Top Five Recreational Vehicle Hacks for Travelers
Are you looking to hit the road and spend retirement enjoying the RV lifestyle? Maybe you want to rent an RV to take your family on the vacation they will never forget? Recreational vehicles are a great way to reconnect with nature while maintaining some of the luxuries of home. To help ensure your maiden voyage doesn’t end up like the Griswold’s, Jane from Outdoorsy.com shares five hacks for RV travelers.
RV travel is one of the best ways to get out, see the world and experience it in a way that simply cannot be duplicated through more traditional travel options. Not only do you have the chance to travel wherever you want at your own pace, but you can also stop for spontaneous breaks and visit unexpected attractions along the way. Traveling in an RV opens up a whole new world of flexibility and comfort, allowing you to take the driver’s seat and decide where you will go, how long you are going to stay, and if you want to take the scenic route to get there.
Along with the advantages of RVing come some negatives like fuel costs, being responsible for repairs and maintenance, navigating a large vehicle and finding affordable things to do along the way. Driving an RV is by far the biggest learning curve, as it handles much differently than a small personal vehicle.
There are also a few onboard systems that can enhance or take away from the trip depending on how quickly you understand what needs to be done. To provide some guidance here are 5 top recreational vehicle hacks for travelers that address some of those issues so that your travel experience is an adventure to remember, in a good way.
Solar systems can be complicated and expensive especially if it is something you are not familiar with. Still, when you are living full time off the grid in your RV, or even traveling from place to place, it is totally worth it to have a solar system installed. Nothing beats being completely self-sustained with your electricity tied into your solar.
Not only can you travel to more unique and remote locations you can also charge your batteries while you travel down the highway as the sun hits your campers’ roof.
For occasional use, an inexpensive, portable, and self-built system can work great. These can easily be set up at the right angle once you arrive at your destination. You will need one or two 12V 100-watt solar panels, a charge controller (preferably waterproof), two MC4 inline fuses and some extension wires.
If your coach, motorhome or camper is prewired for solar then the extension wires should have the appropriate connector for your RV solar port. If it is not, then get wires with alligator clips that can attach to your battery terminals.
The panels connect to the solar charge controller solar in ports, the extension cables connect at one end to the solar charge controller power out ports. The other end connects to your battery terminals or your recreational vehicles solar port. One fuse goes inline between the panels and the charge controller, the other goes inline between the charge controller and the battery.
Once connected, throw the panels in the sun and let the charge controller do its duty. This simple set-up can be built for under $250 and can allow you to extend your stays at off-grid boondocking sites for days if not longer.
Having a level RV is one of the most under-rated issues that happen to everyone, at least once. How flat the ground is in any given area, is usually not something people think about. In an RV, however, there can be significant problems if the vehicle is not level. The fridge and other appliances may not work properly, and it may not be safe to live and sleep until the RV has been stabilized.
Stackable leveling blocks made to level your RV are one of the greatest multitaskers in RV travel. Of course, they are great for leveling your RV in almost any situation. They are also great for leveling things around the campsite. Short leg, or uneven ground under your picnic table?
Toss a leveling block or two under it. Same goes for your grill. They are also great for tire changes on double or triple axle trailers, campers, and fifth wheels. If you have a flat or blown tire, roll the neighboring good tire up on a tall stack of leveling blocks.
That will get the bad wheel far enough off the ground to replace it with a spare. Then roll it back down and you are on your way. This eliminates the need to carry a special frame jack, works where jacks will not and prevent axle damage from attempting to jack the RV from under the axle.
Recreational Vehicle Specific GPS
A regular GPS, Google Maps or Wayz may be great tools to help you get where you are going in your car, but they can get you into trouble in a motorhome or hauling a camper or toy hauler, that is where a specific GPS made for recreational vehicles, as the Garmin RV 770 LMTS comes in.
These units consider your recreational vehicles length, width, height, weight, and a number of propane tanks to plot safe courses and alert you to local regulations as you travel. They even allow you to enter the maximum speed you travel in your motorized camper so it can calculate travel times based on that rather than posted speed limits.
They can also pair with your smartphone for hands-free communication and real-time traffic and weather alerts. All of these features combine to provide a safer, more accurate traveling experience over their non-RV navigating cousins.
Fuel costs can be one of the largest expenses in RV camping. The gas buddy app and corresponding website allows you to locate the best gas prices in your area. They also allow you to plan and choose which stations you may want to stop along your planned route.
Not all gas stations are recreational vehicle and camper friendly. Consider cross-referencing your Gas Buddy finds with the stations shown on the Allstays Camp and RV app. If you are using a GPS as mentioned above in #3 you can also cross-reference against their suggestions, or program them in as waypoints along your route if you have preplanned. Doing so will allow you to get the best prices and avoid stations that your RV, Camper or Fifth Wheel may not fit in.
Another option for saving money on fuel is using a credit card that will pay you to fill up. Depending on your location and requirements, you can get cash back on a percentage of the price of gas. Some credit cards also provide with a discount if you fill up at certain stations. Paying attention to gas prices and taking advantage of these other options will make a big difference in your overall budget.
Memberships for Discount Activities
One cost that is hard to factor in is the attractions you will want to experience for yourself. Whether it is traveling from theme park to theme park or trying to visit as many National Parks and hiking trails as you can in one season, memberships can often reduce costs significantly.
It can also be great if you are staying in one camping site for a long period of time, so you can revisit an amazing destination at a much-reduced rate. This does not always require advance planning either.
When you arrive at an RV resort, park, campground or other attraction, ask about year-long passes or membership opportunities. Some of the more spontaneous travelers will base their trip on these types of deals. They might extend a surf vacation on the beach to a month when a membership price makes it more reasonable to do so.
Consider joining organizations like the North American Reciprocal Museum Association or the American Alliance of Museums. These memberships will provide you access to a large number of museums and similar institutions across the US and Canada. Each member has its unique benefits and can cover different places This is a great way to see many of the cultural attractions throughout the area for one low price.
Also, consider getting the America the Beautiful pass for the US National Parks if you plan on visiting public lands more than one in a year. If you have a fourth grader you can even get that pass for free through the “Every Kids in a Park” program. The free pass has all the benefits of the America the Beautiful Pass for the duration of your child’s 4th grade school year (ending the last day of August).
Make it a habit to always look for membership or season’s passes. The cost is often strikingly less expensive and can not only save a ton on the budget but often opening up more fun and adventure than you ever thought possible. It can be a bit like doubling or tripling the amount you get to see and do with no added cost to your pocket.
Hitting The Road
Traveling in an RV is a fun and exciting way to see the world. Whether you are going to an exotic new destination, camping in the wilderness, chilling at an RV park or staying at a nearby lake an RV allows you to personalize your travel for the perfect vacation. There are many great ways to make your travels safer, cheaper and more enjoyable. These 5 are at the top of that list saving you time, money and energy and preventing potential headaches along the way.
Thank you, Jane, for this great post. -Michael
Outdoorsy.com is an online RV rental marketplace that connects RV owners with potential renters to provide a new way to travel, and a new source of income for owners.