As we continue winding down our RV travels, I’ve been thinking a lot about just how far we’ve come. When we decided to quit our lives and go explore the country in a motorhome, we had no idea how anything worked – in terms of RVs themselves or how to travel in them. While, these days, we like to strut around like all-knowing peacocks, not so long ago, we found ourselves walking into our local town library hoping to find some version of “RVs for Dummies,” because we honestly had no idea where to even start.

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we found some helpful websites, which led to helpful blogs, which led to helpful friends all of which guided us to some measure of competence. We also lucked out when we signed up for driving lessons with the RV Driving School and they paired us with an instructor who not only taught us how to drive, but spent hours explaining the particularities of this kind of travel and even helped us get properly outfitted to hit the road.

Our driving instructor went way beyond the call of duty to ensure we were ready to drive ourselves from Mississippi (where we’d just picked up our motorhome) back to DC, even taking us shopping for necessary supplies.

Since those early days, we’ve been fortunate to pick up all kinds of tips, tricks, and resources that have saved us time, money, and calls for roadside assistance. I’d also like to think they’ve helped us be “good neighbors” to the thousands of RVers we’ve camped near over the years.

I’ve mentioned several of these things in prior articles, but I figured I would put them all together in one place. So, in semi-organized form, here is some of the best advice we’ve picked up along the way, and the tips we’d pass on to new RVers just starting out:

Travel Planning and Prep

  • As most people have hopefully figured out by now, if you want to go to the best places at the most popular times of year, you need to plan way ahead. Summer in Michigan and Winter in Florida – especially if you’re looking for longer stays – require plenty of advance planning and, oftentimes, a good bit of luck. All of this is pretty obvious. What was not obvious to us, and what ended up being a great piece of advice, was the importance of making reservations for other times.

    Reservations can be necessary not just for Summer but for regular weekends, Spring Break season, and virtually all holidays – even the ones you may not associate with camping. In other words, it’s not just Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day. It’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Presidents’ Day, Veterans Day, Easter weekend, and the entire month of March in several states (because of Spring Break).

    Turns out, people camp all the damned time!

    As a full-timer, it can be easy to lose track of the calendar. One of the only times we ever left a campground early was when we got stuck staying at a really cruddy RV park because it was the only place that had sites available on Presidents Day weekend. I had forgotten the holiday was coming up and by the time I went to make reservations, all the good places were booked. There was a reason this particular campground had availability. The reason was that it was creepy as hell. We left as soon as possible, but if you’re paying attention, you can avoid an experience like that entirely.

    Bottom line: pay attention to the calendar and make sure your weekends and holidays are covered well in advance.

  • If you can’t find a spot at your target campground, don’t despair. Technology may save the day. I’ve used Tim Watson’s program more times than I can count and it’s been fantastic. I simply enter what campground I want and what date range will work. The program then begins scanning the campground’s reservation site looking for cancellations that match my criteria. The minute a site opens up, the program notifies me by email. There are now several programs like this (Campnab is one I’ve heard of but haven’t used myself), so you won’t be the only one getting a notification, but if you’re fast (ie: have your Reserve America/state park account already set up), you can, oftentimes, snag a great site.

    11 nights in a Florida state park in December doesn’t just happen. It’s brought to you by tech-savvy people who don’t want to sit in front of their computer hitting the refresh button 1200 times a day, so they build a bot to do it for them. And then they make that bot available to the rest of us. Thanks, Tim!
  • Speaking of technology, it’s a good idea to download a variety of apps onto your phone and familiarize yourself with their interfaces. Allstays, RV Parky, Wind Alert, Weather Radar, Air Quality Alerts… we’ve used all of them – sometimes while in motion –  to make decisions and solve problems, and each one of them has come through for us.

    When WindAlert forecasted 57 MPH gusts in the town we were about to drive through, we knew it was time to get off the road and find a campground for the night.
  • On the subject of weather, when you grow up on the east coast, you get used to the idea of north equals cold and south equals warm. In other parts of the country, that information can be totally irrelevant. If real estate purchases are all about location, location, location, RV travel is all about elevation, elevation, elevation.

