11 Simple Tips and Tricks for Traveling in an RV

Get ready to hit the road.
Get ready to hit the road. / stellalevi/Getty Images

RV camping can be extremely fun and rewarding, but it comes with a lot of challenges, too. Forgetting one key component could lead to a dangerous or costly situation, and if your belongings don’t have a secure, designated location, it’s easy to lose important items while on the go. Fortunately, there are a number of simple things you can do to make sure you're prepared for the ultimate RV adventure.

1. Test your system before you go.

There’s nothing worse than hitting the road and realizing you don’t have everything you need to be self-sufficient. You might pull up to a campground only to find that you’re missing a power adapter or that your gray water hose leaks. One good way to mitigate these types of issues is by testing your system before you leave for your trip, which gives you the opportunity to learn about kinks in your plan. 

2. Measure the height of your RV.

As you travel, you may find yourself in low-clearance situations that could have you worrying about the height of your RV. Maybe you hit a bridge with a 12-foot height limit, or perhaps you’ll find yourself trying to squeeze into a parking garage with low ceilings. Knowing the height of your RV allows you to make quick decisions that prevent you from getting in over your head—and make sure you stay under any height restrictions. 

3. Level your RV before filling the water tank.

Once you’ve parked, you’re probably going to be eager to get the water flowing into the RV’s fresh water system. But if you start filling up before the RV is level, you might not be optimizing the tank space. Leveling before filling your tank allows you to top it off. 

4. Empty your RV’s water tanks before traveling.

Most RVs come with a fresh water tank, a gray water tank, and a black water tank. And they tend to fill up quickly, depending on your system. Dumping your water before traveling will make the overall towing load substantially lighter, which can increase fuel efficiency and your vehicle’s towing ability. 

5. Invest in a handheld vacuum.

A small handheld vacuum can usually run for hours on a single charge, yet it’s effective against the debris that quickly accumulates in your traveling home. Keeping an RV clean is much easier with a small, handheld vacuum, which you can use on floors and countertops alike. 

6. Install command hooks and suction cups inside your RV.

Photographs and a basket hanging on a wall in a camper van
A few small things will help optimize your small space. / NuriaE/Getty Images

Most RVs come with a bit of empty wall space you can use for storing towels, clothing, and other miscellaneous items. Hardware stores typically have adhesive hooks and suction cups that are often capable of holding up to 5 pounds. You might also benefit from investing in a magnetic strip for knives and other metal devices for convenient organization. 

7. Use solar energy to stay self-sufficient.

On occasion, you might find yourself in a dry camp spot (a place with no electrical or water hookups), which can make charging your devices challenging. You can use both portable and permanent solar energy devices to power everything from your smartphone to an AC unit. 

8. Find free camp spots.

Young woman using laptop while sitting in camper van
Free camping helps make RV travel much more affordable. / Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

As more and more people are hitting the road, it can be challenging to find affordable RV parks and campgrounds. Fortunately, there are usually free options—without electricity and water—if you know where to look. To find them, download an app like iOverlander or Campendium, or purchase a good old fashioned map that shows Bureau of Land Management designations, as many BLM sites feature free camping. Just be sure to follow the organization’s camping rules and regulations. 

9. Use a signal booster.

Most travelers struggle with the losing service at some point. This can be particularly inconvenient if you use the GPS on your phone to navigate. A signal booster could help: Because cell phones rely on a small antenna to connect to the cell phone towers, connecting your phone to a device with a much bigger antenna may allow you to find a connection even when it seems like you’re in a black zone. 

10. Look into getting a hybrid fridge for your RV.

Woman cooking while her husband works on a camper trailer
A good fridge will help make sure you always have fresh food available. / Juliana Vilas Boas/Getty Images

Using a cooler can seem convenient at first glance, but even the most efficient coolers require a lot of ice. Try to find a hybrid fridge that can be powered by both electricity and propane. That way, if you’re off the grid but you’re still carrying propane, you can keep your goods cold without ice or electricity. 

11. Invest in collapsible storage for your RV.

When you’re living in a confined space, storage is everything. Collapsible storage containers allow you to stay organized once you’re parked, and they don’t take up a lot of space while you’re on the move. You can use collapsible totes for kitchenware and food, while a fold-down laundry basket could serve as a garbage can.