10 Must-Know RV Camping Tips for Beginners

10 Must-Know RV Camping Tips for Beginners

After visiting RV trade shows and taking an epic RV road trip towing a pop-up camper, I’ve learned so much about RV camping! It’s not only perfect for retirees and digital nomads (here are tips on how to find remote jobs), but it can be a great vacation alternative for people on school break, family vacations, or sabbaticals.

1. Learn The Different Types Of RVs

I was completely unaware of the vast array of RV options until I embarked on my RV camping adventure or started attending RV exhibitions. Every time I reserved a spot at an RV campsite, they would use so much RV jargon that left me perplexed!

If you are new to RVing, you are likely in the same situation. Once you become acquainted with the type of RV you will be camping in, the various styles of RVs you will encounter, and most importantly, the amount of space you will occupy, booking RV campsites will become much simpler. 

Here Is A Quick Guide To The Types Of RVs:

Motorized RVs

  • Class A Motorhomes (shaped like a bus; 30-45’ long)

  • Class B, B+ Motorhomes (camper with amenities; 18-28’ long)

  • Class C Motorhomes (larger than campers at 25-34’)

  • Converted Camper Vans (like Class B but often fewer facilities)

Towable types of RVs

  • 5th wheel campers (for pickup trucks)

  • Travel trailers

  • Truck Camper

  • Teardrop campers

  • Pop up campers

  • Toy hauler (for hauling ATVs, etc.; often comes as fifth wheel campers or travel trailers)


    2. Verify Your Vehicle's Towing Capacity

    One of our major blunders while RVing was underestimating our SUV's towing capabilities! We had grand RV aspirations but had to downsize to a lightweight pop-up camper to accommodate our Subaru Forester's limited towing capacity, which was approximately 2,400 lbs.

    Before selecting your RV (whether renting or purchasing), it is crucial to confirm the towing capacity of your vehicle to ensure the best fit. Remember to factor in the weight of your personal gear when making calculations.

    3. Determine the Ideal RV Parking Locations

    Another unexpected challenge we faced during our first RV trip was finding suitable parking spots! This was undoubtedly the most stressful aspect of our RV road journey for me.

    Whenever we stopped at shopping malls and markets, we had to locate two parking spaces to accommodate our SUV and pop-up camper. While this was not an issue in large shopping mall parking lots, it was often impractical during quick restaurant stops and drive-thrus.

    When planning your RV camping trip, be sure to map a route that includes truck-friendly rest stops so you can secure sufficient parking spaces for the size of your vehicle. If you are embracing “van life” in a converted van, or are in a small motorhome (< 20 feet length), you may be able to get around this.

    Determine the Ideal RV Parking Locations

    4. Create a Practical Budget for RVing

    When embarking on an RV adventure, it's important to map out a realistic budget. While RVing can save you money on hotel and flight expenses, it does come with its own set of costs. On average, RVers spend around $1,000-3,000 per month on expenses. However, if you enjoy dining out, shopping, or prefer shorter stays at campsites, your monthly expenses may range from $4,000-8,000.

    Nevertheless, even with these expenses, RVing still offers significant savings compared to the average vacation cost of $2,000-5,000 for non-backpackers on a 1-2 week trip.


    When Planning Your RV Road Trip Budget, Be Sure To Consider:

    • Decreased gas mileage and increased fuel costs, which may require diesel depending on your vehicle. 

    • Higher highway toll costs for trailers and motorhomes.

    • Leasing or rental fees for the RV.

    • Auto insurance.

    • RV campsite and hookup costs, as well as dump station fees.

    • The extra cost of using the public facility or preparing your own RV appliance.
    • Additional amenities such as wifi, cable, and supplies.

    • RV repairs and maintenance. 

    • Standard expenses like health insurance, food, cell phone bills, and student loans.

    When Planning Your RV Road Trip Budget, Be Sure To Consider

      5. Find RV Campgrounds And RV Parks That Won’t Break The Budget

      If you're accustomed to paying site rates for tent camping, be prepared for higher costs when RV camping. RVs require more space and services, which are reflected in the prices. On average, RV campsite costs can range from $30-150 per night, depending on the location and season, unless you can find free campsites.

      We’ve Learned A Few Tricks To Finding RV Campsites On A Budget:

      • Get RV memberships if you’re in this for the long run (like Passport America, Thousand Trails, Good Sam, or Harvest Hosts)

      • Stay at RV park chains like Sun RV Resorts, which always has special offers

      • Park on BLM public land (Bureau of Land Management)

      • Obtain state and national park passes for reduced fees.

      • Take advantage of weekly and monthly discounts by staying longer at campsites. 

      • Consider boondocking (dry camping) and utilize resources like Campendium or Overlander to find suitable sites.

      6. Choosing the Appropriate RV Campsites to Suit Your Requirements

      The needs for RV camping can vary depending on the type of RV you have chosen. While most RV sites provide basic amenities such as electric hookups, you may require additional campsite amenities. Through my personal experience with RVing, I have come to realize the importance of planning ahead.