    Arizona in March can mean warm sun and saguaro trees or, less than 100 miles away, this nonsense… it all comes down to elevation.
  • When things are questionable – weather, natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. – Twitter can be really helpful. I routinely subscribe to local branches of the national weather service, local news outlets, and local government offices in the places we stay in order to keep on top of current events that might impact us. This really came in handy during the fall of 2020 when we found ourselves in the middle of some of the country’s worst wildfires and had to figure out what to do and where to go.

    National news sources will give you big picture information, but if you’re trying to figure out what’s happening in smaller, more targeted areas – because you need to make a decision whether to stay or go – local Twitter feeds can be excellent resources.
  • Speaking of being prepared, if you’re about to jump in your car and head out to explore a remote area, you can download a custom Google map. There are tons of places in this country that don’t have cell coverage – or they may not have cell coverage from the company you use. If you’ve downloaded a map of the area before you head out, your phone GPS will still be able to track you and get you where you want to go, even without cell service. If you’ve never used this feature before and don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a quick tutorial:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olOBiwyLefw

  • The same holds true for hiking. Most National Parks don’t have cell service, so we often use Alltrails to download our hiking maps beforehand. This way, our phone GPS can still track us on the trail. Alltrails even has a feature (with its “pro” subscription) that allows you to track your hike as you go, and if it senses you’ve made a wrong turn, it will ping your phone and tell you to check your location. Magical stuff – but it only works if you’ve prepared yourself before heading out.

How to be a Good Neighbor

Once you get to your campground, there are a number of unwritten rules you should be aware of.

  • Keep yourself, your kids, and your pets off other campers’ sites. It is a huge no-no to cut through someone else’s campsite. Stay on paths, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Practice “Leave No Trace.” That means, wherever you go, leave nothing behind. Hiking, camping, trash in the fire pit, whatever. Leave it better than you found it.
  • If your fire is super smoky and you’re in a tight campground, put it out. No one likes having a bunch of smoke waft into their home.
  • A lot of new RVs come with all kinds of crazy lighting features – undercarriage light shows, LED designer lights on the front, high intensity patio lights, etc. These can be fun and helpful when you’re hanging out outside, but if you leave them on all night – especially in otherwise dark and natural environments where people might want to stargaze – your neighbors may not appreciate it.

    8:00 p.m.: “Wow! That guy’s rig is so cool!” 11:00 p.m.: “Wow. That guy’s a jerk.”
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been walking Thor in a campground when I suddenly hear: “Oh my god, Fluffy! Come back!! No, Fluffy! Fluffy!!” And here comes Fluffy in all her glory running full speed at Thor, yelling back at her owner, “Damn girl, he FINE!!!”

    None of this is good.

    Always keep your dog under control.

How to Look Competent

No one wants to be the subject of neighborhood gossip. And people will definitely talk about you if you give them the chance:

To make sure you look like a pro and leave your nosy neighbors nothing to yap about, keep these tips in mind:

  • Try to avoid arriving after hours. Campgrounds are oftentimes full of trees, rocks, ditches, improperly parked cars, and other assorted obstacles that can quickly wreck your day. These things are challenging enough at high noon. Don’t make your life harder by showing up after dark.

    The one and only time we ever set up in the dark – after a particularly awful travel day.
  • Many people adhere to some sort of distance rules. 2-2-2 is popular: “Never travel more than 200 miles, arrive later than 2:00 p.m., or stay for less than 2 nights.” Different people use different guidelines, but the point is most experienced RVers try to avoid taking on too much. This kind of travel is physically and mentally tiring and mistakes can be costly in more ways than one. There are no points for driving further or faster than the other guy.
  • Speaking of which, for the love of all that’s good and holy, please watch your speed. Our standard cruising speed is between 60 and 62MPH, and as we sit in the right lane coasting along on cruise control, we watch RV after RV go flying by us on the left. And every time they do, I think of this video:

    It doesn’t matter how fancy your rig is, it doesn’t matter how great of a driver you think you are, and it doesn’t matter if you are well aware of what you’re “supposed to do” in various situations. It can take less than a second for it to all go horribly wrong, and the faster you’re going when it does, the harder it’s going to be to maintain or regain control. So, slow your roll, people!

