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Are you planning an Epic RV Trip?
What should you bring?
What supplies and gear will you need?
How will you make sure everyone enjoys the road trip and gets the most out of it?
There are a ton of questions when planning an RV road trip but if you follow our 11 Steps to Plan Your First Epic RV Adventure you are certain to be prepared to have an awesome RV Road Trip!
Here are 11 Steps to Plan Your First Epic RV Adventure:
- Choose Your Destination
- Decide Who to Invite on Your RV Adventure
- Plan Your Route
- Rent An RV
- Plan Your Campgrounds
- Plan Your Activities
- Plan What to Clothes to Pack on Your RV Adventure
- Plan Your Menu
- Plan What Gear You Will Need
- Plan What Supplies You Will Need
- Plan Your Return – or Not!
1. Choose Your Destination!
The first step to planning your Epic RV adventure is to decide where you want to go. Of course, the great thing about RV travel is that you do not have to pick just one place! You can visit multiple destinations in one trip.
The most fun way to plan your trip is to go old school and get out a map. Circle or mark locations that you would like to visit on your adventure. You may want to ask friends and family for their recommendations as well.
An important point to keep in mind is that while you can visit many places in just one RV trip, you do not want to try to cram too much into one vacation. Many new RVers often try to fit too much travel into too short of a time. Over scheduling can lead to exhaustion and even burn out. You definitely want to do what you can to avoid this!
Consider the amount of time you have to travel and try to focus on a few key destinations that you really want to see. Remember that if you are continually driving long hours or driving multiple days per week, RV life can get old pretty quickly. The great thing about owning an RV is that you can always plan another trip!
One tip to avoiding RV burnout is to look for an area of the country with multiple destinations that you want to explore. Then, you can make shorter drives from one place to another. You may even be able to stay in one place and visit several locations as day trips.
2. Decide Who to Invite on Your RV Adventure
RV travel can be fun solo or with a spouse, friends, or family. Think about who you want to travel with you on your adventure. Deciding who to bring along will depend on the size of your RV as well as everyone’s vacation schedule. Before you get too carried away inviting folks along, consider how many people can be comfortably accommodated in your rig. Just because your dinette converts into a bed doesn’t mean you want someone sleeping on it every night!
If you want friends and family along on your trip, but you are worried about space in your camper, consider having them join you their own RVs or even a cabin rental. If you have folks that want to come along but they don’t have their own rig, recommending that they rent an RV may be a good solution. Many campgrounds offer cabin rentals in addition to RV sites, so look into this option as well.
Another strategy for including friends and family in your travel is to invite them along for a portion of the trip and not the entire journey. Having friends or family join you for a weekend or week at a time is an excellent option if you will be traveling for an extended period.
3. Plan Your Route
Once you have your destination (or destinations) in mind, it is time to figure out how to get there. Often there are multiple ways to get where you are going, so consider what you want to journey to look like. Are you trying to get where you are going as fast as possible, or would you like some adventure along the way?
If you are limited on time, you may want to stick to interstate highways for most of your travel. Utilizing highways will get you where you want to go quickly and is often the easiest way to go. You also will not have to worry about finding gas stations that can accommodate your rig along the way, as there will most likely be plenty of options.
If you are not in a rush, consider taking state highways or scenic drives to your destination. As they say, “getting there is half the fun,” and a scenic drive is what RV travel is all about. Often you will find points of interest such as overlooks, farm stands, charming towns, and more along the way.
If you do choose to take the long way, be sure to gas up before you set out on your trip, as RV friendly gas stations may be harder to come by. If you have a larger rig, you may want to locate a few gas stations along the route that will accommodate your rig in advance. If you have a specific gas station that you frequent, you can check their website for a mapping tool.
PRO TIP: Use a good trip planning tool that has features like campgrounds, points of interest, and a drivetime calculator all built in. You can’t use Waze or GoogleMaps when driving an RV because those apps don’t take the size or height of your RV into account. We use and recommend RV Trip Wizard. In our opinion its the best trip planning tool on the market and it’s cheap! Just CLICK HERE to check it out for yourself!
4. Rent An RV
If you are brand new to RVing, you may want to consider renting an RV before purchasing your own rig. Renting an RV is a great way to try out different sizes, models, and brands to determine which is the best fit for you. Renting an RV is affordable, and there are now more options than ever before. We recommend using Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV rental service for your RV rental.
Folks new to RVing can quickly become overwhelmed at the number of RV rental options out there. It really can be easy to pick an RV rental if you know what you are looking for! First, consider if you would like a travel trailer that you can tow with a truck or if you prefer an RV that you can drive, which does not require a tow vehicle. Then, determine the number of people you need to accommodate to figure out which size RV you will need. The search feature on Outdoorsy allows you to search by the number of people, RV type, and more, which makes finding the perfect fit a snap.
Even if you own your RV it may not be practical to drive to your destination. If you only have a one or two week vacation, for example, it might make more sense to fly to your destination and rent an RV there to save time and money!
5. Plan Your Campgrounds
One of the most essential parts of your RV adventure is selecting your campgrounds. Where you decide to stay can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip. Campground options include private campgrounds, national and state parks, and even boondocking sites. The best campgrounds for you will depend on your wants and needs for the trip, along with your budget.
