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What is an RV Shakedown Trip?

RVers often take a shakedown trip to prepare for hitting the road. This practice run provides a distraction-free opportunity to address potential issues and plan for longer trips.

But where should you go on such a trip, and what should you bring with you?

We’ve got details on the best ways to accomplish a shakedown trip, what to avoid, and how to prepare.

Let’s hit the road!

What Is an RV Shakedown Trip, and Who Should Go on One?

So you’ve done all your research about RV camping. You’ve negotiated a great price on that dream RV, and now you’re ready to hit the road for some fantastic adventures. Right? 

Not so fast.

Before venturing out, you’ll want to be familiar with all the systems in your RV. So taking a practice run is a great idea. A shakedown trip is when you camp close to home and put the RV through its paces. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about your RV in a low-risk environment.

This kind of test run is recommended for new RVers taking their first trip, as well as seasonal RVers who feel they need more practice. No one wants to start their first long trip and have problems down the road.

To be honest, a first-time RV owner has a steep learning curve. The process of towing, hitching, and unhitching can be intimidating. Then there’s setting up the stabilizer jacks, leveling the trailer, plugging into shore power, and hooking up the sewer hose. 

Let’s look at how to best prepare for a shakedown trip.

Couple looking out door and window in RV
RVing for the first time can be intimidating. A shakedown trip gives you the chance to work out the kinks before you head out for a long time.

Where Is the Best Place to Go on a Shakedown Trip?

When choosing a place for your test run, we suggest a location nearby. There are a few reasons to go to a campground within 30 minutes of home for this trip. 

First, you’ll avoid unfamiliar roads and limit driving time. It’ll also be more comfortable towing your rig in recognizable settings. 

In addition, being close to home if you forget anything, which you probably will, is convenient. Plus, stocking up on necessary gear and supplies at familiar stores is easier.

If you bought the RV far from home, you might want to have your shakedown trip near that dealership immediately after purchase. This way, the dealer can service any issues you find right away. Some of the best dealers have full hook-up spots for new owners. Take advantage of this perk if offered.

Of course, service centers can’t always fit you in right away. So check with your dealer to determine their usual wait time.

Even if you plan on rustic camping or boondocking, reserve a full-hookup site for your shakedown trip. This way, you can thoroughly test all the systems, and you’ll need water, electricity, sewer, and cable to do it properly. 

A pull-through site is a fantastic idea for new RVers. This way, you won’t have to back into a lot the first time.

Finally, don’t take this trip with friends. You’ll have plenty of time for big adventures in your new rig, but keep it simple and close to home on your first trip. Use this time to learn how to use your RV in a familiar setting.

Group of friends talking and drinking in beer in front of RV
Make a packing list before you hit the highway to ensure you have everything you need for your shakedown trip.

How Do You Prepare for Your Trip?

Before you even leave for your first shakedown trip, make sure you have some practice driving it. Taking a trial run with a partner or friend is a good idea. They can help with backing up, checking your mirrors, and everything else regarding towing or driving your RV.

Signing up for an RV driving school soon after you buy your RV can save your marriage and your rig. They often spend a good chunk of time teaching you how to back up and park.

A good shakedown will last at least a week. If you plan to live in your RV long-term or full-time, we suggest going out for a good month on this first trip. This way, you’re bound to experience almost everything in your regular routine.

Whether it’s your first time in an RV or the hundredth, using a checklist is a great way to be prepared. In addition, lists keep RVers safe and prevent us from damaging our RVs. Review your manual for the pack-up and deployment process. Otherwise, you can find many excellent checklists online. Choose one that’s similar to your rig and modify it as needed.

Pro Tip: Pack with ease by avoiding these 10 RV Packing Mistakes.

What Do You Need to Bring on a Shakedown Trip?

A well-stocked first aid kit with a face mask, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer, and a first aid guide is a good start.

Bring a few days’ worth of any prescription medications, if needed. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and antihistamine are also good to have on hand.

RV camping allows travelers to bring all the comforts of home. Packing an RV can look a lot like packing a small house. 

Clothing and toiletries are essential, but so are cooking supplies, food, outdoor gear, and all the tools you need for RV usage and maintenance. 

You’ll also want to bring the right clothes for any conditions. Footwear is probably the most critical clothing item. Sandals, shoes, and hiking boots will prepare you for almost any terrain.

Additionally, having the right hat and rain gear will let you enjoy various weather conditions.

Some outdoor supplies you’ll want to pack might include wood for fires, camp chairs or hammocks, and a table for lounging around camp. 

A backpack, hiking poles, binoculars, and water bottles are handy for climbing or hiking. You’ll also want sporting equipment for games, biking, or water activities, such as kayaks and fishing gear. Board games are fun to have as well.

Couple sitting in front of RV together drinking beer
Use your shakedown trip to ensure you have all you need to make your RV adventures fun and relaxing.

What Should You Do on Your Trip?

Once settled into your shakedown space, use all the appliances, and test the heating and air conditioning, even if the weather doesn’t require it.

Getting organized is one of the most important things you can do during your shakedown trip. 

See-through storage bins are great because you can see what’s in them. This can make finding things more manageable. A label maker is another item that can help you keep track of things and become an organizing master. 

For example, you can label your storage bins to identify contents quickly. Additionally, you can use them to identify the buttons and switches in the RV that aren’t labeled. Instead of flipping five buttons every time you put out the awning, use your handy label maker to mark your switches.

It’s crucial to use this time to inspect for leaks that can damage your RV. Run as much water through the system during the shakedown trip as possible. Look for leaks in every cabinet and storage bin. 

After a rainfall, it’s a good idea thoroughly inspect the RV roof and windows for possible leaks. Check interior seams and slides for seepage. Water is your RV’s greatest enemy, so be thorough when doing this inspection.

Pro Tip: Use your shakedown trip to ensure you don’t do any of these 4 Terrible Things First-Time RVers Do.

Is a Shakedown Trip Worth It?

Patience and humor are essential when learning to operate a new RV. Consider an RV shakedown trip as a housewarming gift to yourself. Learning the ins and outs of your RV will pay off for years to come. And now that you’ve prepared yourself, you can have an amazing time on that first bucket-list adventure.

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