By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.
11 Road Trip Hacks for Your First RV Vacation
RV road trips are perfect for exploring the USA! They give you the freedom to travel wherever, whenever. Best of all – you can connect with your family and friends in a unique way, unlike any other travel style.
There is a learning curve with anything you do for the first time – RVs are no different!
Today we’re sharing 11 road trip hacks for your very first RV adventure. If you take these to heart, we know you’ll have a more relaxing (and rewarding) vacation.
Let’s dive in!
1. Locate the RV Systems Before Your Road Trip
Whether you recently bought an RV or if you rented one, take an hour to locate the major systems. Know which side of your RV the black tank valve is located. Find the fuse box and the fire extinguisher.
Here’s the systems you should get aquatinted with before hitting the road:
- Fresh water
- Grey Water
- Black Water
- Propane Tanks
- Fuse Box
- Emergency Exit (typically a window)
2. Plan Your Route (with Room to Freestyle)
Planning in advance is key for a successful RV vacation. If you’re traveling during peak season, reservations may be hard to come by. Reserve a spot at the most popular RV campgrounds months in advance.
However, give yourself wiggle room in between those main attractions. Part of the joy of a road trip is the ability to call an audible.
Here’s a few other tips when planning your route:
- Interstates are overrated: Let your RV vacation give you the freedom to explore the highways and byways of America. It’ll be an easier drive and much more vibrant scenery.
- Slowdown, You’re Moving too Fast: Your RV can’t safely drive as fast as your car. Relax and take it easy!
- Trip Planning Tools: We use RV Trip Wizard to route our travels. It has two key features we love – it allows you to route based on your specific RV size and your unique travel preferences.
- GPS Routing: Once you create your route, use a GPS routing tool to guide the way. You can use an iPhone app like RV Life or a stand alone system like Garmin.
3. Stock Up The RV Pantry Before You Leave
Is this really a hack? It seems like common sense. Well, we’re not talking about stocking up on the basics.
Make a trip the the grocery store, complete with every co-traveler in your group, and go crazy! Buy the pantry basics. Indulge in the fun food. Score all the best drinks.
Even though this seems excessive, I promise that it’ll be cheaper than gas station food. The price of gas station food adds up quickly and it’s never healthy! Even if you think you can avoid the temptation of gas station food, having your own pantry of exciting snacks will be much more gratifying.
4. Daytime Driving
For those long travel days, make it a point to do as much daytime driving as possible. Here’s the advantages:
- You’ll have more energy for the road trip.
- There are more resources in case of an emergency.
- You’ll be able to see traffic more clearly.
- Your travel companions will be in a better mood.
- You can enjoy the sights of new places while driving your RV.
5. Take a Truck Stop Shower
Even though your RV has a shower, it has limited tank capacity. Unless you’re camped at a full hook-up RV site, you won’t be able to enjoy a long, hot shower.
Truck stop showers are great for big travel days. In fact, you can often park overnight in their lot and take a shower!
If you’re worried about the quality of these facilities, take a look at our Truck Stop Shower Guide for Non-Truckers. It’ll give you all the deets on the rules, etiquette, price and a few extra tips.
6. Try Free Camping (aka Boondocking)
Free camping is the best part of RV life! Other than being free, it’s often located in the most amazing areas with million dollar views.
Since you’re in an RV, you already have everything you need to try free camping. You have a kitchen, a bathroom, outdoor chairs and a comfy bed.
Here’s 20 of the best free camping spots in the USA. We’d recommend planning your road trip around, at least, one of these spots. Just look at that pic below…it’s a free camping spot!
7. Camp at Vineyards
Do you love wine? If so, you’ve gotta try Harvest Hosts. This is a unique membership offered only to RVers.
Once you become a member, you will be given access to their huge database of host sites.
Each site is unique and offers different styles of camping. Sometimes you’ll set up camp in the middle of a vineyard, other times you’ll be overnight camping in a parking lot in front of a wine tasting lounge.
Any way you slice it, it’s a good time!
8. Buy a National Park Pass
If your RV vacation includes visiting more than one National Park, we recommend buying the America The Beautiful Pass. This $80 pass will give you access to all National Park areas.
- National Parks
- National Forests
- BLM Land
- Corps of Engineer Sites
Here’s what the NPS says about entry fees:
A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.
9. Start Your Daily Activities Early
If your RV vacation is during peak season, always begin your daily activities as early as possible. This way you’ll beat the heat and beat the crowds.
Popular parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite will have hour-long wait times for the main attractions. If you get there in the morning, this won’t be the case.
10. Get a Propane Fire Pit (You’ll Thank Us Later)
I know RV-campers love their campfires. You’ve got to trust us with this one…if you don’t have a propane fire pit, buy one today!
Here’s two reasons they’re much better:
- You can use them during a burn ban: Propane fire pits can be turned on & off with one click. The flames are always under control. Every time there’s been a burn ban, we’ve still been allowed to use it. Additionally, burn bans occur often in the summer months.
- Your clothes won’t smell smoky: On your RV vacation, washing machines will be hard to come by. Keeping your clothes smoke-free will extend their wearability!
11. Be Prepared for an Emergency
Take an hour before your road trip begins to prepare for an emergency. This simply means; buy a first aid kit, make sure you have a fire extinguisher, get roadside assistance and let a loved-one know your route.
These quick steps will prepare you for most emergencies that could come your way.
Here’s a few extra tips:
- Know Your Tires: RV tire blowouts are the most feared accident for RV travelers. Follow these 7 tips to help avoid tire trouble.
- Cell Boosters Are Great: If you’re camping in remote areas, getting an RV cell booster can help keep you connected.
- Additional Emergency Supplies: This is a complete list of newbie gear!
The Best FREE Camping in the USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.