Private campgrounds are the most expensive option, but they also offer the most amenities. Luxury RV resorts can include everything from swimming pools to spas! The best part about private campgrounds is that they usually offer full hookups. Having hookups means that you will have access to water, sewer, and electric services, which makes RV life pretty easy. The downside to private campgrounds is that sites are often smaller with less privacy. If you are looking to “get away from it all,” this may not be what you are looking for. Prices for private campgrounds range anywhere from $40 to $80 per night or more!
A popular and lower cost option is state and national parks. With prices of only $15 to $30 per night, public campgrounds are much more affordable than private RV parks. State and national park campgrounds are also where most people want to be as you will have hiking and adventure right outside of your door.
The downside to public campgrounds is that they typically offer fewer amenities. Most national parks offer no water, sewer or electric services whatsoever. While you may be able to get potable water and dump your tanks there, you are unlikely to find hookups of any kind. You will also need solar panels or a generator if you want any power at all. Even then, generator hours are limited.
State parks sometimes have hookups, usually at a lower price than private RV parks, which make them a cost-effective option. Each state park is different, and there may be various options at sites within one park, so be sure to research the park before booking.
Another option for RVers is boondocking or dry camping. Similar to national parks, you will not have any services or amenities at a boondocking site. You will need to bring everything you need, from water to power, with you on your trip. You will also need to pack it out with you when you go. Dumping your waste is not allowed and can result in severe fines.
Dry camping is nice because it is inexpensive and allows you to camp in remote, private locations. A great option for RVers new to dry camping is to look for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and try a night or two. If you don’t like it, you can always leave! BLM sites are usually free, although some charge a nightly fee of around $7.
6. Plan Your Activities
Once you know where you are going and how you are getting there, it is time to think about what you will do at your destination. While you can always just go with the flow and make a plan when you arrive, we have found that it is best to plan ahead. Often, the best activities in a location need to be reserved in advance. Take a look at the popular things to do in the area and decide which ones interest you. If you need to book ahead of time, be sure to do it before your trip.
If you are visiting a national park, there is often so much to do that proper planning is critical to doing what you want to do. Outlining your daily activities in advance can help you plan your time to beat the crowds. Be sure to schedule some time to unwind as well. Hanging out at the campsite is one of the best things to do on any camping trip!
Also, have a plan for what you will do if you have a rainy day! When Susan and I plan a trip itinerary we plan two things to do every day. One if it rains and one if it is sunny! When you have a plan for a rainy day you will be surprised how much better your attitude and energy are. If you don’t have a plan it sucks the energy out of your trip as you try to endure a boring rainy day.
7. Plan What to Clothes to Pack on Your RV Adventure
While this one may seem like a no-brainer, it is so important to take the time to plan the clothes that you will be bringing on your trip. It is a good idea to take a look at the weather for the area before you book your getaway, and then again when you start to pack.
No matter where you are going, it is sensible to bring layers of clothing, including a lightweight jacket. Hiking boots and raincoats are definitely items that you will want in your RV.
Try not to overpack as you will most likely not wear all of the clothing that you will bring. Whatever you pack will take up space in your RV, so bring what is needed and nothing more.
8. Plan Your Menu!
One of the best parts of RV camping is that you have access to your kitchen wherever you go! Food is often one of the most significant expenses on vacation, and putting your RV kitchen to use will save you a bundle. Avoiding restaurants by cooking in your RV can really help to make your trip more cost-effective. Being able to prepare sandwiches and snacks for a hike can also make your experience more pleasurable. We also love being able to have snacks on hand when we are driving.
Before we leave for a camping trip, we plan the meals for each day of the vacation. We then make a grocery list based on our meal plan and buy the groceries ahead of time. When it comes time for the trip, we load up our groceries and set out for our adventure!
For longer trips, we plan to stop at a grocery store or a Super Walmart at the halfway point to restock.
When planning your meals, be sure to make use of the tools you have in your camper and at your campsite. Many campsites come with charcoal grills or a fire pit. We love cooking over a campfire and using our Instant Pot when we camp.
9. Plan What Gear You Will Need
Most people who go camping do so because they love the great outdoors. Whether you like to hike, bike, fish, or kayak, you most likely will need some gear for your RV adventure.
Make a list of items that you will need for your outdoor pursuits, along with things that you may need around the RV, such as camp chairs. Determine how you will transport these items. Many RVs are equipped with bike racks, while kayaks may need to go in your tow vehicle.
If you are in a pinch, you may be able to store some items in the RV itself. Just be sure they will not scratch or damage the inside of the rig as you are driving down the road.
RELATED READING: To make sure you have everything you need on your Epic RV Adventure check out our article called 29 Must Have RV Accessories for a New Camper or Travel Trailer.
10. Plan What Supplies You Will Need
Making a list of needed supplies is critical to a great camping trip. You don’t want to wake up with a stomachache to discover that you forgot to pack the medicine and that the nearest pharmacy is hours away.
At a minimum, you need a set of utensils and dishes for everyone on your trip, a first aid kit, toiletries, a basic tool kit, flashlights, and batteries. Additional items that are nice to have are entertainment items such as reading materials and board games. Whatever you want to bring, write it down and don’t cross it off the list until you physically put it in the RV.
11. Plan Your Return – or Not!
Many people who set out on their first RV adventure decide that they never want to come back! It is now easier than ever to travel full time in an RV. Whether you are a retiree or a digital nomad, living on the road full time is definitely an option.
No matter what you decide to do after your trip, we hope you have a fantastic time!