Camping & RVing Tips for Beginners: What to Know Before You Go

Whether you are new to the RV lifestyle, or are getting back on the road for the first time since you were a kid, we’ve got a few camping and RVing tips to help you have more fun and less stress on your next outing.

Family members sit on camping chairs around a fire pit at an RV campground.
Camping in an RV is a fun way to vacation with the whole family.

RVing and camping are great ways to vacation with the whole family – pets included! While these activities have always been favorite American pastimes, there’s been a renewed surge of interest in RVing as people seek out ways to safely travel and enjoy the outdoors in the age of social distancing.

If you’re considering the RV life, here are six essential tips you should know before heading out on your own RV adventure.

6 Essential Camping & RVing Tips for First-Time Campers & Beginners

Camping Tip #1 | Stay close to home for your first trip.

A father and son sit in the cab of a Class C motorhome as it drives down a highway lined with trees during summertime.
Your first trip will be a learning experience. Go somewhere familiar or stay relatively close to home.

If you haven’t been camping in years, it might be tempting to dive right in to a cross country road trip right away. However, we recommend staying relatively close to home for your first outing. On your first trip, odds are good that you’ll probably forget something at home. We’re speaking from experience. Whether you forgot to bring milk for breakfast or the charging cable for your phone, it’s much easier to find a replacement when you’re not in a really remote or unfamiliar area.

Try making a list of everything you think need for your first trip and pack accordingly. Then re-evaluate your list when you come home. You’ll likely find some items you thought you needed that you didn’t even unpack and other things you’d wished you had. Use the first trip as a learning experience so you’ll be better prepared for the next adventure.

RVing Tip # 2 | Make sure you RV is ready for the road before heading out.

Rving tip: Make sure your RV is road ready before leaving home. An RV sits next to a mailbox in front of a home.
Check all brake lights, head lamps, and turn signals on your RV or trailer before leaving home.

It’s very exciting to get on the road in your new RV, and we want that experience to be filled with good memories. To avoid unexpected bumps in the road, you should check all brake lights, head lamps, and turn signals on your RV before leaving home. If you have slides, make sure they extend and retract properly. Turn on all the electrical systems and make sure appliances work. General RV’s Service Department offers free courtesy lane inspections for your convenience.

If your RV has been in storage or if you recently bought a used camper, you should also give it a good deep cleaning prior to your outing. Check out this article about cleaning your RV.

Camping Tip # 3 | Check the campground rules before you make your reservation.

Always check the campground rules and regulations when planning your trip. You’ll find important information like vehicle size restrictions, pet policies, quiet time hours, and more. Most of this info will be readily available on the campground’s website. If you have any questions, call the campground directly.

Many states also have campground and RV dealer groups (like MARVAC – the Michigan Association of Recreational Vehicles and Campgrounds) where you can find additional listings of campsites in your state. Take a look and see which ones you should add to your “must visit” list!

RVing Tip # 4 | Make your reservation as early as 6 months out.

Camping tip: make a plan early. Campgrounds can get very busy during summer months. We recommend making your reservation early to secure your preferred site.
The view of a full campground during the busy summer season.

This is often one of the biggest surprises for new RV owners. Unlike hotels, campgrounds can often book up very early, especially during peak camping months (from May to September). In fact, it’s common for campgrounds to fill up as early as six months prior. Some national parks with limited numbers of camping sites book up even quicker.

All this means you need to plan your camping adventures in advance. Once you’ve settled on a destination, contact the campground as early possible to make sure you can get a reservation for the dates and site you prefer. Some campgrounds have online reservation systems but others may require a phone call.

Camping Tip # 5 | Make a meal plan.

Three steaks are prepared for grilling with spices and olive oil inside an RV. On the counter in background there are ears of corn on the cob, a bunch of bananas, and other fresh produce.
Steaks are prepared for grilling in the kitchen of an RV.

Sharing meals around a fire is one of our favorite things about camping. Make a meal plan before you leave home to eliminate the stress of deciding what’s for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Meal planning is also an easy way to make sure you have all the ingredients, supplies, and cookware that you’ll need to prepare each meal.

Need a bit of drool-worthy inspiration? Check out these easy cast iron skillet recipes and learn how to make ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls over a fire using a pie iron.

Don’t forget the plates, bowls, spoons, forks, cups, paper towels, etc. Oh, and you can never have too many snacks!

RVing Tip # 6 | Rent an RV before you buy one.

RVing tip: Rent before you buy. A rented Minnie Winnie Class C motorhome is parked at a busy campground. Several chairs are arranged around a fire pit across from to the RV.
A Minnie Winnie Class C motorhome from General RV’s rental fleet is parked at a campground.

If you think the RV life could be right for you, consider renting an RV before you buy. Renting is the best way to test out the RV lifestyle, and it will help you figure out what features or floorplans will work best for your family.

Many dealerships offer RV rentals, including select General RV locations. There are also several peer-to-peer rental services. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend who already owns an RV, you can ask to tag along on a camping trip or borrow their RV for a weekend getaway.

Learn more with our RVing 101 series

Ready to learn more about the RV life? Be sure to check out our RVing 101 articles to read about different types of RVs, common RV myths, and RVing terms you should know.

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