Our 15 Helpful RV Rules for the Road

 Our 15 Helpful RV Rules for the Road

So here they are – our RV rules for the road we’ve embraced after 250,000 miles of motorhome travel.

In our years of RVing, we've traveled across the country in every direction and back again. We have learned a lot along the way.

15 RV Rules for the Road to Maximize Your Enjoyment

Based on what we've learned the easy way and the hard way, here are our RV rules for the road.

RV Rule #1:  There is no hurry

Okay, sometimes you really do have to be somewhere at a certain time but, in general, RV travel calls out to be flexible.

To enjoy it to the max, you need to be able to stop when you want, where you want. Make that one of your always-follow RV rules for the road.

Setting an agenda, over-planning, and plotting out stop-by-stop overnights is way too organized for us. It causes us to miss the things you can’t find in a book or through online research, the things that just happen, like taking a road far off the interstate just because it looks interesting.

If you follow these RV rules for the road you will have great adventures
If you follow these RV rules for the road you will have great adventures

 Rule #2:  Don’t believe interstate exit signs

Pet peeve time. For example, a sign along the interstate 20 in Iowa once told me there was fuel, in my case diesel, at the next exit. I took it.

At the top of the exit ramp, the sign again says diesel and points to the left. Great. Nope. That diesel station is 5.4 miles away in town. Meaning a more than 10-mile time-wasting roundtrip.  

Interstate signs like that are common and are often a scam. I’m wondering if various state highway departments get kickbacks from local merchants to lure unsuspecting travelers off the road. Probably not true. But it helps to have someone to blame.

This directly leads me to the next lesson… 

Rule #3:  Stay off the Interstates

Our 15 Helpful RV Rules for the Road 1
Scenic roads are much nicer.

They are boring. You’re in a tunnel. Trapped on the concrete. Buffeted by trucks. Surrounded by eye pollution in the form of roadside signs.

Forced to drive at ridiculously fast speeds. Everything around you blurs by. The only food available at the exits is fast food, which is invariably bad food.

Sometimes, there is no choice. Around big cities, interstates help get you out of the congestion. But, generally, two-lane roads – the so-called blue highways – are always more interesting. They get you closer to the places and people that make the RV life so enjoyable.

We even wrote an article to help you follow this rule: How to Get There Without Using the Interstate- RV Traveling the Beautiful Two Lanes.

 Rule #4:  GPS units are all unreliable

If you rely totally on GPS to get you somewhere, sooner or later you’re going to miss your mark and be lost. That's one of the RV rules for the road you can count on.

In my role as a tech reporter for all 215 NBC-TV stations, I’ve tried them all – Garmin, Magellan, TomTom, Rand McNally, Clarion, the GPS apps, Google, Verizon, and the GPS apps offered on Android and Apple devices. They all fail. They all are incomplete.

Maps differ between them and there are GPS dead spots. A GPS transceiver needs at least four satellites to get any kind of a reliable fix.  Even on flat ground with a clear line of sight, there can be dead spots, where two or more satellites aren’t acquired. So, the transceiver just gives up as if there were no satellites were there.

The solution: Carry paper maps. We now have a shoebox full of state maps. We use them more and more.

Apps like Waze and Google Maps have improved over the years but those dead spots still exist. Furthermore, they rely on phone service and a charged battery!

If your battery dies, you're outside cell service, or something happens to your phone, you're out of luck! You'll need paper maps to save the day.

 Rule #5:  Take less clothing

We use something called eBags, soft little easy-to-store bags that hold an amazing amount of clothes. Jennifer has three pink ones. Girls always need more clothes. I take two blue ones.

I dare not peek in hers. But for me, one bag is for underwear, socks, and T-shirts – I pack five of each. The other is for an extra pair of shorts, a pair of jeans and three shirts.

In our wardrobe closet in the coach, I have on a hanger a dress pair of slacks, one dress shirt, one sweater, plus a rain jacket and a fleeced sweatshirt.

Jennifer has the female equivalent in the wardrobe. Plus her three pink bags. We hit a laundromat or pick a campground that has a washer and dryer about every five or six days.

You can also find some great organizational accessories with our partner, Organized Obie, to maximize your RV storage space.

 Rule #6:  You really can overnight in a rest area

Well, at least you can if you don’t set up camp early in the afternoon, put out the lawn chairs and string those twinkle lights that some RVers insist on using outside their rigs.

Rest areas are to rest. Pulling in after dark and leaving in the morning after a night’s sleep is not going to get you in trouble unless you make it look like you are spending the weekend. 

 Rule #7:  Stay away from trucks when overnighting

Whether a Walmart or a rest area, steer clear of trucks. They run their engines all night long. They pollute everything around them. They are noisy.

On a lonely stretch of US Route 212 in Montana one night, we looked in vain for a national or state campground. There were none. Most of the area belonged to the Crow and the Cheyenne Indian Reservations.

