7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your First RV Road Trip, According to Experts

Here's how to have your best road trip yet.
By Madeline Diamond
Updated May 24, 2021
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If your vacation plans have shifted this year, chances are, you've entertained the thought of taking an RV road trip. And whether you're interested in renting a motorhome for a week or investing in one for years of future travel, there are plenty of factors to consider — and mistakes to avoid — when planning a trip to ensure you have the best getaway possible.

Related: More road trip essentials

With that in mind, we consulted the experts at Outdoorsy, a popular RV rental service, about how to plan a perfect RV road trip. From choosing the wrong type of RV to forgetting to pack the essentials, there are several mistakes travelers can make along the way. Luckily, Outdoorsy's cofounder and CMO, Jen Young, helped us identify common mistakes and ways to avoid them.

Large RV trailer
Credit: Courtesy of Outdoorsy

1. Not Choosing the Right Type of RV

There are plenty of options when it comes to recreational vehicles, from traditional Class A motorhomes to camper vans and travel trailers. Depending on the number of people you'll be traveling with, as well as the amenities you're looking for (such as a kitchen and bathroom), and how far you'll be traveling, it's important to explore different types of RVs. A camper van is a great option for couples and solo travelers, for example. Class A motorhomes are often the roomiest, but a Class C motorhome is easier to drive and a good option for first-time RV-ers. Though contrary to popular belief, you don't need a special license to drive an RV. We've also broken down seven popular RV options to help you decide which is best for your road trip.

2. Not Planning Your Route in Advance

Your RV road trip will be much more enjoyable if you have a plan for where you'll stop along the way. Young suggests referencing national and state park guides and pre-planned routes for helpful tips. Plus, keep an eye out for quirky roadside attractions — these make every road trip more memorable.

3. Not Making Campground Reservations 

Once you know where you're going, it's time to make reservations. If you're planning to visit some of the country's most popular national parks, you'll want to make campground bookings whenever possible. (Many are available on recreation.gov months in advance.)

4. Not Considering Your RV's Size Limitations 

It's also important to consider the limitations you might encounter with each type of vehicle. "Make sure the route you're taking doesn't have any low-clearance bridges (a big issue when driving through places like downtown Boston) or tunnels that may require extra guidance (RVs of a certain width and height will need to pay $15 for a tunnel permit at Zion National Park)," Young said.

5. Forgetting to Download Maps Before Your Trip

While a GPS or map app on your smartphone is a road trip must-have, you'll also want to make sure you have a back-up plan to avoid getting lost. "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," Young said.

6. Not Adhering to Campground Rules and Etiquette

When stopping at a campground, don't forget to "think of the campsite as another person's home and leave it better than you found it," Young said. Another key piece of campsite advice, according to Young, is to never leave food outside of the RV and dispose of it properly to avoid attracting animals.

7. Over- or Under-packing

Young advises checking temperature and precipitation averages in your destination early on in your planning process, as well as monitoring weather conditions closer to your trip. We've also compiled a general RV packing list, including unexpected items you might not have thought to bring, like a heated blanket and leveling blocks.

Madeline Diamond is an e-commerce editor at Travel + Leisure, and she's constantly fighting the impulse to overpack for her next trip. You can follow her on Twitter @madgdiamond

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