RV Life: 10 Life Lessons We Learned on the Open Road

Taking the leap into long-distance or long-term RVing can be a little daunting. Like with anything, there are a lot of “what ifs” to consider. While preparing for our first RV trip together I was sure I was under-planning. My husband, however, was convinced I was over-planning. Where’s the balance?

It wasn’t until we got on the road that we realized exactly what we needed: just that – the open road. In addition to learning how to properly RV, we learned a few life lessons along the way too. Let me share ten of those lessons we learned while traveling the open road for the first time.


Even some of the more skilled RVers we have met admit they don’t know it all. We quickly learned to swallow our pride and ask for help. Use all of the resources available to you, including other RV owners, owner’s manuals, websites, and even the dealership where you purchased your RV.

Don’t allow yourself to feel like you have to buy the best of the best to impress others. Purchase what makes you happy and what you can afford. It’s not a competition out there. It’s about enjoying your freedom of the open road.

Don’t fret too much about making a living while traveling – there are lots of opportunities to earn some cash while on the road. Various types of work is available, including blogging, freelance writing, consulting, and other remote jobs.

Speaking of, working from the road made it feel like I was still back home. Deadlines to hit, new projects to worry about… I had to quickly learn to schedule my work time. When it wasn’t work time, I was prepared to unplug my computer, put down the camera, and enjoy the road ahead.

No matter how short of a getaway you take or how slow your progress to getting out on the open road is, you are still ahead of those who keep saying “one day.” You are on your way to be a seasoned RVer.

We felt so bad leaving friends and family behind, but we quickly realized that those who truly loved us will put in the effort to stay in contact with us.

Life definitely threw us some curveballs while on the road and we quickly learned we needed to have patience. Especially when things happened that were out of our control.

Do not regret your decision to hit the open road. It is your life and only you know what will make you happy.

Cherish every moment with your spouse or travel companion. Do not sweat the small stuff and enjoy every minute experiencing life.

It sounds cheesy, but the RV was the vehicle to make our dreams come true. Though we’re just getting started on our RV journey, we have high hopes for our future and know that our RV will take us all across the country, including up to Alaska and Canada. The possibilities are endless and your RV can help make your dreams come true too.

Though we have not yet reached our dream of hitting the road full-time (someday soon), we have learned many life lessons that will hopefully help others who are looking to take that leap and hit the open road for their first long-term RV trip.

Pre-Trip-Checklist
Discussion
  • (will not be published)
  • If your questions pertains to a specific component or appliance, please fill out the info below:

47 Responses to “RV Life: 10 Life Lessons We Learned on the Open Road”
    • Heather

      We were lucky enough to be renting when we made the decision. So there was no home to be sold. When back home we either find a short term rental to stay in or find a long-term RV site to stay at.

      Reply
  1. Steve

    My wife and I are about 18 months away from retiring and exploring the idea of traveling with an RV and seeing America. Been looking at rigs, new and used. Hoping for some ideas to help us as we get started. My wife is a little reluctant, but I know she will enjoy herself if we make this happen.lk

    Reply
    • Jim

      Steve, have you rented a rig? And, do you have RV friends to hang with? We had the latter, so we did the former (twice, plus stayed in KOA Kabins a few times)…that convinced us to take the plunge and we’re glad we did. Good luck!!!

      Reply
      • Bill

        Steve, we started small. A 23 footer behind a 1/2 ton pickup. At the end of the first summer, the truck went; exchanged for a3/4 diesel pickup crew cab, the camper evolved to a 28ft with slide, after two summers on the road we wanted more storage, more living space. A 29 ft 5th wheel was next. This has meant I learn to do a lot of maintenance and repair work. It’s a pleasure to do, and a challenge, AND I have great conversations with friends and dealers who give ideas and help. My tow vehicle has changed: 1 ton dually, diesel. It’s great. A GMC, it rides as a Caddy. In off seasons. I haul…back hoe/tractor, some logs, stone, between Connecticut and Down East Maine, I’ll be 80 this winter. Still do tractor work, work in the woods in Maine, do some small contracting. So the truck is great. So us the camper.
        This all evolved after I retired in 2002. Dont regret it at all.

        Reply
        • Dave

          Steve: our first adventure many years ago was in a rental 28′ class A motor home. I am so glad we started this way. It gets a little expensive but you’re not purchasing a $100,000+ investment! Try renting first. You can rent pull trailers, 5th wheel trailers, Class A, B & C motorhomes.

