How to Overcome First Time RVer Intimidation 236

When we first started RVing just over a year ago, I felt enormously overwhelmed. I could count on one hand the number of people in my life who had ever traveled by RV, and none of them looked like my family. I knew zero people of color who had done it. I honestly had no clue what the different types and styles of RVs even were, where we could stay, or how everyone would fit. It was pretty stressful!

But, it turns out that RVing really wasn’t terribly difficult with a bit of practice and a lot of research. Here are some tips to help things go more smoothly if you’re a first-time RVer!

Know That You Can Learn as You Go

One of the scariest things for me as we started RVing was that we really didn’t know much at all! I mean, we had done our research and knew in theory how to dump sewage, how to fill water and gas, how to get propane and so many other details. But we’d never before done it in real life. How could we take out this huge vehicle that we knew so little about?

Fortunately, we found that RVing is really something that you can learn as you go. So much RV maintenance requires doing it a few times until you feel comfortable. You learn best by doing, not by reading. That said, Camping World’s YouTube is an incredible resource! It is so incredibly helpful when we have an RV question to be able to look up a video. It truly feels like having a friend come along to show us the ins and outs of our vehicle.

We’ve also found that other RVers tend to be wonderful and helpful. While there’s obviously diversity in the way people respond, we’ve found most RVers to be incredibly kind, supportive, and helpful. More than once, we’ve asked a question of another RV family, and they’ve always been lovely and incredibly helpful. And it’s been a relief to know we don’t have to know every single thing before starting out, but rather can learn a bit along the way.

PReethi harbuck class c rv
Preethi Harbuck has learned RV life on the go.

Know Your Lodging Options

One of the most stressful aspects of RVing for me was figuring out where to stay. Would we need a campground every night? Is it okay to stay in neighborhoods? Are we allowed to just pull over in a parking lot?

It turns out there are a lot of great resources for figuring out accommodations, too. Our favorite app to figure out places to stay is Campendium. It includes official campgrounds, dispersed campsites, dump stations, parking lots, and more. It has made it so much easier for us when we’re boondocking with kids. Just knowing the different options available to us makes it so much less stressful to figure out a place to stay, and allows us more flexibility in not needing to plan ahead quite as much.

Another great tool is the Good Sam Trip Planner. We can search and filter for campgrounds that are ideal for traveling families, with features like fast internet and swimming pools.

Everyone has different preferences in terms of campsites, including different hookups, or dry camping. It’s okay to experiment to figure out what works best for you!

The Harbuck family enjoy a meal at the campsite and recount the day’s adventures.

Know You Can Buy Things You Don’t Have With You

The first time we left in the RV, we brought basically everything except the kitchen sink (and only because we already had a sink in the RV!) We tend to be very minimal packers when we travel by airplane, but the RV makes it so easy to throw anything and everything in. We just weren’t sure what we would need. Rain jackets and snow jackets, boots, and extra towels and a million books and SO. MUCH. FOOD.

We’ve since streamlined a bit and don’t pack quite as much. In the beginning, we just wanted to have everything on hand, especially with food. We didn’t want to run out and wanted to have lots of options available! But with a little more experience, we’ve gotten better at estimating the amounts of food that we’ll need for a certain time period.

And more importantly, we’ve realized that it’s pretty easy to buy things along the way if we need them. It’s been easy to place grocery pickup orders and just swing through the parking lot to get them. It’s simple to restock on food, and having a refrigerator and freezer in the RV makes it easier to store fresh food. We always have a few shelf-stable backups, but we don’t plan on quite as many of those and can better rely on fresh ingredients.

Even for other needs that aren’t always available along the road, we’ve figured out some good delivery options, as well. Delivery hubs, UPS stores, and post offices will all hold mail and packages that aren’t readily accessible for urgent needs.

Big family cooking at campground

Know That Outdoors are an Extension of Your Living Space

Starting out with RVing, I couldn’t fathom all being contained in a 200 square foot space 24/7. But it turns out we actually don’t spend very much time inside at all! In fact, our indoor time is pretty much limited to driving, bathing, food prep, and sleeping. The rest of the time we feel compelled to head outside our vehicle.

The RV is so great at allowing us to regularly change our backyard and pushes us to take advantage of each new place. Instead of being confined in a small space, we have a whole wide world open to us, filled with places to explore. We’re pushed to go out to connect and learn and adventure, so we rarely feel cooped up inside.

The Harbucks spend most of their time outside the RV.
The Harbucks spend most of their time outside the RV.

Know That Practice Makes Perfect … Even With RVing

One of the biggest lessons to me that lessened my intimidation with RVing was that everything gets better with practice. RVing is a skill, just like anything else! And because it’s a skill, that means it can be learned. Things like sleeping and bed set up, knowing how long you can boondock, and even just driving a large vehicle are things that require a bit of practice. But they’re also skills that most people can learn. There’s nothing inherently impossible about any of it. If we can learn, so can you. And I guarantee you’ll get better at it the more you do it!

I hope that helps as you strive to overcome first-time RVer intimidation!

Preethi Harbuck
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Preethi loves exploring the world at home and abroad with her husband and 5 little kids. She loves fostering curiosity and connection, as well as sharing tips for family travel with a social justice lens, especially while RVing through America’s outdoor gems. She’s currently visited 63 countries (43 with kids), 49 US states, and 43 national parks.
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