Given the uncertainty of a global pandemic, my family and I decided to take a 13 day RV trip during Summer vacation this year. I’ve put my family in many uncomfortable places over the years, but now they are much bigger… And take up more space… And eat a lot more… Today, one will be an eighth grader, one a Senior in high school and the oldest will head to college in the Fall if they are allowed. Crazy times.
We approached this trip differently due to COVID 19. We had to be aware of what was open and closed and which states allowed visitors. We wanted to minimize grocery store trips, not eat at restaurants, stay outdoors and stay away from crowds. That meant we had to pack more, shop less and plan carefully. It also meant that if we had 13 days of bad weather, we would spend a lot of time staring at each other (and occasionally yelling at each other for breathing too loud) inside of an RV.
We went white water rafting, fishing, boating, hiking and biking. We also did a muddy ATV tour after a soaking rain. We were self-contained, cooking all of our meals in the RV or over our Camp Chef grill.
If it’s been a while since your last family RV trip, or you’re planning one during uncertain times, here’s what we learned before, during and after our trip. I hope you learn from our mistakes and share in our successes.
- Packing is critical.
- If you plan to stay away from restaurants (if they are even open), or do limited to no food delivery, it is important to plan your meals for the trip. Food prep helps you create a grocery list and forces you to create space to store your non refrigerated food. Which means you will have less space to store electronics, clothes, towels, etc. RV refrigerators and freezers are generally small, but manageable. Note: secure the cabinet doors when driving, so pasta sauce and salsa bottles don’t fall onto your children’s head while driving…
- Be sure that you have access to the gear and food you need regularly. Remember the LIFO method: Last In First Out. Otherwise, you’ll be packing and unpacking constantly.
- Most rental RV’s come with essentials (pots, pans, games, grill, etc). Be sure to check with the RV owner as to what’s included. And more importantly, what’s not included. Note: There is special toilet paper for campground waste systems that is less comfortable, but breaks down for easier disposal.
- Plan your trip.
- If you don’t own an RV, you’ll likely find that they are less available than usual due to high demand. We used RVShare.com, which worked reasonably well. The site was very easy to navigate, but the high demand for vehicles was apparent by the lack of response from some owners. After two people didn’t get back to my request to rent their RV, I found an RV about 60 miles from our home that met our needs. It was a 30’ unit with one slider which is a lifesaver that creates additional space when parked. Note: Don’t forget to retract the slider and awning (and disconnect utilities) before driving…
- Find campgrounds with the right utilities and amenities. It’s difficult to know what places are decent from a website, so try to read the reviews, or ask friends.
- Be sure to plan outings in advance where possible. We generally planned one big activity per day (with an occasional down day to recover from sunburn, etc.) which still gave lots time to explore.
- Map out your trip so that you don’t have to visit a different campsite every day. Try to set up a home base where possible. If you move a lot, you will be doing a lot of extra packing and unpacking.
- Know your RV
- Test drive your RV. Know the blind spots. Realize that it’s much heavier with a full tank of gas and a full water tank – so going uphill will be harder and your gas mileage will be worse.
- Know the utilities. Power, water, sewage. There are generally four power sources in an RV. One is from the engine, which powers the front air conditioning and probably some outlets. The second is a battery that will power some of your larger electronics in the back. The third is your generator, which should recharge your battery in the back. The fourth is an electric cord, which will recharge your back battery. When plugged in to a full hook up at a campground, you will be able to run your ceiling air conditioning unit, your microwave, TV’s and anything else you need without having to use your generator.
- Know the size of your RV and read road signs on highways, bridges and tunnels so you don’t get stuck and do damage. Many navigation systems also allow you to enter the size of your vehicle so it will avoid any issues.
- Before leaving any site, do a complete walk around to make sure doors are closed and locked, utilities are disconnected and stored. Make sure sliders and awnings are retracted.
- Lay Down RV Ground Rules. Early.
- Expect to be living in close quarters. People will get in your way and annoy you. Things will get messy fast. Try to minimize the tensions by laying down ground rules related to bathroom etiquette, electronics usage, etc.
- Make sure everyone knows their job responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, packing and co-piloting. It makes for a long trip if one person is doing all the work.
- Be flexible.
- The beauty of RV camping is the ability to stop and alter plans as needed. Take time to enjoy the sites and spend time with your friends and family who join you.
- Expect things to go wrong. Things will break. You will forget things you need. It’s not the end of the world.
Mike Tyson once famously said “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. So be prepared to alter plans along the way and roll with the punches. So enjoy your trip, and know that you are making memories with everyone who joins you.