      RVing presented a new challenge for me as I was accustomed to booking tent campsites just a few days in advance or even upon arrival at a park. However, when it comes to RV camping, it is crucial to make reservations in advance to secure the ideal campsite for your vehicle, especially during peak seasons or if you require hookups.

      When Selecting Your RV Campground, Take into Account the Following Factors:

      • Are there available hookups for electricity, water, and septic? 

      • Does the campsite provide a dumping station or are hookups only available at specific sites? 

      • Does the campground offer bathroom and shower facilities? If not, how about getting your own shower system so you can dismiss this small but irritating issue.

      • Does the campsite offer cable and WiFi services?

      When Choosing Your RV Campground, Consider This

        7. Learn RV Campsite Rules And Etiquette

        RV camping is a lot different than tent camping. In fact, if tents are allowed in a campground, they are usually in a different section of the park. Abiding by RV park rules and showing RV manners will help you have a better stay (and maybe even make some friends!)

        Here Are RV Camping Tips, Rules, And Etiquette We’ve Learned From RV Road Tripping:

        • Many RV campsites only allow "back in" parking. If you dislike maneuvering your RV into a tight spot, consider searching for campgrounds that offer "pull through" sites, although availability is not always guaranteed. 

        • Most campgrounds enforce a noise curfew, requiring generators to be turned off between 10pm and 7am (specific times may vary). It is also considerate to turn off any bright lights during quiet hours. 

        • Avoid walking through other people's campsites. - If there are numerous vacant campsites, give your RV neighbor some space. 

        • When hosting guests, ensure that you adhere to guest rules, parking regulations, and curfews. 

        • Clean the dump station after use. 

        • Remember to take all your trash with you when leaving!

        8. Efficiently Set Up Your RV Campsite

        Arranging your RV campsite may appear to be a quick task since everything is conveniently available. However, I have discovered that it actually takes longer to set up compared to tent camping.

        Here are some valuable tips I have learned from my RVing experiences and observing other RV owners setting up their campsites:

        • Allocate a minimum of 2 hours of daylight to comfortably set up and dismantle your site.
        • Disconnect any towed vehicles, such as a car behind your motorhome. Thoroughly inspect the area for any potential obstacles that may hinder your backing in, such as trees or rocks.
        • Park your RV in a manner that allows sufficient space for an outdoor seating area or slide outs, if applicable.
        • Ensure you have leveling blocks to adjust the height of your RV if necessary.
        • For trailers, it is advisable to use wheel chocks (similar to door stoppers) to keep it securely in place.
        • Arrange an awning, outdoor rug, and seating area/table outside your RV.
        • Remember not to leave the awnings extended while away for extended periods or during windy days.

        If you want an awesome list of RV essentials to pack for your camping trip, I really like this RV camping packing list from Campers Inn.

        Set Up Your RV Campsite Efficiently

        9. Dump The Right Way

        If you choose a motorhome or trailer that includes a kitchen, bathroom, or shower, you’ll have to learn a bit about holding tanks and dumping. Here is a quick guide:

        • Dumping stations: this location where you can dump your waste sewage; perfect for RVers who don’t have hook ups at their campsite. Here are great dumping tips to review before your RV trip.

        • Hookups: most RV parks include hookups at each campsite (so you don’t have to go to a dumping station) which offers gray and black tank emptying as well as fresh water.

        • Black tank: this is where your waste goes when you use the bathroom in your RV

        • Gray tank: this is where shower and dish water goes when used in your RV

        When you get a campsite with full hookups, you’ll be able to connect hoses to your gray and black tank valves and empty them into the campground’s septic system. 

        If you are going to be at the campsite for a while, be sure not to keep the black tank’s valve open, so as to prevent dripping and the smell of waste at your site.

        Other holding tank / hose tips include:

        • Use your fresh water hose for fresh water only. Many RVers choose to use a completely different colored hose to prevent a mix up with the black and gray tank hoses (yuck).

        • Only empty your black tank after being > halfway full so it can empty easily.

        10. Master the Art of RVing Safely

        While RV camping can provide a luxurious and comfortable experience at your campsite, it is crucial to prioritize the safety of your belongings while on the move. By adopting smart storage solutions, organizing your supplies, and securing your accessories, you can ensure that the setup, breakdown, and driving processes are effortless and secure.

        Here Are Some Tips To Take With You On Your RV Camping Trip:

        • Regularly inspect the health of your RV, including tires and fuel gauge.

        • While driving, ensure that all loose items are properly stored, locked, or secured against the walls or floor. 

        • If you have a tall RV, always be aware of bridge clearance heights and weight restrictions. 

        • Due to the size of your vehicle, it is advisable to drive at a slower pace and allocate extra time for your estimated time of arrival. 

        • As mentioned earlier, always secure your RV wheels by leveling, using chocks, and engaging the parking brake when parked.

        • If you are going cold weather RV camping, be sure to know how to prepare accordingly

        Now You’re Ready For RV Camping!

        Now that you are equipped with these essential RV camping tips, you are ready to embark on your adventure! These insights were gained through our own experiences as beginners in the world of RVing. As we learned more, our RV road trips became increasingly smoother and more enjoyable.

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