Finally, about 11 PM near the town of Broadus, we found a state rest area and turned in. We even saw another RV like ours parked there, along with a handful of trucks.

We blissfully went to sleep, only to awake at 1:30 AM to the sound of rumbling engines and the smell of diesel fumes. The place was bathed in light. Besides running their engines, many trucks keep their lights on. Every inch of space was taken up by trucks.

There was no more sleep that night in that place. We left and drove all the way through into South Dakota, finally finding a KOA near Spearfish a little after 3 AM.

We’ve had variations of that experience at many a Wal-Mart and now know that one of the big RV rules for the road is to stay away from trucks.

 Rule #8:  Good camp chairs are a must

When we first started, we used two collapsible and telescoping camper chairs. They were okay. The chief benefit was they broke down small enough to fit in the rear storage under the rear sofa of our motorhome. But they really weren’t very comfortable.

A few years ago, we bought two of the gravity chairs that let you lie back and look at the sky. That’s what we call them. Our look-at-the-sky-chairs. They are inconvenient when it comes to traveling with them but so worth it when we want to relax somewhere. We store them folded up in the back of our coach. You can look through our list of gear right here.

Rule #9:  Follow the 330 rule

Mike wearing Rule 330 t-shirt
Our 330 Rule T-Shirt, available in our RV Lifestyle Shop

I had a fulltimer explain this to me early on. The 330 rule is “you stop when you have driven 330 miles or it’s 3:30 in the afternoon.”

The idea is to get somewhere while it is still early enough to explore, chill, enjoy the place when you’re not wasted from driving mega miles. We are trying to adhere to that rule.

In our early days, I looked at the daily driving mileage as a challenge. The more the better. I kept trying to set another personal best. It’s 735 miles, by the way. Silly. Stupid, really.

Is there anything worse than pulling into a campsite after dark? Less mileage and stopping early is our new mantra. I even made a shirt to remind me.

 Rule #10: Put away the bed 

This is for Class B owners. And granted, this is a personal preference.

I know many Class B owners use the two single beds in the rear and leave them made as a bed every day. We tried that back when we had a campervan but we prefer to sleep with the bed made up as a king.

Every morning, we put it and the bedding away and make the back into a sofa again. It’s neater, gives us more space a place to eat, work on the computer, and not feel cramped.

The few times we’ve left it as a bed has made the coach feel way too small. That's why we've made it one of our RV rules of the road.

 Rule #11:  Eat out often

Okay, here’s where we are way, way different than most RVers. But, again, this has worked best for us. For our style, but maybe not yours.

I refuse to feel guilty about this: Much of the time, we eat in restaurants. We do fix breakfast in the coach, usually something simple like cereal and a banana. I carry a small French Press coffee maker and make two cups every morning.

We usually pick up lunch at a restaurant and, about every other day, find a local place for dinner. When we do fix dinner in the RV, it’s simple and light, like grilled chicken strips over a salad. We use the Cuisinart Griddler for grilling and most of the cooking we do, instead of a charcoal or propane grill.

The local restaurants really give you a feel for the people and place. It’s as much a cultural experience as it is convenient. So we don’t fight it or feel shame because we’re not carrying lots of frozen dishes and cooking every meal in the motorhome.  

 Rule #12:  Campground Wi-Fi is a joke

Don’t even bother. Unless you are the only campers around. Otherwise, the guy three units down streaming Netflix videos has gobbled up all the bandwidth.

Campground Wi-Fi is shared. That means s-l-o-w. We carry our own Verizon Mi-Fi data card to create our own network. All the carriers have similar devices.

But maybe I should quit talking about that. Because we noticed this year that in many a campground, so many other people are now doing the same thing, that often even the cell service is so maxed out it is almost as slow as campground Wi-Fi. 

See why we like boondocking? Want to see if Boondocking is right for you? (You can still have wi-fi by the way! You just need to see How Much Internet Data Do I Need When Living Off Grid)

 Rule #13:  Winter is just as much fun as summer 

photo from a winter rv camping trip
Jennifer and Mike, with Bo, on one of our winter camping adventures.

We camp out in our motorhome all year round. Alas, we do have to winterize, living in Michigan as we do.

But other than having to drink from bottled water and flush the toilet with antifreeze, it’s just as easy to RV in the winter as it is in the summer.

Winter RVing is awesome. The crowds are gone, the snow makes everything beautiful and it is really, really fun. We’re again planning a winter camping trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in February.

 Here are 27 Effortless Winter Camping Tips for RVers if you want to give it a go.

Rule #14: Don't make impulsive purchases

Here’s my confession time, where I mess up all the time.

Case in point: Two folding bikes. I shelled out over $1200 to buy two Bike Friday folding bikes a while ago when I saw them at a rally in Oregon.  Big mistake.

Yes, they are cool bikes. But, really, we didn’t need them. We have two full-sized bikes at home. If we will be using a bike a lot, I just need to put them on a bike rack attached to the rear hitch.

