I just got back from an absolutely amazing, yet exhausting RV family trip. I do not use the word vacation, because this trip was work (even more so for my husband because he drove), as is any trip with young kids. But, it most definitely created a lifetime of memories for my kids to have so much wonderful time with their cousins.
We flew from Hawaii to Las Vegas and rented our RV there (booked through outdoorsy). We then drove to Zion–>Bryce–>Moab–>Arches–>Monument Valley —>Grand Canyon. During the vacation, we hiked.
We went horseback riding.
We ATV’ed, though technically the term is UTV’ed through Moab.
Here’s what I wish I had known.
1. Your RV will break down.
It’s like an inevitable fact of life. You will be dealing with electrical issues, plumbing, fender benders. Generators that don’t turn on, slides that don’t function and toilets that won’t flush. So, make sure you are mechanical/electrical and can troubleshoot these issues on the road. Yes, you can call Outdoorsy and get them to send a service repair person, but it’ll cost you a minimum of at least $500 (service call, parts, etc). So, you need to know how to handle the things that arise daily. And, they will. Accept that from the beginning and you’ll be better prepared than we were. We were driving a BRAND new, deluxe RV – it was literally not even 2 months old. Even with that, we still had issues with the generator and plumbing. My 2 sister-in-laws also had issues with theirs. Thankfully, we had a lot of handy people in our caravan of 18 people, but make sure you know how to handle these issues.
2. Don’t be tempted to over schedule.
I think this depends upon what type of vacationer you are. I am the type of person who enjoys the journey and not just the destination. I remember so many family trips growing up where my dad woke us up at 6 am. There may be a tendency to change camp sites every day since you figure it’s no big deal since all of your stuff is with you. Personally, I found it tough. Every time you set up camp, you have to connect your gray water, black water, electrical and then activate the slide for the RV (see below). And then when you break camp, you have to do it all in reverse.
So, it’s not just like driving a car. There are steps involved. I think part of the beauty of RV life is spending time in nature decompressing, enjoying some of the majestic camp sites, instead of rushing from place to place. I’d recommend a minimum of 2 days in each place.
3. Keep the cooking simple
It’s camping. That’s the thing. So, accept that. But you will likely have a full stove/oven/microwave in the RV. So, decide how complicated you want to make your meals. My friend Felicia has a great blog on all of her camping excursions and she even outlines the food she buys at Costco beforehand. Most of it is pre-made, packaged salads, etc. And that makes things easier for prep and clean up, because likely you will be very active during the days and might not want to deal with creating full meals from scratch at night. Added to that fact is that Utah/Arizona is HOT right now so we had to get up at 5 am on many days to leave for our hikes to avoid hiking during peak sun time, so we wanted to get in bed early. We did dinners of chili, burgers/hot dogs, salmon bowls and even did takeout pizza one night when we got back super late from ATVing.
4. Book your campsites in advance
There are different levels of RV campgrounds. They are not all the same. Some have wonderfully clean showers close by and others not so much. You can find reviews of campgrounds online and you do want to book in advance especially during peak tourist times. My brother-in-law handled all of this for all 4 RVs which was AMAZING. He even wrote code to text him when people canceled their reservations at the sites he wanted, so he could book them. I’ve told him to create an app for our RV trip, because he did SO much planning to make our trip wonderful.
5. Driving an RV is HARD, STRESSFUL, EXHAUSTING & TIME CONSUMING
Notice the all caps there? So, I was lucky that my husband drove the entire time. Our RV was 32 feet long and with my *tendency* to run curbs in our minivan, I was a little concerned I wouldn’t be able to manage the wide turns of the RV. At the end of the trip, my husband was TIRED. It’s draining driving an RV, especially if you aren’t used to driving such a large vehicle. The wind can be difficult, causing you to veer off the road. You have to be at full attention all of the time. Also, google maps will give you time estimates to drive – and you will forget that you will need to drive slower in an RV, so add at least another 30% to your time to compensate for that. We did a lot of drives that Google maps told us should only be 2 hours and it would take us 3 or even 3.5 hours to complete.
6. You will make amazing memories.
I don’t think our family will ever do another RV trip. We had an RV growing up in North Carolina and we took several trips up and down the East Coast. I have wonderful memories of that time with my family, playing cards and roasting marshmallows. But, of course, at 9 years old, I wasn’t hooking up the black water! Looking back at the pictures from our Grand Circle trip, it’s easy to forget how hard it was – the photos of the breathtaking views, the adventures we went on and the family camaraderie seem to erase all of that (much like childbirth). Go into the trip with open eyes about the obstacles and hopefully you will have a blast!