Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a new RV! You have spent hours, maybe longer, looking at different rigs; feeling out size, amenities, finishes, and upgrades. You have gone back and forth with your significant other about really needing a bigger bathroom or wanting the outdoor kitchen versus the second slide out. You have pulled the funds together (which in some cases can be quite a pretty penny) to pay for this new adventure on wheels, and now, IT’S YOURS! Well, if you are anything like me, you are currently feeling a unique mixture of overwhelming excitement at all of the possibilities, and overwhelming anxiety… at all of the possibilities! Owning an RV and experiencing an RV to its maximum potential are two very different things! Not to worry, I am here to share with you the 4 things to avoid as a new RV owner that will get you on the road to making memories with your loved ones, and reduce your anxiety and fear.
DO NOT GO BIG, OR YOU WILL GO HOME! (at first)
We buy RVs because we dream of weeks’ long expeditions into the great outdoors, surrounded by nature, with our family and friends. We dream of remote campfire conversations, with nothing but the stars to bear witness, and breathtaking hikes up the sides of mountains lending to views only ever seen in the very best Instagram feeds. We dream of unplugging from the world, posting up on cliffs overlooking the ocean, and listening to waves lapping up on the shore, with everything we need for days on end contained within the 300 square feet around us! That is all quite lovely, and you will get there, BUT not right away! Avoid going too far, for too long, in the beginning. Start small! In fact, I would recommend that you plan a 1-2 night trip at an RV resort in your city (or the city in which you purchased your rig). On that trip, make no other plans than to flip every switch, push every button, use every amenity, and check in regularly with your companions about pain points, like too little space in the kitchen during prep and clean up (yes, I highly recommend using the kitchen on the first run, to be sure everything is in order. You will have many more trips where you can grill out), or staggering bathroom use. Be sure to take notes in the moment, as you will be dealing with a lot, and will easily forget if you don’t keep track of what you are learning. Trust me, there will be time to sit under the stars, and even enjoy a camp fire s’more, but the point of this stay should be to make sure that your systems are working properly, and to start establishing a routine for your family! From this trip, build your way up to further distances, and longer stays, until setting up, tearing down, and every system in between becomes second-nature, and you can focus on all of the fun to be had!
WINGING IT IS FOR THE BIRDS!
One day, in the not too distant future, you will look at your significant other on a Saturday morning with that look in your eye (not THAT look!), and you’ll call to the kids, grab the dogs and your “Go Bags” and head out to parts unknown, not to return for days! Sounds blissful! However, in the beginning, I highly recommend that you plan ahead. I’m not here to tell you that you need to stay at RV resorts, or campgrounds for every trip, even in the beginning. I am telling you that planning ahead is a good practice at first, because knowing where you are going, and what type of camping you will be doing, will help you plan for what might go wrong, so that if it does, you’re prepared, and might not have to cut your fun short! Planning out menus, carrying surplus gasoline, water, a second propane tank, or simply packing warmer clothes for changing temperatures can make a big difference in the stories you tell when the trip is over. So, until you have encountered many different terrains, climates, distances, and lengths of stay (and maybe even after), make yourself lists, bring extras, and keep notes on what you were missing during your trips. There are a ton of great comprehensive RV camping checklists available out there, so do a Google search, and download one or two that make sense for you.
LEAVE GREAT EXPECTATIONS FOR THE HIGH SCHOOL READING LIST!
You bought your rig to build memories with your family and friends, and to be closer with nature. You are looking forward to idyllic sunsets and sunrises beside peaceful lakes with the silhouette of the mountains lighting up with pinks and purples. You imagine sing-alongs, and belly laughs around a board game, while your kids or grandkids are playing happily together in a field. And, it goes on like this for every day of your trip, and everything goes as planned, and nobody ever wants to go home again. Then, a unicorn prances by and shoots rainbows from his eyes!...Right! The reality is that things are going to go WRONG. Pretty much every trip you take, you will encounter an unexpected. Sometimes the unexpected is amazing (a family of deer park themselves outside your rig during their afternoon snacking session, so you dare not leave for the next 30 minutes, putting you behind schedule, but worth every second). Sometimes the unexpected is terrible (a tire blows out on the highway, and you have to try to change it while your toddler is screaming from hunger, but he doesn’t “like food” at that moment). Both good and bad have the ability to derail your experience if you have an exact picture in your head of what each day should look like. The key is to keep your expectations slightly lowered. Don’t set the bar so high that an “unexpected” or two (or four) ruins the entire trip for you! It is about building memories, and sometimes the worst days turn into the best stories that make you smile the biggest when you tell and re-tell them for all the years to come. Be present, in the moment, and enjoy the opportunity that you have provided for yourself and your loved ones!
HASTE MAKES WASTE- DON’T RUSH THE WALK THROUGH
After purchasing your rig you are ready to hit the road, and/or you are scared to death about everything safety! Well, I’m here to tell you that safety is, and always should be, the number one priority! As such, please take the walk-through offered by your dealership very seriously. It can be a bit like drinking from a fire hose, so I suggest that you bring a second person, and record as much as you can. Pay close attention to how to properly hitch to your vehicle (if you bought a travel trailer), which can include sway bars, and/or other weight distribution systems. Ask A TON of questions about setting up, and tearing down the most efficiently and safely. The walk-through is a prime opportunity to ask the experts about your specific rig, and get answers to the questions that might otherwise keep you up at night! Try doing things on your own, while at the dealership, so that you have someone there to correct your mistakes before taking your rig off the lot. This process will take up to 3 hours, and I would say that you should take up every single minute. Maximizing your walk-through will cut down on the number of Google searches, YouTube videos, and cursing that will come after, and don’t we all just want to enjoy ourselves with as little worry as possible? Give yourself a leg up: take your time!
All in all, you have just made what could easily be, the BEST purchase of your life! You will experience so many new and exciting things, and get outdoors, closer to the wonders that surround us on this beautiful planet! You are now also a member of an enormous, yet tight-knit, community of very helpful folks, ready to share the best and worst of this new lifestyle you are taking up. I am ecstatic for you, and hope to hear all about your adventures: good and bad, planned and spontaneous, near and far! You are only going to be a “newbie” for short while, so enjoy these feeling too. It’s all part of the journey! See you on the road!
Samantha Innes and her husband, Chris, are the parents of one teen, one tween, and one toddler, whose traveling adventures can be followed on Instagram @travelingtribeof5.