The 5 things we learnt on our RV trip that we wish we knew before we set off

The second half of our RV trip saw us travelling from the Grand Canyon, back to the west coast. This week our major stop over was in San Francisco, before heading north to  explore the Californian and Oregon coast lines, enroute to our final destination of Seattle, Washington.

As with my previous blog, I don’t want to focus too much on our stories from the road, as we shared these in detail in our roadtrip vlog. If you haven’t yet watched them, go check them out now.

This week I thought it may be fun to share some of the important lessons we learnt along the way. As newbies to camping and the RV lifestyle we really knew very little before we headed off. Hopefully this will help you plan and prepare for your first RV trip, or at the very least give you a heads up as to what to expect.

1. Drive around & look for the campsite that suits you:

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Camping in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park was a fantastic experience. The campground was full so on this occasion we couldn’t cherry pick the perfect campsite. But very glad we had pre-booked in advance.

Firstly, I would recommend that you book your campground in advance, especially if you are travelling with kids. You don’t want to arrive at your destination after a long day on the road to find the campground fully booked. Although it didn’t happen to us, we saw many other travellers being turned away, especially at the more popular destinations.

What we learnt, was that when you pre-book, you are allocated a specific site number. But, by no means are you locked into this sight, especially if the campgrounds are empty, so take a drive around the campground and pick the spot you like, don’t just accept the one they give you.

2. Make sure you park your RV with the door facing the picnic table: 

Camping at the “hole in the wall” campsite in the Mojave desert. Perfectly parked, facing our picnic area. We didn’t get this right first time, every time on our trip, but we learnt along the way.

This may sound logical and a bit of silly advice, but trust me, if you are a first timer, you will probably make this mistake. We certainly did on more than one occasion. It may not always make your parking job easy, but you really do want to be able to step out of your RV and be in your living space, rather than having to walk around the RV every time.

My advice, take your time to survey your site and find the perfect spot to park your rig, rather than having to re-park it a couple of times before settling on the best position. Less haste, more speed as they say.

3. Don’t forget about your outside space:

Campsites on our RV trip
We didn’t have outdoor carpets or other luxuries to make our campsite more homely, but our beautiful surroundings always more than made up for the lack of homely comforts.

This was not so much a mistake we made, but definitely a valuable tip we picked up along the way. Because our RV trip was an adventure within a much bigger adventure, taking on our own advice here was not really feasible. But nonetheless, I think this is valuable advice for those of you who are planning on taking an RV trip.

Pretty much every campsite you will visit will be sandy and dusty, which means we were continually dragging sand and grit into our RV, and continually sweeping and cleaning. So, make sure you create for yourself a nice outdoor area. A large outdoor carpet to roll out just outside the door of the RV creates a nice place to sit in the shade of the awning, take off your shoes, and leave the dust and dirt behind before heading in.

And of course, if you want to fit in with the more experienced RV crowd, bring along some solar lighting and some flags to decorate your outdoor living area and make your space feel homelier.

4. Where to park your RV

Chandelier tree, drive through
This is one of those times its good to know the dimensions of your rig. On our road trip we drove past and visited the Chandelier tree. Whilst visitors in their cars could drive through this enormous red wood, we of course, could not.

This advice pertains to parking your rig when you are out and about, rather than overnight parking. Generally, we found that parking options are more limited when you are in an RV, you probably won’t be parallel parking in front of a little coffee shop or taking your rig through a fast food drive-in. And in fact, some parking areas expressly prohibit RV’s and other large vehicles. However, for the most part, you should be able to find a large parking lot (such as Walmart) in the area, and these are pretty easy to navigate. I found, as a courtesy, it is best to park further away from the building entrance, where it is a little quieter, and parking over multiple parking spaces is a non-issue.

It is probably a good idea to memorise the height of your roof, so you know if entering a covered parking lot is a good idea or not. I think however, you will find that you will not be able to park in covered parking, at least the majority of the time.

5. Wi-Fi will be a frustration while on the road

Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco
This is us at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We had such fun exploring this city. And of course we had the added bonus of good internet connectivity on our mobile devices.

Most of the campsites we stayed at, barring the national and state parks had free Wi-Fi. However, like in most public locations, Wi-Fi that is shared with others can be temperamental and slow at best. We found the Wi-Fi at our campsites to be especially bad.

We were travelling with mobile phones, and had prepaid data packages, and thought this would suffice for the times we stayed in parks without Wi-Fi. However, we found that, especially in the more remote areas, we had no coverage from our service provider.

In my opinion, being on holiday without constant connectivity is a good thing, however you may, like us, be reliant on ever constant access to the outside world, and then these circumstances can become very trying.

My suggestion then would be to always have some form of mobile device for connectivity, even if your campground offers Wi-Fi services, and make sure your carrier offers good coverage in the areas you will be travelling to and through.

Oregon coast
This is us exploring the beautiful Oregon coastline, at the end of our RV trip. This was our last stop before reaching Seattle. I wouldn’t say we are now experienced RV’ers, but we are definitely much wiser and more prepared for the next time.

So, these are some of the more important lessons we learned along the way, and things that would have defiantly made our trip easier had we known them in advance.

By no means did not knowing these five things impair us in anyway or make our trip less enjoyable. But we hope by sharing these with you, it will help you to be well prepared for your first RV trip and make what will be an enjoyable experience, even more enjoyable.

Until next time, happy RV’ing

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1 Comment

  1. Jeannette says

    Thanks for sharing ….. every bit of info helps and often makes the journey easier and definitely adds to the fun!

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