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10 Safety Tips for Planning an RV Trip

What You Don't Want to Find Out After the Fact

By

Updated February 19, 2011

RVing is becoming one of the most popular ways to travel. But a successful and safe RV trip takes preparation and planning to make it a good experience. Whether you are new to RVing or not, these tips can help ensure that your trip will be problem-free.

1. Learn How to Drive the RV You Plan to Use

If you are vacationing in an RV for the first time, practice driving first. If you don’t own your RV, then rent one for a day. Try several types of RV to see how they compare.

Driving a motor home, or pulling an RV, has more in common with driving a commercial big-rig truck than you might realize. Keeping the RV between the lines, accelerating, braking, using only mirrors to see what’s behind you, watching tires in motion, and passing vehicles just top the list of maneuvers that handle very differently from a car, SUV or pickup. And DO get plenty of practice backing your RV up so that you can back into a campsite.

2. RV Insurance and Road Service

Make sure your insurance covers every aspect of your RV trip. Be sure to research road services that specialize in RVs. Only a few road service companies will tow the trailer, too. You don’t want to leave all of your possessions in a trailer on the side of the road.

  • Does your auto insurance cover your trailer? 
  • Does your motor home policy cover your towed vehicle?
  • Do you need separate RV insurance or road service coverage?
  • Will your insurance cover towing your motor home, your truck AND trailer, or will they leave your trailer behind?
  • How far will they tow you?

A 25-mile tow in New England will probably get you to a safe place, but a 25-mile tow in a Western state would just get you a change of scenery.

3. Reservations

Confirm your reservations when you are within a couple hours of your stop. You may be stuck if you arrive after the office closes unless your campground has 24-hour check in.

Keep a list of nearby campgrounds. It’s maddening when reservations get lost. But if the campground is full when you arrive, or if you can’t get there due to weather or bad road conditions, you’ll be glad you have a list of alternative RV parks on hand.

Call as soon as possible if you are not going to make it to your reservation. Not only is it courteous, but you might prevent a night’s camping from being charged to your card.

4. Check Road Conditions, Construction and Closures

Truckers have a saying: “There are only two seasons, winter and construction.” If you’re traveling in an RV, plan on running into construction.

Save time and frustration by checking one of several websites that report road conditions, closures and construction. The US DOT Federal Highway Administration website shows a map of the states. Click on the state you will be traveling in and choose a link that shows current road conditions.

5. Weather

There is little we can do about weather but adapt. Knowing the weather forecast can help avoid problems. Rain, snow, ice, hail, wind–any of these can ruin your trip. Below are just a few weather sites that give weather for all states.

For the most up-to-date weather, stop at a truck stop. Find the truckers’ lounge and ask truckers who are coming from where you are going about the weather. Truckers love helping people and they will tell you all they know. In the lounge TVs are usually set to weather channels. If the weather’s bad, there will be plenty of open discussion about it.

6. Checklists

Seasoned RVers use checklists to inspect their RV, hitch, and tow vehicle from top to bottom, inside and out. If you don’t have a checklist, a quick Internet search on “rv checklist” brings up several links to some very thorough ones. Print out one that matches your type of RV–whether Class A, B or C motor home, 5th wheel, trailer or pop-up–then adapt it to your make and model, including the type of hitch you use.

Though the long checklist ranges from tires to tanks, awnings to propane tanks, most things take only a few seconds to inspect.

7. Electrical Load

It’s easy to port our electronics and appliances into our RVs and just plug them in. But unlike our homes, RVs are not wired to run them all at once. Most RVs are wired for 30 or 50 amps.

Our RV’s is 30 amps. We labeled our appliances with the number of amps they draw. Our toaster is 14 amps and egg cooker is 5 amps, so we can't run the 15 amp air conditioner when making breakfast.

The formula to convert watts to amps is:  Watts ÷ Volts = Amps

8. Weight

Weight distribution is critical while driving these large vehicles. You must decide how much water and fuel you can carry, and stay under the legal weight limits for your specific RV. You weigh your RV at one of the commercial truck stops, weigh stations or DOT checkpoints,or even at the local grain co-op.

If you are dry-camping, fill your fresh water tank close to your destination. It’s safer to drive without water sloshing in your tanks.

9. Wildlife

Everyone loves seeing wildlife, but the keyword here is “wild.” Animals living in their natural habitat see humans not as admirers, but as intruders, prey, or food source. A bear will tear through a cabin door for food, so don’t leave leftovers or trash lying around.

Wasps, snakes and scorpions are just a few of the wild things that can ruin your vacation and cause serious injury or death. Pay attention to park rules and warnings. If you’ve never dealt with the fire ants common to the south, or believe rattlesnakes live only in the desert, spend some time researching the fauna.

10. Wi-Fi and Mobile Internet

Cell phone Internet access is useful. If you have a laptop computer, take advantage of the free WiFi at rest stops and truck stops. Most cities have at least one Wi-Fi hotspot, often at the Chamber of Commerce. We use a computer Internet USB, and plan to upgrade to 4G Mi-Fi. Any mobile Internet access can be an invaluable help when you're traveling.

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