RV Camping, 5 Tips That The Pro’s Don’t Even Know
RV Camping trips can be super stressful, but they don’t have to be. Our first few trips in our first RV were a little nerve racking, but we learned a few things along the way. If you are just getting into the RV Lifestyle, we are passing on some of the first 5 RV camping tips we learned the hard way.
Most of our friends growing up were in the RV Lifestyle and never had anything but good stuff to say about it. We used to call them the professional campers because they always made it seem so easy. After getting back from our first trip we were surprised to hear that some of them didn’t know a few of these.
RV Camping Tip 1 – Flying J Has A Spot Just For You
If you have ever been on a trip in a drivable RV then you know some of the fuel islands leave a lot to be desired. Almost all gas stations are set up for passenger cars and trucks, which can make navigating your rig through the lot a royal pain.
Flying J has an RV Island JUST for RV’ers! The first time we came across one I would swear there was a heavenly light streaming down through night sky to help me find it. Ok, It could have just been the way the parking lot light was reflecting in the snow, but whatever…
At the RV Island you can dump your tanks, refill your fresh water, fuel up with gas or diesel, air up your tires or anything else you need to do. The best part is that it is away from the standard fuel island so it is much easier to get in and out of.
Flying J Bonus Tip
Flying J also has showers, so if it’s been a few days, or just one of those days, grab a shower and coffee before you hit the road again. I know what you’re thinkin, “A truck stop shower? Are you nuts? That’s how half the episodes of ‘Criminal Minds’ start.”
Honestly, that’s what my wife said when I suggested it. But let me tell ya, they were cleaner and safer than some of the campgrounds we stayed at. You prepay for your shower at the front desk, grab your coffee now too and pay for both at the same time, then you hear your shower is ready over the loud speaker shortly thereafter.
If you’re doing a coast to coast haul in 3 or 4 days, that shower is going to feel like hitting the lottery.
Don’t forget to read: Do you really need to use RV Toilet Paper?
RV Camping Tip 2 – Rewards Cards
Rewards cards are an easy way to stretch your budget, and lets face it, these days everywhere has their own rewards card. You can get one for Flying J and get free food and drinks, airline mile cards, even the major campground franchises have rewards cards that you can rack up points to earn discounts and free stays on your trips.
There are even fuel cards you can sign up for that will save you money at the pump as well as let you fill up at the Big Truck fuel islands on the interstates. With the price of diesel these days, if you are pulling a heavy Fifth Wheel like we are, you know those fuel stops add up, fast.
At the passenger car fuel islands it can be a pain to swing your rig into it. Then you find out it stops filling at 75 bucks. Having to restart that pump 4 times to fill up your tank just adds insult to injury. The big truck islands don’t have a fill limit and their nozzles are bigger so they fill faster.
The Reward Card We Use
When we are on the road, everything, and I mean everything for that trip goes on our Cabela’s Card. You can sign up for the same one here. Gas, Snacks, Truck Wash, Campgrounds, All of it.
There’s two reasons we do it this way. First reason being, it’s easy to keep track of your expenses when they are all in one place. If you are trying to remember how much dinner cost on day three, you can just check your statement and all of your expenses are right there.
The other reason being, you are going to need to stop and buy Something for the RV at some point. As you are paying for your items along the way you are earning Cabela’s Club Points. You can use your club points to pay for the new coffee pot, or replacing the camping chairs that you just ran over.
There have been times we have replaced what felt like half our campsite without laying anything out of pocket and just using our club points.
RV Camping Tip 3 – Listen To The Locals
We are from the east coast of New Jersey. The nice flat east coast. When we went to the West Coast to see the Giant Sequoia Trees, the landscape is different to say the least. There were two times that talking to one of the locals saved our asses. Ok, one time, because I didn’t listen the second time, but I REALLY wish I did.
We all know that we all talk different right? It’s just a thing we bust each others chops about around the campfire when making friends from a new state. What we don’t realize most of the time is that even if we say the same thing, it may not have the same definition.
