20 things you should know before traveling in an RV, according to a couple who drove one through 48 states

20 things you should know before traveling in an RV, according to a couple who drove one through 48 states
·9 min read
Left: Marc and Julie stand in front of a rental RV Right: An RV at a campsite with mountains in the background.
Marc and Julie Bennett are experts when it comes to RV life. RVLove
  • Marc and Julie Bennett are seasoned RV-lifers with years of experience traveling around the US.

  • The couple shared with Insider key things you should know before embarking on your first RV trip.

  • There's a hack to finding cheaper campsites and everyone needs a paper atlas.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When you're traveling in an RV, your vacation begins as soon as you drive off, Marc and Julie Bennett told Insider.

Marc and Julie Bennett driving their Class B+ rental RV in Florida
Marc and Julie Bennett driving their Class B+ rental RV in Florida. RVLove

Marc and Julie Bennett are pros at RV life.

They say they've been to all 50 states, driven through 48, and written two books about how you can, too: "RV Hacks: 400+ Ways to Make Life on the Road Easier, Safer, and More Fun!" and "Living the RV Life: Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road."

In a recent interview with Insider, the duo shared some things to know before taking an RV trip, starting with how to enjoy the journey.

"The great thing about an RV is you don't have to take the highways and the interstates," Marc said. "Avoid the interstates because it's much more scenic and generally the road speeds are slower so you can drive at a safer and more relaxing pace."

When you're in an RV, you should know there's no rush to get anywhere, the Bennetts said, because your vacation starts as soon as you leave.

"So take your time on planning it out and do some interesting things on the way, Julie added.

But keep in mind that it won't drive like a car, Marc said.

Marc fills Class A motorhome with fuel at a Loves gas station
Marc fills a Class A motor home with fuel. RVLove

Driving an RV is harder than driving a car, the Bennetts said: It's bigger, heavier, slower, less fuel-efficient, and more physically tiring. They recommend taking breaks every couple of hours.

If your navigation says the trip will take four hours, plan for five, Julie said.

"We always like to allow an extra 20% as a buffer," she said. "You need to stop and have a break, use the restroom, have something to eat or drink."

The couple also recommends practicing parking and maneuvering the RV in an empty lot before taking it on an adventure.

Driving during business hours will help you avoid traffic and make roadside assistance more accessible if needed, according to the Bennetts.

RVLove's motorhome 'CC' driving across 7 Mile Bridge over water in Florida with cloudy blue skies
The Bennetts drive across the 7 Mile Bridge in Florida. RVLove'

Drive during business hours for two reasons, the Bennetts said: to avoid peak traffic and to get roadside assistance easily if you have any issues with the vehicle.

But Marc and Julie said that you can't rely on a navigation system meant for regular cars.

An X over an iphone showing Google Maps with a white background
Don't just use Google Maps, they said. Joey Hadden/Insider

"RVs are longer, taller, wider, and they carry propane, which isn't allowed in a lot of tunnels," Julie said. "So there's a lot of restrictions on roads, especially in the Northeast."

In other words, Google Maps might take you down a road where an RV is not meant to travel.

Instead of an electronic navigation system, you're going to need a paper road map, they said.

A hand points to a location on a road atlas
A paper atlas is reliable, according to the Bennetts. LUVLIMAGE/Getty Images

Julie said to avoid relying solely on your phone to get you where you need to go.

"You could be driving in an area where you don't have cellular coverage and therefore your routing may not be working," she said. "You can download your map or just carry a paper atlas."

When it comes to packing, Julie said you don't need as much stuff as you think. "You'll probably end up wearing the same shirt, shorts, and flip-flops or hiking shoes every day," she added.

Four friends with luggage boarding camper van during vacation with trees in the background.
People load an RV for a trip. Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

People often overpack because they think they'll need more stuff than they actually end up using, Julie said.

See Marc and Julie's essential packing list to get a feel for what's important to bring.

It's also important to know that RVs have weight limits, and exceeding them could damage your tires, according to the Bennetts.

man changing tire in motor home at roadside with trees and blue skies behind him.
A man changes the tire of an RV. Paul Sutherland/Getty Images

The cargo-carrying capacity is on a yellow sticker on an inside door of the vehicle, Julie said. Putting too much weight inside an RV is easy to do if you're not paying attention, she added.

"By the time you load people, pets, clothes, and food and then fill up your water tank and fuel tanks, it's very easy to reach or exceed the safe cargo-carrying limit in an RV," she said.

Exceeding the safe limit can lead to a blown-out tire, she added.

In an RV, you need to check the tire pressure more frequently than in lighter vehicles, Marc said.

A close up on someone's hand checking the tire pressure of a grey car.
Check your RV's tire pressure often. Tetra Images/Getty Images

RV tires are put under heavier strain than regular cars, Marc said, so the couple recommends checking your tire pressure before every trip.

If you're looking to save money, traveling slower is cheaper, according to the Bennetts.

A man drives an RV with a rainbow in the background.
Marc drives with a rainbow in view. Courtesy of Marc and Julie Bennett

Driving slower helps save gas, and staying in each destination longer can help save on camping ground fees, the Bennetts said.

"If you stay for a week, you'll pay less on average than if you're just paying by the night," Julie said, speaking of most camping grounds in the US.

Weekday campsite reservations are easier to get and sometimes cheaper than weekends.

