Tips for Planning your Summer RV Trip Before It’s Too Late
Tips for Planning your Summer RV Trip Before It’s Too Late
The open road is calling, but is your rig ready to hit the road? While it may still be cold in much of the US, Spring is the right time to get started on preparations for Summer adventures.
What is the best time of year to take an RV trip in the United States?
In a normal year, peak season for RV camping in the U.S. is from early July to Mid-August. But what exactly is a normal year? Since COVID hit the states in 2020, more and more Americans have been hitting the road in an RV or campervan, and extending the typical busy season in both directions.
The right time for your trip depends on several factors:
- Temperature: The temperatures your RV or van can be exposed to is a major driver of travel season. Be sure to check manufacturer recommendations for cold weather limits before heading out on a winter adventure.
- Interests: Your family’s interests will also guide your ideal travel time. Are you interested in skiing or waterskiing? Hiking and fishing or snowmobiling? These factors can drive a decision to travel in the “off season.”
- Preference: If the idea of big crowds throws a damper on your trip, then you might consider an early Spring or late Fall adventure.
For most campers, however, the peak season of summer remains the best time to get out and enjoy the benefits of camping in an RV or campervan.
A recent survey by the RV Industry Association found that 72 million Americans plan on taking an RV trip in the next year. That means more friends to meet on the open road, but also more competition for camping spots. Yet another reason to prep your rig, and your reservations now!
Prep Checklist for your First Summer RV Trip
If you’re new to RVing or have had your RV in storage for the winter, there are a number of things you’ll want to do before pulling out of the driveway this summer. Our checklist falls into three easy categories:
- Prep your Plan
- Prep your Rig
- Prep your Riders
Let’s dig into each one:
Prep your Plan
Map Your Route
Where will the road take you this summer? The options are endless, so a good plan is definitely a necessity.
While nothing beats a trust paper map and a red pen, there are a host of apps and websites that can help you explore the options before committing to a summer trip route. Check out RV Trip Wizard, Roadtrippers, or the KOA Trip Planner online to plan locations and campgrounds along the way. Off-grid campers should also check out The Dyrt and iOverlander for boondocking locations reviewed by other campers.
If planning your own unique route seems overwhelming, then you’re in luck. There are a number of scenic US routes ready-made for RV Trips. Check out CruiseAmerica’s list of 10 great road trip ideas for inspiration.
Remember all those campers we mentioned? They are all making plans right now, just like you! It’s never too early to make reservations at the campgrounds on your route, and technology makes this easy, too. Some favorite sites for campground booking include Recreation.gov for federal and state parks and Campgroundviews.com for a comprehensive list, searchable by state and a number other filters.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Private RV parks generally allow you to book at least a year in advance
- Public parks—like national forests or state parks—have rolling schedules anywhere from six to eight months in advances, so set a reminder for your must-see parks!
- Think creatively about where you need to stay. If the hot spot on your list is already booked, rethink when you need to arrive. Can you stay somewhere else on your route or in the surrounding area?
Reservation tip from the pros: It’s always worth a try to call an overbooked campground as your trip gets closer. They usually have cancellations and may be able to get you in!
Make a Backup Plan (or Two)
With all those factors—and people—at play, you’ll want to have a Plan B and maybe a Plan C in your back pocket if things don’t go exactly as planned.
Prep your Rig
Once you know where you’re headed, it’s time to prep your RV or campervan to hit the road. Much of the particulars of summer travel prep depend on the specifics of your RV, but we recommend checking off each of the items on this list at the beginning of every travel season:
- Visual Inspection: Walk around the outside of the unit to check out the exterior trim, doors, lights, and caulking
- Exterior Cleaning: Starting with the roof, rinse, clean, and wash the outside of the RV and all the windows, keeping an eye out for any leaking into the unit
- Inspect Extensions: Check any slide-outs and awnings to ensure the slide mechanisms are functioning and there are no tears to worry about
- Check and Clean Appliances: From your fridge to your stove, give everything a good once over and deep clean
- Change Filters: Air conditioning, fuel system, and engine filters need to be replaced regularly, so now is a good time to check them
- Test Detectors: Most RVs have at least three safety detectors: smoke, carbon monoxide, and LP gas, which all need to be tested before your first big trip of the year
- De-Winterize: With the help of a professional (or on your own at home) flush any antifreeze or other chemicals from the freshwater and plumbing systems
- Check the Plumbing: Holding tanks often need a good cleaning before the first trip of the year, and you’ll want to make sure your water heater’s exterior vent is clear of debri
- Power Up: Check batteries externally, top off their fluid, and test their remaining voltage (a professional RV service center can help with these tasks)
- Check your Levels:
- Tire Pressure will definitely be down after any time in storage or cold weather. Re-inflate to the proper level according to your manufacturer and check for any cracks
- Propane/LP Tanks can become damaged in storage, so check for leaks as you fill up your tank for the season
With power flowing to your unit again, check the temperature to your fridge, freezer, and the rest of the RV to make sure you’re ready for the elements
Want to keep an eye on your levels on the road?
ProSmart is a DIY-friendly system that allows you to easily monitor water levels, gas levels, tire pressure, temperatures, and battery charge while on your adventures, all from an easy-to-use app on your smartphone.
Prep your Riders
When your rig is finally ready to roll, there’s only one thing left on your prep list: your travelmates. If it’s your first trip or your hundredth together, there are a few key things to keep in mind when traveling with family or friends.
- Build your bucket list together.
Ask each traveler what they are most excited to see or do and make a bucket list together. If plans change and you don’t hit everything on your route, you’ll have a good idea of what’s most important.
- Think ahead about expectations.
Everything is different on the road. From entertainment options (WiFi can be hard to come by) to food, it’s important to talk about the reality of the trip before you leave the driveway.
- Expect the unexpected.
Even with all the prep in the world, you’ll certainly find things don’t always go exactly as planned. Prep your travel companions to be ready for the beauty of the adventure, and to roll with the punches when they come.
Adventure is waiting this summer, and now is the time to prepare. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to roll with a well-oiled rig and an eager team of travelers. Have fun!
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