Here are our top RV camping tips for beginners so you have a great time on your first camping trip.
Getting a new RV is such an exciting time! It feels liberating, but also a little bit terrifying at the same time. That is why I put together nine of the best RV campground tips for beginners! (NOTE: Read to the end for two bonus videos you can watch right now from our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel)
These tips can go a long way in making your maiden voyage a smooth-sailing experience– even for brand new RVers!
9 Top RV Camping Tips for Beginners
Before you hit the open road on your first trip, whether it's to national parks or a popular location down the street, I recommend adhering to the following tips.
1. Practice Driving
The first of my RV campground tips is to practice driving your RV or towing your travel trailer. Just like when you were learning to drive a car, you want to get a feel for how it drives. An RV is larger than a car, so it's expected that it will handle differently.
One time, I had to back up my RV at a campground. I had to make a hairpin turn, all while traveling in reverse uphill! If I had not had a lot of practice in my RV, I would not have been able to make that maneuver.
Be sure to practice backing up as well, since some campgrounds do not offer pull-through spots. Jennifer and I use these walkie-talkies.
2. Make Reservations
Jennifer and I do not always make reservations. That’s because we have a lot of experience behind us, and prefer to go boondocking when we can.
However, when you are a first time RVer, you want to ensure the smoothest “ride” possible (pun intended!). That means you want to be prepared as much as you can to avoid any unwanted surprises. That is also why the second of my RV campground tips is to make reservations!
If you don’t make reservations, you run the risk of a full campground when you arrive at your destination. The last thing you want to do is arrive exhausted and needing to rest, only to find a “campground full” sign.
Many parks and campgrounds fill up quickly during the peak RV season, which is Memorial Day through Labor Day. So, make your reservations early. If a campground is “first-come, first-served,” then you will want to arrive as early as possible.
A great way to plan your RV trip is to use RV TripWizard. It is a comprehensive tool that Jennifer and I use whenever we are planning a trip. It works seamlessly with all our devices and gives us access to the info we need on where to stop, what camping is nearby, and what we should do in an area.
Best of all, you can try it for free to see how it will fit into your trip planning process.
3. Avoid Overpacking
When you first get your RV, you revel in the amount of space you have! It feels so much larger than the space you have when you are tent camping.
But once you start to fill cabinets and space, that room quickly gets filled if you are not careful. Not only will you want to keep your items organized, but you should also consider only bringing what you really need for your first road trip. We did a whole post on the Must-Haves for your first trip — check it out!
You do not have to bring every kitchen utensil they sell at a specialty kitchen store. Pack only one set of plates, bowls, and silverware for each person. Be selective with other kitchenware, and add slowly each trip.
Even though having an RV feels like a luxury, you are still camping. You can wash and reuse what you need.
Keep it minimal by only packing what you really need! Learn from our experience …
4. Bring Paper Maps or Downloadable Guides
Isn’t technology great? We can type a location into our google maps and follow a digital map to take us where we are going. Until you lose your cellular service.
Many places that people want to camp, including many state parks, are outside of regular cellular service range. That is why it is important to grab a paper map of the area you are traveling to. If you find yourself in the middle of nowhere without service, you can still navigate to where you are going.
Many RV travel guides are now sold as downloadable digital guides (so you won’t lose it when you lose service). Those same guides may also be formatted to be able to be printed as a hard copy. You can print what you need, and keep the rest downloaded onto your device.
It's also a good idea to print or download a campground map. That way you know where you need to go, even if you arrive after office hours.
7-Day Adventure Guides to Yellowstone National Park, Adirondacks, Utah, Florida & More!
We've written a library of RV Travel books that lay out seven-day guided explorations of scenic areas of the US that we've explored and think would make an excellent RV trip for you.
In each location, we provide a suggested route and itinerary (7 stops in each guide, one for each day of a week trip!) as well as links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, local tips, and interesting things to do at each location.
You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.
