Beginner RV Tips – Dreaming Of A Life On The Road?

We’ve been in our RV almost full-time since we bought it a little over one month ago (we went home for 3 days to get more things). I’m definitely no expert at RV living but I have learned many RV tips and tricks since we started traveling in it. We do still have many other things…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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RV Tips And Tricks - Dreaming Of A Life On The Road?We’ve been in our RV almost full-time since we bought it a little over one month ago (we went home for 3 days to get more things). I’m definitely no expert at RV living but I have learned many RV tips and tricks since we started traveling in it.

We do still have many other things to learn. However, I wanted to create this post because I know many of you are interested in possibly getting an RV as well.

Just as a refresher, we bought a Class C RV, the Winnebago Itasca Viva, back in July. We bought an RV because:

  • We have spent almost the entire year in our car on road trips
  • We were spending a lot of money on dingy hotels
  • We want to travel more comfortably
  • We want to travel at a more leisurely pace
  • We want to spend more time with friends and family now that we live far away
  • We enjoy traveling
  • We are location independent.

Related content: How To Rent An RV: The Best Tips For Your First RV Rental

Here are my tips for beginner RVers. With the below RV tips and tricks in mind, you will hopefully start your RV trip the right way – having fun and enjoying your new lifestyle!

 

Have a plan.

If you are new to RVing, you probably have many questions. Yes, you may have already decided on what type of RV to buy, but the questions and planning do not end there!

You should:

  • Set a budget regarding gas, food, and where you will stay.
  • Decide where you are traveling to and for how long.
  • Remember when you need maintenance and actually do it.
  • Keep your pets in mind if you are bringing them. For example, we always make sure to have enough dog waste bags – no one wants to think about that, but it needs to be done!
  • Determine what items you should bring. This includes determining how many extra fuses, rolls of toilet paper, light bulbs, trash bags, soap, shampoo, bikes, food, dishes, utensils, and so on that you need for your trip.
  • Book your stays. When we were tent camping, we had no problem camping anywhere. However, with an RV there are usually wait times of a few months. Yes, MONTHS! It’s very wise to book a campground in advance if you plan on staying somewhere during the high season.

 

Take a small trip first.

One of my top RV tips and tricks is to take a small trip first.

For our first RV trip, we went just around 50 miles away. It was just for a day so that we could drive the RV a little bit and get the hang of it. For the next trip, we just went within a few hours of our home in Colorado.

There are many reasons to take a small trip first:

  • You can learn more about your RV without being too far away to ask for help.
  • To pick up items you may not have thought you needed.
  • Just in case something breaks. New RVs are notorious for this. This is probably the biggest reason you should stay close. Our dealership even told us to stay close for this very reason.

 

Earn money while RVing.

Many say they dream of traveling in an RV, but they are unable to because there is no way for them to make a living. While it may be more difficult to earn a living while traveling, there are definitely possibilities!

In fact, many of the RVers we have met earn a living while on the road.

For me, I make money while RVing by blogging. You can check out my income reports here.

Related posts:

 

Research your internet options.

Being in the RV doesn’t mean you have to completely disconnect with the world. There are many different internet options out there.

Before you decide who you will use, you should look at factors including WIFI coverage and cost. There are many companies out there and we found Verizon to be the best option for us. If you need a contact email for the person I use, please send me an email.

 

Find free camping options.

My next of my RV tips and tricks is to find free camping options.

There are many, many free camping options out there. Before you spend a ton of money on some sort of membership plan to a national or regional RV campground, I recommend you see what kind of camping you prefer best.

For us, we like to camp for free. We like it because it’s usually more much secluded, plus it’s FREE!

Our plan is to camp for free as much as we can, to stay somewhere just a few times a week (or less) to dump, get water, and get better internet (such as at a commercial campground), and to travel to where the weather is better during that time of the year.

Some websites I recommend that we have used many times a week include FreeCampsites.net and Sanidumps.com. FreeCampsites is great because it lists all of the free campsites in the U.S, plus you can see actual reviews and pictures that other campers have left. Sanidumps is another great website that lists all of the places where you can dump your tanks and get fresh water. This is especially good to know when you are free camping because you usually do not have these options available to you.

 

Bring tools with you.

We brought some tools with us on our two week trip but realized we didn’t have everything we needed. When we went back home we made sure to stock back up. This is why it’s so important to take smaller trips before you set out for a single big trip.