In New Jersey when you are listening to weather and they say Light Snow the weatherman is talking about a quarter of an inch. Just enough to be annoying really. In Montana and Northern California, Light Snow is closer to a foot.
When I Listened
We didn’t know that. When we stopped to fill our gas tank and our coffee cups, a Saint of a Woman saved our asses. She came in to get her coffee, and could hear that we talked different and the accent matched the license plate on the RV.
She asked where we were headed, and when we said we’re trying to make it to California by morning. Then she said something about “city boys being cute but not too smart”. After a good chuckle she explained how the snow works out here, and said to follow her to a spot we can set up for the night and wait out the storm.
We were really glad she did, and she even gave us her home address in case we had any trouble during the night we could come park in her driveway. She never told me her name, but at least she said I was cute.
Chat it up with the locals whenever you can about the area you are in. You don’t want to be fish tailing an RV that’s towing your car down the interstate because you weren’t in the know about the local lingo.
Don’t forget to read: RV Fire Happens. This Could Save Your Life.
When I Should Have Listened
After we made it to the west coast to see the Redwood Forest, we were heading south east towards Reno, then on to Utah. Talking with a park ranger, he suggested we go “all the way down to Sacramento, then turn left. Your GPS is gonna want to take ya… (stopped listening for some stupid reason) …you folks enjoy the rest of your trip.”
The GPS said this way is 3 hours shorter, but He was right. The GPS wanted to take me right off the side of a damn cliff.
We paid a decent amount of money for a GPS designed specifically for our RV so we would always fit on the roads it took us down. In fairness, we did fit, as long as there wasn’t another car coming.
It was an hour and a half of one lane switch backs like you see in a movie. My tires were right on the white line, and on the other side of the white line was a cliff face with no guard rail.
(Insert an hour and a half of white knuckles and puckered butt cheeks here)
RV Camping Tip 4 – Off Season Is The Best Season
You may be thinking you can only go on an RV Road Trip during the summer months, but you’d be wrong. In fact most of our road trips before we went full time were during our Sons winter break from school.
We would plan our trips for that 2 weeks leading into Christmas and New Year, and had a lot of places to ourselves! When we stayed at Teddy Roosevelt National Park we were the only ones from horizon to horizon in that section of the badlands that night. That’s pretty damn cool.
There was no traffic in the park at all, no beeping horns because my wife wanted to take 3,000 pictures of the bison and we were holding someone up. No neighbors in the campsite next to us who never learned camping etiquette.
Honestly we have come to love traveling in the off season. Even now that we are full time in the RV, we prefer to be away from the popular spots on the weekends. We try to stay places from Monday to Friday, and travel on the weekends. It’s just a quieter experience that we have come to enjoy.
RV Camping Tip 5 – Have A Map
Now I know this may sound like a stupid one, but hear me out. I know we all have a GPS on our dashboard and can use the map on our phone to find where we are going. Here is where the paper map comes in handy.
When you are sitting there drinking your coffee in the morning you can see your whole route in front of you. You have time to look up some cool stops along your route and mark them off so you don’t miss them.
You can even adjust your route because you marked something off on your last trip, that you totally forgot about until flipping to this page, and make sure you see it this trip. Here is the 50 State Atlas we use.
When we were planning our trips to check off all 48 continental States, we would all make a list of things in each state we wanted to try to see. We used to sit down as a family during breakfast and all look at the map to see who could circle something on their list, and then plan our route accordingly.
It also helps you to cut down on screen time as a family. Let’s face it, we all sit there in the same room as each other staring at our phones sometimes. Having the paper map brings you back to that Family Time where no one is looking at a screen, and you are all working together to make it everyone’s trip.
If you spend a little time each day mapping it out, you might just be able to wear out the kids and the dog enough on your road trip that they will actually fall asleep on the couch. What you adults do with this quiet time at the end of the day I will leave up to you.
Don’t forget to read: Does RV Skirting really make a difference with keeping warm?