  • Speaking of tire safety, in addition to using a tire pressure monitoring system and periodically weighing your rig, you should also regularly assess your tires’ health and be ready and willing to replace them. We just recently replaced our front tires. All things being equal, they should have been fine for another year (RV tires are typically replaced based on age, not mileage), but we had some uneven wear on our front passenger side tire, the result of being out of alignment for a bit, and we just didn’t like the way it looked. So we replaced it, along with its counterpart. Did we want to plunk $1000 on the counter for a motorhome we’re planning to sell in a couple months? No. Did we want to risk killing ourselves over $1000? Also no.
  • For motorhomes, make sure all your tires are on the ground or firmly on pads/blocks. Do not allow your jacks to lift your tires off the surface. They are designed for stabilization only. Here’s a a motorhome parked on a significant downward slope being held up entirely by its hydraulic jacks:

    The front tires are completely off the ground.This is us in a similar situation:

    Weight evenly distributed on 4 sturdy points of contact up front, and a set of trucker’s chocks in front of the back wheels – so if it all goes to hell, we’re still not going anywhere.

    Which seems more sound?

  • When you arrive at your campsite, before pulling into your site, do a walk around. Look up. Make sure you’re not gonna hit anything – including with your air conditioners, slides, and awning.

    To be clear, just because I know what people should do, doesn’t mean I always do it myself. If I actually followed my own advice, my husband wouldn’t be standing on a ladder making sure we didn’t just damage our air conditioner when I failed to notice a low hanging branch at a recent parking spot. (Oh, relax. It was fine.)
  • Listen to me: Get a set of walkie talkies or call each-other on your phones when you’re trying to park in difficult campsites. Being in direct voice contact with one another – rather than trying to decipher hand signals in mirrors or hear one another over the din of a big truck engine from 40 feet away – will not only make parking easier, it will likely add years to your marriage.

  • When it comes to set up and break down, have a routine and stick with the routine. Assume nothing. We’ve failed to secure our refrigerator door and had it fly open when we made a turn, we’ve forgotten to turn off the house A/C which caused the Auto Gen Start to fire up mid-drive, and we’ve had to replace our water regulator 3 different times because we left ours attached to the water spigot at our campsite. Slow down, focus on what you’re doing, and follow your routine.
  • Always have a supply of fresh water in your water tank and at least a half tank of gas in your motorhome/truck. We’ve arrived at multiple campsites only to find the water or electric wasn’t working for one reason or another. Having plenty of water and gas onboard means we can get by on our tanks and generator for a couple days until utilities are restored.
  • On a related note, we were encouraged by our driving instructor to always drive on the top half of our tank, and that advice has served us well. We’ve pulled into gas stations and found the pumps weren’t working or the place had gone out of business. If you’re driving down I-95 when that happens, it’s no big deal. If it happens when you’re in eastern Oregon, you could be SOL. If you’re used to driving on the top half of your tank, neither situation will be cause for panic.
  • If you’re in a big set-up, especially if you can’t use diesel truck lanes, you can use Google Streetview to plan your fuel stops before you head out. At 55 feet long, and lacking the ability to back up when we’re towing our car, we don’t want to find ourselves in some charming small town gas station built in 1957. We want a big, soulless Shell Station located right next to the interstate where the pumps are lined up parallel with the building and there’s plenty of space to maneuver around. Thanks to the internet, when we plan our travel routes, we can easily avoid the places that won’t work and target the ones that will.

    Dreamy…
  • NEVER walk away from filling your water tank or rinsing your black tank. Ever. Seriously.
  • Youtube is your best friend. There’s a video for everything. From how to hook up utilities, to how to troubleshoot and repair specific mechanical problems, if it’s a question you’re asking, I guarantee someone else has asked and answered it on Youtube.

Tips for Free Camping

  • Everyone knows that, historically, Walmarts have allowed RVers to stay overnight for free. Sadly, a lot of stores and towns no longer allow it. Our favorite app for figuring out whether free camping is still allowed (at Walmarts and other commercial establishments) is RV Parky. Not only will the entry clearly indicate whether overnight parking is permitted, but I’ve found the user reviews for various places tend to be pretty honest and accurate.

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  • Even if it’s clearly permitted, you should still walk into the store when you arrive and ask permission at the customer service desk.
  • Some people will tell you you shouldn’t put your jacks down and slides out, but every time we’ve free camped, we’ve asked if it was OK, and every time we’ve asked, they’ve said yes. Just make sure you ask.

