19 Surprises I Learned About RV Travel Crammed Into One Post
1 32″ RV
That was my Great Alaskan Adventure. We traveled from Anchorage to Denali National Park to Fairbanks to Dawson City, Canada to Girdwood and back to Anchorage (with many stops in between). Here’s everything I learned about traveling through Alaska and Canada by RV crammed into one massive RV-size post!
1. Yes, You CAN Drive an RV
32 feet is the maximum length you can drive with a standard driver’s license. You’ll watch a brief orientation video before you depart the rental company with some helpful tips, and then you’re off. Drive slow, especially on the mountain roads. The roads are narrow, there are no guardrails and you’ll probably be concentrating on the breathtaking vistas before you.
Use your mirrors and have a fellow passenger help you to back out of parking spots. It’s a good idea to purchase extra windshield insurance. You’ll be driving on dirt and many a RV return with cracked windshields. Finally, watch the rear of the RV when going up hills and making turns, it’s easy to dent the bottom. You’ll learn what I mean during the video.
2. Invest in The MILEPOST
3. RV’s Can Go Almost Anywhere
Despite their size, RV’s can go almost anywhere. Windy roads to mountain tops sure may seem harrowing, but the white knuckle adventure is worth it!
4. 32 Feet is Still Small
Despite being the largest size RV the casual driver can rent, 32″ is still small for six people. Clothing and supplies quickly fill up all the available space. Pack lightly and be judicious in organizing your clothes. Otherwise, everyone’s suitcase will vomit clothes everywhere, making stuff hard to find. Use every available storage space to minimize this.
5. Gas is Expensive
Not only is the price of gas expensive, RV Tanks are huge and burn fuel quickly. Whatever you budget for fuel, add 10%.
6. Rent an Inverter
If you’re like me, you’ll probably bring your technology with you. RV Outlets aren’t safe for your computer and phones to charge. The Power Inverter will protect your electronics. Don’t forget this one, it’s usually an added accessory at the rental location.
7. RV’s Get Dirty Quickly
Between people, food, dishes, trash and dirt from the hiking trails, RV’s can get dirty very quickly. Clean often to make your trip comfortable.
8. Avoid Dry Campgrounds
There are two types of Campgrounds: Dry and Full. Dry Campgrounds have no hook-ups, meaning you’ll only be able to use the water in your on-board tanks. There’s also no sewer hook-ups. On the contrary, Full-Service Campgrounds let you connect water and sewer hoses directly to your RV. They are generally a bit more money, but well worth it.
9. Use Water Sparingly
Despite their size, and what you may believe, water availability on RV’s is limited. The freshwater tank holds about 5 gallons. That’s it. The importance of water conservation and finding full-service hook-ups can’t be stressed enough. And even if you find a full-service hook-up, don’t expect constant hot water.
Black Water = Toilet Water
Grey Water = Sink Water
Monitor your indicator lights constantly.
10. Toilet Etiquette
Given the close quarters, it’s best if you hold #2 until you get to a proper toilet in a building. You can quickly stink up the RV. But if you gotta go follow this rule… Poop – Flush – Wipe – Flush. You don’t want to clog these things
11. Shower Etiquette
Showers are small and water is VERY limited. It’s best to avoid showering when you’re at a dry campground. You’ll have no water left for anyone else. And even when at a full-campground, the amount of hot water is limited. Forget long, hot shower. The process is this…
Pre-Rinse – Turn Water Off – Lather Up – Rinse
Shower from top down to maximize rinse water coverage.
12. Emptying Tanks is Gross
No mater which way you look at it, emptying the tanks is gross (I’ll spare you the photo). Empty Black Water first, then Grey Water. The Grey Water helps “flush” out any leftovers from the Black Water.
13. Wal-Mart is Inevitable
Despite how much I loathe Wal-Mart, they are really the only option due to their widespread availability and selection of food and other items. It’s much easier to make one stop and get your food, toiletries, dinnerware, cleaning supplies, games and more instead of trying to find several stops. Take a deep breath and suck it up. Sorry.
14. Plan Meals Carefully
Winging it with meals is not wise for a number of reasons. Fridges, stovetops and ovens are much smaller in size. So if you’re plan was to buy everything all at once, it won’t work. Create your menu ahead of time and only buy what’s on the list and what you can fit into the RV. Plan carefully and you won’t have a lot of food to throw away at the end of your trip.
15. Don’t Cook & Drive
That romanticized vision you have in mind cooking breakfast on the road while speeding down the highway as the mountains pass you by isn’t all that’s cracked up to be. The road is bumpy, food and grease flies everywhere, your plates slide around the table and it’s tough to stand - and it’s not safe. Enjoy the scenery by stopping at the many pull-offs and cook your meal while stopped
16. Doing Dishes Sucks
You most likely won’t have a dishwasher, so get used to doing your own dishes. And given the water issues mentioned earlier, you really have to plan your cleaning accordingly. Sure you could minimize the hassle by buying paper plates and cups, but that’s not environmentally sound in Alaska’s striking wilderness.
17. Fireside Meals Take (a lot of) Time
Ah, there’s nothing like cooking in the great outdoors, except when you’ve been driving all day and are starving, only to need to find firewood, start a fire, and cook the chicken till it’s well-done. When planning your meals in advance (which you will want to do from a budgetary and practical perspective) add-in meals that don’t require long cooking times for those days when you’ll be on the road a lot. Hot dogs an be cooked on a fire or in a pan.
Oh, I’d suggest not prepaying for a full propane at the rental company. Propane take a long time to use up and you’ll probably not use the full-tank by the end of your trip. 11 chilly nights, plus cooking and we were still only half-way through the tank.
SLEEPING IN AN RV
18. RV Bediquette
Part of the magic of traveling by RV is watching the couches and tables turn into beds. With that being said, always clean up after your meals. People need to sleep on those tables. The beds above the driver are fun – like playing hide and go seek as a kid, but the dedicated beds in the back are the most comfortable. Plan in advance who will sleep where so fights don’t ensue as everyone vies for their choice sleeping arrangement.
19. Plan Your Laundry Visits in Advance
Depending on how long you’re traveling for, you’ll want to to bring quarters for laundry and bring your own detergent. Know in advance where you’ll do laundry and wash everything you’ve got. You never know when your next laundry visit may be. You don’t want to be days away from a laundromat.
While RV traveling isn’t as glamourous as it may seem, it’s still fantastic. When it’s you, alone on a mountain ridge, with the open road in front of you, anything seems possible. It’s worth every effort to make it happen.
What tips do you have for RV Travel? Share by commenting.
I’ll see you out there…!