7 Big RV Travel Mistakes

by | Nov 19, 2022

In this blog, I’m going to share the 7 big RV travel mistakes. I imagine that most of us who have traveled in an RV for any length of time may have a similar list. Our list of 7 is a mixture of challenges we’ve faced in our travels along with those we’ve witnessed from others who were new to the RV life style. I hope you find this list helpful. It is in no order of importance, but suggest this is something for those seasoned RV travelers to consider and for the new to RV owner to adopt so they don’t have to relive these mistakes we and others have made.

1. No RV Check List

RV Checklist This is one of those simple items that I wish I could preach from the roof top. Joan and I always run through our check list before we depart from home or a campground. We’ve all experience the distractions that occur as we prepare to leave a campground. That mental list gets side tracked in the middle of a conversation, we forget that ever important thing to secure, and then that bad thing happens.

In our list we have all the items that need to be buttoned up – doors closed, what needs to be locked, refrigerator secured (That was a mess the first time!), cables, hoses, testing RV lights and RV breaks, test and secure the hitch and more. I could go on with all the items on our list for you to make notes, but I can help.

Our list contains tasks and checks that are critical to ensure our RV is safe for travel and the tow vehicle is ready. If you don’t have a RV Check List, you can download a print version here as a PDF or a spreadsheet version here that can be modified for your specific needs.

2. No Trip Planning

No trip planning RV travel mistakeRV trip planning generates a lot of conversation with others. There are those who like the idea of not being tied down to a timeline and just going where the wind blows. Many who chose this method of travel have smaller RVs that fit in most campgrounds or utilize the wide open spaces provided by BLM land and boondock.

For other like Joan and I, we travel in a large RV – a 42 foot 5th wheel and Super Duty ton truck at a total length of 60 feet. The 5th wheel is also a little over 13 feet in height. We’re also challenged by the rising costs of diesel fuel and had to change our travels from shorter stops to 2 weeks or more per destination to manage our travel budget. For the last 18 months, we have made our travel plans 6 months or more in advance. This better ensures we’ll have a campground site that fits and we can manage the longer stays.

There’s more to trip planning than just finding a campground. Routing is also very important. We try to avoid travel through the major metropolitan cities during rush hours or attempt to avoid altogether. Many of the campgrounds are located of state or county roads and we need to be cautious of low over passes or long stretches of road that may be very narrow and difficult to navigate.

Lastly, Joan and I like to do more than just sit at the campsite. We’re always on the lookout for fun places to visit and experience in our travels. A little research before we book an area is often the “go or no go” for a campground.

We have created a number of videos and blogs from using Google Maps to our method we use for travel planning. See the Helpful Links section below.

3. No Backup Training or Practice

No backup training RV travel mistakeWe’ve all been there. Starting our first year of RV travel and learning to backup into a campground site. Worse, having to back into a very tight site with everyone in the campground watching. I can’t count the number of times we’ve witnessed new RV owners struggle backing into a campground site with tempers flaring, going back and forward more times than anyone can count, or hitting a tree, the power pedestal or worse, their neighbors truck or camper.

If you don’t have experience backing a camper or constantly struggle backing, there are a number of resources available. Some of the best are the trucker videos showing how to back up. Their techniques are are identical for a camper. Escapees holds a number of RV Bootcamps throughout the year in various of locations across the US. They cover a number of topics including driving and backing an RV.

The old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” definitely applies to backing up one’s pull-behind camper or a 5th wheel. Here’s a tip. Go to Home Depot and buy 4 orange 5 gallon buckets. Find a shopping center that doesn’t have traffic during the weekend and set the buckets to resemble the road and space for a campground site and practice backing in. Don’t get frustrated. Avoid this RV travel mistake and learn what works and keep at it. It gets better with practice.

4. Poor RV Maintenance

poor maintenance rv travel mistakeA frustration with many RV travelers occurs when something breaks on the RV and the trip is ruined. Poor maintenance is often the cause and can be remedied with little effort and expense.

There are two types of maintenance – Single Event and Yearly. We all get busy and then tend to put things off. This is true with our RV, that is until it’s time to go on a trip. Don’t let those single event repairs build up. Problems can grow and over time more damage can be the result causing expensive repairs that could have been avoided.

Yearly Maintenance is usually more preventive. As we end our travel season, we take time to perform some basic maintenance.

  • Condition all of the slider rubber seals.
  • Check the tires for excessive wear, damage or age.
  • Ensure the chalk on the sides and roof has not cracked and allowing leaks. Replace where necessary.
  • Inspect the skylights for cracks.
  • Check the house batteries and cables. Ensure cables are tight. If a lead acid battery exists, check the water level.
  • Clean the awning and repair minor damage.
  • Apply dry lube to the slide gears and tracks.
  • Check the water heater anode rod if equipped and flush calcium build up.

5. Exceeding Tire Speeds and Camper Weight Rating

exceeding trailer tire speed ratingOne RV travel mistake that is of great concern is when we see so many drive at very high speeds pulling a camper down the Interstate. It’s dangerous to travel at high speeds. All RVs are very heavy and it takes a substantial amount of distance to stop. Plus, most trailer tires are rated not to exceed 65 MPH. Driving at high speeds adds heat and fatigue to the tires and could cause the tire to fail. We find driving 65 MPH on the Interstate is not only safer, but is creates less fatigue on long trips.

There is a number of ways to not overload the weight of an RV. Only take what’s needed on a trip is a good rule of thumb. How many chairs do we really need. If we’re expecting visitors from another campsite, it’s easy to suggest they bring a chair. Hauling water is very heavy. Water weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon. 50 gallons of water adds over 417 pounds to a camper. If we need water at the campsite for our tanks, we usually find it at or near the campground entrance. If we need water as we travel, we keep a few bottles in the fridge and a gallon in the bathroom to flush. This not only removes unwanted weight from the RV, but much less weight to tow.

6. Exceeding Campground Power

exceeding campsite powerExceeding Campground Power on a 30 Amp connection or a small portable generator is a common issue. It’s especially easy in the summer months when an air conditioner is in use. Running the AC, the microwave and then a high wattage hair dryer and POP goes the breaker.

A 30 amp connection provides around 3,600 watts of power. Exceeding the total watts will cause a breaker to trip. We’ve created a helpful chart to help you manage the power demands when camping and it’s available for download here.

We’ve also evaluated the ActiveStart by Active Controls. This cable has a built in soft start capability and removed the surge demand required by an air conditioner compressor. Using this type of device on a 30 amp connection can eliminate those pesky breaker trips when an air conditioner is in use. More about the ActiveStart can be found here.

7. No Water Pressure Regulator

rv water pressure regulatorA water pressure regulator is a low cost addition to your RV that can prevent water problems from occurring. These inline devices are placed at the campground water faucet and prevents high water pressure from entering the camper causing leaks or worse. Low cost units maintain the water around 30 PSI and adjustable versions like we use are also available. A good rule of thumb is not to exceed 40 PSI.

I hope you found this list of 7 big RV travel mistakes along with the tips to avoid helpful. Below the video are a list of links of other blogs and the products mention in this blog and in the video. Over the years, we have found these to make our RV travel safe and more enjoyable.

7 Big RV Travel Mistakes
Helpful Links:
Not sure about what RV accessories you need as you start RV travel?
RV AccessoriesCheck out our RV Accessories page where we have listed a wide range of products from essential items to those “nice to have” RV products to make RV life more enjoyable. Every item listed is being used or has been used by Joan and I as we’ve traveled across the country in our RV.
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