This is a working list of mistakes that I have made over the years and many other experienced campers have made too (I assume). Please heed the advice found here. If you do these big trips, you are bound to end up in a similar situation. With a little advance planning and advice your outcomes can be much less painful then mine.

  1. Never Rely on your GPS!  click the link for a giggle at my expense! GPS is an essential tool, but you need a good road atlas as well. I also highly suggest this book to help your route planning.
  2. NEVER attempt to back up with a towed vehicle attached to your RV. This is one  piece of advice that I had to learn the hard way. TWICE! This sounds self explanatory, but inevitably you will find yourself in a situation where you missed a turn or ended up in a tight spot (literally) and you are forced to make a U turn or otherwise pull off an unplanned maneuver. The first time this happened to me I was towing my wife’s brand new Jeep Wrangler (also a mistake). The GPS routed us down a small road with no space to turn around in one shot. I was frustrated and tired after driving 400 miles and decided that just maybe I could make a U turn in one move. I almost pulled it off, but I came up a few feet short. I figured I could back up a few feet and make it happen. WRONG! As soon as I backed upped the jeep made contact with the rear of the RV and I mangled the left front of the brand new Jeeps bumper. I vowed never to repeat this dumb move, but five years later I did the exact same thing on a road in Anza Borrego State Park. The simple way to avoid the costly repairs that I had to endure is to pull over the best you can. Take a deep breath and relax. Don’t get worked up about the traffic or cars that you may be holding up. You simply have no choice other than to disconnect the Toad before making your U turn. It was simply out of frustration and not wanting to loose time that I did not listen to my own advice. Be smarter then me and take the time to do it the right way and save yourself even bigger headaches.
  3. Always carry two way walkie talkies and use them every time that you back into a spot. Getting into a campsite with a big RV can be a challenge. I have found backup cameras to be pretty much useless in these situations. You need a spotter or two and good communication. Cell phones are good too, but coverage in remote areas can be spotty. Always carry two way walkie talkies and teach your spotter to talk you through the maneuver in detail. Also go slow. I mean real slow. This can save you big!
  4. Carry tools! Lots of tools. Buy a complete set of cheap tools that you can keep full time in the RV. Harbor Freight is a good source. In addition to hand tools, a cordless drill, silicone gun, a variety of sealants, epoxies, zip ties, duct tape, and a multimeter are all necessities.
  5. Never neglect fixing a water leak of any sort. Water leaks destroy RV’s PERIOD! If you develop a leak in a slide out seal, roof, pipe, fitting, or anywhere, fix it immediately. These can cause floors to warp, tiles to pop up, and things to rot quickly. Never neglect a water leak.
  6. Do not spend a lot of money on a toad. Tow vehicles lead a hard life. Rocks are thrown up from the motorhome that cause chips on the front of the vehicle. Diesel engines produce “blowby” which is an oily residue the can make a mess of your towed car. Dinghys or toads are often used to explore places that you would never take your car. Gravel roads, 4×4 trails, and other types of less than ideal road surfaces are common when camping. I have had Toads that cost anywhere from $32,000 to as little as $1800. I much prefer the $1800 option after seeing the abuse that these vehicles endure. Please read my page about selecting a toad to see my recommendations for good candidates to tow behind and RV. While we are on this topic, I must say that I would never recommend using a tow dolly or a trailer strictly for towing a vehicle. It unnecessarily complicates an already complicated setup. In addition to having another piece of equipment to maintain and store, it also becomes problematic at many campgrounds for where to keep this thing.  There are a lot of good choices for flat towing with a simple tow bar and in my opinion, this is the only way to go.
  7. Maintain your grey and black water dump valves and keep your black water tank clean! If you find yourself having to pull extra hard to open your black water valve to dump the contents of your tank, it is time to replace the valve. As preventative maintenance, it is probably good practice to replace this valve every five years or so. It is a $20 part so there is no excuse not to. Having one of these break or fail is something that you never want to deal with. It can be a disgusting mess and will ruin your day quickly. When you are at a full hookup up site, it is good practice to fill and dump your black tank several times to clean it out as best is possible each time that you can. Many modern systems have a hose hookup to flush the hose with clean water. There is also a warning that says to only operate this when the black water valve is open. With caution, I say that you must ignore this. This is the only way to efficiently fill and dump the tank for cleaning purposes. The risk with this is that you can overfill the tank and force sewage up through the toilet and into your RV. This is obviously something to be avoided at all cost. This can be easily be avoided by looking down the toilet with a flashlight while you are filling it. Once it is getting near 3/4 full, pull the valve and drain it. Rinse and repeat as needed. NEVER rely on the gauges to tell you when this tank is full. They fail more often than they work due to “debris” getting hung up on the sensors. Unfortunately you need to do a visual inspection down the toilet to see where the water is at. Skipping this step will cause raw sewage to enter your RV and at that point your next step is a for sale sign.
