is one last-second tip that could save your life.
Slam on the brakes until the moment just before impact, then release them. This lifts the nose of the car just enough so that you may deflect the animal away from the vehicle and prevent it from flying directly at you.
The deer isn’t going to be okay, but you will.
The best way of being kind to bears is not to be very close to them.
RV driving for beginners: All the tips you need to drive an RV for the first time
If you’re new to it (or even if you’re not) driving a Class A motorhome can present a challenge. Even if you’re been driving cars and smaller vehicles for a long time, it takes practice to get used to the quirks of such a large and heavy vehicle. The following Class A motorhome driving tips will help you to stay safe on the roads and feel confident behind the wheel of your luxurious RV.
What is a Class A Motorhome?
Motorhomes are divided into “classes” based on their size. The average, small motorhome that you see used for road trip vacations is probably a Class C. These smaller vehicles typically weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. Class A motorhomes are the largest class and can weigh anything from 13,000 pounds up to as much as 30,000 pounds.
Even a Class C motorhome can feel unwieldy and bulky to someone who is accustomed to driving a car. Class A motorhomes are huge by comparison and they handle more like a bus than a car. The trade-off is that there is far more space for home comforts and many Class A motorhomes are just as comfortable and luxurious as a small family house.
Do I need a RV License?
The idea of an “RV license” is a bit of a misnomer. The rules on vehicle licenses vary from state to state and province to province. No state currently has an explicit law that relates to the driving of RVs. States do, however, divide their licenses up into classes based upon the weight of the vehicle that the driver is handling and in some cases whether or not they have a trailer.
The sheer size of Class A motorhomes means that in some cases a motorist may need a special license to drive one. It depends on the weight of the motorhome. Let’s imagine you live in Pennsylvania. If you are driving an RV that weighs less than 26,000 pounds you don’t need a special license. If the RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds you will need a Class B non-commercial license. If you have a trailer and the weight goes over 26,000 pounds then you need a Class A non-commercial license.
Every state has different rules. Some states are more lenient than others. It’s a good idea to check the laws in your state or province and those you intend to regularly travel in before buying a large RV.
Handling Tips and Tricks
Once you’ve cleared up the legal aspects, the next challenge is to hit the road. It takes a while to get used to handling a large motorhome but it’s worth it once you master it because you’ll be able to visit new places and see the sights in luxury free from the constraints of a hotel.
Start with a Short, Easy Trip
Keep things simple for your first trip. As strange as it sounds consider a “staycation.” The last thing you want is for your first trip in your brand new RV to be marred with stress, broken itineraries or worse, a broken-down vehicle. Drive on easy roads that you’re familiar with and stay in a local campground. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to how the RV moves, how well it handles hills, how much space you need to stop, and how it turns.
Tech Makes Life Easier
When you’re sitting in a Class A motorhome you’re higher up than you are used to being in your sedan or even in a smaller motorhome. Since your vehicle is also longer and wider you need more space to turn and you’re heavier so your stopping distances are longer. You need to take this all into account and it can take a while for your brain to adjust when it comes to judging distances. You’ll also have blind spots that are bigger than the ones you’re accustomed to in the mirrors of a standard car.
The good news is that there are high-tech answers to some of these problems. Some Class A motorhomes offer driving assist technology such as back up cameras, lane tracking, and adaptive steering. They make parking, backing up, and other maneuvers much easier.
Don’t Fight the Vehicle
Modern motorhomes have many nice “quality of life” features such as power steering, auto-leveling, improved suspension, and ABS. Take advantage of these. Be gentle on the steering, drive slowly and steadily, and give yourself plenty of space for any turns you need to take. Remember that ABS is designed to cut your stopping distance but in a very heavy vehicle you still have a lot of inertia especially on downward slopes.
If you’re nervous about handling an RV, consider taking classes. Many companies offer rentals and classes where you can practice driving in a controlled environment to build your confidence.
Take Regular Breaks
Remember that you don’t have to get to your destination on a fixed schedule when you’re on a road trip. If you’re held up for a while, that’s not a crisis. You quite literally have a house behind you. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, or slightly concerned, pull over at the next rest area or truck stop and take a break. Get your co-pilot to take over the driving for a while if they’re able to do so. If not, just take a nap, go for a short walk, and then start driving again.
Don’t drive in difficult conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow, ice, or excessive wind. If you don’t like driving late at night, rest. The point of owning a luxury motorhome is to do things on your terms. Take your time and get to your destination safely then enjoy your holiday.
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.
Taking a road trip seems like an obvious choice in terms of the safest way to travel during the coronavirus pandemic. But spending hours—or days—driving can be mentally taxing. And accidents on the road are a very real concern. In fact, nearly 2 million people are injured in auto accidents each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving caused 91,000 accidents in 2017 and nodding off while driving can happen more easily than you may think when you’re on the road for long periods of time.
