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Before hitting the road in your new motorhome, there are a few things to familiarize yourself with on your rig.
A motorhome isn’t just a vehicle – it’s also a house. There are many systems and working parts that keep your home on wheels operational.
Here are ten motorhome tips for beginners to get over the learning curve and start traveling in your RV.
1. Do a Test Run
Before you head out on your first motorhome trip, try staying in your RV for a night. Cook dinner, sleep in the bed, and make breakfast. When you go through the motions, you’ll find little adjustments to make before you hit the road.
You’ll also want to test your systems.
- Put some water in your water tank, flush your toilet, go to a local dump station, and dump your tanks.
- If you’re on shore power (or plugged into the grid), switch things up. Run the RV on the house battery and check everything is working correctly.
- In a hot climate, run the AC on both shore power and your generator.
- Test your stove and oven, and run the fridge on propane to ensure it will run without shore power. Test the water heater and ducted heat if you’re in a cold climate.
- Other things to test are auto-leveling and awnings, if available.
Running through the systems without pressure will ease the stress once you’re on the road.
2. Don’t Overload Your Motorhome
I remember the first time we packed up our rig to move in full-time. We had about 75% of our stuff loaded, and we went to weigh at a truck stop. We were way overloaded.
Little did I know, most RVs weigh pretty close to their GVWR when they leave the factory.
GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – The heaviest weight determined by the manufacturer for the safe operation of your RV. This includes all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment.
So if you are planning to stuff every inch of storage space, think again.
Before you purchase your motorhome, compare the UVW with the GVWR.
UVW (Unloaded Vehicle Weight) – The RV weight as it is manufactured, including a full fuel tank, engine fluids, and any generator fluids.
Estimate how much weight capacity you need for your stuff and any persons traveling with you.
PRO TIP: Don’t forget to consider weight for the fresh water tank, gray and black tanks, and propane tank.
3. Practice Driving
If you’ve never driven a large vehicle, operating a motorhome might be a challenge at first. Take some time to get used to it.
Find an empty parking lot or another remote area to practice. Get a feel for your turn radius and backing up without a rearview mirror. If you’re traveling with a partner, practice communication for reversing into a campsite.
Something easy to forget is the height of your motorhome.
When you start getting out on the road, you can put your height on a sticky note on the dash for quick reference. Watch out for bridges, parking structures, and gas stations.
PRO TIP: We like to use truck stops or stations on the edge of town, so we don’t have to worry about getting in and out.
4. Pack the Right Tools
You can save yourself time and frustration down the road if you have a few tools handy in your motorhome.
- Tire Pressure Gauge: to check tire pressure before you leave your campsite (you might need tire valve extensions for some tires)
- Air Compressor: for easily inflating your tires and avoiding a tow in an emergency (we’re fans of this air compressor)
- Temperature Gun: this is handy to check tire temperatures, engine temps, etc. (we have a temperature gun similar to this)
- Multimeter: easily check your house and engine batteries or troubleshoot other electrical issues (we have a multimeter similar to this)
5. Know Your Power Supply
When unplugged from shore power, your motorhome runs on DC power, also known as battery power. When on DC power, you can only run things that run on DC. Modern motorhomes will have USB power ports where you can charge a phone and other USB-equipped devices.
Here are a few devices to help run your motorhome on battery power:
To get AC power (or shore power), you’ll need to plug in at a campground or run your generator. Alternatively, you can install a large inverter.
PRO TIP: Anything with a heating element (electric kettle, hairdryer, heater, etc.) will draw a lot of current. These items won’t be the most efficient choice for your RV.
6. Prepare to Conserve Water
Light water usage is a habit you’ll have to create in your motorhome. An average Class C motorhome usually has around a 40-gallon water tank. However, due to the weight, you probably won’t be riding around with a full tank. On the opposite end of things, you’ll have to watch your gray tank level.
To conserve your water, here are a few things you can do:
- Turn off the showerhead to lather up – only run water to wet down and rinse
- Consider a water-efficient showerhead. We upgraded to an Oxygenics showerhead to save water and increase water pressure.
- Use a collapsible tub in your kitchen sink to catch gray water from washing a dish or your hands. When convenient, empty the tub outside.
- Cook one-pot meals and other dishes that require little clean-up. When considering kitchen gadgets, remember to account for ease of cleaning.
You might also like our post on 21 Useful RV Kitchen Accessories.
7. Store Things Securely
When packing your motorhome, consider the environment when the vehicle is moving.
When you hit a bump, everything moves. And anything will rattle given a chance.
When we started RVing, anti-slip shelving liner was my best friend. It’s easy to cut to size for adding to a storage box, basket, or drawer. Or its intended purpose, a shelf. You can also add it between pots and pans to cut down on rattling.
Limit items stored on countertops or use double-sided nano tape to secure things to the counter.
8. Know How to Find Places to Stay
When you hit the road in your motorhome, you’ll want to know a few ways to find campsites or places to park for the night. Depending on where and what time of year you are traveling, you also might want to book ahead.
Here are a few resources you can use to find places to stay in your RV.
- AllStays Camp & RV iPhone app provides a comprehensive map of different places to camp and park for the night, including free options.
- Walmart, Cabelas, and Cracker Barrel usually allow free overnight stays. Call ahead to check with a manager. Some Walmarts don’t allow overnight parking (you can read reviews in AllStays to help guide you).
- Harvest Hosts is an affordable members-only community that gives you access to over 1,500 farms, wineries, breweries, and more places to park for FREE across the US.
9. Do a Walk-Around Before You Leave the Campsite
Always do a walk-around on your rig before you drive out of your campsite.
Things to look for:
- All hoses, cables, and attachments are disconnected.
- All hookup covers are latched.
- Compartments are closed and locked.
- Windows are closed and locked (don’t forget any small ones over the cab).
- Awnings are retracted (don’t forget to look up).
- The path behind, under, to the sides, and above the rig is clear.
- Taillights and brake lights are working correctly.
Don’t forget the leveling blocks!
PRO TIP: Create a checklist on your phone to use when you leave a campsite until you get the hang of the routine.
10. Travel at a Slower Pace
When you start traveling in your motorhome, your first instinct will be to make lots of plans for your trip. Most of us tend to try and pack a lot into a small amount of time in an effort to see it all.
Take your time on the road. Living and traveling in a motorhome is going to have challenges. You’ll enjoy this lifestyle more if you allow yourself breaks between the action and more time in fewer places.
Final Thoughts on Motorhome Tips for Beginners
Traveling in your motorhome will take time to navigate. Learning to live small, conserve resources, and operate a tiny moving home will be a challenge. If it gets stressful, remember to slow your travel pace. There are lots of unexpected places to enjoy!
Want more beginner tips on RVing and how to get started?
Check out our RV gear lists, info on how to choose an RV, pros and cons of the lifestyle, and more in our guide.
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