Eleven tips for planning for a road trip

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June 27, 2009

Not all RVers travel full time. If you are not a full-time RVer and plan to be gone for a significant amount of time, how do you make sure you bring everything you need? Here are eleven tips:

1. Create a list. As the trip approaches, anytime you think of something you want to take, write it down. You could have either different lists or have separate categories for personal items for each of you and one for the RV. Also have a things to do list. When it is time to start packing, transfer your list to a computer and print it out to make a checklist. Take the list along on your trip and add to it if you find you have forgotten anything so you can improve your checklist for the next trip.

2. Keep duplicates of as many items as you can in the RV. If you can stock your rig with its own linens, cooking pans and utensils, and tools, you will not have to gather them up each time you take a trip. Unless you use your RV frequently and temperature is not an issue, you probably won’t want to leave items that could be damaged by extremes of heat or cold like food and cleaning products.

3. Think of the climate and typical weather of where you will be going. This can add to your list of clothing and accessories to take so you are well prepared.

4. Stock up on items of preference. If you have certain food items, health and beauty supplies or a brand of motor oil you like, purchase enough for the trip if you’ll have room to store them. That avoids having to track them down in an unfamiliar store or location or possibly pay a lot more money for your preference.

5. Get extra refills of prescription drugs to take with you if possible.

6. Decide how you’ll handle mail and bill paying. Most bills can be paid online so get that set up if it will work for you. Take along a copy of each monthly bill so you have the account number and customer service number in case you need to call in a payment or check on one.

7. Print sheets of address labels for addresses you’ll need. If you send postcards to family members, this makes it much easier.

8. Make sure your RV and tow vehicle or toad are up to date on their service. For long trips or if your RV has sat for a long time, have a mechanic go over it and check it for safety.

9. Check the age of your tires. Older tires, particularly if they are sitting in storage or in the sun can deteriorate even if there is still plenty of tread. Replace them if they are no longer safe.

10. Make sure you know your RV’s height! Gas stations and bridges often post the clearance. Look it up and put it somewhere in sight for quick reference.

11. Check your road service plan and renew if necessary. Apply for or check your passport to make sure it is valid if you’ll be traveling to Canada or Mexico.

If you will be traveling to Alaska by way of Canada, you might want to read an article George and I wrote about preparing for such a trip, “Ready for Alaska.” In fact, we are currently in Chicken, Alaska, having come over the Top of the World Highway from Dawson City. We couldn’t stock up on our favorite brands of some foods because they are perishable or because of space. All in all, though, we are pretty well prepared. And, we’ve been sometimes pleasantly surprised by finding a brand we like or something equally good in some surprising places.

What suggestions do you have for preparing for a road trip in your RV? Please share them in the comment section.

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

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  1. We just returned from a 3-week trip and while preparing for it, we used most of the suggestions in your latest blog. We did, however find a few things that we needed that were not on board that we had at home–just forgot to take. We keep our motor home in our driveway, so we’ve decided that from now on we will spend the night before we leave in the rig so that we’ll experience those needs first hand and be able to load them before taking off. My husband uses a sleep apnea machine and we took it, but forgot the attachment that goes with it, so had to go back about 100 miles to retrieve it before continuing our journey. Lessons learned!!!

  2. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

    Joe, excellent idea. An alternative for PC users would be to create a folder in your favorites/bookmarks folder for a similar list. Thanks for the idea!


  3. Joe

    I take a site scraping program, and download the entire websites for places we plan to visit onto our laptop. That way, we have access to the information, without huge piles of paper, when we don’t have access to the internet.

    It’s handy for destinations as well as stops along the way (like places to get propane or camp).

    I use SiteSucker for Mac, but there are other programs out there.

  4. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

    Tara, I like your suggestion for a folder in a waterproof bag. You sound very organized!

    And entertainment- of course. Actually on this trip to Alaska I’m kicking myself for not remembering my bird and flower books. I have to sneak peeks in bookstores because I don’t want to buy what would be a duplicate.


  5. This is a great list of ways to get ready for a road trip. One thing not mentioned (that I recommend on my road trip planning site) is to create a folder or file with all of your reservation info, maps, and other plans and put all of this in a waterproof bag with a zipper. Keeping it somewhere handy means that you’ve got your go-to bag at arms length at all times.

    Also, what about packing some entertainment? From books to DVD’s to a compilation of favorite music – all of it is necessary.

    By the way – excellent point about the clearance for your RV! Getting stuck under a bridge is not fun, I can tell you…