Bringing any tools you think you may need can save you a lot of time and money since you’ll be able to do some repairs on your own.

 

Pack less stuff.

Whatever you think you need to bring with you, try to eliminate at least one-third of that. We plan on being on the road for as long as we can and we still have plenty of storage space in our RV.

Just remember that the more things you bring, the heavier your RV will be and, therefore, the more gas you will be using. This is another reason why a few smaller trips in the beginning is extremely helpful – you will realize what you need to bring and what can be left behind.

 

Have a checklist.

I’m the type of person who does well with lists so I think this is a must. Even if you just have a list in your head, that is better than nothing.

Some things you will want to have on your list include:

  • Items that you MUST have with you in your RV.
  • Things to keep your RV in an operable condition such as a leveling kit, hoses, tools, and so on.
  • A checklist of things you must do before you vacate a site (such as doing a walk around to make sure that you are okay to leave) – you might even want to include the RV tips and tricks above on your checklist so that you can have everything in one easy-to-find place.

What RV-related questions do you have? Are you interested in living the RV lifestyle? What’s something you would definitely bring with you in an RV?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I am very much interested in experiencing what it is like to travel using RV. I know it is very interesting and I’d love to do. What common problems do you encounter with regard to mechanic repair or replacement?

    1. We haven’t come across anything major. Our water heater stopped working but it was an easy fix.

  2. Perfect tips Michelle! I remember one movie about a family who lived and travelled by their RV.

  3. This sis so interesting to me. A coworker has started doing small trips in her RV. I’m definitely jealous. Especially of the possibility of not having a mortgage!

    Someone I followed would sell scarves on eBay. Lightweight and didn’t take up a lot of space. The money’s there if you’re willing to try new things out!

  4. Well Rv ecperience is like campng but maybe a little bit more comfty…I’d like to have an holiday with RV it means a lot of freedom.However thanks for sharing your tips!!!

  5. Totally on my bucket list! My wife doesn’t quite understand it, but I’d love to try it. Not sure how it would all work with kids, but maybe we’ll wait a few more year.

  6. While I will not be going on the road soon, I will say that your photos are absolutely beautiful on instagram! I love them. Truly incredible!!

  7. Ali @ Anything You Want

    I would love to do an RV trip at some point to explore a huge swath of the country. I think I would rent an RV though, at least for the first trip, to make sure I like it. I’ve seen lots of people driving around in those cheesy RVs with rental company logos painted across them – that could be me someday! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Haha yes that could be you one day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. This list is so comprehensive. Thanks! It’s so fantastic that you’ve worked so hard to become location independent and are able to pursue these dreams. Those free campground photos you posted on Instagram – consider me sold!

  9. I would love to get a mini Airstream.

  10. I’m not going to let Greg see this because he wants an RV so bad! Maybe one day, but certainly not any time soon.

  11. Great tips! I am bookmarking this to read again before we head out on our cross-country road trip in 2022 to celebrate reaching financial semi-independence. Oh wait, I mean we will read this again before we take a short trip to test out the RV ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I had never stepped foot into a RV until a few months ago when visiting my parents who had just bought one. There was definitely a sense of freedom about it. I know my parents have had some maintenance issues, so definitely be sure keep up with regular upkeep and also have some sort of roadside assistance.

  13. Great list! I don’t plan on taking off on an RV for quite a few years, but definitely trying to start to prep myself mentally now ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Jordan

    Since you are location independent, how often do you need to access the internet and how do you do it in an RV? I’m guessing you have to work at least 20 hours a week, so if you’re not at an RV park with wifi, what do you do? Sit at a McDonalds? My husband and I are considering a big year long RV trip and we would need access to the internet pretty regularly, but if we are in national parks or boondocking i’m just not sure how we would get any work done.

    1. I access the internet pretty much all day long. I have a wifi device that I just bring with me everywhere.

  15. I think traveling in a RV would be fun. I would have to make sure that my insurance would cover it though. If it breaks down there is no way that I could fix it.

    1. There’s plenty of insurance options for RVs ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I will definitely share more. Thanks Neil!

  17. I’m curious – do you think you’d ever ditch a house and RV full time for a year or some period of time?

    1. We’ve definitely been thinking about it. We have a LOT of stuff (a lot of it is meaningful stuff after my dad passed away, so I can’t part with it) so we would either need a storage area or someone would have to lend us their attic ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. kim

        One way to hold onto memories without the stuff …is to take pictures of it,,, if said important stuff is not on display but in boxes, is it really that important? Stuff enslaves us…Im sure your father would not want you to feel that way. Another thing you could consider doing is giving some of it to your children to enjoy…you can always visit these things when you see your children….Happy camping…I will be joining the fulltime rv lifestyle later this year….