  • Don’t put your awning out or set up camp chairs or do anything else that draws attention to yourself. Park away from the store – on the perimeter if possible – stay out of the way, and make a purchase to thank them for their hospitality.
  • Walmarts aren’t your only option. Our personal favorite is Cabela’s, but there are many other stores that offer free overnight parking. We’ve also had good luck at several casinos which, oftentimes, have the added benefit of 24-hour security driving around.

    We’ve always had good experiences overnighting at casinos.

Destination Planning

  • One piece of advice just about every experienced RVer gives to just about every new RVer – and which just about every new RVer totally ignores until they learn it the hard way – is to not try to do too much or to over-plan.

    While it’s true that RV travel means you don’t have to waste time packing and unpacking while living out of hotels, and you don’t have to go out to restaurants 3 times a day, it also means you’re always going to have a laundry basket full of dirty clothes and a sink full of dirty dishes. RV travel comes with its own unique set of time consuming tasks and even completing your regular tasks can take longer when you’re on the road. Add in several days of bad weather, a 12 mile traffic backup on the interstate, and a crappy night’s sleep because your RV “resort” failed to mention the train tracks located 12 feet behind your campsite, and you’ll be wishing you went on a Carnival Cruise instead.

    If you leave some flexibility and downtime in your schedule, you’ll be much happier.

    Even the biggest party animals need a nap sometimes.
  • If you intend to spend more than a week visiting any given national park, consider buying an annual pass. For $80 per year, you get access to all national parks, monuments, and historic sights (Typical entry to any given park will be about $35 for the week.) Plus, you’re helping to support NPS and the awesome work they do.
  • Speaking of NPS, try to hit the visitor center at any park you visit, and look for Ranger led programs to take part in. We’ve done a number of guided tours, hikes, and talks and they’ve all been worthwhile.

Do Your Own Thing

  • As with all things, just because someone else likes something, doesn’t mean you will. When we first started out, I thought we’d be installing solar panels, lithium batteries, and cell boosters – all the things you need for boondocking – because that’s what all the blogs I’d been reading talked about. About a year in, we finally made our way out west and spent a couple days dry camping by ourselves on BLM land in eastern California:

    It was there that we had the following conversation:

    Kevin: Now what do we do?

    Laura: [Shrugs]

    Kevin: This kinda sucks.

    Laura: This does kinda suck. Wanna go to Vegas instead?

    Kevin: Definitely.

    And thus ended our explorations of desert boondocking. Fortunately, we realized it was not our gig before we dropped thousands of dollars on solar equipment.

    The point is, you have to figure out what works for you, and just because someone else likes something, doesn’t mean you will. So, our advice is to wait on any big upgrades, campground memberships, or travel commitments until you get a feel for your own travel style.

  • Speaking of other blogs, there’s a ton of RV related content these days making it more important than ever to view things with a critical eye. I know, I know… you watched this youtube video where they swear you can just jump in your home on wheels and find some amazing place to stay every night and not even have to pay for the privilege. You also probably watched a TV commercial where Jennifer Aniston used Aveeno lotion and you thought, “if I use Aveeno lotion, I will look like Jennifer Aniston.” And you know how that turned out.
    Not you.
    You.

    Look, social media influencers don’t make money by telling you their lives are a pain in the ass. And it’s not that their lives are always a pain in the ass, but it makes for much better content when they’re talking about panoramic vistas and idyllic family adventures rather than the time they had a massive hissyfit because they were just so. sick. of. this. shit. I promise – every long-term RVer out there has had that meltdown at least once. Some of us have it regularly!!

No Mas

OK, I’m pushing 4,000 words and I’m tired of hearing myself type. I’m sure I’m missing tons of great tips. If you’ve got any, feel free to drop them in the comments. And if you vehemently disagree with anything I’ve said here, keep it to yourself. Just kidding – share away.

Next Up… Answering the question we get the most.

Previous article2022: The End of the Road
Next articleSix Month Roundup

39 COMMENTS

  1. I always love how well researched and informative your posts are. This definitely give a lot of helpful info. Too bad we will never need any of it 😂😂😂. So impressed with all you did and learned!!

    • You SURE you’re never gonna need it??? Like really, truly, completely sure???

      I know, I know… the answer is an unequivocal “Yes… and never ask me again.” LOL.

