13 Things I’ve Learned About RVing… So Far!

We’ve owned our fifth wheel trailer for about two and a half years now. Last summer, we hit the road for 12 weeks, loving every minute. We’ve done a number of shorter trips, and as this is being written, are in the midst of a six week tour of the Pacific northwest.

Both of us have camped and RVed over the years, both separately and together. Although we are not full timers, we have made a commitment and investment to travel the country and enjoy the lifestyle to the utmost.

long term rv living

Mel, Sue, and Harley the boxer

Here are a few tips and personal discoveries that I’ve learned about RVing (and myself!) over the past couple of years:

1. Things move around in RVs, period.

RV cabinets can be cavernous and items can shift while moving. Inexpensive plastic bins or baskets placed in them labeled with items they contain save time and frustration.

Related videos: Simple RV Kitchen Storage Solutions To Maximize Space and How To Secure A Loose RV Refrigerator

2. Get yourself a system.

If you haven’t already, develop a routine for breaking camp – and don’t get distracted! I start in the bedroom area at the front of the rig, move to the bathroom, then to the galley and living area. If I’m moving slowly, Mel will occasionally help with these tasks… which throws off my little routine completely.

3. Read those campground reviews.

Be careful what you choose when it comes to campgrounds. There’s nothing worse than pulling into a park after a long day’s drive, only to find it is just not what you expected. Occasionally, we’ve wound up in parks where I just wasn’t comfortable stepping outside the rig. Rather than rely on company’s campground rating systems, I find I get much more reliable information by checking out websites which offer guest reviews and of course word of mouth recommendations from fellow campers and friends.


When driving, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how large your motorhome or trailer really is. Particularly how tall it is when you’re in gas stations, drive-ins, etc. with low overhangs. Enough said!

Related video: Measuring RV Dimensions For Safe Clearance

5. About that awning…

Remember to put in the awning before you pull out of a campsite. Enough said again.

6. Perform a final walk-around prior to departing.

And just so # 5 doesn’t happen, after we’re all packed and hooked up, Mel always walks around the trailer and tow vehicle, looking up and down, just to double check everything is in its proper place.

Related videos: Tips On How To Clean An RV Awning and RV Slide Out Awning Installation

7. Don’t fear the campground laundromat (too much).

One of my requirements before buying this RV was that I wanted a washer and dryer, as I despise laundromats. I didn’t get them. And it’s okay… depending on the campground, some are quite nice and you do get to meet people there.

8. Get creative about your limiations.

We like to barbeque and have a small portable tabletop grill. More and more campgrounds seem to be replacing their wooden picnic tables with new plastic topped ones, and ask that barbeques not be placed on them. Rather than buy an expensive barbeque stand, we purchased two large ceramic floor tiles from a home improvement store. We set our barbeque on them – and they take up virtually no room in the trailer.

9. Consider BYOI (bring-your-own-internet).

We were aware that wi-fi connections at campgrounds are scarce and not reliable. They actually aren’t as bad as I was led to believe, but at peaks times (early evening and mornings) when multiple guests are online, they can be very slow. We purchased our own Mifi antenna – well worth the investment.

10. Remember Fido’s feelings.

Our dog loves RV travel, but he can get a bit anxious when we start packing up the rig to leave camp. We found that if we let him wait in the truck rather than the trailer, he realizes he gets to go with us.

Related video and article: Precautions And Tips For RVing With Pets and Traveling With Pets In Your RV: Things To Consider

11. Take advantage of reservations.

I like to know that we have a place lined up to stay each night, so I do make campground reservations – depending on the time of year, often only a few days ahead. Some parks make it easy by allowing you to book online – others still require that you call them. Hopefully, this is evolving.

12. You don’t need as much stuff as you think you do.

Stuff. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. I tend to over-pack. I’m learning that I don’t need eight pairs of shoes on an RV trip – I really only wear two. If I don’t have the appropriate clothes or items for an event on the road, I can usually put something together. And there’s an excuse – after all, we’re camping!

13. Remember that you’re in this together.

Most important of all (and I’m so fortunate here!) – any type of traveling can be stressful, and RVing is no exception. If you have a travel partner, you are both going to be confined to a small space much of the time. There’s a lot of togetherness. You need to get along in all kinds of situations, so work out a division of responsibilities that you can each live with. Respect each other’s abilities and take your own time or space if you need it. Above all, make sure to keep your sense of humor.

Enjoy the ride – it’s a beautiful journey!

Related blogs:

Tips for Surviving Long-Term RV Travel with a Spouse
Traveling with Pets in Your RV: Things to Consider
RV Life: 10 Life Lessons We Learned on the Open Road


About the Author: A familiar name to many RVers, Sue Bray has worked in the RV industry for 35+ years. Over the summers, Sue, her husband Mel, and their boxer Harley take off to tour the country in their 31’ fifth wheel, with no exact plans except to have an adventure. She chronicles their travels as well as lessons learned along the way in an ongoing blog series at RV Repair Club called On the Road with Sue.

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38 Responses to “13 Things I’ve Learned About RVing… So Far!”

