Home Travel Tips Experts Share Mistakes to Avoid and Other RV Tips for Beginners

Experts Share Mistakes to Avoid and Other RV Tips for Beginners

by Jan Schroder
couple with luxury rv rental

So you’re thinking about renting an RV? It’s not quite as easy as grabbing the keys and hitting the open road. To help newbies enjoy the ride, we turned to the experts for their RV tips for beginners.

Jennifer Young is CMO and co-founder with Jeff Cavins of Outdoorsy. In 2014 they quit their corporate jobs, sold their homes and most of their belongings and founded Outdoorsy as a way to connect people with outdoor travel. Think of it like Airbnb but with campers and RVs.

To do their research, and to have a place to live, they bought an Airstream Eddie Bauer Edition 27″ Trailer and a GMC Denali truck and traveled across the country for eight months. They talked with fellow travelers at campsites to learn about more about RV enthusiasts and what they call the freedom-on-four-wheels community.

Jen Young and Jeff Cavins in story on RV tips for beginners
Jen Young and Jeff Cavins of Outdoorsy.

It took them a while to get the company going and they were turned down by dozens of investors. Business is booming now, however. Outdoorsy reported $1 billion in transactions in the first quarter of 2021.

Jen shared the mistakes first-time RVers should avoid, her top RV tips for beginners and the biggest hurdle they face.

Zander Buteux is Head of Organic Growth at VacationRenter, a search engine site that helps renters find their perfect vacation rental, then redirects them to its partners that include Booking.com, RVShare, VRBO and Outdoorsy. “We have the largest inventory of RVs through our partnerships with Outdoorsy and RVShare,” Zander said.

He has also spent the last six years traveling in an RV. He has a list of five things to consider when renting an RV and why he loves it so much.

Related story: RV There Yet? Two Couples Share Their First-Time Experiences with Luxury RV Rentals

Jen Young –  5 Mistakes to Avoid and Other RV Tips for Beginners

Jen shared five mistakes to avoid when renting an RV for the first time.

Relying solely on navigation apps.
A lot of people rely heavily on phone map apps to navigate through their road trips – and those are great resources, but Google Maps won’t do you much good without cell service. If you’re going to be traveling somewhere remote, you should download some maps or instructions ahead of time in case you don’t have cell service when you get there. 

Inviting wildlife inside your RV or camper.
One other piece of advice that we hear from our campground partners all the time – food left outside your RV on the picnic table or in an open cooler, day or night, is an open invitation to native wildlife. Even bagged trash left outside the RV can attract critters. So make sure to keep food inside your RV or dispose of it in the right spots (i.e. don’t dump it in the fire ring).

Jeff Cavins cooking dinner at campsite with Jen Young.
Jen and Jeff enjoying an evening at a campsite. (Photo courtesy of Outdoorsy)

Forgetting to monitor the weather before and during your trip.
Early in the trip planning process, check online for temperature and precipitation averages in your destination so you know how many layers of clothing to pack. Monitor weather conditions more frequently a few weeks prior to your trip for seasonal fluctuations. 

Not familiarizing yourself enough with the RV prior to your trip.
Pay attention and ask questions during your RV rental orientation and consider videotaping your tour for easy reference. Also consider taking your first road trip close to home to familiarize yourself with an RV before you travel to more remote locations.

The greatest hurdle for first-time RVers is the mental hurdle of driving one, so a test drive makes a world of difference for a first-timer’s confidence level. [Note: If you want to vacation in an RV but not drive one, there is a solution. “Sixty percent of Outdoorsy owners offer delivery for those who want to get outdoors on a trip, but don’t want to actually drive an RV. Owners will deliver the RV to your campsite and get everything set up for your arrival.”]

Not retracting the awning before you drive away.
Not retracting the awning before driving away is a big one we see happen more than we’d like with first-time renters.

Jen also shared some of her top RV tips for newbies.

Research where you’re wanting to go before you go
Check the availability of campsites before planning your trip. Daily updates can be found on Outdoorsy’s blog and, as always, we recommend following local guidelines and giving your local state park office a call for the most up-to-date information before planning a visit.

 Outdoorsy also has road trip guides and a library of national and state park guides.

Know your vehicle’s dimensions. 
Most campgrounds will ask for the vehicle length before you book and it’s always best to make sure you have ample space to spread out a bit. It’s also good to know your vehicle’s height so you don’t have any run-ins with low overpasses along the way.

Jen Young and Jeff Cavins in their RV.
Jen and Jeff inside their RV.