I sold them on Craig’s List last summer and made a promise to Jennifer to never again buy on impulse. I also sold the StowAway2 cargo box I bought a couple of years ago (another $700 impulse buy.) Yes, it holds a lot of stuff. But we really don’t need a lot of stuff.

The more we RV, the less we find we need to pack. And the more we RV, the more we learn to stand by these RV Rules for the road. 

Rule #15: The RV Lifestyle can be very unhealthy

I saved this for last and I hate to mention this but I think it needs saying. So I will. Food and drink consumption need to be controlled.

We spent a week this past year on a very nice campground (I won’t say where) in which every day was themed to some event that involved alcohol. There were parties and happy hours every night and the place, made up mostly of seasonal RV residents, seemed to be stuck in the Sixties.

The music around the pool played non-stop oldies and it was like these seniors were on perpetual spring breaks. It would have been amusing if it were not so sad.

There were people whizzing by in golf carts that should have been pulled over for DUI. The only good thing was these were, after all, seniors, and by 9 PM, they had all gone to bed.

We’ve seen this in different degrees at other places and have had other RVers tell us they have noticed the same thing, too.

Also, in between hiking, biking, and such, there is a lot of sitting involved in RV travel. Driving from place to place can result in a couch potato body if you're not making healthy food choices.

It's very easy to adopt the “vacation diet” (a.k.a. overeat diet) or the “road trip diet” (a.k.a. fast food diet) when living the RV lifestyle. But the importance of staying healthy while RVing should not be underestimated.

What Are Your RV Rules for the Road?

So there. Fifteen lessons we’ve learned that have become RV rules for the road for us.

We'd love to hear your advice, too. Please share your RV rules for the road in the comments below.

Then, it's time to hit the road and apply them to your RV lifestyle.

See you out there…

Looking for more Expert RV Trip ideas and RV Travel suggestions?

all ten of the RV Lifestyle
All of our Adventure Travel ebooks

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

Need a FREE RV Packing List?

How many times have you arrived at your destination to realize that you forgot to bring something?

So frustrating - right?

That's why we put together a special RV packing list for you!

Subscribe to become an RV LIFESTYLE INSIDER and we’ll send you an instant download of our packing list. Save it to your computer, print it out and use it for every trip.

First thing every Monday morning you’ll get the latest RV News, bucket list trip ideas, tech tips, DIY projects, and RV videos, and more.

And you'll get our popular DAILY RV Lifestyle updates with the latest post from our (award-winning) podcast and blog!



Our 15 Helpful RV Rules for the Road

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

5 Comments

  • I love these!!! The last one cracked me up! Just spent a month with some winter Texans! We have learned all these things too traveling in our Class C and agree with all your points. We seem to travel the same way! What’s funny is we are a Mike and Jennifer and my Mike is an impulse buyer too!!!! We travel with a dog named Dirty Harry Lambert Handsomepants and he is quite the adventurer!

  • Very good article! I’ve found most of these rules to be so true in my own travels. I prefer to plan a bit more rather than just wandering around. Making reservations at major tourist areas and national parks well ahead of time is essential. I allow plenty of unscheduled time in between for flexibility. And no “drive bys” at the parks or cramming in sightseeing every minute of the day! We recently purchased a high end truck camper with solar and a generator so going to try more boondocking. Still keeping the roomy 5th wheel for wintering in Florida or Arizona.

  • I know you two rite some fine travel books and I am sure they must sell fast. One of your references to using a book with all the plans made for RV trips isn’t something I do. A big part of my RV trips is doing the planning for the area we plan to camp in. “Looking up the roads and campgrounds and sights to see is part of the fun for me”. Am I a camping nut?

    • Hubert, we both must be nuts! I really enjoy the planning part too. I enjoy doing the research and learning about each area we are visiting, checking out the campgrounds and making plans. It ensures a much more relaxing and fun adventure! But there is a point where you can over plan. After three long 7 and 8 month RV tours, I think I’ve become very good at the planning part.

  • Mike, very much enjoyed this article!!
    I would like to suggest for #7 – stay far away from the dumpsters… and not for the smell, but that too. Our favorite free parking is Cracker Barrel; patronizing their business is really satisfying too! The dumpsters may get emptied at around 4 AM. This makes horrendous noises!! Take a giant metal box and bang it against a giant metal truck – repeat repeat repeat!!! Multiply by the number of dumpsters. yow.
    For your 330 rule, this should be right after rule 1 – don’t get in a hurry. I seem to always be on a timetable so my day ends up being closer to 550 rule! Do you vary this for the longer summer days?
    billw
    PS. i wish the comments wouldn’t get cleared if you make a mistake in the name/email fields and have to resubmit – starts all over from scratch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the RV Lifestyle community!

Subscribe to the newsletter and get a free Packing List for your next trip + free perks, discounts and exclusive RV travel tips!



Join the RV Lifestyle community!

Subscribe to the newsletter and get a free Packing List for your next trip + free perks, discounts and exclusive RV travel tips!