If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s how to operate out of our comfort zone. RV trips are no exception. Gretchen and her family decided to “just try it” and their review of the experience was entirely positive.
The RV buzz is currently loud so consider this your JTI guide to a successful RV trip!
Know Your Set-up
There are so many different sizes and configurations of RVs. If you can, I recommend researching and understanding the nuances between RVs and deciding what will work for your family. For example, some have beds that are made and ready for “sleeping” without having to do any work. Others convert from “travel” mode into “sleeping” mode (as in you must turn your kitchen table into a bed in order to sleep, etc.) If you are okay with converting beds each night, great. If not, you may want to look at an RV that doesn’t require that.
“The overall vibe is you just have to roll with whatever comes your way.”
Bells & Whistles - What’s Important
Our RV had two bathrooms, but only one is necessary. Also, our unit had a washer and dryer, which on paper, I thought was GREAT. But I learned that they didn’t work so we never used them. I was very impressed with the laundry services RV Parks provided so I would say that a washer/dryer in your unit is not necessary. If you plan to go during these unusual times, make sure to call ahead, as some parks had closed their laundromats due to COVID. We also had to make all our kids’ beds each night, which took about an hour and about 30 minutes in the morning to put it all away. If it’s an option, I would choose an RV that had pre-made beds (like bunk beds) that were sleep-ready all the time. OR, plan to stay at certain locations for multiple nights so you can keep your RV in its open, parked position.
The Wheels Might Fall Off…Literally
Kidding. But definitely saying to put on your most chill hat and be ready for the unexpected as it’s not a question of IF something will go wrong, it’s a question of WHEN. Entering into your trip with that understanding is HUGE. Make sure you are prepared with tools, gloves, and everything you need (see our RV Essentials list) to solve any problem that comes your way. Examples include: your generator won’t start when you’re parked at an RV park (this means your fridge and entire RV has no power), you will stall going uphill, an air mattress on one of your beds pops, RV toilet paper is sold out everywhere, something on the RV breaks, etc. You are relying on this machine to perform, and praying every day that it does.
“You are relying on this machine to perform, and praying every day that it does.”
Remember, Your RV Is Also Your Car
This may sound obvious but give it a minute. We rented a Class A, diesel, 38-foot RV, so parking turned into a huge issue. RV parks and campsites were fine, as there is space but parking in town can be really hard. The majority of the time, I went into the grocery store and Ryan would drive around and wait. Or, you have to park in large parking lots or on side streets and walk into town or to the place you want to go. If you plan to travel to Yellowstone, I would highly recommend getting a rental car to use during the day in the park. This was a last- minute decision and we were so happy to have the smaller car. We packed our cooler full of food and drinks and any other necessities for the park in the trunk and we were on our way. Stopping to see wildlife was SO much easier with our rental car.
“Be flexible and try to roll with the punches…every day brings something different!”
Captain Ryan’s Driving Tips
Here’s what Ryan had to say: Experience driving a big truck or vehicle is helpful, but not necessary. Always use your family members as spotters when backing up and parking. Be careful going up and downhill. I pushed it too hard going up hills at first and the engine stalled. I learned I need to keep her at about 35-40 mph up hills and then it was fine. Keep an eye on your water and waste tanks and always know where they are at. Everything from the toilets goes into the black tank and sinks and shower waste goes into the grey tank. Your water tank will last about 3 days without being filled. Make sure you wear gloves when changing the poop line. ; )
RV Parks Vs. Campsites – There’s A Difference
Planning is key for RV Parks, so make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time. Just call. An RV Park provides: Hook-up to electrical, sewer and water (this means you are not running on a generator and you have “free flow” water for flushing, showering and washing dishes )This is HUGE vs. running off your tanks or generator. They also include laundry services in some locations, play areas/jungle gyms, pool, rec activities such as pickleball, etc., social interaction, fire pits, picnic tables, and a store to buy supplies like laundry detergent, toilet paper and basics.
Tip: You can order items from Amazon and have them shipped to future RV Parks you are headed to. They will hold them for you at the office until your arrival!
A campsite provides privacy and a place to park, and that’s about it. There is no connection available for water, sewer or electrical so just know that ahead of time.
Most nights consisted of cooking on our small table-top grill at the RV park. We brought a big folding table, which we used to put the grill on as well as all plates, napkins, utensils, etc. So that table served as our “cooking base.” This worked really well! Most RV Parks have picnic tables so that’s where we would sit and actually eat. As far as food to cook, I’d recommend grabbing any pre-marinated meats, burgers or easy things to throw on the grill that don’t require a lot of prep. Using foil grill pans made clean up super easy! Baguettes, pasta, bagged salads and already cut fruit and veggies are the way to go. For lunches, I made a LOT of sandwiches while driving and also packed sandwiches for our hikes in Yellowstone. (*JTI Tip: Some of the hiking can be longer than you think, so I would bring treats to hand out at every mile marker…..my boys loved a handful of Skittles!) I also made sure we were always stocked with crackers, raw veggies and hummus as well as fruit for snacking and to go with lunches.