The ultimate list of RV tips and tricks for beginners

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RV tips and tricks for beginners

So you wanna hit the open road? The idea of piling into a camper van, sprinter or RV and hitting the highway is enticing; after all, who doesn’t love waking up with incredible scenery on their front doorstep, surrounded by the creature comforts of home (hello, espresso machine)? Perks of a RV road trip include not having to fit everything into one suitcase, avoiding the expense and hassle of hotel reservations, and the flexibility to go wherever you want, whenever you want.

Of course, there are some realities that many first-timers overlook when planning their overland adventure, and #VanLife isn’t always as glamorous as some nomadic-types make it look. Spoiler alert: there’s a reason no one ever posts about emptying their sewage tank.

Whether you’re planning a quick getaway or heading off on a cross-country journey, here are some RV tips and tricks to keep in mind before setting off.

Prep food ahead of time

One of the top RV camping hacks is to prepare as much food as possible ahead of time to save both time and aggravation. Even if your rig is equipped with a kitchen, the lack of counter space and cookware can be enough to make even Martha Stewart struggle with cooking. 

Prepare as many meals as possible ahead of time, such as a batch of chili or spaghetti and meatballs kept in the freezer, chia pudding topped with berries for breakfast, and skewers you can grill over the campfire. Pre-portioning also helps, like cutting up all of the ingredients for a pasta salad, then combining them in a bowl when you’re ready to eat. Chances are there won’t be a Starbucks nearby, so latte lovers may want to pack instant coffee to enjoy that morning cup of joe.

Pasta salad is an easy, nutritious meal to prep ahead of time.

RV organization tips

Sometimes, less is more on a RV trip and every inch counts in a small space. If you end up packing everything but the kitchen sink, chances are no matter how organized you are you’ll end up tripping over things. 

Keep your personal items in a hanging toiletry bag so you don’t have to put it on a floor or counter, and limit your suitcase to a carry-on size; remember, you’re camping, not doing a fashion shoot for Vogue.

Some other camper van tips for keeping things clean and organized include: 

  • Group similar items together when you unpack, like tech equipment in one cabinet and outdoor gear in a different one. Make sure they’re always put back in the same place so you don’t have to dump out every drawer when you inevitably misplace the lighter.
  • Bring a large outdoor rug that can easily be cleaned and rolled up. Not only will this help keep dirt from being tracked in, but it creates a fun patio area outside your trailer.
  • Use bungee cords or bungee balls to ensure cabinets stay closed when you’re driving. 

Rent, don’t buy

Van life can be awesome, but for most of us just a couple of RV vacations a year are plenty. Because jobs. In that case, it probably makes more sense to rent a rig than pony up tens of thousands of dollars to buy one. 

Outdoorsy is like an Airbnb for trailers, where you can rent directly from the owners. Their search functionality allows users to sort based on things like location, price, the type of vehicle, amenities and even if it’s pet-friendly. Some owners will also deliver the vehicle, which is great if you plan on staying at a single site and don’t want to deal with set-up or towing it. 

Other perks of RV rentals include not having to worry about things like maintenance, storage and cleaning, plus you can test out fun rigs like an Airstream or teardrop trailer without the commitment. 

RV tips and tricks for beginners

The luxe interior of our sprinter van rental from Outdoorsy

Size matters

When you’re choosing a trailer for your trip, it can be tempting to book the biggest one with all the bells and whistles. But remember, bigger isn’t always better, especially when you’re trying to park the thing. 

A fun advantage of a smaller vehicle is that you can squeeze into remote spots and go boondocking, which is camping for free on public lands. Of course you won’t have any amenities or hookups (that’s where generators come in handy), but you’ll save tons of money on site fees and get to wake up to views like this:

RV tips and tricks for beginners

Great views to wake up to while boondocking along Oregon’s Deschutes River.


More RV camping tips for beginners

There are a few popular camper tricks and tips that will make your trip a bit easier and more enjoyable, including:

  • Buy large jugs of water for drinking and dishes, to save the water in your tank for showering and flushing the toilet.
  • Use collapsible plastic tubs for washing dishes, to cut down on fresh water use and the amount that fills up the dirty water tank.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch the extra water, and use that to flush the toilet and save fresh water
  • Don’t take corners too fast or brake quickly–remember, a RV is a lot larger than a car! 
  • Stop for fuel whenever possible, since it can be hard to find gas stations in remote areas.
  • Bring flameless LED wax pillar candles to use at night. They create a lovely ambiance without using any power.

RV tips and tricks for beginners

Final thoughts on booking a RV road trip

So, thinking about hitting the road? The most important thing is to be prepared and know what you’re getting into, because driving around a trailer or RV isn’t for everyone and can be a steep learning curve. There’s a surprising amount of work involved like dealing with propane tanks, generators, hot water heaters, dumping out dirty water and sewage, and leveling the trailer. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or don’t like to get dirty, then a hotel is probably a better choice.

However, if you love the freedom of exploring untouched areas, sleeping under the stars in scenic national parks and traveling with no itinerary, then a RV road trip is sure to check all your boxes and be the ultimate adventure.

Globe Guide’s RV experience was made possible by Outdoorsy. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.

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