When you travel full-time or are on a multi-stop road trip in an RV, travel day is both an exciting and a challenging time. It’s exciting because travel day means you’re off to a new destination, and all the adventures, sights, people, and places that come with it. Its challenging because, depending on how long you’ve been at your current location, you must pack up everything you own and be out of your campsite by the 11am checkout time. Add a couple kids and a dog to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for craziness! But in the 3 years we’ve been on the road living in our Vacationer, we’ve learned a thing or 2 about how to make travel day a little less crazy, and a little more exciting. In this post we’ll talk about how we go about our travel days and toss in a few tips to help you with your travel days too!
When talking about travel days, we must mention that everyone has their own travelling style. Some families like to hunker down at one campground for a vacation, while others might be making a cross country jaunt. We’ve seen families that RV full-time move quickly and not be in one place for more than a week. Others like to slow things down and take more time at each destination to really get a feel for the local area and community. We fall into the latter category, as we typically spend at least a month in each place we visit. When we arrive at a new location, we like to really “move in” and set everything up. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Anyway, travel days will look a little different to those that move quickly than for those who go at a slower pace. So, let’s get into the nitty gritty!
The Day Before Prep
We learned early on, after one doozy of a mishap where one of us (who shall not be named) forgot to lock the refrigerator, that having some set routines is a really good way to handle many of the repetitive tasks that come with traveling in an RV. Obviously, before departing a location you’ll need to gather up your belongings, both inside and outside to get them securely packed away for travel. While many of the routine tasks seem obvious, we have learned never to assume that we’ll remember everything. Double-checking is a great idea and using departure and arrival checklists is key.
Since we stay in places for a month at a time, we tend to have a lot of gathering to do! So, the biggest change we’ve made to our travel day routine from when we started, is that we now start preparing the day before. We are not exactly morning people, so that checkout time can come up fast when you tend to sleep in. To reduce the morning-of scramble, we now do a lot of the heavy packing prior to our departure day. We’ve also found that assigning tasks helps make the process go faster, which is especially nice if you want to also do an activity or relax on your last full day in the area. Our roles are typically divided by Spencer tackling and stowing most of the outside gear (griddle, chairs, bikes, mat, etc.) and Kristi runs point on getting the inside clean, secure, and ready to roll. Kade is tasked with getting all his toys put away both inside and outside. He also lends a hand wherever he can on other things like sweeping and taking out trash. The goal here is to have most of the big, time-consuming cleanup taken care of the day before, so we aren’t frantic the day of! If we happen to find ourselves in a pull-through site and there’s room, we will also hook the Jeep up the night before as well.
Day Of Tasks
Ideally, all that needs to be taken care of on the travel day morning are the last few items. Even if you are early risers (opposite of us) you may find the few hours before “levelers up” at the typical 11am checkout go by fast. A travel day checklist can help keep you focused and all your must-dos in order. There have been numerous times where we have gotten delayed chatting with neighbors or saying goodbye to friends and that trusty checklist helps us get back on track so we can depart on time.
If we’re boondocking, we tend to take our time a little more, but we also have less to do, since we’re not hooked up to utilities. So, once we have breakfast and are dressed and ready for the day, we focus on unhooking the utilities, stowing the essential items for getting ready in the morning (bathroom items, coffee kettle, etc.) and prepping to bring the slides in. Pro Tip: Don’t forget to lock the fridge and shower doors! In our case we have a few extra steps to get the kids situated. Prior to bringing the slides in we drop our dinette table, pull out the seatbelts and secure our infant car seat in the dinette bench seat. Then, after a quick hand check for small toys and Legos underneath the slides, we bring them in and the levelers up.
Before pulling out of your site we suggest a few quick safety precautions and spot checks. First, we turn on the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) to make sure the tire pressures are good for both the RV and toad vehicle and inflate/deflate if necessary (always check your tire manufacturer’s specs for proper inflation). We also give the tires a visual inspection to ensure there’s no damage or irregular wear. Additionally, we make sure all the outdoor storage doors are securely closed and locked. If you have a bike rack, tow bar connection, or any other item on the back of your coach make sure they are also secure and that there are no cracked welds or visible fatigue. Spencer is diligent about cleaning the side mirrors and windshield. If you are traveling with others, have someone help you with a brake and signal light check on both your coach and toad vehicle. Some of this can be done the day before as well. It all depends on what time you get started and whether it’s dark out or not. The visual safety inspections are best done in the daylight as opposed to with a flashlight.
Getting On The Road
The actual travel part of the travel day is probably the easiest, assuming there are no unforeseen hiccups. We usually like to keep our drive days to 3-4 hours but will occasionally go longer if needed. We recommend keeping your gas tank above ½ full, as a general rule. So, we usually stop for gas before getting too far into our travel day. When roaming out west, you may find the next gas station is a bit further than you think! It’s always best to have plenty of gas and plan your gas stops along your travel route. During a gas station stop, we will give the tires a look over and re-check the tow bar to make sure it’s secure. If it’s going to be a warm day, we’ll also make sure to set our thermostat to run one of the RV ACs. It’s been a nice benefit to have upgraded to a lithium battery and solar setup, which means we don’t have to run the generator to keep an AC on while driving. This is also a big saver toward fuel and the gas mileage!
Another Pro Tip: set up entertainment for all passengers. Spencer typically has a few podcasts, audio books or hard rock playlists cued up for the drive. While Kristi hangs out in the back with the kids reading books, watching movies, playing games and maybe trying to get some work done between naps. Throughout the travel day she will also make sandwiches and snacks for all of us to enjoy.
Arriving To A New Destination
Yay you made it! Arriving at a new destination is always exciting! There are new things to see, people to meet, and places to explore! Upon arrival, you’ll typically reverse all the steps you did when preparing to depart. If you have kids they are probably itching to get out, play and explore. We found it best to keep everyone settled inside while focusing on parking your rig as level as possible, dropping your levelers and bringing your slides out. Once your coach is set you can start tackling getting the utilities hooked up and unhooking any bikes and your toad vehicle.
Inside, we get out the basics needed to function for the evening before getting dinner started. Dinner on arrival day is usually quick and easy since we often arrive in the evening. If we are just staying a night or two, we try to keep the items we pull out to a minimum. Well, except for our son, he is always grabbing his trucks out immediately to get some construction projects going!
Typically, we are staying at each location for a while so there’s no hurry to get everything out as soon as we arrive. For the most part, we tend to take it easy the night we arrive and tackle getting our site setup with mat, chairs, griddle, etc. the next day. We’ll also get the inside situated and clean. With 2 kids and a giant dog, this is a tall task, but it always feels good to start off our stay with a clean slate, so to speak.
And that is how we do travel day! If you’re reading this and are new to RVing or are considering getting into RVing, it can sound like a lot to manage. We remember that feeling when we first got on the road! Another helpful tip is to book pull through sites and concrete pad sites especially when you are just getting started. These types of sites may cost a little extra but worth every penny to have a seamless experience pulling in a big rig, having the option to not unhook your toad vehicle, and leveling with ease on an already level concrete surface.
As we mentioned earlier, we created a few departure and arrival check lists to make sure we don’t forget anything important! It’s a good visual reference to know things are done, especially when tasks overlap between multiple people. Along with Holiday Rambler we’ve created checklists that you can use too! You could download them to save on your phones or print and laminate them so you can physically check off each task with a dry erase marker. Follow the link below to download them to help with your next travel day!