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RV 101: Common Mistakes First Time RVers Make and How to Avoid Them


While RVing is one of the most rewarding travel experiences, it does require some learning and preperation to avoid mistakes that can result in costly situations. Lucky for you, we’ve been there and are happy to share our findings with you. After all, that’s what this community is about! In this article we’ll discuss common mistakes RVers make and how to avoid them. Check out all the details below.

Guest Post By Laura Georgieff

RV with kids, children kayaking

Not Planning Your Trip Itinerary in Detail

If you drive a fifth wheel or motorhome, your rig is the size of a semi-truck. Truckers plan their trip in great detail, and so should you!  

There are a few thing you have never considered while driving your car down the road, which will soon become the only focus of your attention. Our fifth wheel was 13ft 6in tall, our motorhome is 12ft 8in tall. You would be surprised how many bridges are less than 13ft. Same with gas stations.  

We use the integrated truck navigation system of our motorhome to plan our trip and gas station stops because once you put in the height and weight of your vehicle, the GPS creates a trip that fits the size of your vehicle.

For our pickup truck, we used Truck/RV navigation apps. You can also get standalone GPS systems for trucks and RVs. These systems consider the weight of your vehicle as well, since you may come upon bridges and roads that cannot carry the weight of your rig.  

It is important to keep your map updated as roads change all the time. While planning, we often have a gas station in mind and we look at satellite pictures on Google Maps to figure out if we can get in and out comfortably, what the turns look like, and the best approach to enter the gas station to comfortably reach the diesel pumps. 

In summary, try to avoid facing a tunnel or bridge that are too low or too weak for your RV!  I promise you, you don’t want to get stuck having to backup, especially if you drive a motorhome and flat tow a vehicle. The planning in advance is well worth it.

Thor Tranquility, protect RV tires

Protect Your RV Tires 

When you live in a sunny state such as Florida or Arizona, the sun can beat up your tires quickly. We bought a used pickup truck in Florida and although the tires only had 18k miles on it and were just two years old, they broke on us, one after another (we replaced a total of seven tires on our six tire truck, within two weeks of leaving home on our full-time RVing journey).  

We spoke to the tire manufacturer about it, and they told us that when storing a rig or truck, the sun can age the tires tremendously. Having tire issues while on the highway is one of all drivers’ worst nightmares. To avoid getting in bad tire situations again, we have been using tire covers when our rig is in storage or at campgrounds for longer periods of time.

Be Mindful of Your RV Tire Pressure

Many people underestimate the importance of adequate tire pressure for their rig and truck. Incorrect tire pressure can result in vibrations while driving at high speeds which can result in damages to the rig over time. It can also be a safety hazard as your rig may behave in unexpected ways if the tire pressure is wrong.  

To make sure we are in good shape while driving, we purchased a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). With the TPMS, we can be sure that the tire pressure of all ten tires is good. TPMS also alerts you of sudden pressure drops. If you drive a motorhome and tow a small vehicle, you will be unable to tell you popped a tire on the car before you start seeing flames in your back camera! Get a TPMS system for every single tire in your set up (including tow vehicle.) Before leaving, make sure to check your tires for visible damage, like cracks or objects in the tire.

Avoid common RV mistakes, don't overload RV

Overlanding Your Rig

Talking to fellow full-time travelers, we heard the same story over and over again. It is so easy to underestimate how much your stuff weighs. Your rig has a certain loading capacity and it is important not to exceed it for two main reasons: 

  • Exceeding the max loading capacity of your rig will put you at structural damage risk on the RV itself
  • Always consider the tow capacity of your truck if you drive a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Towing a rig that weighs more than your towing capacity can be dangerous to your truck and yourself

When you pack all your belongings into your RV, weight quickly adds up. Be mindful that exceeding the load ratings can be dangerous. Many truck stops have scales where you can weigh your rig. I recommend doing it at least once, so you get an idea how heavy you are.