  2. Always great research and well thought out tips. We never had RV 101 but learned what works for us along the way. That was kinda a fun way to add to the experience.
    We’re travelers, more than RVers and find reservations are a must as our timeline is often not very flexible

    • Thanks, Jeff. I’ve always been a planner, so reservations just reduced my stress levels, but at this point, I think they’re gonna be necessary for just about everyone, whether they like it or not. Certainly for more popular places or longer stays, anyway. The supply of campgrounds is just gonna need to catch up to all this new demand. it’ll get there eventually, but for right now, RV parks are busy, busy, busy.

    • Thanks, Maxx! I started writing it over a year ago when some old friends of ours bought an RV and were looking for advice on various issues. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how, when we started, we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. It’s such a whole world unto itself. Anyway, I hope this article is helpful to others who now find themselves in the same situation we were in.

  3. I love your posts and will miss them….I always hoped to meet up on the road one day and have an old fashion together 🤷‍♂️😃. Thanks for all the smiles and witty insights you’ve shared through the years!!! Congrats on your move and good luck in your next adventure.

    • Thanks, Lou. It sure would have been nice to cross paths at some point and I’m sorry it never happened. Of course, one never knows what the future will hold. Maybe we’ll be sitting on top of our van playing a ukulele by the beach one day. You just never know. 🙂

  4. One thing you didn’t cover was be prepared and have a plan for mechanical issues. (something we know an awful lot about lately). The furnace/fridge/ac in your S&B craps out at the most inconvenient time and so will the one in your rig. Even if it just rolled off the assembly line, it CAN happen to you! If you lack the skill or equipment to do the repair, be prepared to spend the money. Not only for the repair but for temporary housing as well.
    Our number rule is 6-4-2. It has nothing to do with driving and everything to do with entertaining. 6 for drinks, 4 for dinner and 2 for bed.
    Finding what works for YOU is your best advice of all. We left FL on 2/12 and arrived in Quatzsite, AZ on 12/17, you would have hated the trip, but it works for us.
    Wishing you the very best in Chapter 4!!

    • All good points, Laura. I totally forgot about the necessity of an “Everything Is Broken Fund.” Everything in these RVs is “mission critical,” so to speak. You’re not going anywhere if your slides won’t come in or your jacks fail or your engine blows a gasket and life is gonna be real tough if the A/C dies. We’ve been fortunate with this motorhome so far, but so many other people get caught spending thousands of dollars on all kinds of issues, and with the RV craze, it can take weeks or months to get help at some of these dealerships. All good things to consider.

      As for 6-4-2, that is Right On. We have successfully never let anyone stay over, even though we have a pull-out sofa. We love our friends and family, but no. Not happening. 🙂

  5. OK, Laura, this post is FANTASTIC!

    As you know, we have been traveling full-time since July 2016 so we are not newbies, but we got so much out of this blog post. WOW!

    I really appreciate hearing about CampNab, Wind. Alert, and Offline Google Maps. We didn’t know about these.

    Loved the “Be a Good Neighbor” section! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

    Great advice on tires. So many folks don’t think about that their tires are the one thing between them and the road.

    Your advice about walkie-talkies is spot on. We have been using them since day one. Instead of yelling at each other or trying to figure out what someone is trying to tell the other, we talk quietly and calmly when backing into a campsite. The walkie talkies also come in handy when one of us is taking a walk in a place with no cell service.

    You mentioned having a routine. Great advice. We have pulled out of almost 400 campsites and still, every time, we reference our “Departure Check List” https://livinginbeauty.net/departure-check-list/ EVERYTIME.

    Thank you for your honesty about life living full-time on the road. Yep, every day is not all Disney wonderland. Some days are better than others. Like the last three days at a wonderful location right on the beach… but the wind is gusting to 35 mph and the windchill factor has daytime temps in the low 40s. So much for a wonderful week at the beach, hanging outside.

    We are SO going to miss your blog posts with updates on where you have been camping. You are such a wonderful writer and your words are not only humorous, but express vivid storytelling.

    Stay safe out there!

    Jim

    • Hey Jim!

      You guys have been our mirror since the beginning, starting just one month before we did. I’ve so enjoyed following you guys and learning about all the fascinating places, unique events, and great food and brews you’ve discovered along the way. I think we tend to have similar tastes in a lot of things, so I’m bummed we still haven’t met up. Regardless of what comes next for us, I’ll still be following your travels.

