If you’re an RV owner, new or old you’ve had that moment. We all have after buying our first one. After all the research, talking about floorplans, walking through different models, making pro/con lists a mile long, and finally bringing home that shiny manifestation of freedom and adventure, it hits you. You’re standing in your driveway looking at it with a big smile on your face and suddenly you think, “Now what do we do?”
Not to worry, it’s a perfectly normal thought! When you spend that much time researching a decision like purchasing an RV, seeing all the pictures of people in amazing locations doing amazing things, it’s easy to get lulled into the feeling that all you have to do is buy one and it will automatically whisk you away to beautiful destinations unknown! But that’s not quite the case yet, even in this age when driverless vehicles are becoming possible. We too had that moment when we brought our Holiday Rambler Vacationer home. It’s a big deal!
We decided at the end of 2019 to sell our house and most of our stuff, buy an RV, and travel the country for a couple of years. Little did we know that the events of 2020 would take place and create some interesting challenges. But as a result, LOTS of people decided that traveling in an RV, whether for vacation or full-time living, was a good idea. All of a sudden, there are many first-time RV owners like us out there that are trying to figure how everything works! So, we are here to tell you how we answered that “Now what?” question for ourselves. And we’re also going to share our tips on how to get yourself and your new rig ready to make some awesome memories!
Learn Your Rig
Learning the ins and outs of your new rig is one of the most important things you should do and we recommend starting there. Understanding all the systems and operation of your RV is essential to enjoying your experience and being able to troubleshoot any issues that may arise. If you bought new from the dealership, you may have gotten a thorough walk-through from your sales person. If you bought your RV from a private seller, like we did, you probably got some degree of instruction, depending on how kind your seller was. Either way, you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with all the inner workings of your rig. The specifics may vary from travel trailer to 5th wheel to motorhome, but the general list includes the water tanks (filling and flushing), electrical systems (both 12v and 110v), propane tank and appliances, HVAC systems, slideout operation, and all the monitoring and control panels that help you keep an eye on everything. Familiarize yourself with the instruction manuals of all the various components in your rig. Push all the buttons and turn all the knobs!
When we got our Vacationer, I spent hours going over all the systems. I had only ever been in 2 or 3 other RVs in my life, much less learned how to use one. And since we would be living in it full time, I had to know how everything worked! One of my favorite things about our rig is that Holiday Rambler did a great job with making everything really user friendly. As a complete newbie, I was able to acquire a working knowledge of the systems fairly quickly because things are clearly labeled and pretty intuitive.
Get the Basics
This one is going to take a little self-control! The next best thing to buying your rig, is going shopping to get all the stuff for it! And all your friends, family, and neighbors who already have RVs are going to pepper you with all the different things you HAVE to get in order to enjoy your camping experience! You could easily go nuts at the camping store. But before you run out and burn a hole in your credit card, take a deep breath and wait. Trust me on this one! Instead, just get the basics to start out. There will be time to get all the cool goodies, but first you need to figure out how you camp. You really don’t want to buy a whole bunch of stuff only to find that it doesn’t fit with your camping style. We’ll discuss that in the next section, but for now, we’ll stick to the essentials. You may have received some of these items with your rig, but just in case I’ll list what we feel are the necessities.
Starting with the outside of the rig, let’s talk hoses. You’ll need a hose specifically (and only) for fresh drinking water use. You’ll use this to connect to city water and fill your fresh water tank. A secondary water hose is good to have on hand as a backup. You’ll also need a good quality dump hose to empty your black and grey tanks. I say good quality because this is the last thing you want to spring a leak!!