RVLove campsite at Henry's Lake State Park, Idaho on a cloudy day with mountains and a body of water in the backgound
Marc and Julie camp at Henry's Lake State Park in Idaho. RVLove

If you have the flexibility in your schedule, Marc and Julie recommend getting campsite reservations during the week because it's easier, less crowded, and likely cheaper than weekend night reservations.

To avoid paying for campsites altogether, Marc and Julie recommend staying the night off-grid.

An RV boondocking in Quartzsite, Arizona with blue skies.
Marc and Julie boondock in Quartzsite, Arizona. Courtesy of Marc and Julie Bennett

The Bennetts suggest "boondocking" — a term RVers use to describe camping without being hooked up to water, sewage, or electricity — on public land governed by the Bureau of Land Management, where people can park their vehicles for free.

Some businesses will even let you park overnight for free, from Walmarts to vineyards, Marc and Julie said.

Marc Bennett of RVLove dressed as Forrest Gump in front of their motorhome while touring the south at walmart with a clear blue sky
Marc dressed as Forrest Gump in front of their motor home while touring the South. RVLove

Marc and Julie said that if you ask, you may be able to stay at a Walmart, a casino, or a vineyard overnight for free, as they have done.

Cooking your own food will save you money on the road, too, according to the Bennetts.

Marc Bennett of RVLove cooks a hearty breakfast in their renovated motorhome
Marc cooks a hearty breakfast in a renovated motor home. RVLove

Marc and Julie recommend cooking as much as you can to save money while traveling in an RV, they previously told Insider.

If you're planning on visiting National Parks, the couple recommends getting an annual park pass to save money on entrance fees.

Left: A selfie of Marc and Julie in sunglasses with RVs and a palm tree behind them. Cloudy skies. Right: Juli and Marc have a side hug while looking onto a field leading to big rocks and trees in Yosemite.
Marc and Julie take a selfie on the left and enjoy Yosemite on the right. Courtesy of Marc and Julie Bennett

It's really cost-effective to get an annual National Park Pass, Julie said. The $80 pass gets you into all the national parks for a year, according to the US Park Pass website.

Unless you're living in it full-time, it might be more cost-effect to rent an RV, according to the Bennetts.

An RV with a sign that reads "Rent Me" on the dash.
A Monaco Cayman recreational vehicle for rent is seen at Abel RV Center in Bartlett, Illinois, in 2003. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Marc said that if you're only taking a few trips a year, it may not be worth it to own an RV once you pay for storage, insurance, registration, repairs, and maintenance.

Your RV will likely have some problems off the lot - especially if it's new, Julie said.

Marc and Julie stand in front of a rental RV with blue skies behind them.
Marc and Julie pick up a rental RV. RVLove

An RV is like a "little rolling earthquake," Julie said.

So the couple recommends what they call a "shakeout trip" close to home to test out the vehicle and make a list of all its issues before driving far away.

Once you've made the list on your local trips, Marc said to take the RV to a dealer to get everything fixed before heading out on a big trip.

When it comes to parking, the Bennetts said that in nature, level ground is hard to find.

Marc and Julie Bennett taking their camper to a secluded, off grid camping spot in Utah with blue skies ahead
Marc and Julie take their camper to a secluded, off-grid camping spot in Utah. RVLove

Once you're ready to park, you're going to find that level ground is rare, the Bennetts said. So carry leveling blocks to put under your tires to keep your RV level.

Don't forget to make sure they are made for the weight of your RV, Marc and Julie cautioned, adding that they use the Tri-Lynx Levelers, which come in a pack of 10.

If you have any troubles, RV-lifers are generally very approachable and helpful, according to the Bennetts.

Marc and Julie Bennett of RVLove camping with RV friends in Florida with green grass and trees and RVs around them
Marc and Julie camping with RV friends in Florida. RVLove

Marc said people should know it's not that scary to approach other people with RVs for help because it's a welcoming community.

And dealing with waste isn't as scary as you think either, Marc said, as long as you follow the right procedures.

Marc squats behind the RhinoFLEX sewer hose with gloves on.
Marc uses a RhinoFLEX sewer hose. RVLove

Dealing with waste is pretty easy, but if you misuse the tanks, you'll be dealing with a smelly mess, according to Marc and Julie.

The Bennetts said there are two tank valves: One is black, and the other is gray.

Keep the black one closed (as that's the valve for poop) so the waste doesn't dry up. Once they're both at least half full, dump the black tank first followed by the gray.

When it comes to safety, it's important to check the weather everywhere in between your starting point and destination.

An RV is parked in  a desert valley on a dark, gloomy day.
Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert, bordering the Great Basin Desert. Michael Leggero/Getty Images

Keep an eye on the weather not only where you are and where you're going, but also everywhere in between, too, the couple said.

If it's windy, try stopping for a bit. You're in a home on wheels, after all.

"Try to avoid driving in winds," Julie added. "It's more dangerous, stressful, physically fatiguing to drive an RV in windy conditions."

Fires are more common in RVs than in traditional homes, the Bennetts said, so they travel with five fire-suppressant foam cans.

A hand holds a fire fight foam can
One of the Bennetts' handheld foam cans. RVLove

The Bennetts said they have three Fire Fight handheld foam cans in their motor home, one on the outside of the vehicle, and one in the driver's area.

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