      I hope you get some use out of those apps and programs. I will say WindAlert is not particularly intuitive, so it’s worth playing around a bit to figure out how it works before you need it. And thank you for your departure checklist. It’s helpful for people to look at lists like that, even when you have a different type of RV, to see what kinds of things you need to think about.

      Stay well and safe travels!!

  6. That photo of Kevin under your motorhome compared with the idyllic van life shot, LOL LOL LOL!!! Also, your boondocking conversation, 😂😂!! You know we feel the same way.

    Even though we traveled for almost eight years full-time, I picked up some great tips from this post, especially about Offline Google Maps. I have a bad habit of relying on Waze for directions, which obviously does not work when we lose cell coverage. And then we end up heading up a one-way mountain road while pulling the trailer and not knowing if the campground is ahead of us or if we need to turn around. It makes for good stories, but we don’t need many of those! By the way, that mystery campsite with the wicked oak branch looked like a sub-par campground. 🙂

    • Let me tell you about that campground…Luckily, we paid them back in dog drool on their brand new glass doors and a lifetime of psychotherapy needs for their poor cat. I think it all evened out in the end. 🙂

      The offline Google Maps have been a game changer. Heck, when our car battery died in Yosemite, we had to figure out where there was an auto shop to replace it. Fortunately, I had the downloaded map on hand and we could see an Auto Zone in the town at the southern edge of the park. Absent that info, we would have had to drive back the way we’d come (which was north) – just to get cell service – and then turn around and drive south to the Auto Zone. It would have been a huge waste of time. It has saved us like that many, many times…and undoubtedly would have saved you from your “those of us who wander and are totally freaken lost” adventure last Fall. 🙂

  7. This is a great round up of useful and important advice and I know it will be a huge help to other RVers, especially newbies. The part that resonated most with us was the advice to Do Your Own Thing. We also expected to do a lot of boondocking before we hit the road, and while we did stay at some outstanding boondock spots we quickly determined that we prefer the order and predictability of campgrounds, even if they are only national forest campgrounds with no services. There are many ways to enjoy RVing, and the key to avoiding expensive mistakes in the form of pointless purchases is to be self-aware about what living arrangements and activities are going to suit you best.

    • It’s funny how many of us thought we would be boondocking all the time and then realized it wasn’t for us. I bet we were all reading the same blogs. 🙂 I think it’s probably great if you’re out there with a bunch of friends, or if you’re working all day and just want peace and quiet, but it just never made sense for us. Nor did some of the campground memberships a lot of folks swore by, or an upgrade to a diesel motorhome that many people told us we should make. It’s just one more reason to take your time and do your research and, to your point, be honest with yourself.

    • Haha. Is it OK if it’s just pictures of the dog? Maybe a coffee table book? Like Madonna’s book? But just pictures of Thor? I think that could be a winning idea. 🙂

      Seriously, thank you. It is always nice to get comments, but really nice to get ones like this. I appreciate it very much.

  8. Thanks for summing it all up so that when it comes time, I can just link to your blog (again!) There is little I can differ with here. I would add to the offline map idea two things. One, verbally go over the route you’ll be taking with your partner well before you set out so that you’re both on the same page and there is no last-minute in-motion “discussions.” Two, know how to read and use a paper map. Take one with you, even, especially when you’re on foot. That also reminds me that local radio and/or TV is an invaluable tool for local happenings, especially weather. As good as all the online weather apps are, when we were in tornado territory, nothing but nothing compared to local news reports. Otherwise, I think you should’ve asked permission before you used that pic of me and TBG gazing out the back of our rig 😀

    • Definitely a good point about local TV. I’m online all the time but basically never turn a TV on, so it didn’t occur to me to think about local news, but you’re right. That’s a great tip. And so is the point about paper maps. We’ll usually take a pic of the trail map at the trailhead, assuming there is one there, but sometimes there’s not, and people should have something that’s not on their phone anyway.

      As for the photo, I was wondering how often you get stabbed in the back by your surfboard in the middle of the night? I mean, it just doesn’t seem very stable, but maybe you could explain how that all works???

  9. Great post! Thanks for some new info…I had never heard of the CampNab or thought about offline Google Maps. Although we travel a bit differently than you, I totally agree about many things: don’t drive too far/long, don’t arrive after dark, take it easy and don’t try to do every single thing there is to do in a location, do the checklist, be prepared! Best of luck on your next adventure!

