Top 8 Tips for Planning a Road Trip this Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season

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.

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

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! 

Diamond Groove RV Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Camping at Quail Gate RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Related: Snowbird Essential: Planning Your North-South Travel Route

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.

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

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.

Camping in the snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Camping at Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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! 

Diamond Groove RV Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Camping at Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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: Prepping For Snowbird Travel

Camping in the snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Check Road Conditions Frequently

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. 

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

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. 

Camping in the snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Related: The Absolutely Most Amazing Winter Road Trips

Camping at Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. On Packing

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. 

Camping in the snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Camping at Quail Gate RV Resort near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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).

Related: Handling Cold Weather in Your RV

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.

Camping at Pony Express RV Park, Salt Lake City, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Worth Pondering…

And finally, Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.

—Roy Bean

How to Avoid a Wildlife Collision

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.

Deer crossing Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Bison in Elk Island National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Rocky Mountain Sheep in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Deer in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Bison in Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

The best way of being kind to bears is not to be very close to them.

―Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

Yes, YOU Can Drive an RV: What YOU Need to Know

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.

Class A motorhomes at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome at Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome at Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome at Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome on Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Class A motorhome at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © 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.

7 Driving Tips You Should Know

Tips for staying safe and alert while driving

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.

Driving a motorhome south of Page, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving a motorhome in Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving a motorhome on Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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).

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving in Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

There are some roads to avoid in a large RV; Mokee Dugway in southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving Mike O’Callighan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge over the Colorado River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Welcome to Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE

On the Road Again: Summer Road Trip Safety Tips

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.

Along Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving north to Page and Lake Powell on US Highway 89 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving Utah Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving a scenic road in Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Connected to city water using a pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.
Know your height. Covered bridge in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

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

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.

Blake Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always back in to tight places, and pull out facing forward.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

Thanksgiving & Our RV Lifestyle: Giving Thanks

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels

Many will be on the road traveling today and throughout this Thanksgiving weekend.

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanksgiving Day Stats

Key to any Thanksgiving Day menu are a fat turkey and cranberry sauce.

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

—Edward Sandford Martin

Thanksgiving & Staying Safe

Here are our top tips for making your road trip safe and enjoyable this Thanksgiving

As the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel season kicks off and cold temperatures begin blanketing many parts of the country, it’s time to pack a little more patience as hundreds of thousands more travelers head out for turkey and stuffing this year.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 55 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home for the holiday, according to an AAA news release. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 27, to Sunday December 1.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, AAA recommends that motorists plan their travel around these days (Thanksgiving Day is actually the best day to be on the roads).

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts road trips could take as much as four times longer than normal in major metros on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the nearly 90 percent of travelers who will drive to their destinations there is good news: Fuel prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving travelers a little extra money to spend and motivating millions to take road trips. In most regions of the country, prices average about 10 cents less than last Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your travel and route by checking the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Leave early, if possible, and allow plenty of time to safely get to your destination. Carry items in your vehicle that may prove useful in the event of an emergency or if you get stranded, including: snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, flares/emergency markers, blankets, mobile phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medication.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you become stranded, don’t run your vehicle with the windows up or in an enclosed space for an extended period of time to avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically—just long enough to stay warm.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect your tires to avoid a blowout and to ensure proper grip in inclement weather. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. Don’t forget to check your spare tire to ensure it is properly inflated.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure your windshield wipers work and, if necessary, replace worn blades and completely fill your vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid reservoir.

Keep up with routine maintenance and tune ups. Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, badly worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember to always wear your seat belt and ensure that children are buckled up in age- and size-appropriate restraints. Children under age 13 should be seated in the back seat.

We can all do our part by buckling up, obeying the speed limit, and avoiding distractions while driving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never drive drunk or distracted. Driving drunk kills people. In every state, it’s is against the law to drive with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher.

The spotlight on holiday driving led to warnings about avoiding drunken drivers. Over 1,000 people died in drunken driving crashes during the holiday season last year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures reviewed by the advocacy group Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So obey the law; stay focused and alert at all times.

Doing so could save your life.

Be a patient driver and don’t speed when out on the nation’s highways.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drivers are urged to keep their speed in check, buckle up and avoid distractions, especially texting while driving.

Drivers also should get a good night’s rest before traveling, check their vehicles’ tire pressure and be prepared for unscheduled closures due to crashes or disabled vehicles.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Staying up to date on weather conditions and packing an emergency preparedness kit, with items such as blankets, flashlights, extra clothes, drinking water and snack foods, is another smart idea.

Worth Pondering…

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

—Edward Sandford Martin

Raise Your RV IQ with These Tips

Steering RV owners both new and seasoned in the right direction with these tips

Your recreational vehicle is a vacation home wherever you want it, whenever you want it. It is freedom and security in equal measure. It’s Lewis and Clark on turbo-charge.

