5 Beginner RV Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Avoid Overpacking - Beginner RV Mistakes

So, you’re new to RVing and ready to hit the road on your first RV vacation. Congrats! RVing is fun for all ages and a fantastic way to bond with your family, yourself, and the great outdoors.

Before you head out on your grand voyage, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. As with any new activity or skill, there is a bit of a learning curve to RVing. With your RV manual in hand, let’s cover 5 beginner RV mistakes and how to avoid them!

1. Not using a checklist

Use a checklist - Beginner RV mistakes

Checklists are pretty important when it comes to RVing. You can use one for setting up your campsite, taking down your campsite, packing, and so much more. Consult your manual (hint – this will be mentioned a lot) for a checklist relating to your specific RV. You may want to also create your own checklist as you go.

What happens when you don’t use a checklist?

Well, you might forget to do important tasks. It’s easy to get into a routine and miss one teensy little extremely important task, such as:

  • Forgetting to put your tow vehicle in park before unhooking it
  • Forgetting to take down your awning, antenna, etc
  • Forgetting to unchock your wheels before driving off
  • Forgetting to test your trailer brakes (which could significantly impact your stopping distance)

How to avoid this beginner RV mistake

Use a checklist. You can find some great RV and packing checklists here on the Good Sam website.

2. Overpacking

Overpacking - Beginner RV Mistakes


This beginner RV mistake is so easy to do. There are so many cabinets in an RV to fill! Suddenly, your RV can be filled with an abundance of clothes, cooking supplies, food, games, and more.

Why is overpacking a problem?

For a few different reasons. A little overpacking can be okay. I mean… you might play those extra 5 board games and you never know when the weather might unexpectedly change, making it a smart move to pack an all-season wardrobe!

It’s the extreme overpacking where you start to have problems. One, it can be really stressful to be in an environment with packed cabinets and clutter, especially if you are in a small rig or have multiple people in your RV. Two, overpacking can lead to dangerous weight problems. Every RV has a weight restriction and a carrying capacity (see your manual!). If you go over this weight, it can really hurt your RV, your gas mileage, and cause dangerous driving conditions.

How to avoid this beginner RV mistake

Pack less and weigh your rig before you leave. Over time, you’ll start to understand your RV and it’s weight limitations, making it easier for you to pack for future adventures.

3. Not leveling your rig

Level the RV - beginner RV mistakes

Famous last words of an RV newbie, “I don’t need to level the RV. I’m not going to be parked here very long”.

If that’s true, then you might be okay leaving your RV unleveled temporarily. However, it’s usually not true. Something comes up, you get distracted, or you find a hiking trail and stay a few hours longer than you expected.

Why is not leveling your RV a problem?

Because it might kill your RV fridge. This is inconvenient and also can be expensive to fix.

Another side inconvenience of not leveling your RV is that your tanks may not read properly. Think you have plenty of room in your black tank before dumping? Think again! It also can make dumping your RV very difficult if you are unlevel.

How to avoid this beginner RV mistake

In your RV manual (see how important this book is?), you may find a section about your RV fridge. It will tell you how many degrees off level your fridge can go before it fails. Always carry a level with you to make sure the fridge is within this range. If you know you will be unlevel for a length of time exceeding your manual’s specifications, turn the fridge off temporarily. Plan your travels accordingly.

Even if you are parking at a rest stop overnight, try to get as level as possible for your own sleeping comfort and RV care. This doesn’t always mean you have to pull out the leveling blocks, just look for more level areas of the parking lot.

4. Not making campground reservations

Book RV reservations in advance - Beginner RV Mistakes

Going on an RV vacation can take some logistical planning. It’s tempting to say “Let’s see how far we can drive today” or “We’ll just find a campground when we get there”. You may even be the spontaneous type who wants to have a flexible schedule. I totally get that. I like to have a flexible travel schedule myself when I’m on the road, but you should always at least have a reservation for tonight. If you’re on a short-term RV vacation, try to book as many trip reservations in advance as possible.

Why is booking reservations last minute a problem?

RV Parks and campgrounds can fill up really fast, especially in busy times during the year. If you don’t make reservations ahead of time, you can be left without a place to park. This is very stressful and very un-fun. Fun is our goal. Not un-fun.

How to avoid this beginner RV mistake

Plan your travels out ahead of time. Leave early enough each day to get where you need to go in the daytime. Driving in the dark and arriving at your campground in the dark is also un-fun.

Not checking the weather

Check the weather - Beginner RV Mistakes

Between packing the RV and planning out campground reservations, who has time to check the weather along the route? You do. Or you should if you want to have a fun and safe RV vacation.

Why is not checking the weather a problem?

Weather conditions can change your plans and potentially put you in risky situations. It’s best to be aware and prepared. Driving in rain or high winds can be dangerous and it’s also not so great on the gas mileage. Storms or even just wind can also damage your campsite and awning.

How to avoid this beginner RV mistake

Check the weather all along your route. Leave time in your schedule to be flexible with weather conditions. Don’t be in a hurry. Avoid bad weather if possible. Put away outdoor items (chairs, toys, etc) in high winds and put up your awning. Locate the nearest shelter if you have any sign of tornados (it’s usually a bathhouse or meeting space at a campground).

Bonus Mistake: Forgetting the manual

As you probably noticed from the rest of this article, your RV manual is fairly important. Don’t leave this one at home. Keep it somewhere you can easily reference if needed. Having it on board will give you peace of mind during your travels.

 Do you have any beginner RV mistakes to add? Share your stories and advice below!


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