It’s a dream for thousands of Americans; traveling by RV cross country all over North America. You envision standing in loads of national and state parks, crossing the Grand Tetons, gaping in awe at the Grand Canyon and perhaps a bit of fishing in the Florida Keys. Heck, you might even have a goal to visit all 50 states. (There might be a problem with Hawaii, though!)

It’s all possible if you know how to travel the US in an RV.

Road trips in a car are different from an RV trip because you’re basically traveling, sleeping and often eating and relaxing inside your RV instead of a hotel room. It can take a little getting used to but once you do you’re at risk of full time RVing into the distant future. The RV life is addictive to be sure.

In order to arrive back home secure in the knowledge that your trip was a good idea, you need to prepare. These 6 things are vital to nail down as you’re planning your epic adventure:

1 – To Buy or Not to Buy. There’s an easy formula for making this decision: You’re committed to living the RV life into the future well past this one trip? Buy. You’re not sure if camping, RV parking lots, getting a tow vehicle and navigating dump stations are for you but you’re ready to try it out? Rent.

2 – Familiarize Yourself with Your New Ride. A recreation vehicle may seem like just a big van but it’s so much more and you need to know what that more is before you put the pedal to the metal. Get to know all the mechanical systems, electrical systems and water systems. If you have an issue with any of these on the road it can be much less costly to fix it on your own. There’s also the entertainment system and fold out beds; how the stove works, etc. It will make life a lot more enjoyable on the road if you’ve put yourself through the paces.

3 – Test that Puppy Out. This is sage advice if you’re renting or buying. Get to know the feel of the RV on the road. Get used to how it handles and takes corners. Get used to the brakes. Get used to the steering. Basically, get to know your new vacation home on wheels before your vacation.

4 – Prepare a Fix-It Kit. Bring all your tools that can fix things inside, outside and underneath the RV. Bring extra light bulbs, fuses, wiring, connectors, screws and such. This will save time waiting on an order of replacement parts to arrive where you are. It will also save money in the long run.

5 – Plan, Plan, Plan then Plan Some More. It’s a very romantic notion to hop in your RV bright and early one morning and set off for the nearest national park. Often though, it ends in frustration if you arrive without having the faintest clue where your big rig must be parked or where the nearest campsite is. And what if every campsite in the area is full? Planning becomes essential if you don’t want to waste an entire vacation day taking care of these things that are easily managed ahead of time.

6 – Campground Arrival List. It will save you lots of time to write out a simple list of all the things you must do to settle in at your latest campground site:

  • Make sure there is adequate clearance for the top of your rig if you’re around trees.
  • Find the water/sewage and electrical hookups first.
  • Park as close to the hookups as possible and stabilize your rig.
  • Hook up to the grid and give your batteries a break.
  • Put on some gloves and get your sewage hose connected to the drain.
  • Extend your space with your grill, overhang awning and chairs.
  • Enjoy!

In conclusion, these are the 6 things to do before your first excursion: Rent or buy, become familiar, test drive, assemble a fix-it kit, plan your daily travel and check off your arrival to do list. This can seem like a lot for beginners but once you apply these 6 tips to your RV routine you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Happy RVing!