Whether you just bought your first RV or you have owned one for a while, nothing beats the ease and freedom of walking into your unit and hitting the open road. 

Before setting out on your next adventure, consider the following five tips to raise your RV IQ.

Travel with Propane Off

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a common topic discussed around the campfire, and it is a bit controversial. The best I can do is to offer my personal opinion. It really is safer to drive with the propane supply turned off at the tank.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I believe that having the propane on while traveling increases the risk of a fire if you are involved in an accident. If a gas line is damaged or broken, and the propane tank supply valves are open, there will be a release of potentially explosive propane gas. That’s a bad thing. For this reason, I choose to run with the main tank valve off.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, many folks will say: Hey, I’ve been running with the propane on for XX years, and nothing bad has ever happened to me. That may be true, but having the tank valves open increases your risk—it just does.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RVers want the propane on in order to run their fridges while traveling. Most folks find that, for the average trip, the refrigerator will maintain a low enough internal temperature to keep your food fresh. It is also possible to freeze some blue ice packs the night before and use them in the refrigerator compartment to help keep everything cold while traveling.

Extension Cords

If using an extension cord be aware of the dangers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you use an extension cord to plug in your RV to the shoreline power, it’s essential that you utilize the right one. We’ve seen it happen far too many times: an RV owner uses a standard orange extension cord with a 15 amp rating to run their 30 amp power center. This is asking for trouble as the excessive power draw can overheat the cord and connection which can melt the cord and possibly cause a fire. 

Give Me Forty Acres

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When I’m hooked up to drive down the road, my setup is 58 feet long. That’s 38 feet of rig, almost 15 feet of Chevrolet Equinox, and a few feet of tow bar.

As most of you know, when towing a car with an RV, you should not back up. Some tow systems allow it for very short distances, but most advise never to do it; depending on the manufacturer, you will void your warranty.

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not an equipment or skills issue; it’s a physics issue. If you have experience backing trailers, you know that trailers move opposite to the rear of your tow vehicle; you can end up in a jackknife situation very quickly when in reverse. But, here’s the critical difference between a trailer and a toad: a toad has a steering wheel, and the toad’s tires can turn in all directions! You simply cannot back a toad the same way as a trailer. It will end up turning “Every Which Way But Loose,” as Eddie Rabbitt sang for that Clint Eastwood movie.

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since you can’t back up, it’s important to know your turn radius.You may wish to practice doing circles in a parking lot.

Install a Clear Sewer Hose Elbow

Clear See Through Elbow sewer hose connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one really wants to see what is going on inside the sewer hose. They make those things brown or black for a reason. But the truth is that by installing a clear elbow at the end you can prevent a lot of potential problems down the road. Seeing what is going on in your hose allows you to check for undissolved toilet paper (in which case you might want to switch brands), to know ahead of time if a clog is about to happen, and to have visual confirmation that the tank is done emptying. Also, when you’re performing a black water flush you can easily see the color of the water, and when it runs clear be confident that the tank is clean.

Move Over Law

Practice safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always be aware of emergency responders, including tow providers, when they are on the side of road assisting motorists.  More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. Each year tow company drivers are also struck and killed on the side of the road. Let’s do our part and be sure to change lanes. And remember, it is the law.

Practice safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

10 RV Driving Tips

Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free

Most 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 enjoyable.

The majority of drivers can adapt quite well to the increased size, height, and weight of an RV, but keeping alert, planning ahead, and driving cautiously remain top priority in the safe handling of your vehicle.

Driving Newfound Gap Road through Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check Lights before Traveling

  • Prior to starting your day’s travel check the functioning of all signal lights, 4-way flashers, brake lights, and head lights
Driving Highway 12 Scenic Byway in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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
  • Check your mirrors every 30 seconds
  • Ensure that you’re driving within the painted lines
  • Be aware of the traffic behind you and whether they are keeping up with you, preparing to pass, or falling back
Driving near Glen Canyon Recreation Area in northern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Look Well Ahead

  • DO NOT overdrive your visibility
  • 90% of all driving decisions are visual based
Driving Organ Pipe National Monument in southern Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leave Yourself an Out

  • Determine the lane of least resistance and safety
  • Maintain safe following distances
  • Leave room to change lanes when stopping behind another vehicle
  • Is there a way out of here?
  • DO NOT drive your RV into any place that you can’t see a way out of—especially if that RV is a large motorhome towing a car
Driving Highway 12 Scenic Byway between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Navigating Large Cities

