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Dumb RV Mistakes We Made During Our First Year

We had zero experience with RVs before purchasing our own and becoming full-timers. We thought we had researched everything, but still made some pretty dumb mistakes our first year of RVing. I hope that sharing our experience helps you avoid making the same RV mistakes. Whether you are planning to buy an RV or just rent one, use the tips I suggest below and you’ll be a happy camper. You can thank me later!

Here are the RV mistakes we made and how you can avoid them.

Forgetting important steps on travel days

Checklist for RV travel days

We learned the hard way that we needed to create a checklist of steps that are required for preparing to move locations. With a fifth-wheel, or travel trailer, there are more steps than a motorhome. But regardless of what rig you have, there are action items that can be very detrimental to you and your rig if you forget to do them before taking off. These steps may seem like “second nature” and steps that you can’t imagine forgetting, but you might be surprised how often you feel rushed or anxious on travel days.

It’s easy to feel a little flustered when you’re cleaning up, strapping down, packing up, planning your route, and getting directions, all while keeping an eye on the time to ensure you’re done by checkout time. We’ve learned that doing some tasks the night before is helpful. Get your tow vehicle or rig gassed up the night before, so you don’t have to worry about stopping right away. Maybe even clean and stow or strap down items the night before as well. Give yourself plenty of time too.

Your checklist should include things like:

  • Turn off the water pump and water heater
  • Put the stabilizer legs up (we’ve forgotten this step before!)
  • Close all the windows and vents
  • Check the brakes and turn signals
  • Check the tire pressure
  • Ensure that the tailgate is up (yep, we forgot this once!)

You can find these checklists online or create one yourself. But make sure you actually use it and double check it. If you’re a couple, each person should ensure that every item is completed and checked off. Then, after you pull away from your spot, one person should walk around the site and ensure you didn’t leave anything behind, too. There also needs to be a checklist for when you arrive at your new destination. We’ve had our fair share of those mistakes as well.

Not fully understanding what we needed in a rig

We don’t necessarily regret purchasing our first RV, but we wish we would have been a little more informed and prepared. It’s so important to understand what needs you have in an RV. Think about your lifestyle and make sure that the RV you purchase fits that. We were limited in our ability to dry camp, or “boondock”, because we didn’t give any thought to certain features of our fifth wheel, such as holding tanks. To read more tips for purchasing the right RV, click here.

Fifth Wheel

Trusting Google maps and not validating our route


For many of us, we’ve become so accustomed to using our cell phones for directions. We often don’t put much thought into the route that it suggests. We’ll simply type in the address and head out, usually without double checking. You absolutely cannot do this with an RV. Our general thought was, “as long as we’re on highways, we’ll be good…truckers take those roads!”. But that’s not always the case, and it’s the roads leading to and from highways that you need to be extra careful of.

We got ourselves into a pretty stressful situation following Siri’s directions. While leaving Sedona, AZ, we were routed to a highway that went straight through a mountain. The roads were some of the windiest and narrowest that we had ever seen. On top of that, there were many low hanging trees that were hitting the roof of our fifth wheel. It was in that moment that we realized we need to be more hands on with our route planning.

Google Map RV navigation mistakes
This was the winding road Google maps led us too!

We’ve come across many low clearance bridges and tunnels as well as roads that suddenly have weight limits with no warning. To avoid getting yourself into a dangerous situation, we suggest purchasing an RV specific GPS. You can also find apps that offer maps with clearly marked areas that have low clearance or weight restrictions. We’ve gotten in the habit of checking every road we will be taking ahead of time. We mainly use the All Stays app for this.

We didn’t take a practice run

Our first time RVing was the very same day we hit the road full-time. We were fairly nervous and had just planned to “learn as we go”. Needless to say, our first day was “memorable” and not in a good way. We made simple, careless mistakes just because of our lack of experience and the anxiety that came with that. We regretted not doing a “trial run”, even just for a quick overnight camping trip not far from home.

Fifth wheel towing practice
The only thing we did was practice backing up in a parking lot one evening!

If we’d gone for a practice run, we truly believe our first day RV mistakes wouldn’t have happened. We would’ve learned then, that we needed a checklist and could’ve avoided careless errors. We also could have practiced our roles and our communication for parking. It’s really no different than playing a sport, there’s way less pressure at practice than on game day! Overall, it would have greatly increased our confidence and eased our nerves a bit. So, if you aren’t an experienced RVer, do yourself a favor and give yourself some practice time. 

Rear view mirror RV
Despite all these “dumb mistakes” we haven’t looked back once! We wouldn’t trade RV life for anything!

I really hope this post gives you practical tips for avoiding careless and dumb mistakes during your upcoming RV travels. Now go make that checklist, buy an RV specific GPS, and schedule in some practice before your maiden voyage!  If you’re a seasoned RVer and want to share your RV mistakes, do so in the comments below. I’d love to hear more tips and am always looking for more ways to be proactive myself.

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