Tips for Travel:
When we departed on our full-time RV journey we had only pulled & parked the RV once. ONCE. My wife had read about walkie talkies being a common RV’er purchase so we purchased a pair of them off Amazon just before we left. We cannot express how beneficial having these walkie talkies have been! We made the decision early to bring Meredith’s car as it would be significantly easier for her to navigate around town and to and from work everyday. Because we would be traveling in separate vehicles when towing our home on wheels we needed an easy way to communicate to prevent distraction on the road but also to help each other since hauling something 42 feet in length was uncharted territory for us. The walkies worked great! It was easy for me to relay a message to her about where we need to exit and in return she could help me navigate in traffic and on the interstate. Undeniably, they provided a sense of comfort knowing we could chat with each other easily and we never felt alone.
Parking the 5th wheel using the walkies was especially helpful, underrated truthfully. Even though we book slips at campgrounds that have pull-thru’s, there is still the potential for backing up the rig and having to turn it around other objects to park safely. It’s not uncommon for several readjustments getting the RV in a level and straight position before unhooking from the hitch. Because of this, using the walkies to communicate sanely is the best. Yelling at one another from a window with a loud diesel engine running makes for added stress to an already stressful situation.
Plan to arrive during the daylight hours. Whether it’s arriving to the campground, state park, or overnight spot. Don’t make our mistake. We arrived to a pitch black campground at night which sends emotions and stress higher especially if you need to find your designated slip with a large home on wheels. After a long day of travel being tired, arriving at night makes for additional time wasted trying to get setup. Additionally, arriving during daylight hours to campgrounds benefits you a campground host that will escort you to your slip and assists you with parking it safely.
RV Apps Used For Trip Planning and While on the Road:
Essentially, there are 3 Apps (we use iPhone) that we highly recommend for planning your roadtrip and assisting while on the road headed towards your destination.
1. All Stays “Camp & RV” (see also “Truck & Travel) – All Stays Apps These apps are truly worth the money spent. These apps will show you a plethora of information that you can filter. We filter for upcoming gas stations like Pilots, TA Travel Centers, Flying J, and Love’s Travel Stops. In the details for these stops not only can you see the distance from where you currently are on the road, but you can see how many diesel lanes they have, what food they offer, how many dump stations they have, and other things like showers and laundry amenties too. Additionally, these apps will show you all campgrounds, state parks, etc that offer slips as well as overpass and bridge heights to ensure you can safely continue on your current route.
2. iExit – iExit App – Undeniably, this may be our most used app while in route. It’s our personal favorite that we use even if not towing our home on wheels. It will automatically locate you on the road using GPS and show you all upcoming exits by mileage. This app shows you rest areas, food at upcoming exits, and gas stations. We use this in tandem with All Stays Apps when looking for places to stop with our Rig. Plus, if you know the route you plan to take ahead of time, you can also use it as a trip planner so you know exactly which exits you plan to take so you can decide how far you want to drive and prevents fatigue trying to find the best places to stop.
3. Campendium Campendium/KOA Apps KOA Apps – These are pretty self-explanatory, however, Campendium has a nice user interface and will show you information about something very important for many of us fulltimers….cell service. It’s a crowd-sourced app that allows users that create an account to post pictures and other details about specific campgrounds. The cell service component is very helpful for us as I am a remote employee and need cell service to do my job daily and campground wifi cannot be trusted. KOA provides an app that helps for extended stay RV’ers like us so we can reserve a slip online, read reviews, and gather details about location and amenities offered. Since most KOA’s are all independently owned, NOT ALL KOA’s are the same. Each offer similar amenities, but the quality of the campground can vary greatly.
RV Supplies, RV Daily Tasks, and Maintenance:
We began our RV journey in the winter, which can be done, but for rookies or newbies out there, we’d recommend starting in warmer months. The element of cold temperatures adds extra stress and a potential for many issues. Nonetheless, if you plan to stay somewhere during winter months, we highly recommend purchasing a Camco Heated Potable Water Hose Camco Heated Hose. We purchased ours from Amazon and it proved to be a life-savor in Virginia during the winter. If the quality of your water is of concern (which for most it is), Camco also makes water filters that are attachable to the water spigot, however, if RV’ing in the winter and below freezing temperatures are in the forecast, don’t make our mistake. Remove the water filter because it will freeze, which defeats the purpose of the heated hose. After a couple days of not having running water waiting for it to thaw, we decided to remove it when temps dropped again to prevent that headache.
Find you a high quality and durable sewer hose. Camco has a ‘Rhino’ brand that works really well against kinks and punctures. There’s also a clear connector that you can add to the drain pipe on your RV that has a water host hookup for flushing your black tank. Highly recommend adding that with your sewer hose too. Speaking of sewer hoses, especially in winter, here’s a pro-tip…when below freezing temperatures are forecasted, make sure you completely drain all residual fluid from the sewer hose. If you don’t, it will freeze leaving you stuck with full tanks and no way to drain them which means no showers, no bathroom, and no washing dishes. Maybe as an additional suggestion, have a backup sewer hose just in case.
You know what’s the worst? A clogged black tank. Probably our biggest mistake not educating ourselves prior to hitting the road. Black tanks can especially be a big task to care for and maintain. You don’t want to wake up to that smell in the middle of the night, especially in the summer when temperatures are high. Takes the glamp right out of the glamping situation. Here’s pro-tip number 1…Use lots of water, tons of it actually when going number 2. One thing we didn’t realize when spoiled with traditional plumbing was that once you flush the toilet it automatically refills itself with water in the bowl. There’s a reason this happens. Water helps move solids and prevents what we now know as the “poo pyramid”. Yep, this happened to us within our 1st week. This took a snake tool, lots of water, along with Thetford’s AquaKem deodorizer and declogger. Thetford Aqua Kem. After several days, the clog finally was gone and we were able to resume normal activities. Additionally, make sure you purchase RV/Marine specific toilet tissue. It dissolves and helps prevent clogging.
Humidity. Let’s talk about humidity in a RV. Something we also didn’t read enough about until after we started our journey was how difficult it can be to manage condensation both in the winter and summer from humidity inside the RV. If not maintained, it could lead to water damage and mold. For someone who has asthma issues, this could be really bad too. We recommend investing in a dehumidifier to manage the humidity. There are tons out there all with different sizes that you can purchase. We decided to go with ProBreeze’s dehumidifier off Amazon. Probreeze Dehumidifier Ours covers 250 square feet and does really well. It has a reservoir tank that has an auto shut-off switch once the tank is full. It’s also very easy to drain. It’s worked great so far.
You know what’s expensive? Propane. Propane is a huge requirement as a fulltime RV’er. Especially in the winter, propane can go fast. Most RV’s use propane for their heater as well as the oven and stove top and even some the refrigerator too. Here’s a pro-tip. If there’s a Tractor Supply in town, you can save money by having them refill your tanks for you. Most KOA’s can refill them too, but you’ll pay double for that convenience. To save on propane, purchase a couple small ceramic electric space heaters. These work well. In our RV, we are fortunate to have an electric fireplace that has a built in space heater. This helped us conserve our propane during the winter.
Thanks for reading! Comment below some other pro-tips you’ve encountered as a full-timer RV’er!