Your First RV Trip Tips For Success

Expert Advice

Beginner RV Tips: How To Have A Successful First RV Trip

Thanks to years of experience, we have the following tips to help you make your first RV trip a success.

As a new RV owner, you’ll face a learning curve when it comes to your first RV trip. If it’s been a long time since you learned something new, it can be intimidating to suddenly find yourself in a new situation: “How am I going to get this trailer through a tight gas station parking lot? Will I be able to empty the black tank without making a mess? Am I properly lighting this propane stove, or am I going to damage my rig?”

We’ve been RVing for more than a decade now, but we still remember the nervousness before our first trip. Don’t worry, your unease will soon be replaced with enthusiasm as you become accustomed to your new rig.

Camp Close To Home For Your First Few Trips

You finally bought the RV of your dreams… now it’s time to hit those dream destinations, right? Not so fast. For your first few trips, you’ll want to book campgrounds close to home. These are often called shakedown trips. These trips will give you more confidence as you learn how to operate your new rig. Also, it takes a few trips to figure out what to stock in your RV. If you camp close to home, you can easily run home to grab the must-needed items, and you’ll be in familiar territory.

RELATED: RV Packing Checklist: Stocking A New RV 

Reserve A Private Campground For Your First Trip

No one can debate the beauty and solitude that are often found in state and national parks, but some added amenities make private campgrounds a perfect choice for your first trip. First, they often have full hookups. Until you understand your rig and your family’s needs, it’s better to have on-site electricity, water, and sewer hookups. Also, private parks often have helpful staff members who can assist with things like backing into a site for the first time.

Reserve A Pull-Thru Site At Your First Campground

Some campsites are easy to pull right into, while others require backing down a long driveway at a 30-degree angle while trying to avoid some trees. You’ll eventually be able to veer your trailer into practically any spot with ease, but you can avoid some headaches for your first trip by booking a pull-thru site. A pull-thru site is situated between two roads, making it easy to pull right in when you arrive and pull right out when you leave… no backing up is required. On your first trip, you have enough to worry about without having to angle a trailer into a spot, so keep it simple and easy with a pull-thru campsite.

RELATED: 8 Campgrounds with Gigantic RV Sites 

Divide And Conquer During Setup

There are a few tasks that need to be done to secure your trailer and set up a cozy campsite upon arrival. These tasks take longer the first time you do them, but you’ll soon learn your rhythm and routines. If you have younger kids, the easiest thing to do is to get them out from underfoot so one adult of the family can concentrate on setup, while the other keeps the kids happy and safe. If you have older kids, they can help with the setup process.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Even if you’re not the type of person to ask for help from strangers, you’ll learn that fellow camper’s friendliness and willingness to help is a wonderful benefit of campground culture. As you’re learning to operate a new rig, there will be some tasks you forget how to do or never learned in the first place — don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of your neighbors were in your shoes at one time or another and will kindly pay it forward.

Class A motorhome set up with camp chairs, mat, and table
Once you arrive at your campsite, you’ll have to perform tasks like connecting to hookups and setting up your chairs, grill, etc.


Don’t Be Afraid To Say No To Help (When Backing In)

One of the silly things that stresses new RVers out is feeling like other campers are judging them when backing in the rig. For reasons unknown to us, some people like to kick back in their camp chairs and watch other RVers set up camp. Some will eagerly jump in and offer to help, which is great — except when it isn’t. If you don’t want the help, don’t worry about politely declining with a simple, “Hey, we are new at this, and we want to learn how to do it. We’ll let you know if we need some assistance!”

Expect The Unexpected — And Don’t Let It Get You Down

Things may go wrong, as they inevitably will when you are learning something new. Perhaps you didn’t understand how long to cool the fridge and had nowhere to put your piles of groceries. Maybe you forgot to fill the propane tanks, or let the battery drain by leaving on the lights. Try not to spend time and energy fretting over mistakes and mishaps. Do your best to problem-solve and consider it a lesson learned.

Avoid Driving At Night

Plan your first few RV trips to include driving and setting up during daylight hours because driving at night can be risky. If you have a breakdown, it’s more difficult to find help since auto parts stores, garages, and RV dealerships will be closed. Setting up at night can also be more difficult due to the lack of light.

Relax, Go Slow, And Have Fun

You’ll soon be able to set up camp on autopilot. Until then, be patient with yourself as you learn–and don’t forget to have fun along the way.


Once you get your first-time jitters out of the way and gain some useful experiences, you can rest easy knowing that the road ahead is much smoother, with far fewer pit stops. You’ll get the hang of operating, maintaining, and towing your new RV. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth the effort, especially when you finally do take that new rig to your dream destinations.


Jeremy Puglisi

The RV Atlas

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the weekly RV Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts and the RV Atlas blog. They are also the authors 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, and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop-up camper more than 10 years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) over at RV Atlas.