Map out the roads you will be taking ahead of time. 
Make sure the route you are taking doesn’t have any low-clearance bridges (this is a big issue when driving through places like downtown Boston) or tunnels that may require extra guidance (for instance, RVs of a certain width and height will need to pay $15 for a tunnel permitat Zion National Park). I highly recommend double checking the roads you’re planning to take ahead of time using the All Stays app.

Plan where you want to camp at a distance. 
Pro tip: RV owners may have the best camping suggestions for their particular area. Otherwise, we recommend using websites like Harvest Hosts and Campendium to find camping locations. Regardless of where you stay, you can control your environment, and you’ll likely always be a minimum of six feet away from other.

Think of a campsite as another person’s home and leave it better than you found it

Related story: Camping for Beginners: What You Need to Know to Go Camping and Love it

Zander Buteux: 5 Elements to Consider When Renting an RV

Zander Buteux with his camper
Zander Buteux with his camper.

Zander Buteux loves traveling by RV. “I currently migrate between The Rockies, the Northwest, and California in Layla, my 72 square-foot camper (a 1985 Toyota pickup with Sunrader),” he said. “I’ve found the best part of traveling by RV is how flexible travel plans can be. When renting an RV, you have the capacity to change your plans as needed and wanted.

“Want to spend an extra night in a particular location or change up your destination altogether? Well in an RV, you have more capacity to do so without being limited by reservations or itineraries. And many other RV renters agree. VacationRenter’s 2020 RV survey showed that the biggest advantage of RV travel is that you can skip the hotel and enjoy a simpler traveling experience on the open road.”

Zach shared his top five considerations when renting an RV.  

Consider the size of the RV and where you are taking it.
The size of your RV is an incredibly important consideration, especially for the driver(s). Different sizes and classes of RVs handle differently, and the larger the vehicle, the trickier things can get behind the wheel.

Driving, as well as parking, can be difficult to maneuver for first-time RV renters, so see if you can test drive the vehicle before you take it out on the road. Also, keep in mind where you will be traveling and its impact on your RV. Will you have the room to maneuver your vehicle when parking it for the night or filling up on gas? 

RVs come in all shapes and sizes, with a variety of features to accommodate whatever your travel plans may be, but start by looking at the driving size and build your dream RV rental from there.  

The road size and terrain the RV will be traversing.
In 2020 the top destinations for those who traveled by RV included national parks, mountains and beaches. Those same destinations were the top candidates for those who were considering RV travel in 2021, so depending on your destination, you may be traversing some tricky landscapes that can make handling your vehicle more difficult.

If you plan to pursue paths away from paved roads, be sure to know the RVs off-roading capabilities. And even while on designated roadways, consider low clearances, steep hills, sharp turns and narrow roads that you may come across while traveling.  

group in front of RVs
RVing is a great way for a family or large group to travel together. Tip: just because an RV says it can sleep eight doesn’t mean it can sleep eight comfortably. Make sure you have enough space for everyone. (Photo courtesy of Outdoorsy)

The living size inside the RV and the number of people on your trip.
RV rental interiors, even luxury RVs, can create a condensed and cramped living environment. Your entire group needs to be prepared for restricted living conditions. Keep in mind not only the number of people on the trip but the length of the trip and how that will impact the amount of space you need.

First-time RV travelers might be wowed by a luxury, Class A camper that can accommodate a large group – but just because an RV says it sleeps eight people, doesn’t mean that all eight people will sleep comfortably.  

Where you will be eating.
Most RVs will have some sort of kitchen setup, and luxury RVs are built to serve more culinary needs. Still, your RV will limit what you can prepare, cook and store. And if you plan to eat outside the RV, you’ll need to consider bringing the tools and equipment necessary to enjoy an outdoor meal, such as lawn furniture, a grill, and firewood.

The legality of driving your intended RV.
Most RVs can be driven with your standard operating license, but that isn’t always the case. Class B and Class C RVs, weighing under 26,000 pounds, are good options for first-time RV travelers – it’s when you start exploring larger Class A vehicles that you’ll need to be mindful of who is driving.

Class A motorhomes are typically used for luxury travel or large groups, providing high-end accommodations that make you feel as if you are still at home, even while out on the road. But Class A vehicles can sometimes require a CDL license, so keep this in mind when looking at RVs that are intended for the luxurious RV lifestyle.  

We hope you’ve enjoyed these RV tips for beginners. Now it’s time to hit the road!

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