  1. John Davis

    My wife of 61 years and I moved i to our motorhome 12 years ago. We have traveled the U S . Move recently the west coast. She died a month age sitting in the passenger seat some where on the road between Morro Bay, CA and Bakersfield in her sleep. Very peaceful. I travel alone now in her memory.

  2. Roger Buenzow

    Great suggestions on the RVing Tips. One thing I use are 3 check-lists I have developed. One – getting the RV ready for a trip and things to close up the house while we are gone. Second – check list for setting up the RV when we get to a camp ground. Third – check list for reading the RV when we leave a camp ground. All three check lists also cover attaching and detaching our pull behind vehicle and carrying bikes and emptying the holding tanks. I use to sail a lot and sinking is not an option so I always used check lists for the boat. Willing to share check lists if you email me.

    • Customer Service

      Hello Roger!

      That’s a great question!

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    • John A Delves

      I thought I was asking for the three check list, whoops

      But I would really appreciate any tips on making sure my water heater would heat up water ( electric and LP) and then allow me to partake of its warmth.

      • Customer Service

        Hi John. Well there aren’t really tips other than ensuring the water system is connected properly and your bypass valves on the back of the tank are in the correct position for use. Other than that it is just turning on the heat source and it should start heating. Electric works off of 120v so you have to be plugged into shore power or running off generator for it to work on electric. LP just needs battery power and propane supply to operate. Electric takes about twice as long to get warm but doesn’t use any gas. If you are using a lot of hot water at once you can turn both sources on to recover the temperature faster as well. Depending on the size of your tank gas takes about 30 minutes to heat up and electric about an hour but both running it’s about 20 minutes. As long as everything is set up properly you just need to turn on a switch to start the heating and shortly after opening a hot faucet will allow the hot water to come out. I hope this helps!

        Sincerely, DanRV Repair Club Technical Expert

  3. James Fram

    The upper seals on all the slide outs have torn and leaked twice. Good thing we purchased from a great dealer. And they have made the repairs for us. Extending the warranty.

  4. Bob Pitts

    Love the chance to write.Wife just had total hip replacement and the RV is now in storage.No trips planned until next year.ill be reading about better ways to winterize and keep everything looking good.

  5. Clayton Pinnt

    We haven’t figured out how to make the water heater work. We are newbies to owning a camper, so we have a lot to learn.


    What do you think of Extended Warranties for RVs – Tires and Wheels Warranties – and Coatings to eliminate waxing and have to only wash?

    • Customer Service

      Hi Samuel,

      Having an extended warranty is a peace of mind. You have made a big investment in the purchase of an RV and protecting that investment is always a good idea in my opinion. You hope that things won’t go wrong with the RV but many things can happen. The big things you want covered are the appliances, they have a lot of components and can get very expensive to fix. If your RV is something you will use a lot, then it isn’t a bad idea to look into extra coverage. Having the cover for the wheels and tires can come in handy too especially if you are stranded on the side of the road on a big trip. Many people don’t get the extra coverage but I know a lot of people it has helped over the years. It’s all up to you though, you are paying some now to not worry about having to pay a lot if something goes wrong. When it comes to cleaning the exterior, Thetford makes a nice wash and wax. You just wash the exterior as you normally would but it also leaves a protective coating on it so you don’t have to wax afterwords. RV this is a good coverage I have know many people to use and they are easy to work with. Protective offers service contracts that we brand as XtraRide in the U.S. and Canada.

      Hope this helps,

      RV Repair Club Video Membership

    • Customer Service

      Hello Carol,

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  7. Nancy Holtgrieve

    Sue, we have purchased our first Fifth Wheel and will be living in it for 2-3 years any suggestions? We’ve never lived in and RV before this is a new adventure.

  8. Robert

    I can not get the two power outlets on the dash to work. fuze is good. can you help? someone said a wire behind the lighter may have come loose.

    • Customer Service

      Hello Robert,

      To provide more specific troubleshooting information we need the make,
      model, and year of your RV. If the power outlets you are referring
      to are 12-volt cigarette lighter type, then it’s most likely the wire
      connected to the back of the outlet that comes from the fuse? This
      typically was powered by the chassis battery?

      David RVRC Video Membership

  9. Jessica

    These are all fantastic. I’m still working through #7 and we have been RVing full time for almost 2 years!!

  10. Larry & Jo

    Trying to decide on an extended warranty company for our unit. Please offer your experiences we are currently looking at “Wholesale Warranty” & ” USA Travel Care” by AGWS. Of course we are open to others.