Planning an RV trip can be very time-consuming so that’s why we’ve done the research for you! Just take our guides and use them, we’re sure you’ll have an RV trip for the ages! Instant download. CLICK HERE for information on our RV Travel Guides
And don't forget to have a REALLY good weather app handy! Here's our favorite.
5. Pack Essential Tools
There will be a time when you find yourself needing a tool on an RV trip. That is why another of my RV campground tips is to pack essential tools! Having a few key tools on hand can make your life so much easier.
You do not need to go overboard and pack every tool you can and overload on spare parts. A better idea is to use checklists and then add to them if you find yourself needing something else on your first RV trip. You can always scan through our Gear list right here https://rvlifestyle.com/gear
- A small level
- A multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver set
- Duct tape
- A Multi-tool
- Bungee cords with hooks
- A ½-inch, 3/8 -inch and ¼-inch socket set with adapters and extensions
- Tire pressure gauge
- Rubber gloves
- Hatchet and hammer combo
- First aid kit
6. Practice “Leveling”
Another one of my RV campground tips is to practice leveling your RV! This is usually tricky for a new RV owner. Having an unlevel rig can interrupt your sleep, and even prevent your appliances from working properly.
Making your rig level can be a bit tricky, and frustrating until you have done it several times. (And it can still be difficult depending on the terrain!) Practicing ahead of time can help you get comfortable with this important set-up procedure.
Many RVs now come with an optional built-in leveling system, like the Leisure Travel Van Unity model. You might also want to throw a small level into your RV tool kit. Then practice leveling your RV before taking your trip! A great place to start is in a nice parking lot, then maybe in your yard or a nearby side road.
If you do not have an automatic leveling system, pick up a kit of several. They resemble 12″-by-12″ bright yellow Legos and can be stacked together. We suggest carrying a kit of 10 of them. Put them in ones, twos or threes under each wheel until you get level. Explore what these kits can do for you.
7. Invest in Square Storage Containers
RV storage can be deceiving. On the one hand, it feels large and spacious. But when you really start to pack, that storage starts to feel cramped.
One way to make the most out of your RV storage is to use square containers. You can pack specific things together (and label them!) while stacking them nicely. Square containers fit in cabinets better than round containers.
8. Watch the Fuel Gauge
All vehicles are different, especially RVs. They are larger and use fuel in a much different way than your average car. That is why it is important to watch your fuel gauge when getting to know your RV.
You run the risk of running out of gas in remote areas if you make assumptions about how far you can drive on one tank of gas. An empty RV is going to have more efficient fuel mileage than it will once it is all packed!
Make sure that you have mapped out a few different gas stations that you can fuel up along your route. Keep in mind that you might need to get gas sooner than you think.
The RV Trip Wizard app lets you enter in your average mileage and then it will show you on a map where you should plan to refuel.
9. Measure the Height and Weight of Your Rig
You also want to be aware of your RVs exact height when you first start taking it out. Even if the paperwork says it is a certain height, measure it yourself. That way you can always be sure that you have the clearance you need.
BONUS #1: Check out the video below on how to select and set up a campsite
BONUS #2: Click the video below to learn How to Camp for Free
What would you add to our 9 tips for RV camping tips for beginners?
Put them in the comments below or on any of our social media accounts. We always enjoy hearing from our community!
Living the RV Life
Whether you plan to go on short trips or long trips across the United States, we guarantee RV life is going to grow on you. Someday, you may even become a full-time RVer like Jennifer and me! If you want to really embrace the RV Lifestyle, show it! Check out our RV Lifestyle merchandise with cool and comfy t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and more.
Ready to plan your next RV trip? Click here and check out all our Adventure Guides!
More RV Campground Tips
Become a supporter of the RV Lifestyle and get inside access to exclusive RV campground tips, trip planning ideas, how-to RV info, private member-only campouts with Mike & Jennifer, and special perks, giveaways, and discounts. CLICK HERE for info.
You can also find a lot more RV campground tips on the RV Lifestyle Blog.