That’s why we need to find strategies to stay alert and safe when driving. Follow these safety tips to arrive safely at your destination. Here’s what you should know.
1. Plan your itinerary
Mapping out the specifics of your road trip is the best way to eliminate stress and even avoid hazards when driving. Too many people simply plug their destination into a Navigation System without any idea about when and where they want to make pit stops. There’s nothing wrong with using GPS to give you an idea. The best way to prepare is by figuring out how long it will take you to get from point A to point B. Then, look for recreation areas, rest rooms, and fuel stops along the way. Even though planning ahead is a great idea, you shouldn’t feel unnecessarily restricted by your itinerary. It doesn’t mean that you’re deadlocked into that.
2. Eat, sleep, and hydrate well
It’s important to be well-rested before you get behind the wheel. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night (research shows that people feel their best after getting that much rest).
Eat a good meal before starting your drive. Some prefer a protein-heavy breakfast to help feel more satisfied and alert. Keeping prepared food in a cooler is particularly helpful for people who don’t want to stop and eat at restaurants. Of course, you’ll want to find somewhere safe to enjoy your snacks and meals—like a rest area or truck stop—since eating while driving is a distraction.
Drink plenty of water throughout the trip, which yes, means more bathroom breaks. But stopping more often is better than experiencing headaches or dizziness associated with dehydration which can happen when you skimp on water.
3. Stop often
You might try to drive to your destination with minimal pit stops. Resist the temptation. It’s important to stop every two to three hours to stretch, use the bathroom, and do a walkabout. I try to stop about every 100-120 miles. Moving and getting my circulation going helps me stay alert during long drives. And of course, stop if you’re tired. Avoid pulling over onto the shoulder and look for a rest area or off ramp instead.
4. Scan your surroundings
Constantly check your surroundings to know what is ahead. Scanning your surroundings (keeping your eyes moving) includes keeping a safe distance around your vehicle. To avoid last minute moves, scan the road 10–15 seconds ahead of your vehicle so you can see hazards early. When another driver makes a mistake, you need time to react. Give yourself this time by keeping a “space cushion” on all sides of your vehicle. This space cushion will give you room to brake or maneuver if you need the space. While keeping an eye on the road up ahead, look for animals on the side of the road, monitor your gauges, and scan the mirrors.
5. Get to know road signs
Understanding road signage is one of the best ways to boost your confidence about highway driving. If you train your eye to read the signs and know what the signs mean, then you can drive down the roads confidently. For example, construction signs have an orange background and will always trump other signage. Yellow signs are cautionary. You can check out the U.S. Department of Transportation for more information about road symbols and signs.
6. Make your vehicle road-trip-ready
Taking the time for preventative maintenance will pay big dividends down the road. Recreational vehicles require all the standard maintenance of your car plus a whole lot more (if you had your RV for more than a few months then you may have learned this the hard way). After all, an RV is more than just a vehicle. It is a home on wheels with a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom. Inflate tires to recommended specifications and check them often. Inspect for any imperfections before travel.
7. Make room for trucks
You may have felt that twinge in your gut when driving near or past large semi trucks and rightfully so, because it can be scary—those trucks are huuuuuge! It’s important to allow plenty of following room when driving behind these massive machines. Give them space. Large trucks need extra room to slow down and come to a complete stop as well as to make a turn. Don’t ride next to semis—they can’t see you. Their blind spots are humongous. You need to leave enough space so that you can see both of the truck’s side mirrors. And while you may be anxious to get in front of a slow-moving vehicle, never cut in front of large trucks. A truck traveling at highway speeds in regular conditions needs a distance of roughly two football fields to stop safely
Get on the road and stay safe with these safety tips
Days of packed resorts and amusement parks might be a thing of the past until we see a more consistent decrease in COVID-19 cases. Instead of packing out theme parks and resorts, families are gearing up and hitting the road. Millions of RV and camping enthusiasts are traveling the highways and byways of the U.S. and Canada this summer, many for the first time. And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it is increasingly important that RVers take the time to understand ways to safely enjoy these fun but challenging recreational vehicles.
Here’s how to stay safe on the road and avoid accidents that may take you off the road for costly and time-consuming repairs—and raise your insurance premiums.
Always conduct a pre-drive safety check.
A “walk-around” visual inspection can save your life.
Make sure bay doors are closed and secured.
Double-check tow bar and safety cables.
Disconnect all power, cable TV, phone, water, and sewer hoses.
Retract jacks, steps, and awnings.
Look under the rig for signs of fluid leaks.
Check signal lights, brake lights, and headlights prior to departure.
Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels.
Check the propane tank for leaks and intake/exhaust lines for blockages.
Check tire inflation pressure and examine tread wear.
Make sure carbon monoxide, smoke, and LP gas (propane) detectors are operational.
