Monday, August 31, 2020

What we learned as first-time RV-ers: an FAQ

It's been a week since we got back from our RV trip, and I'm missing our little home on wheels. Friends have been asking questions about our experiences, so I figured I'd share some more info. 

How do you plan an RV trip?

We started with Go RVing, a great resource to explore when you're thinking of renting an RV, buying an RV (we were fantasizing about this by the end of our trip), or figuring out ways to enjoy the RV camping lifestyle. 

Do you need a special driver's license to drive an RV?


Is an RV hard to drive?

Dave did a couple of practice runs before we took off for our trip. He was a little nervous at first, especially about making the wide turns, but felt more comfortable as our trip progressed and even had no issues backing the RV into spots at the places we stayed. We visited three different campgrounds a few hours apart from each other—we wanted an easy inaugural RV trip. In general, it's not recommended to drive an RV for more than six hours at a stretch. Really, the thing we worried most about was whether we'd lock the keys to the RV in the RV (we didn't).  

Is it tricky to maneuver RVs in certain places, like tolls?

We never ran into trouble, especially since we used the Copilot GPS app that offers RV-specific routes. 

How much does it cost to rent an RV? 

Anywhere from around $120 a night and up (way up—there are some really fancy RVs out there with islands, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens). Insurance is extra (your auto insurance will not cover this), plus you have to pay a fee per mile traveled if you go through a company (or a fee after you're first 100 miles). You also pay extra for liveability kits that include essentials like pots and pans.  

Does it feel cramped inside an RV?

Not at all, especially when we flipped the switch to open the RV's three slideouts, which got us several extra feet of space. In general, it felt cozy in there. Our RV, a Newmar Bay Star, had a full queen bed in the back, two bunk beds opposite the bathroom, and a pull-out full sofa. There was a good amount of cabinet storage, too.

Do you have to be an experienced camper?

Heck no. If it's any indication, one night we had to read the instructions on the Jiffy pop to make sure we were heating it right over the fire. We visited campsites that had full hookups for water, electricity, sewer and cable. They all had grills, firepits and RV-side garbage pickup, not exactly roughing it. 

How did you figure out how to do the hookups?

You get a walk-through when you rent your RV (it's a good idea to take videos). Still, we were nervous newbies and the first two times we hooked up stuff at campsites we asked someone from maintenance to take a look and make sure we'd done it right. Dumping the waste connection is as simple as pulling a lever out. Gross, but simple enough.

How much room is there in the fridge and freezer?

Enough! We did a couple of Walmart pickups along the way to replenish supplies. All the campgrounds we stayed at had stores where you could get anything from food to firewood.

What do you eat?

We brought burgers, hot dogs, and chicken wings for grilling; fixings for taco night; turkey and PB&J and bread for sandwiches; frozen mac 'n cheese; and pasta plus a couple jars of sauce. None of this, however, could stop my children from insisting that we order in sushi one night. Oh, and FYI, there's no such thing as too many s'mores—we had them every night, once with peanut butter cups instead of chocolate. Highly recommend.

What do you do all day?

Our children enjoyed playgrounds, pools, mini golf, basketball courts, tennis, giant jumping pillows and even a mini water park and lazy river (those two were at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Gardiner, NY). We rented golf carts (around $45 a day) and that was a lot of fun, too. We also just enjoyed taking walks around, checking out the different RVs and setups. I especially loved the vintage RV's.

We felt like we'd discovered a whole new world. One day, we noticed the guy in the RV behind us mowing his lawn. Wha?! Turns out that people rent campsites for the entire summer, park their RVs there and shuttle back and forth in their cars. There were people who set up fences at their sites and had landscaping, too. 

What about laundry?

The campgrounds we were at had laundry rooms. But I brought along a giant laundry bag and just dealt with it when I got home. 

Would you do it again?

Sign me up! One of my bucket-list trips is touring all the national parks in an RV. 


  1. This is what I call travel and vacation goals. Thank you for sharing this very helpful post, Ellen. I’ve bookmarked it as this is something my family hopes to do with our son one day. The driving part seems so intimidating so it’s reassuring to hear your experience.

  2. Ellen….
    I have never tried peanut butter cup s’mores before…. Now, I need to treat myself to one!! :)
    I love, love, LOVE the ‘Life is best when you’re camping’ sign on the wall in your family picture!! It most certainly is!! My family of six went camping when I was a girl growing up, with tents, sleeping bags, and outhouses!! I miss ‘Dragonfly Lake’…. :-D
    Peace and Love, Mary Lou


Thanks for sharing!

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