My family was unable to go on vacation because of the pandemic. We needed a different way to escape. GoRVing.com offered to lend us a 25-foot travel caravan, and I borrowed a Ram 1500 pickup truck from Ram Trucks in order to tow it. Over the winter holidays we headed south to St. Augustine in Florida to enjoy some sun and then settled into the cold Ohio winter.
Before this trip, I had never been in an RV. To say that we learned a lot about ourselves and the RV lifestyle was an understatement.
Take your time to learn the basics and be comfortable behind the wheel.
We received the loaner RV the day before we left Ohio. So we packed everything into every RV cabinet we could find to make the trip. Clothes, food, and towels for a week were all packed into the closets. We raced to get in the truck so that we could hurry when my oldest completed her last Zoom class before semester break.
Do not overpack
In retrospect, I should have taken more time to pack the RV than I did. We are so used to packing suitcases for travel that we didn’t realize how much clothing we had. We also overpacked snacks and food, not realizing that we would be stopping at truck stops with plenty of delicious snacks. It’s part and parcel of the fun of traveling — discovering new foods! Boil peanuts are a must-have!
We had packed extra food, which took up space in the RV’s kitchen. This made life a game of Tetris throughout the week as we moved things around.
I would also have been more familiar with the truck and travel trailer combination if I had stayed longer. Instead, I had my first experience with driving the trailer on the southbound side of the interstate. About a hundred miles into my trip, I was still not comfortable driving the trailer. Also, I never learned how to reverse into a space or into our campsite.
Make sure to check your safety equipment regularly
It is easy to ruin a vacation by not getting there. Because RVs are more mobile than family cars, tires and other equipment don’t get as much mileage. Tires can lose air due to temperature fluctuations over time. Regularly checking your tire pressure is crucial to ensure your family and you reach your campsite safely. At every fuel stop, it’s a good idea for your RV tires to be checked.
You should also inspect your hitch and check the wiring of your trailer for lights and brakes. Also, make sure you have safety chains in place to prevent the trailer from falling off the road.
You don’t have to worry, I didn’t encounter any safety issues on my trip. At every fuel stop, I checked the tires as well as the hitch.
Give yourself extra time to get there
You can add thousands of pounds to your vehicle when you tow a trailer. The trailer’s aerodynamic drag and additional fuel consumption means that you will need to use a lot more fuel. You’ll need to stop for fuel more often than if you don’t have a trailer.
The Ram 1500 truck averaged close to 20 MPG (miles per gallon) when driving at the speed limit. The fuel economy was 9.8 MPG for our trip to Florida. This doubled the amount of fuel stops that we had to make.
It’s not a big deal to empty the tanks
It happens. Do not let the idea of having to deal with sewage discourage you from using onboard plumbing. It can be a little unpleasant, but that’s part and parcel of life on the road.
We stayed at a campsite that had waste hookups in every parking space. There were also hookups for water and electrical supply. The waste dump was easy to access with a pair of rubber gloves that were long enough for your elbows. Simply connect the included hose from the RV to the drain, then connect the other end to the pipe in ground. Finally, pull the levers to release the drains. Close everything and then go to the bathroom.
You can expect to do some maintenance
An RV is more complicated than a car. It’s got all the features of a car, but also a home. To help with basic RV maintenance tasks, bring a few tools. I brought a hammer and a large pocketknife. A multitool was also included. I knew I would need pliers in case the large nut on my trailer hitch ball was loosen.
The fresh water supply line that feeds the back of the toilet broke over the drive. We noticed water on our floor when we arrived in Florida. It started spraying everywhere when we connected the fresh water. It was no big deal. I grabbed my pliers and reconnected the water. Then, I grabbed some towels.
Relax and enjoy the trip!
It’s like a vacation. Enjoy yourself. Relax and forget about worrying about what you packed. Instead of spending my evenings staring at Netflix or hunching over my laptop, I found myself in a camp chair by the fire reading a book that I had wanted to read for years. Every day we found something new in our rolling home.