          Reply
        • Edmond

          Brand: GMC, Model Number: Truck

          Hi Steve. Just came across your comment from 2015. Tell me more about your truck that rides like a Caddy. We’ll be switching from our Suburban–which also rides like a Caddy–to a 3500/F450 Dually to tow a 5th wheel soon. I heard a “horror story” from one blogger who actually started traveling in 2 vehicles–one for towing and one for riding around in–because the ride on the truck was so bad. I’ve had no experience with the “big” trucks, so I am concerned about this. Sounds like your truck rides real nice? Maybe we should be looking at one of those.

          Reply
    • Teri Egts

      Steve, on buying a rig I would say there is no right answer. Each type of unit has its pros and cons on use, comfort, and price points. Our advice might be to research first, ask friends who own, chat on sites like FB, read magazines like Trailer Life and Motorhome for comments, concerns, and ideas. Start a list of features and details you are looking for, ie. livability while the slides are in, being set up for cold weather camping, towability or its ability to tow, pros and cons to size of the unit, etc. When you actually start looking you will have a better idea of what your needs are.

      Reply
    • Lucie

      Joe and I are retired and just started out. We both camped in our separate “younger” lives. We bought a very used camper and paid cash… 2002, 29 foot, for $6000…. We bought a nice used truck: 2012 F150 XLT… spent 7 weeks in Florida on our first trip and everything went wrong… with the camper and with our elderly parents, who live in Florida…. After 7 weeks, we returned to Northern New York and traded in the 2002 for a shinny new 2016….. that first horrible trip was the best thing we did.

      Reply
    • Brenda

      Steve it is all about what you want. How do you want the floor plan? If you are not going to use it a lot you may want a trailer a 5th wheel. Less things to worry about on a unite not being used a great deal. If you can find creditor family to talk to that would be great. You can learn a lot from their experiences.

      Make sure you get then right truck to tow with. We have a 35 foot fifth wheel towed by a three quarter ton GMC. It has an Allison Duramax transmission.

      Last but not least search the net for forums and do not be afraid to ask questions.

      We live ‘ve being on the road for the winter.

      Reply
    • Robert

      We’ve been traveling in a Tacoma pickup and pulling a 19ft travel trailer. Our priorities were the bathroom, bed and ease of pulling down the road. What we found was a 19ft Sonic made by Venture. It has a Murphy bed (queen) and a bathroom with a full shower. We’ve been making extended trips (2-3 months at a time). We will go full time in about a year.

      Reply
  2. Teri Egts

    I am inspired by this article. Our long-term goal has been to sell what we own and take off in our RV; to be full timers and workcampers. Healthcare insurance is what holds us back for now. Is there any discussion on how one manages healthcare and its insurance requirements on the road?

    Reply
  3. D'Arcy

    Just bought my first rv this month and going camping this weekend. I am very excited and I have no idea what to expect or bring along. Still learning all of the features. A little nervous and excited at the same time.

    Reply
    • Kim

      RV Make: Coachman , RV Model: Leprechaun , RV Year: 2016

      D’Arcy, how did your first RV’ing trip work out? Did you love it?

      Reply
    • Nancy

      RV Make: Tiffin, RV Model: Allegro

      Learn everything you can about traveling in an RV before you start out and take short trips first! We had NO idea, had never driven one before and took our first “real” trip across country from Virginia to California! We encountered a couple of things that we had no idea were “common” such as in the high winds across Oklahoma and Texas our awning started to unfurl! Thank goodness we caught it before it did any damage to either the awning or the RV. We read later the horror stories from other people this had happened to! We ran into ice and snow and just tucked ourselves in between 2 tractor trailers at truck stops like Love’s, which was like having a garage all our own for the night! Instead of an RV park where we would be buffeted by the wind all night. Just learn everything you can first! And ask other RV owners when you have questions! They are a great source of information and quick to help!

      Reply
      • Charles E. Fortenberry

        RV Make: Winnebago, RV Model: Supper chief , RV Year: 1989

        We have an ’89 Winnebago Super Chief. I had starter trouble, took it off, it had a broken wire…just barely touching, had starter tested, was fine, but after re installing starter, there is no voltage at all to ignition, lights, radio…NOTHING! The fuse panel under dash only has 12.5 volts to each side on the only 30 amp fuse. Everything else is dead! There is 12.5 volts to the starter cable from battery. I was not sure if I put the two small wires on starter right, or if I got them transposed. But I can’t imagine that causing all these problems! (Oh, it’s a Chevy 454 engine? And has a new battery, and new alternator). Any help would be appreciated! Thanks, Charles F.

