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Everything you should do to prepare for an extended RV trip

Getting ready to hit the road for an extended period, say anything more than a few weeks, takes different planning and preparation than a simple weekend camping trip.

After living much of my life on the road, this usually annual preparation to leave the comforts of home behind has become second nature. But if you’re new to RV full-timing (or most-timing) there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

Some tasks you can do well in advance. Others need to be dealt with at the last minute.

As I am currently planning to start wandering for the next six months or so, I thought I would share my process.

I keep a running to-do list and packing list that I start a month or more before leaving.

This master list, which you should add to anytime you think of something, will keep you organized and make sure you don’t forget anything important.

Big picture planning for extended RV trips

Start by getting the big picture items dialed in so you won’t have to think about them later.

Coming up with some sort of trip plan is a good place to begin. It need not be detailed unless you are the type of person who enjoys planning things in detail. At minimum, you do want a rough blueprint of where you will go and how long you will be gone.

Tell your friends and social media acquaintances about your plans. You might be surprised at the offers of places to park and local tour guides who will step up. “Moochdocking” with friends is the best!

I have a lot of social media friends and, likewise, keep a running list of where people live, who I want to see and/or those who have offered parking space, get-togethers, etc.

I am NOT a big planner, so my trip plan is lacking in details when I start. But that works for my style. Plan to the level of your comfort.

For instance, on my current journey I know I will likely be gone for six months, give or take. I know I will travel from California to New England. I know of certain stops I want to make along the way as there are people to see or things I want to do there. And I know I need to eventually get back to California and then Baja, Mexico, where my full-time home is.

So, in advance, I know that on this trip I will be stopping in Las Vegas and a couple of places in both Arizona and New Mexico. I will be going to Colorado as I have several friends I want to visit and places I want to experience. Not to mention, Colorado is gorgeous.

I have a relative and a friend who offered a place to park in Kansas City. Put that on the route.

Another friend offered free parking in his driveway near Chicago. Count me in! Ditto the friend with a Virginia farm on the outskirts of D.C.

I have several travel stories to cover for my website in New England, plus I grew up in Massachusetts. And if I am in Massachusetts, I might as well visit my friend in Vermont and enjoy some lobster in Maine.

I will be stopping at many other places in between those must-do stops. And that does not even count the return trip. But you get the picture.

Working during an extended RV trip

I work on the road, so I need to balance my social and sightseeing activities with time to accomplish my work. This usually happens while boondocking on BLM land or staying in state or national campgrounds. Sometimes I work while staying with Harvest Hosts.

Others might opt to schedule some RV park time for these activities. I do this once in a while, as well.

These stops I figure out on the fly a few days ahead as I move on down the road. I generally map things out for the upcoming week.

But I know the overall big picture stops before I leave.

Practical things to do far in advance of an extended RV trip

You can get these tasks out of the way a month or more before leaving.

  • Make sure your vehicle and RV insurance are up-to-date and adequate.
  • Now is a good time to think about on-the-road emergencies, too. Do you have a way to deal with them such as a towing service like AAA or Good Sam Club, etc.?
  • Depending on where you are going, think about packing extra engine belts and frequently replaced parts that might be difficult to get in remote areas.
  • Now is also a good time to get everything in top shape. Get your vehicle checked out and tuned up. Check vehicle and RV tires. Make any repairs on your RV now, too, so that you can just have fun once you hit the road. At least in theory. We all know things break.
  • Consider your communication on the road. Is your current cell plan enough? Will you need a mobile hotspot, satellite internet, or other internet connectivity? If you plan to work while traveling, like many digital nomads, this is important. I carry a Verizon mobile hotspot that meets my connectivity needs about 95% of the time. It works for me, as that other 5% forces me to occasionally unplug. And for a workaholic like me, that’s a good thing.
  • Are there any RV gadgets or upgrades you want? Perhaps a solar generator, a new BBQ grill, etc. Get them now and get them packed.
  • Think about how you will transport things you need like bikes or kayaks, a generator, etc. Install racks and figure out a strategy for packing them well in advance.
  • Fill your propane tanks.
  • Fill your fresh water tank and empty your black and gray water tanks.
  • If you are bringing along a pet, you might want to get them a checkup as well as flea and tick medicine, and make sure their immunizations are up to date.

Keeping the home fires burning

A month or more in advance of your departure is also a good time to think about practicalities like mail, bill paying, etc.

I like to go paperless with bills so I can pay them online wherever I am. I rarely need paper mail anymore and on rare occasions that I do, my family can forward it to locations on the road where I know I will be staying.

