A lot of things changed in 2020, thanks to the pandemic. Residents across the country were advised to stay home and forgo travel. But if you’re a full-time RV traveler, staying home meant staying on the road. And if you’re a recreational traveler, you might have considered that RV travel is the safest way to do it.
As we head into 2021, that dynamic is still with us. As longtime travelers, we’ve had plenty of time to explore strategies for getting the most out of our RV experience while changing up our lifestyle to meet the challenges of our time. We hope you find them useful as you embark on your own adventures.
Chart a new course
The longer you’re on the road, the more places you’ll have seen. It’s fun to revisit places you’ve been before, but it’s also fun to get off the beaten track and find hidden gems you might have missed. Check out some of the more isolated campgrounds; they’ll be less crowded, which is better for social distancing.
Or take things a step further: Have a family member join you in a four-wheel-drive. He or she can spend the nights in the RV, then you can go off-roading to even more remote destinations. You can’t get much more socially distanced than that. But it’s a good idea to learn to drive a stick-shift first.
Even more than when you’re traveling by car, you need to be sure you have emergency gear on board in case you need it. Of course, you’ll need the standard tool kit, along with jumper cables, a fire extinguisher, antifreeze, and motor oil.
But you’ll also need specialized supplies on the road like an electrical management system, tire pressure monitor, air compressor, sewer valve, hand vac, water purifier, and jack pads. As far as electronic devices go, don’t forget backup cellphone chargers, WiFi and cellphone signal boosters, and a two-way radio. Take a paper map, too, in case you’re out of range of all satellite systems.
And in the current environment, be sure to stock a kit of health and safety items, like hand sanitizer, face masks, rubbing alcohol, and disinfecting wipes.
Go big or go home
Actually, if you’re in an RV, you are going big already, so you need to adjust your driving habits accordingly. If you’re new to this lifestyle, be aware that size matters, whether you’re on the road or in a campground. You’ll need to know where (and whether) your RV is allowed on the road.
Maximum heights and lengths vary by jurisdiction, so know what’s legal before you cross that state line. Not sure whether you’ve got enough clearance to get under that bridge? Best not to test it. Also, be sure you’re aware of other RV restrictions: Some places, for instance, require that you have special weight-distribution hitches, sway control, or independent braking systems.
Create an itinerary
Even if — or especially if — you’re always on the road, you need to think and plan ahead to the conditions you could encounter next. Download a weather app so you know what road conditions and potential detours you might be facing soon. If possible, plot out your stops ahead of time, and decide where you’ll be staying.
RV campgrounds are available across the United States. Follow these tips to find campgrounds along your chosen route, but be sure you know what each has to offer. Rules may vary, too (some, for example, don’t allow you to bring in firewood), so be familiar with them before you stop.
And look for alternatives: For example, Walmart doesn’t offer hookups, but it does allow RV users to use most of its parking lot. (You’ll need permission from the manager first.) Many RVers prefer retail establishments that close at night like Cracker Barrel or Cabela’s to allow for a quieter night’s sleep.
Secure the home front
If you’re not a full-time road-tripper, you’ll need to be sure your home base is safe and secure before you get going. Chances are, you’ll be gone for a while, so make sure your house is protected from intruders. Deadbolt locks are always a good idea; so are outdoor sensor lights and indoor lights that turn on automatically at night.
Not all threats come from the outside, though. It’s also important to protect your home from problems that can arise when you least expect them. If your pipes freeze when you’re gone, or something goes wrong with one of your major appliances, you’ll want to know you’re protected. A home warranty can do the trick by covering the cost of repairs to your essential systems.
Be financially prepared
An RV is a big investment, and the time you take to explore is a major commitment. As with any other major investment, you need to make sure you’re financially prepared — which includes different budgeting and funding factors for RV travel.
You’ll need to increase your fuel budget, for example. Your gas mileage will be significantly less than what you get in a car, so calculate it and adjust your projected costs accordingly. (Gas prices also vary a lot by state, so factor that in, too.) Another thing to consider: Diesel RVs tend to be more fuel-efficient. Look for strategies to save on RV travel.
Then there’s RV insurance. Many insurers offer a reduced rate for their coverage when the RV is in storage. And you’ll want to have enough money budgeted for a long trip with possible detours, souvenirs, and weather-related mishaps. Beyond that, make sure you have an emergency savings fund as a backup just in case you need it.
There’s a lot to think about when you’re living on the road, but planning and preparation beforehand can make your experience much more enjoyable. Do plenty of research and make a checklist to be sure you don’t forget anything. Then you can hit the road with the knowledge that a great time lies ahead.
Guest Post by Molly Barnes, a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US. She and her boyfriend Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.