    • Customer Service

      I believe an extended warranty is a good idea “IF” the policy and company is familiar with the intricacies of RVs and has a working relationship with dealers or service centers! Several extended warranty companies jump in and out of the RV market trying to extend their automobile coverage and it ends up being a disaster! I would recommend contacting your local dealer that would be doing most of the repairs to discuss the companies that they recommend and if they would honor the “Wholesale Warranty” and USA Travel Care coverage? I am not familiar with either one, however the Wholesale Warranty website has more “hot buttons” for the average RV owner in my opinion? I would suggest getting a detailed list of what is covered and what is NOT covered. What maintenance is requires and what documentation. Who is authorized to work on the vehicle. What type of national coverage is available if you are traveling, such as dealer network that is authorized to work on the rig, towing charges, down time coverage, trip cancellation, and what happens if the unit has to sit at a dealership for 2 months to get fixed? Unfortunately these can happen and if an insurance company is not familiar with how a larger rig can not be towed to a local Ford dealer, rather flatbedded to an authorized dealer 300 miles away, who pays for that? If a unit breaks down in AZ and the dealer can not get it into the shop for 6 weeks due to scheduling issues, do you live in Phoenix for 2 months? I would also suggest looking at the Good Sam Extended Warranty option as well as Coach-Net as they have been involved in the RV industry for many years. However, having said that…ask Wholesale Warranty the right questions, they may have the answers and I will look into them further.

      • Joel

        I’m an rv tec subcontractor. I deal with ext warr. all the time. The problem is some are slow to pay, sometimes takes 6 or more months. So for me I got tired of the wait time and have my customers deal them .The customer pay me then they can wait to be paid. For me I’m tired of taking a risk of not getting paid on time or not at all!

  11. Beth Master's

    Yes, I was attempting to empty the sewage holding tank last week, I hooked up the hose & connections & placed the end of the hose into the sewage drain and then I pulled the lever & everything flowed out nice and strong and smoothly for about 20 second’s & then everything Stopped ! (something was abstucting the sewage from coming out) so what can I DO to unblock it so I can empty the holding tank ??? some mentioned pour ice down the toilet and then driving around the block to try & loosen whatever is Blocking it. they said to try pouring some bleach down the toilet as well. Any advice ??

    • Customer Service

      First your black water tank issue. Before you try the ice method, I would suggest purchasing a manual plumbing “snake” and see if you can go up from the outside valve and gently work it up and around? This is a very messy procedure as you will not be able to have the hose connected so only do this if you don’t have much left in the tank AND have a way to dump it into something. Check your local campground to see if they have an open dump station which is large pit with the dump cap in the middle. Then buy a cheap dump hose and cut just enough reach the pit which will allow you to snake up the shorter hose and get to the valve. You may want to try snaking from the inside through the toilet, however I have found that the snake usually just keeps coiling inside the tank and doesn’t find the dump hole? The ice method probably will not work as I suspect the clog is already in the piping and the ice will not get there. The ice method is more designed to break up what we call “pyramiding” which is a condition that happens when you leave the valves open all the time while camping and the liquid drains out, but the solids pile up or “pyramid”. Bleach does nothing other than get rid of odors and sanitize, nothing for busting up clogs. Instead I would use Thetford Tissue Digester which you should be able to get at any RV supply store. You could also try using “Instant Power” a product found at Home Depot that dissolves Hair and Grease and is non-acidic which is good for the rubber seals in the valve. Most of the plastic used in the system is similar to residential drain products and not affected by these products, however the valve has rubber seals that can deteriorate. If you do use this or another product, make sure you pour a container of Thetford Valve Conditioner down the toilet and let it set once you get the tank empty.

  12. Wayne

    Great article with good reminder information. After being away from RVing for a few years, we’re back and ready to “See the USA in a (Dodge and Crossroads)”

  13. Rik Bergethon

    As an addition to #6. Do the walk-around checking brake lights and turn signals. This takes two people to do to ensure that all are working. And a throw-back to my days in the army; always use a backer to guide you into those back-in spaces. He/she can see back there better than you can.

    • Paula

      Backers should never use spouses. There are two sure roads to divorce, wallpapering and vehicle backing.

  14. Ford DeRenard

    a mobile hot spot…ok, so does this need to connect to a wireless phone network? To a satellite tv service? what are the options? I too have had real issues with no internet connection in many places.

    • Bob

      If you really want to learn about cellular internet check out RVMobileinternet.com. They’ve got lots of great information on getting online with cellular connections.

  15. James Wright Sr

    79, widower, full timer for 10 yrs, workamper to make ends meet. Every professional driver, pilot, locomotive eng., etc, works off a printed check list. My lays on the dash of truck (5th wheel puller) on top of steer wheel and I double check every item before putting it in gear. You would think that after 10 yrs on the road I’d remember everything – but don’t bet on it. Thanks for the good article, was saying AMEN on every item.

  16. James

    I cannot get warm air from my dash heater while on the road. I have found the fuse and it appears to be ok. I get air it is just not warm. Anyone have any suggestions?

    • Thomas

      Check your radiator level, if too low it may not have enough fluid to flow through the heater core.

  17. Johnny

    What type of glue wood you recommend for bonding rubber to rubber? My rubber slide out seals are beginning to tear at the corners and I need something that will bond but be flexible once dry.

    • Customer Service

      Hi, Johnny. If your rubber seals are actually “tearing” I would suggest replacing the seals rather than trying to glue them together? You could try Eternabond, Dicor’s silicone products, or even Flexseal which is new to the market but has had some amazing results? However, rubber bonded to rubber with the movement and pressure put on slideroom seals may prove to be to much for even the best adhesive?