If you are not completely full-time and have a home base, arrange for whoever will take care of it or look in on things for you.

Things to do closer to departure date

When it gets to be a week or two before leaving, I start packing the RV.

Sure you can buy goods on the road. However, I always like to “leave the barn” (an old circus term for hitting the road for the upcoming season) as well-stocked as possible.

  • Start by packing your RV with the staples. Think, paper towels, toilet paper, drinking water, soap, shampoo, charcoal, etc.
  • Then pack practical things like towels and linens, cookware, dishes, etc.
  • You can stock the pantry now, too. Rather than go into it here, I wrote a separate article about this.
  • Don’t forget gifts for friends you plan to see along the way.
  • Will you need to pack bikes or kayaks or other sporting goods? Get them in the rig.
  • Don’t forget games and hobby supplies, too.


Consider the weather

Lastly, think about the weather and what you will encounter on your extended RV trip.

Depending on where you are going and the length of time you will be gone, you might need both hot and cold weather supplies and clothing. Some of this you might be able to pack away for now.

For instance, when I left Southern California for Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, I did not need my big heavy blanket. But I know I will be happy to have it when traveling through Montana on the return trip.

Weather is more unpredictable now than ever before. Be prepared.

For instance, I did not expect to get snowed in while traveling in Colorado in late May. That heavy blanket came in handy FAR earlier than I expected it to.

encountering snow on an extended RV trip

Within days of leaving on an extended RV trip

It’s time to shop for perishable foods.

Be sure to plug in and turn on your fridge a day or two in advance so it is good and cold before packing in supplies. Stock the freezer with foods that are already frozen to help everything stay super cold.

Do as much laundry as possible before packing your clothing and leaving.

The day before departing on an extended RV trip

Fill up the gas tank. Check your oil. Be sure your tires are properly inflated.

Go through your notes and checklists and make sure you have not forgotten anything.

Now, go out and have a celebratory dinner with people you love at home.

Relax and have a good night’s sleep knowing you are well-prepared for your upcoming adventures.

What’s it like on a LONG LONG extended RV trip?

If you’ve ever been curious about what it is like to live and work on the road, both good and bad, I will try to give you a glimpse.

I’m about to take a LONG RV journey that will take me from California to Maine and back, with LOTS of stops along the way.

I’ll do a weekly trip journal so you can follow along.

My overall RV philosophy is to spend as little time in RV parks as possible while living in comfort off-grid.

Right now, a Jackery 1500 solar generator has been meeting most of my power needs.  Everything EXCEPT the air conditioner. Likewise, I do plan to also acquire an inverter generator somewhere along the way. But so far I am outrunning the heat.

When I first started digital nomading I had an AT&T hot spot. Not only did it almost never work, it was a disastrous experience on every level with the most abysmal customer service I have EVER experienced in my life. Therefore, I would never go near that company again.

COMING NEXT WEEK!

I’ll see you next week as I depart Southern California for Las Vegas, with a stop at a great Harvest Hosts roadside attraction on the way. Then I will travel on to Boulder City to visit the engineering marvel that is the Hoover Dam. See you then!

visiting hoover dam on an extended rv trip##RVT1054

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Margaret Michel
1 month ago

Hey come get me l have the means but not the knowledge l can show you the UP and figure out the how to by being a brain sucker

Micheal Whelan
1 month ago

One suggestion I might offer is to be careful about how you notify your social network friends. To do a general or insecure announcement on Instagram, Facebook or the like may create security issues you don’t want to deal with from the road. Keep the telling your friends and family about leaving on a long trip to specific person to person communications. The “bad folks” do monitor the internet social sites for such announcements so they know when it is safe for them to visit your home. Also many small town police and sheriff departments do offer security check as part of their patrol when they know people are not going to be home. Check to see if that service is available in your area. One last thought about having neighbors check the house from time to time is to ask them to pick up any flyers, newspapers or magazines that may show up while you are gone. Maybe even arrange for mowing and snow shoveling to make your home look “occupied”. Keep the local B&E specialist away.

MattD
1 month ago

Was this article written by Johnny Robot? LOL!

mark kaye
1 month ago

also get your sticks & mortar place ready to be empty for an extended period of time
we were supposed to leave on a 6 week trip last Saturday when an extreme storm hit
here we are a week later and still don’t have power, we are using the RV generator to power our fridge & freezers
looking at whole house NG automatic generator
we can’t have neighbours & daughter stuck filling a generator while we are gone, especially in the winter – Ottawa gets quite cold!
and there is the obvious, having some check it every day or couple of days depending on your insurance policy

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