  • Plan your trip in advance so that you can avoid going through large cities during morning or late afternoon rush hour
  • The best time to drive through major cities is early Sunday morning—during the workweek, you’re best to travel between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Driving Newfound Gap Road through Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow the Rule of 20 Percent

  • Fully loaded RVs have slower acceleration and take longer to come to a full stop than autos
  • To compensate, add 20 percent to everything you do, from increasing your following distance and judging if you have enough clearance to safely merging into traffic.
Know your height1 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know & Post Your Height, Width & Length

  • A major insurance claim is RVs hitting gas station overhangs, underpasses, and bridges

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

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

Know your height, width, and length! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One Hour Rest Stop Walk-Around

Visually inspect your tow hitch connections and check for overheated and low tires every time you stop at a rest stop or refueling location. Pranksters have been known to remove pins from the hitch. Perform a walk-around that covers these visual points:

  • Check to ensure that tires have not overheated
  • Check tow bar or hitch and safety cables
  • Ensure that hitch pins or bolts are still in place
  • Check to ensure that the wiring harness is connected securely
  • Look under the chassis for signs of oil or coolant leaks
  • Check storage bay doors
Driving Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn Signals

  • Turn signals are valuable for communicating your intentions to other drivers; if you don’t signal, other drivers have no way of knowing what you plan to do
  • In an emergency pull completely off the road and use emergency flashers, flares, or some other emergency signaling device to warn oncoming traffic
And we arrived safely again… © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember, Safety Is No Accident

Worth Pondering…

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Keys to Avoiding RV Accidents

A key to avoiding RV accidents is a basic understanding of the most common ones and how best to avoid them

Driving an RV is like driving a small house around the country—down highways, through back roads, and up and over mountain passes. And as more people join the RV lifestyle, it becomes increasingly important that RVers have a basic understanding of common RV accidents and how best to avoid them.

Driving safely on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before you hit the road, ensure your recreational vehicle is roadworthy, and that you’re prepared in case of emergency.

Most of the common RV accidents can be avoided by preventive maintenance and proactive attentiveness.

Driving safely on Newfound Gap Road in Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the hazards are numerous, taking simple steps to avoid them is much easier than finding yourself facing the consequences of an RV accident or mishap. Knowing the most common mistakes and having the knowledge to prevent them will keep RV drivers safe and their trip enjoyable. Accidents such as lack of clearance can cost more than just the expense of the RV repair—such disasters can harm the traveling family as well.

The Low Hanging Tree Branch

Use special care when driving to your camping site in an RV park with overhanging trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the problems with certain campground owners is that they can be sloppy about trimming tree branches that hang over their roads. They make the mistaken assumption that people who buy travel units know enough to look up as they drive through RV parks, but many do not. The problem is that many recreational vehicles these days sit high, so when you put that kind of height together with an overhanging branch, you’ve got the recipe for problems.

Use extra care when driving in or backing out of a camping sites © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One newbie learned this the hard way. She was pulling out of a campground and, although she was trying to be careful, she forgot to look up. Even though she was driving slowly, her roof hit a heavy tree branch, and she was unable to stop in time to keep it from doing major damage.

Know your clearance height and don’t take unnecessary risks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The branch actually curled the front portion of her fifth wheel roof back a few feet, and this also loosened and misplaced the area that was a few feet behind it. It was an expensive way to learn an important lesson.

Know Your Height

Know your height, width, and total combined weight © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your height and always look up when you are driving in areas where overhangs of any kind are present. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people forget the extra height of an RV while driving. Hitting bridges, low hanging trees, and overhangs or misjudging the amount of clearance beneath an overpass or inside a tunnel can put an immediate stopper on your road trip.

Use extreme care and caution on backroads. Pictured above Moke Dugway as it drops into Valley of the Gods in Southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In order to keep your RV in one piece and avoid getting hung up—literally— consider the following guidelines:

  • Pay close attention to posted clearance measurements
  • Know the height of your RV and place a sticky note on the dashboard with your exact height (remember to include A/C)
“We’ll probably fit” doesn’t cut it! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We’ll probably fit” does not cut it—don’t take the risk

Also be aware that the typical width of an RV is 8.5 feet and the typical highway lane is 10 feet in width. This gives you about a foot-and-a-half to work with.

Learn From This Story

Lessons like these are hard ones, but people can avoid having to learn them if they take an RV Driving Course that is taught by a certified instructor prior to taking their coaches out on the road.

Use extreme care when approaching a bridge or tunnel with low clearance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to protect yourself from having the kind of accidents you’ve learned about in this article, my best advice is to learn to drive an RV before taking it out on the highway, maintain it well, pay attention to what you’re doing when you travel, and always be aware of what the drivers around you are doing. Be proactive!

Drive safely! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

BURMA SHAVE