Check your surroundings (weather, overhangs, and ground hazards).
Turn LP gas (propane) OFF at the tank when traveling.
Never refill propane tanks with appliances or engine running.
Avoid refrigerator fires. Have your propane tank regularly checked by a certified dealer to ensure lines are in good operating condition and not leaking.
Follow the Rule of 20 Percent. Fully loaded rigs have slower acceleration and take longer to stop than cars. To compensate, add 20 percent to everything you do, from increasing your following distance, to judging if you have enough clearance, to safely merging into traffic.
Protect yourself from blowouts. Blowouts count for the majority of RV insurance claims. They’re caused by improper inflation, worn tread, an overloaded/overweight vehicle, and aged-out tires. To avoid cracking, regularly wash your tires with mild soap, water, and a soft brush. To prevent UV damage, keep your tires covered when you’re not driving.
Under- and over-inflation can both lead to blowouts. Check the inflation pressure on your tires at least once a month and always before a trip. Do this when tires are cold, since heat from driving temporarily increases air pressure. Never remove air from a hot tire. It can create dangerous under-inflation when the tire cools.
Check the age stamp on the tire and replace when 7 years old, no matter the condition of the tire.
Practice S.A.F.E. cornering:
Slowly approach the turn.
Arc the turn. Be careful not to start by swinging in the opposite direction, which can confuse drivers behind you.
Finish your turn completely. Don’t straighten the wheel before the back of the vehicle has cleared the pivot point.
Experience is Key. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Know your height. Believe it or not, hitting bridges and overhangs is one of the most common RV accidents. Know your exact clearance and write it on a sticky note on your dashboard. Speaking of measurement, most RVs are 8.5 feet wide and the average highway, about 10 feet. That gives you only a foot and a half of wiggle room.
If you feel your front wheel slipping off the road into a rut, take your foot off the gas and gently brake. Jamming the brakes can get you deeper into the rut. Keep steering your RV forward. Once you’ve slowed down, gently turn to the left and ease out of the rut slowly. If you overcorrect by jerking the wheel left, you might jackknife.
Always back in to tight places, and pull out facing forward.
Many will be on the road traveling today and throughout this
Thanksgiving is the biggest travel weekend in America, and
RVers are out in force, back on the road, crossing the country in their RVs to
spend Thanksgiving with family and friends.
And many snowbirds are traveling south to their favorite Sunbelt roost to avoid the rigors of another northern winter.
I have so much to be thankful for! I give thanks to my
partner—my wife Dania, my co-pilot—and our family and friends.
With a lifelong love of travel, a condo-on-wheels has always been our destiny. Yes, we’re living our dream! We’ve wintered in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Our RV travels have taken us to over 40 states and four western provinces.
I am thankful as Canadian Snowbirds that we have the opportunity of celebrating Thanksgiving in October (Canadian Thanksgiving) and again in November.
Thanksgiving offers the opportunity to reflect on life, liberty, and the pursuit of full hookup campgrounds with really good Wi-Fi.
We’re thankful that RV travel is so popular in our own vast
and wonderful countries.
I’m thankful for our continued health and safety while
traveling. Any time you venture onto highways, you are rolling the dice. So far
we’ve enjoyed over 150,000 miles of safe and mostly carefree travel as we
cruise the highways and byways of our two great nations!
I am thankful for our freedom. As Americans and Canadians we take so much for granted when it comes to freedom. We have freedom of speech, expression, the right to vote, and so much more that others across the world only dream of. That freedom came at a price—and that is the lives of many of our servicemen and women. So, I also would like to give thanks to our troops.
Oh yeah … and I give thanks to the Internet which has given
me the opportunity to share my thoughts on RV Travel.
Stay tuned, friends…the best is yet to come!
What are you thankful for?
Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend from our
family here to you and yours. We hope it will be full of amazing food,
love and laughter and of course–great wines!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels…and we’ll see you
back here tomorrow!
Key to any Thanksgiving Day menu are a fat turkey and
An estimated 238 million turkeys were raised for slaughter
in the U.S. during 2014, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.
About 46 million of those turkeys ended up on U.S. dinner
tables on Thanksgiving—or about 736 million pounds of turkey meat, according to
estimates from the National Turkey Federation.
Minnesota is the United States’ top turkey-producing state,
followed by Arkansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, and
California. These “big seven” states produce more than two of every three
U.S.-raised birds, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
U.S. farmers also produced an estimated 841 million pounds of
cranberries in 2014, which, like turkeys, are native to the Americas. The top
producers are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.
The U.S. grew 2.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes—many in South
Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, California, Texas, and Louisiana—and
produced more than 1.2 billion pounds of pumpkins. Illinois, California,
Pennsylvania, and Ohio grow the most U.S. pumpkins.
Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest
man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.