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Expert Advice

6 Packing (and Unpacking) Tips for RV Vacations

Get ready for your RV trip with these packing tips from Jeremy Puglisi!

Packing for an RV trip doesn’t have to be stressful. It gets much easier over time as you learn to pack your RV and keep it stocked with the dedicated gear that you need for each and every trip. If you are packing up sheets, pillows, towels, dishes, and even things like a coffee maker and filters every time you go away--you may find that you need an organized system of packing to make things easier.

Our family keeps our RV as stocked with dedicated gear as we possibly can. This way there is less packing before every trip and less to unpack when we get home. This didn’t happen overnight for us--and we certainly didn’t buy everything we needed for our RV all at once. When we bought a new coffee maker, or blender for the house we would carry the old one right out to the RV.  We also eventually ended up getting complete sets of towels, blankets, pillows, toothbrushes (and much more) to keep the RV stocked up and ready to go.

Once we had our RV stocked (and as close to ready to go as possible) our trips became even more fun. Getting your RV stocked up with dedicated gear should be your first priority so that packing becomes a breeze. Here are six more tips to help you get to the campground as quickly as you can without spending hours packing for each trip.

  1. Divide and Conquer: If everyone is in charge of everything, then no one is in charge of anything. This statement is true in our family and it is probably true in yours too. Giving each family member specific jobs to help pack up the RV is essential.  When our kids were little mom packed up the food for the weekend, and dad packed up all of the bikes and outdoor games.
  2. Teach the Kids to Help ASAP! From a young age we also taught our children to help as much as possible. They were packing their own clothes for RV trips at a very young age (with some oversight of course!). This was a complete game-changer for our family.
  3. Do a Little Bit Each Night Before a Trip: Instead of packing up everything the night before a trip (or on Friday afternoon after work) do a little bit each night for a few nights before the trip. If you are preparing for a weekend trip, get the outdoor games and bikes packed on Tuesday night, the clothes packed up on Wednesday, and the groceries in the RV fridge on Thursday night. This way you will be ready to hit the road after work on Friday.
  1. Be Overprepared, Not Underprepared: One of the great things about traveling in an RV is that there is room to bring all of the clothing and gear that you may need for different situations. We always make sure to bring clothing for warm and cold weather--and for rain--even if there is none in the forecast. We also make sure to always have first aid kits, and some basic medical supplies on board for emergencies.
  2. Give Older Kids a Dedicated Storage Space: Giving your slightly older kids a duffle bag or a bin for all of their stuff is good for them and good for you. It limits what they can bring (in a good way) and helps them remain responsible for it during the trip.
  3. Unpack Right Away When You Get Home:  It’s not easy to unpack right away when you get home from an  RV trip--because chances are you are tired and hungry after driving home. But it is so important! Otherwise, a messy RV may be waiting for you when it is time to get ready for the next trip--and that’s a total downer. We always make sure to have the entire family chip in and unpack right away before anyone sits down to relax. To reward ourselves we often order take out that night so no one has to worry about making dinner after unpacking.

Packing and unpacking are certainly not the most glamorous parts of an RV trip. But I think we can all agree that they are essential. Once you get your packing and unpacking game nailed down the RV trips become even more fun--and you will probably want to go camping even more often. That’s definitely what happened to us--and we think it will happen to you too if you follow these basic tips and get that RV stocked up and ready for action.

Jeremy Puglisi is the host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of the bestselling books Where Should We Camp Next?, Where Should We Camp Next? National Parks and Where Should We Camp Next? Camping 101. His next book, Where Should We Camp Next? Budget Camping will be published by Sourcebooks in April of 2024. All of the Where Should We Camp Next? books are available online and in bookstores across the country.

Jeremy Puglisi

Author and co-host of the RV Atlas podcast

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. He loves nothing more than hitching up and heading out to the next campground with his family.