  18. Great tip about taking small test runs before heading out for a longer trip. That’s always excellent advice! Gives you a chance to shake things up and see what comes loose.

    And, I have to say it again. So. Very. Jealous! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. We plan on traveling pretty much everywhere in North America ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. How much does it cost to wash it??

    1. It cost us $28 the other day, I believe ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Hmm they didn’t recommend anything except for calling the nearest dealer.

  22. We’re on our way to the east now! Traveling to St. Louis, Memphis, Charlotte, and more ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Honestly, I don’t know if I could live in an RV. I suppose it’s quite a bit like living in a tiny house though, so it might be fun.

    1. I enjoy traveling, so I enjoy being in an RV ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. I long for RV living! It’s a goal we are working towards.

  25. Sue Dixon

    Hi Michelle,

    I love reading your posts about your RV adventures and, of course, how you make money at the same time.

    My husband and I sold our home, bought an RV five years ago and we’ve never looked back. I’m also a writer, blogger and copywriter. I can do what I do where ever we are.

    We do a lot of “dry camping” or free camping as you called it and that choice is my favorite too. Thank you for those two websites, by the way.

    Thank you for your inspiring blog.

  26. Jenn

    Whoa, I didn’t know that wait lists for RV camping could be months long. We were hoping to just rent an RV for our Colorado road trip on New Years and decide on a place to stay just before we left. Thank you for the tip to plan ahead and make reservations! I would love to buy my own RV someday, but I’m kind of scared of the expensive repairs! Though, if it’s a replacement for your home, that might actually be less expensive. What has your experience been like so far with repairs?

  27. I like how you talk about having a plan. Specifically, setting a budget with regards to food and where you will stay. I want to get out and vacation more with my family. To do that, I’m going to have to spend more time planning for it. Thanks for the help!

  28. jresquival

    That’s a good tip to set a budget for gas. Knowing exactly how much you are going to spend cuts down stress on a trip. Is it a good idea to set a maintenance budget as well?

  29. Amazing how long a life this article has. Just shows how popular RV’ing part-time or full time has become.

    We just bought a 35 foot 5th wheel and plan to promote our website; Delivered RV rentals by owner. Kind of an Airbnb for RV’s, but no driving necessary for the renters. Our network of RV transport folks take care of the delivery for those owners who don’t want to do the work. RV owners split the income from the rental with the RV owners. So, fulltimers with a truck can do the work of the RV Vacation Rental manager, or a retired Firefighter with a truck can do the business.

    Lot’s of earning options for both RV owners and RV transport. We’ll see how it goes. RVPlusYou.com is the website for those interested.

    Best of luck Michelle!

  30. Sheri

    we have been in our RV full time now for 2 months. I was just wondering what insurance co. covers your full time living in the RV. We have NAtional General but I’m not sure how good they are.

  31. Thanks for the information in regards to how to have a better experience on the road in your RV. My wife and I really want to travel across the country in an RV, but have not decided on one yet. It is nice to know that you can have insurance cover most of the RV. Thanks for the post!

  32. Thanks for the RV tips! My wife and I really want to buy an RV so we can trek across the country together. Thanks for mentioning that you should start with small trips so you can get familiar with your RV and everything that goes into a trip. We will be sure to do this if we buy an RV.

  33. Susan

    If you ever come to southern Utah , my side yard is ready for you to stay .We live in Cedar City/Enoch.

    1. Laurie

      Hello, I’m headed there is your yard available?
      We’re very friendly couple with dog.
      Laurie

  34. Michael Robinson

    My fiance and I have been talking about going on a really long road trip after we get married and explore the states we have always wanted to go to. Just like you mentioned, you should prepare a detailed plan that goes over the financials, the locations, and decide how long you will be traveling for. With all that information, it might take us a little bit more time to figure everything out, but I think that we should do this right to avoid experiencing any problems on the road. Thanks again for all the information on how to have the best cross-country road trip experience!

  35. Michael Lee

    My wife and I recently became empty nesters and want to travel for a while. I think it is interesting that you make money while rving. We are looking for a Yetti distributor right now because I like the way the RV looks. I’ll see you on the road.