Next, you’ll need a few electrical system pieces to be able to connect to shore power. If your power cable is not built into your rig, it most likely came with one. Be sure to check that it is free from cuts or tears in the outer sheathing layer and that the plugs are in good shape. You’ll also want to have the various adapters on hand in case you need to down-convert from your native power plug. For example, if your rig has a 50-amp power system and you go to a campground that only offers a 30-amp hookup, you’ll need an adapter to be able to plug in to the shore power there. Our Vacationer has 50-amp power, but we have adapters all the way down to a 110v plug just in case. You’ll also want to have an outdoor rated standard extension cord and a multi-plug adapter as well. If you want to plug in any lights, chargers, or other electrical things outside, this will come in very handy. A surge protector is also a great idea. It’s a costly component, but it could save you from much more costly repairs if you encounter a faulty electrical system at a campground without it.
Tires are an extremely important part of your RV. You’ll need to take care of them and make sure they are in good shape before each time you travel. A good tire gauge will help you maintain correct pressure in your tires. Its also a good idea to have an air compressor so you don’t have to worry about getting to a service station if you need to air up 1 or more tires before you travel. You can also get a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). It’s not quite a basic component, but I’m listing it here because proper tire care is so important. A TPMS will keep you in the know of your tire pressure and temperature in real time as you drive. It will also alert you if there’s an issue like a drastic change in pressure or temperature. This can allow you to pull over hopefully before any damage occurs. We tow a vehicle with our Vacationer and our TPMS has sensors on both the motorhome and the towed vehicle so I can keep an eye on all tires. Its great peace of mind when you’re cruising down the road.
I’ll mention one more thing for those of you with a motorhome, especially an A-Class. A can of glass cleaner and a window squeegee/pad with an extendable handle. A clean windshield and mirrors are very important when driving your rig and you’ll want to make sure you clean them before each trip. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of glass on an A-Class windshield so that extendable handle will come in very handy!
Reading the manuals, pushing the buttons, and having the basics on board is all well and good. But there is no better teacher than experience itself! That’s why the shakedown run (or 2) is crucial to ensuring you enjoy your future trips! So, before you go planning that 3-day drive halfway across the country to break in the new adventure mobile, get a shakedown run on the calendar.
A shakedown run is the best way to learn your rig and how you’ll camp. Its where you’ll learn many of the things that you’ll actually need versus the giant list you got from the experienced RVers in your life. The best way to do it is to find a campground close to home and book a long weekend. Close to home means you’ll be in a familiar area. If you need something, you can run to your favorite store, or even back home, to get it. You’ll also be close to friends should you need some help with anything.
Booking a long weekend will give you a couple days to learn how you operate in your rig. How do you cook, hang out, sleep, clean, relax? Keep a note pad or app handy to keep track of the things you find yourself needing. This will become your shopping list for that trip to the camping store. A shakedown run is also a great time to start putting some lists together. Which brings me to my next point…
Whether you are a creature of habit or not, you will find that creating checklists of the routine tasks will keep you from missing something important. We created checklists for the setup process when arriving at a campground, for the breakdown process when leaving a campground, and for our pre-drive walkaround. Having a list printed and even laminated will be very handy to make sure you have everything done. These processes will become routine and you will feel that you can do them without a list at some point. But there will also be times when you’re in a rush and you could miss something crucial. The checklist will keep you honest and from potentially making a costly mistake. Also, know you’re height and weight. Jot them down on a sticky note and place it on your dash. These numbers are very important and you may need to know them on the fly.
Checklists and routines will also help you enjoy your adventures knowing that everything is set up correctly. Its no good to arrive at your campsite and quickly head out for a day of fun in the sun, only to return to your rig and discover you forgot to turn on your AC and now its hotter inside than it is outside! Ask me how I know… Slow Down
For us, RVing is about getting away from the craziness of life by getting outside, reconnecting with nature and each other as a family! Even though life still gets hectic, we love that wherever our Holiday Rambler takes us, adventure is right outside our door. Our home is on wheels and our backyard is wherever we want it to be. In the few short months we have been RVing, we have seen and done more around the USA than we have in years! It really is an amazing feeling! So slow down, enjoy the journey, don’t be in a rush, and arrive in one piece. Life is too short to hurry through. This is why we RV. This is why we choose to travel. This is living!