        Reply
        • Customer Service

          Dear Charles,

          Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

          If the wires were connected improperly, it should have shorted out the system. But by doing this should have blown a fuse. I would check to see if there is another fuse panel, sometimes below the dash there is a fuse panel and often to the sides there can be one as well. If that many things are not working, there is a bad fuse somewhere. Checking under the dash is a good place to start. If you do find the blown fuse, I would disconnect the wires on the starter and reverse them and see if it is OK now. It is possible the connections are fine and just in the time of switching it out, the positive wire might have hit something metal ground to the chassis which caused the fuse to blow before even connecting the starter too. I’m would assume there will be another fuse panel, thoroughly check under the dash and the back left of the pedal area. They are often hidden in there as well. I hope this helps!

          We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.
          https://go.rvrepairclub.com/c16496

          Sincerely,
          Dan
          RV Repair Club

          Reply
  4. Tom

    I’m retiring soon and hitting the road shortly thereafter, can’t wait for the adventure to begin.

    Reply
    • richard steele

      RV Make: winneabago, RV Model: journey, RV Year: 2004

      I have 6 months to work!Cant wait next winter we will be somewhere in flordia.We have been camping for awhile.We started out in a pop up,transfer to a 25.ft with a dodge dullaly.Now we have 2004 34ft. journey.We are going to start out going to flordia for the winter months,then I don’t know from there! Cant wait!

      Reply
  5. Garret

    RV Make: Thor Residency, RV Model: 35ft Residency, RV Year: 1994, Brand: Atwood RV Furnace 8940 DCLP11, Model Number: 8940 DCLP11

    The Furnace Motor is squealing badly and needs replacing. Having trouble removing and now drilling out the Shaft Set screw on the right side!! If I order will the 37697 replacement motor fir??. All I could read so far on the motor is PF28800 and cant find that reference anywhere?? Any help appreciated.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Garret. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your furnace issue. To provide more specific information regarding the motor R&R we need to know the make, model, and year of your furnace.

      Reply
  6. Dennis

    RV Make: Pleasure Way, RV Model: Lexor RD, RV Year: 2000

    Thanks for the great article. My wife and I retire in 7 days, but who’s counting. Our first trip will be to FL in a little over 3 weeks. We plan on attending the RV show in Tampa, then over to Miami to leave on a cruise for 1 week, then down to Key West for a few days and work our way back up the state. You hit the nail right on the head with this article. Believe me, I know full well I do not know it all–by a long shot. I’m sure we will have to ask much advice along the way, and I know from others I’ve talked to and what I’ve read, I’m confident we will not be embarrassed or feel dumb. We live in IL, and only bought our rig about a month ago, so no, we haven’t even had water in it or been able to “practice” draining the tanks or anything else before this first trip. We are both very excited and can’t wait to get out on the road and begin this adventure!

    Reply
  7. Terrance Johnson

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Bounder, RV Year: 2008

    Should I leave the engine battery on or off while storing for the winter? I have it plugged in.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Terrance. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your engine battery question. If you plan to leave your unit in storage for an extended amount of time and not start the engine once a month to keep it charged, you should remove the battery along with the house battery(s) and store them in a heated space or connected to a conditioner such as a Battery Minder. There are several components that will draw from the engine battery such as the radio presets, engine computer and others and a low battery will freeze faster! If it’s for a short term, start the engine once a month and let it run for 1/2 hour to charge. When you take the battery out, or it get drained, the radio presets will need to be reset, and the engine computer will take a procedure to get it reset as well. Every spring we had to jump my parents Workhorse Chassis model and let it run for 15 minutes in idle, then drive about 7-10 miles at 20 mph for the computer to reset and allow us to get up to proper RPM. This should be listed in your chassis owner’s manual.

      Reply
  8. Greg Scharf

    RV Make: Dutchmen, RV Model: Aerolite Zoom, RV Year: 2007

    I would like to have your pre-trip check list. Thanks.