Being Too Ambitious

Setting up and packing up can be exhausting. When we first started, we wanted to see everything. However, we learned that it is much more enjoyable to take it a little bit slower. It is not always the must-see tourist attraction that creates the best memories but instead it is the nice relaxing evenings spend together or with your fellow camping neighbors. Instead of constantly having to think about the next camp stop, take it a little slower and enjoy yourself.

Class A Winnebago

Taking Bikes for Large Families 

I’ll be honest, in our experience traveling with more than two bikes is a hassle…  

We often wonder if it is worth taking the bikes. First of all, most bike racks are not rated for RV use, as the forces exerted on the rack far exceed what happens during a regular car ride. So an RV bike rack is an absolute must if you plan on packing bikes for your trip. Those racks are usually designed for only two to four bikes. We needed to carry five bikes, which made the whole process a little cumbersome. Reflecting on our decision, we realized we didn’t use our bikes all that much and could have definitely done without the adult bikes. In the future we would opt to rent instead of transport.

Loose Items in Your RV 

Leaving loose items in the rig can be easily overseen. Where do you put the toilet brush on travel days? How about the soap and shampoo in the shower? Don’t worry about the blanket on the couch (or so we thought, until it slid down and got stuck in our living room slide out…

While driving, anything loose becomes a projectile, and you never know what you will find when you open your rig after a long drive. Make sure everything is fixed and put away so nothing can move. Be very diligent with your routine as you break camp and secure everything, latch doors, and double check your work before closing the RV door. You do not want your shower glass door to be shattered or have a small Lego piece fall under the slide out and tear up your floor when sliding out…(like we said, been there and done that. Learn from our mistakes!)

Class C RV, Joshua Tree National Park

Not Knowing Where Your Hookups are Located 

More than once did we park the rig on our campsite, unhooked the car, only to find that the power cord did not reach the power box.

Having to rebook everything to move the rig a few feet is a big moment of shame and makes you regret camping for a few minutes. Don’t worry, the feeling quickly goes away… but pay very close attention to all hookups before deciding to level your rig to avoid this easily overlooked mistake.

Overestimating Your Tank & Battery Capacities 

If you love nature, you will likely find the idea of bookdocking attractive. Boondocking, also known as dry camping, is camping in the wild with no hookup (water, power, sewer), and waking up to some majestic views and a feeling of absolute freedom. If you are out west, BLM land is plentiful, and makes for the most beautiful experiences. 

If you boondock, make sure you know how long your batteries last you. Do you have solar or a generator to recharge? If not, you may run the risk to damage your batteries by letting them run down, especially in cooler weather. 

You should also know how much water you have and use on a daily basis. Same with your grey and black water tanks. After a couple of boondocking stays, you will have a good grasp on the number of days you can go without restocking. We know we have about ten days of fresh water (as a family of five), and we have yet to run out of grey or black water tank space. We also have a generator pulling on our 100-gallon diesel tank, so we can go a while if we want to.

Find a campsite big enough for your RV

Booking a Campsite that is too Small 

If you are driving a 41-ft rig, you know the struggle – finding campsites for 40+ foot RVs can be a challenge, especially in the summer, or winter in Florida. It can be tempting to book a site for rigs under 40 feet, and most of the time, you may have no problem fitting in. But I promise you will once run into a site you can’t maneuver into… and will never ever book too-small of a site ever again! 

This is true, especially in state and national parks. If you start messing with trees, the site might be 60 feet long, but if the website says “Max length 35 ft,” respect that, as you may simply not be able to navigate a longer rig into the spot without encroaching a tree and damaging nature and your equipment.

RV101: Common Mistakes First Time RVers Make And How To Avoid Them

I don’t want you to be overly worries about making mistakes. We’ve all been there. My advice is to just be careful and use common sense. We our family began RVing, we hit the road with no prior experience and everything went perfectly well, overall. Of course, here and there came close calls, but we stayed safe on the road and never damaged our own, or anyone else’s property! 

RVing becomes natural the more you do it. What seems scary today will be second nature tomorrow. Use your instincts and always air on the side of caution and you’ll be fine. Happy RVing!