    • Tami – I hope those campground bots help you out a bit. I know you enjoy the state/federal/county campgrounds just like we do, and we’ve had really good luck with the cancellations. As for the offline google maps, they are really helpful in the out of the way spots and national parks we all love to explore. Hell, we’ve never carried paper road maps with us – always relying on GPS and Google. Pretty crazy. Anyway, I am really hoping we WON’T be seeing you soon. Yep… stilllllll here…

      Safe travels!!

  10. This. So much THIS. Now I don’t have to write an article on what I’ve learned, I’m just going to give people your website! As a matter of fact, I just did that today, to a guy who is in his second week of fulltiming in a tiny [email protected] I found myself reading and nodding, saying “yes, yes, yest” and occasionally fist-pumping (OK, that was reserved for the “don’t leave your freaking lights on overnight, people” one, which is one of my total pet peeves).

    I think the only other thing I’d mention is have at least 2 cell providers. Odds are at least one of them will work enough to get signal/work/surf the web. Honestly, if anything drives me back to a sticks and bricks, I swear it will be the endless chase for good signal. It’s so freaking unpredictable.

      • Thanks, Annie! I’m so glad you liked this and I really appreciate you sharing it with your audience. That is really, really cool!

        It’s funny – I see many of these complaints (lights on all night, smoky fires, kids running through campsites) regularly mentioned in various online forums, so they are clearly pet peeves of a lot of people, and yet, the bad behaviors persist. In the meantime, I’ve spoken to numerous RVers who told me in no uncertain terms that you’re not allowed to put your slides out at Walmarts. And yet, when we actually ask the employees at Walmart, they do not care one bit. It’s like people are getting all the wrong messages. I don’t know why that is, but it’s certainly frustrating.

        Anyway, I’m 100% onboard with your suggestion on cell phone plans. We have several friends who were working remote jobs and gave up fulltiming because the connectivity issue was too much to handle. I’m hoping that the Starlink satellite project might be a solution for a lot of people, but I’m not sure when all of that is going to be fully available. In the meantime, having multiple cell phone plans is an unfortunate necessity if you rely on the web for normal life stuff.

        Safe travels and thanks again for sharing!

  11. All great advice! We have run across and even done several of your “don’ts”. Bad neighbors at campgrounds can be the worst! We will often stop right before entering a campground and eat. Nothing worse than showing up and trying to set up hangry! On one of our very first trips we followed our GPS directions which took us down a dead end gravel two track and we were screwed. Barb cried. Then another time we pulled into a site which was too tight and had a low hanging limb and Barb cried. Barb has not cried for quite a while now, I don’t know if we got any better or she just doesn’t care anymore!

    • LOL. Don’t worry. We’ve done several of my “don’ts” too. It’s how we’ve learned things the hard way! I do like your tip about not setting up while hangry. That is very important. Actually, not doing any of these things while grumpy is key. And the crying? Yeah… we had one trip that was just so, so bad, I basically had to decide between laughing and crying. I went for laughing (followed by drinking), but it was a very close call. 🙂

  12. Great post. We have been RV’ing for over twenty years and of all the blogs out there Chapter3Travels has always been my favorite. Informative and so truthfully witty and entertaining. Love the stories about the “influencers” it was spot on and especially the boondocking story and checking it out before spend thousands on solar and stuff. We tried it and agree that after one day of staring at dirt and taking a few photos the desert is pretty boring. We like to hike and sightsee and would rather stroll through a small town than sit in the desert. Good luck in your future endeavors. Cheers

    • Thank you so much, Bill. I really appreciate it!

      My take on boondocking at this point is that it’s probably fun when a group of folks are all hanging out together, and it’s probably great if you’re working remotely and just want to have peace and quiet during your work day and a little slice of nature at night, but otherwise? It’s just not that appealing. I’m with you. I’d much rather go wander through a bit of civilization and see the sights than hang out by ourselves in the middle of nowhere.

      Thanks again and happy travels!

