With a week of RV camping behind me, I realize there’s still loads I don’t know about traveling by RV. I had wrongly assumed that because I have been a seasoned camper for many years, I would take to RV life as though it was a natural next step. Not so! It turns out there’s lots to know about camping in the big rigs, practical information that this inherently practical traveler had no idea about. And just so you don’t think I’m beating myself up, my travel companions made some of the same false assumptions too. Our mistakes, your lessons. Here’s what we’ll do next time we find ourselves traveling in a home on wheels:
Get the right rig for the route. At 32 feet, the Winnebago we drove was just too much RV for our destination — the southern Gulf Islands of BC. The narrow roads and tiny villages were difficult to navigate — and if we wanted to stop, it was a challenge to park. Had we been on an open road expedition, the rig would have been great, but in our location, it was a bit of a bull in a china shop.
Have an escape pod. This could be just about any secondary means of transit, a bike, the bus, hitchhiking… but if you’ve got a big rig, you don’t want to use it for buzzing into town from the campsite. Choosing campgrounds that are easy walking distance from a bus stop, shopping, town, etc. is a good idea.
Make reservations: It’s a rare thing for a tent camper to be turned away from a campground — the national parks during high season might be the one exception. But the RV camper? That’s a different story. Your RV neighbors may have booked months in advance and they could be parked for a good long while. Save yourself time, fuel, and difficult turn arounds by calling ahead.
Stock up before camp. We blew by supermarkets with vast parking lots only to end up walking to disappointing minimarts later because we didn’t want to unplug everything just so we could get spaghetti. Parked and docked, we were like suburban teenagers without a car, on the prowl for beer on Friday night. We were resourceful enough in the kitchen to cobble dinner together out of what we had, but we’d have done better with more frequent stops to shop.
Make a budget. Is it possible that our rig got 2 miles to the gallon? Yes, it is! Wow, that’s some expense right there! Throw in 40 dollars a night for camping, the daily rental fee for the RV… I’d assumed that all those retirees were living large on minimal dollars but now that I’ve seen the costs involved, I realize that they’ve either hit it big or are living the dream of carrying around an awful lot of debt. RV travel is just not the same low cost option that tent camping is and as such, requires a different set of expectations when it comes to expenses.
Get the extra insurance. Okay, we did this and it was completely worth it. But consider — does your credit card insurance cover RVs? How about your own personal insurance? Don’t know? Me neither. Normally, I’m okay declining the additional coverage — I have full insurance and a credit card that covers rental cars. But an RV is a special case. You might check in with your insurance company before your trip and find out what’s covered or how much it costs to add coverage for the duration of your trip.