  8. Carry spares. Spare fuses, spare oil filters, if possible a spare tire, and especially spare fuel filters. Getting bad diesel is something that happens more often than you might think. When it does, it clogs fuel filters and can leave you stranded. Keep spares on hand and learn how to change the filters yourself to avoid costly roadside emergency service. Also carry 1 gallon of diesel in a gas can. This will be used to fill up the filters to avoid sucking air into the system which can lead to all sorts of problems including destroying injection pumps which can cost up to $6,000 to replace. A spare tire is not always possible on an RV, but if you have the room, I suggest carrying one without a wheel. You will likely not be able to change it yourself, but at least a roadside truck repair outfit can mount it for you as opposed to having your RV towed at great cost and having to order the right size tire for your RV. Any used tire will do the job just fine until you get the time to replace it down the road.
  9. NEVER leave your campsite with an awning out on your RV. If is sunny and windless day, a storm is definitely going to roll in if you leave the awning out. It is Murphy’s Law. Look it up!
  10. Buy a surge protector.  Campsite electricity if notoriously unstable. Surges can destroy all sorts of electronics. I am not talking about the $5 thing that  we plug our computers into at home. This is a more expensive investment but well worth it. Surge Protector
  11. Be prepared to have fun. Stock the RV with fishing poles, inflatable tubes, inflatable kayaks , some campsite games, playing cards and whatever else you can think of for your adventures. Buying these things ahead of time will save a ton on money on buying them in a tourist town or renting them from a local outfitter.
  12. Be prepared for the unexpected. RV’s are complex machines. Even on brand new million dollar motorhomes things break. You need to accept that this is part of it. It is going to happen. Having the right mindset and dealing calmly with these situations will make or break a trip. When the $hit hits the fan, make a plan to fix it or have it fixed and most importantly keep the family happy. If this means a couple of days in a hotel while the RV is laid up, so be it. The best advice that I can give in this regard is get to know your RV, do the preventative maintenance, and learn how to fix simple things yourself. Simply reading your owners manual can provide valuable insight into problems. Many manufacturers have 1 800 numbers with technicians on hand to help you troubleshoot these things. Freightliner, Cummins, and Allison all provide fantastic customer support.
  13. Have Fun! This may seem like common sense. This may even sound like a stupid thing to include here. However it is essential to keep it in mind. You are engaging in an adventure in order to have fun, bond with your family, and enjoy the great outdoors. However it is easy to get caught up in all the planning, rv maintenance, repairs, and other mundane details of the trip. A key step in order to maximize the fun factor is to build into every trip what I call “fluff time” For example if you are planning a 3 week trip, be sure to include fluff time. These are days scattered throughout the trip planning that nothing is scheduled.  On a three week trip at least 4 days of fluff time is needed. This leaves room for adjustments to the schedule. Rarely do things go as planned.  You may think that a particular destination is going to be the highlight of your trip only to be let down with it. Or Conversely, you may schedule a one night stop that turns out to be so incredible that you wished you could spend more time. This happens to us on each and every trip that we take. Give yourself the freedom to take advantage of these occasions and adjust your schedule accordingly.  Move on when you are disappointed and stay longer when you are pleasantly surprised.  Unless you are retired and full-timing it, we are all time limited. Planing is key to a successful trip. I spend months planning each of my trips. I assemble each of these plans in a 3 ring binder filled with reservations, brochures, and a trip calendar.  Fluff time enables me to make small adjustments as the trip unfolds. It is probably the single most important thing you can do to keep the trip moving along and keep everyone happy.
  14. Turn off the water to your camper when you leave the site. RV plumbing systems are not like the ones in your house. The connections are much weaker and can and do fail. When you are traveling many campgrounds will have enormous water pressure that can stress these connections. The last thing that you want to return to after a great day exploring is a flooded RV. Also spend $8 on a water pressure regulator  for the water in connection to minimize the risk.