  13. Another campground etiquette guideline I would add is that you should not strike up a conversation and try to get to know another camper when they are either setting up their rig or striking camp. Once we had someone try to “chat” with my husband as he was setting things up and the guy got miffed when he only got a few one-word answers from my husband. Another, more serious, issue arose when someone was chatting away to my husband as he was hooking up the 5th wheel, and being distracted he didn’t lock it down properly. Pulled forward and the front end of the 5th wheel fell down onto the back of the truck! Luckily only cosmetic damage to both, but yuck!
    Best wishes on your next cycle of life!

    • YES! 100% agree. We have had this issue a couple times. People just want to be friendly and chat, and don’t take into consideration that you need to be focused on what you’re doing. We’ve also had a couple people (sometimes staff at campgrounds) insist on “helping” us park in our campsites. We just ignore them (as politely as possible). It’s shocking how clueless people can be at times. Anyway, I’m glad you guys didn’t suffer too much damage, but yeah, very stressful and unnecessary.

  14. Thanks for this great post, Laura!
    If have a few observations to add:
    1) The “Yes” Kevin is sooooo much sexier than the “Not You” Kevin.
    2) Most RV parks are set up for my parent’s generation with few recreational opporunities inside or near the campground. For active seniors from the Kennedy generation, the average campground lacks sufficient recreational opportunities.
    2) So, my RV camping gold-standard is the same as my tent-camping gold-standard: wilderness dry-camping or a good state or national park with minimal hook-ups and a recreational body of water (for kayaking and swimming) and/or bike trails. Parks with full-hook ups near recreational water and bike trails are few and far between – and if you can find them they are difficult to get into and have a chaotic atmosphere.
    3) But now that I’m an official senior on Medicare we signed up with 24-hour Fitness for Silver Sneakers. That makes urban and suburban camping somewhat more appealing because I can use the pool for free rather than pay $3-30 per swim at local, community and private pools. So, only recently, things are looking up for discovering a whole range of campgrounds we have dismissed during our first six years.

    I will recommend this and many other Chapter 3 Travels posts for years to come.

    Thanks so much!

    xoxo

    • Hey Carmen! Lots of good points here, especially when it comes to what is and is not available in and near most campgrounds. It’s funny because we find ourselves paying more and more for these commercial campgrounds and yet, we want so little of what they offer. We don’t care about swing-sets and horseshoe pits and game rooms. All we want is a decent site and a little bit of privacy. The KOA model is the complete opposite of what we want, and yet, KOA is buying up everything. It’s frustrating.

      Nice deal on the 24 Hour Fitness plan! I’ve seen RVers use those for their regular facilities, but didn’t know they offered a deal for seniors. That could definitely come in handy for folks looking for regular exercise routines while on the road, especially given how many of them there are across the country.

      Continued happy travels to you!!

  15. I always laugh so hard when I read your posts — clearly we have a similar sense of humor ( my personal favorite was the one featuring the “woo-hoo girls “). And thanks for the helpful tips, too!

    • Haha – “The Woo Girls of Nashville!” They are the best (and worst…) Glad you get a laugh out of this stuff too. GMTA!! 🙂

  16. Another great article with helpful tips for fulltimers – beginners or intermediaries, Laura!

    We thought offline maps were the way to go as well. Yet, we recently discovered, in Baja, that they don’t work, offline! When you come to rely on that kind of thing, you’re in a bit of trouble when offline in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, there’s only one main road in Baja, and when you start a route with a destination selected, it still does its job, somewhat. Of course, in Baja, Google does not know or see all the roads. It’s an adventure! We use Google Earth (satellite images) often to figure out where to go.

    A lot of casinos are now charging. More and more Walmarts have “no overnight parking” signs, yet, if you ask inside they might allow you to stay for one night.

    Too bad you don’t like boondocking. We love it and do so 99% of the time in the US. Well, we boondock 100% of the time but pay for that privilege 1% of the time. 🙂

    What stands out most to me after reading your overview is how stressful it is to travel around in a big RV. Of course, we all have our ups and downs and I’m the first one to admit our lifestyle is challenging, but, compared to you two, we don’t plan anything. We wing it a lot and the only app we every use is iOverlander. And sometimes All Trails for hikes. We often don’t decide where to camp until the same afternoon.

    For us, needing to reserve ahead of time and planning routes and campgrounds would be too time consuming and stressful. Like you mentioned: certain approaches, RVs, and travel styles are for some and not others. We all have our preferences and ways. I sometimes wonder how we did all this in the early 2000s without apps and GPS… 🙂

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