    Reply
  9. chris m lang

    RV Make: Holiday Rambler , RV Model: Vacationer (Gas 454) 32', RV Year: 1997

    I agree this is not about impressing anyone and if you buy new (follow several blogs) you can expect it to break they all do. On the other hand if you buy over 10 years old or over, expect to spend 10k to 15k (depending on brand)to get it road ready ( I’m referring to Class A Motorhomes here) but the initial price is usually around .10 cents on the dollar compared to a new one of same class, our 1997 only had 25k miles on it when we purchased it 3 years ago, it had been under a shed and not moved for 7 years, naturally we had to spend a bit of money to get it road ready. We have really enjoyed this motor home but have decided to spend more time on the road and are ready to sell and move up to a 40′ diesel pusher. Again, in agreement with Heather, if you can do some or all of your maintenance this will greatly reduce expenses at home and on the road. I started thinking I would let someone else work on our coach, but soon realized when you pulled into a RV repair shop they assumed you were wealthy so they charged $120.00 to $150.00 per hour plus additional shop fees.
    Is this all worth it? Each person or couple will have to decide, for us it is, there is a lot of this country to see and my only advice to a beginner is once you take the plunge remember you are not in a race to see everything in a few months or year, go slow and enjoy the view
    Safe Driving

    Reply
  10. Charles Hilton

    RV Make: Holiday Rambler, RV Model: Imperial 5000, RV Year: 1976, Brand: Holiday Rambler, Model Number: 1976 Imperial 5000

    I am new to RV’ing, and need a copy of the owners manual, for my model RV. It needs to be rewired, as the previous owner (s) over the years lost the book and also did their own wire/ reroute job at one time. The bathroom/ water lines appear to be functionable, but would like instruction on how to set it up for service. Any help is appreciated in advance.
    Charles Hilton, TSgt, AR ANG, (Ret.)

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Charles. Thank you for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to assist with your request for an owner’s manual. To get the correct manual, we need to know the make/model/year of your RV.

      Reply
  11. Thomas

    RV Make: Damon, RV Model: Hornet, RV Year: 1997

    I cannot find a paper owner’s manual for this rv.
    This is our first one & bought it for retirement, but sellor had no info at all about rv.
    Please “Help” !!!!
    We looked everywhere but no luck

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Thomas. To provide more information on finding an original owner’s manual on your RV we need the make, model, and year of the RV. You might try contacting the company directly, however most RV manufacturers have been sold several times and have no records of owner’s manuals. Winnebago is the only company I know of that still has an excellent library of owner’s manuals and other documentation such as plumbing, wiring diagrams and such. You can even go on-line and download them. Otherwise I would suggest contacting your local dealer, or checking the on-line used vehicle sales sites and if you see a similar model, contact the selling owner to see if you could buy a copy. Chances are you will be very disappointed as most manuals are so generic they don’t really help much and they don’t cover the appliances as most of those have their own manuals which you should be able to get copies of from Onan, Magic Chef, Atwood, Suburban, and others.

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi, Thomas. To provide more specific information on your request for an owner’s manual we need to know the make, model, and year of the rig?

      Reply
  12. jajunels

    RV Make: fleetwood, RV Model: flair, RV Year: 1993

    how to start hot water and furnace?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello,

      Please provide us with the year, made, and model of your RV and we will look further into your question for you.

      Thanks,

      Becky
      RV Repair Club Video Membership

      Reply
  13. kevynmd49

    Don’t have a RV yet, saving up to afford camper van. Thought I’d find out what is involved. Seems I came to the wrong place.. This sight seems to only wanting to upgrade to the next level

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello. I did want to let you know that you are not obligated to upgrade to the next level. We just want to make you aware of the different levels we offer. If you have any questions, you can contact our customer service team at 1-855-706-3536.
      Thanks
      Jean-RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  14. Dave Baltz

    RV Make: thor 24 hi, RV Model: sprinter, RV Year: 2018

    this is going to be good

    Reply
  15. Patrick Kennedy

    RV Make: Bison, RV Model: 8317, RV Year: 2015

    THAT was a cool thing to post! — — 10 things to definitely think about – – and totally true. We (wife & I) are fulfilling a long-time dream to head south for the winter (among other explorations of course) with our ‘new’ rig, taking dogs and horses (all the family) with us. Expecting a great adventure! THANKS!

    Reply
  16. Gregory Sandstrom

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: 24: Jayco, RV Year: 2010

    Thank you for the tips. We are heading out on a six week, eight state trip to Bruce, Zyon and the Grand Canyon. Was just curious, what is tip #10? Thanks, Greg

    Reply
  17. Marcus Moss

    RV Make: Keystone , RV Model: Laredo, RV Year: 2013, Brand: GMC, Model Number: 2008

    My question is this. My 1/2 ton truck has less than 100000 miles, come with towing package, and is in real good shape. Would you feel confident going on a 2 or 3 hundred round trip. I put new tires on my travel trailer last year. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Dear Marcus,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      I would get a good inspection of the suspension system and make sure nothing is cracked or rusted out. That is a lot of miles but if it was well taken care of and everything is in good shape, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be fine. I had a GMC truck with over 200,000 miles on it and took 300 miles round trips all the time. I was towing a good amount but under capacity and never had problems but I also made sure it was well serviced, brakes were good, had good oil, transmission fluid, coolant, no leaks etc. If was never used as a work truck or used for constant towing, it should still be in good enough shape to take trips like that just fine. Again, I would get a good inspection done by a service center just to make sure nothing is wrong with the towing system to have a peace of mind. Make sure to check the hitch system. They can get real rusty and if any of the bolts have broken off or there are holes in the receiver, do not tow anything until replacing them. Rust is OK, just look for signs of cracking, holes or busted screw heads. I hope this helps, safe travels!

      Sincerely,
      Dan
      RV Repair Club Technical Expert

      Reply
  18. Cameron Nelles

    RV Make: Bounder, RV Model: 35H, RV Year: 2011

    We are pleased with our Motorhome as we for over 10 years had a Fifth Wheel. The only real issue I have is the change in the Gas Mileage. Quite a difference.

    Reply
  19. THOMASW DAVIS

    RV Make: ITASCA, RV Model: SUNCRUISER37B GAS, RV Year: 2004

    ABSOLUTELY ON POINT! We are full timers since 2011. Have and still are living every Point. Thank you well Written. Tom & Jane Davis On the Road in SC and FL

    Reply
  20. Jerome

    RV Make: Fleetwood, RV Model: Storm 35SK, RV Year: 2016

    You have to plan everything so you are ready to retire and to go on the road. Do you want a house payment after you retire? We didn’t, so we paid off the house 17-1/2 years early. Then I was able to save $30,000 a year for 3 years, to have the money to purchase our Fleetwood Storm that had 12,000 miles on it. The extra money came from starting my Social Security at age 66, and working for 4 more years. After age 66 you can work and keep all of the money. Age 62 to 66, after you make $22,000, or so, half of the money you make is deducted from your Social Security check monthly. The great money years, 66 to 70, it was very hard to want to retire because of the money. My wife, and finally finding the right RV, were the 2 reasons to retire. We looked and learned for an RV for 4 years, so we knew what we wanted. My wife would do research online for the different models. Going and standing in the shower was the true test if I liked an RV or not. And no one knows that our bath and a half sleeps more than 2 people. Our Fleetwood Storm is a gas model, and there is a little more noise with it, so check it out. Understand how to get the RV ready for the BIG vacation. Check the water level in all of your batteries at least once a year. Learn what makes your generator so important to have working, change your oil once a year, no matter how many hours are on it. Use gas stabilizer before putting the RV away until next year. Learn your hot water heater. The 6 gallons just was not going to make it, so I put in a tankless, and had problems until I finally found a water restrictor in the hot water line going back to the shower. The tankless would turn off because the water flow was so slow because of the restrictor. I just added an electric tankless water heater next to the shower becuase it took so long for the hot water to get to the back of the RV. All of that running of the water to get to the hot water was filling up the gray tank. We have a tow car, a small SUV, and pulling away from the gas pump and turning was the most stressful time of the entire vacation for me. I had no real idea how far the back end was going to swing around, remember the rear tires on the RV are not close to the back end, they are about 1/4 of the way from the back. Therefore the back end is not like turning a car. I just added a wide-angle camera on the back of the tow car, which displays on my new Jensen in-dash display. Now I can see where the back end is going and when I have passed the gas pump. When driving on the freeways, be ready for those big semi trucks to pass you. The air going around can move the RV, (22,000 lbs.) over to the right almost a foot. I am adding a steering stabilizer this week, that should help according to the online info and youtube. I am looking forward to a more relaxed BIG vacation this June.

    Reply
  21. Harold Renninger

    RV Make: Rockwood, RV Model: Mini light, RV Year: 2014

    I would love to travel across the country someday.

    Reply