My Fifth-Wheel RV

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Going on a Trip

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The following are check lists that I use to remind myself about things I might overlook while my mind is on issues such as getting the trailer ready to go, or enjoying our trip, or getting back to life after the trip.

Of course no one expects you to address each and every item in the list before you head out on a trip. Many or even most of the items may not apply. If so, just ignore them. However, some may help jog your memory and let you take care of some things you might regret not doing while on your trip.

Before you leave

  • Fill propane tanks. If you are going dry camping will you need extra tanks?
  • Fuel up the truck. Carry an extra fuel can if you think you may be away from fuel stations.
  • If you use a filter on your water hose, and you should, change it before you go.
  • Check vehicle fluids, tires, lights, brakes, etc. A plug: RainEx is great for windshields.
  • Check trailer tire pressures. If you do not know how much psi your tires require, use the Google machine or ask at a tire store. It is rather critical that you don't over inflate or underinflate your tires.
  • Carry a good tire pressure guage. If you have a dualie truck, can your tire guage reach all the tire valves? You may also want to carry a couple spare lug nuts.
  • Check brakes.
  • Check slideout cables for fraying. Do this early enough so you can repair them [see here] or have them repaired.
  • Empty the gray and black water tanks. Flush the black tank with water.
  • Oil the gray and black tank valves and cables.
  • Inspect slideout cables for fraying.
  • Make sure you have a teflon disc for the fifth-wheel hitch.
  • Replace all batteries and light bulbs.
  • Check oven burners and pilot light. See here for details.
  • Clean truck windshield and windows. RainEx makes a great rain repellent.
  • Stock up pantry, fridge and coolers.
  • Prepay bills. Use autopay if possible. Can you pay bills on your computer?
  • Pre-renew vehicle registrations. Take your RV and tow vehicle registrations with you.
  • Pre-get required meds. If you have prescription meds at a local pharmacy and plan to be away for several months, either pre-fill the meds or consider moving the prescriptions to some place like Walmart or CVS where you won't have to go far to get them refilled.
  • USB chargers, cables, extensions.
  • Take antifreeze if you are going where temps are likely to freeze.
  • Cancel or reschedule doctors appointments.
  • If you will need to charge your phones while you are driving, make sure you have a multi-usb charger that plugs into your 12 v. power outlet, as well as charger cords.
  • Pre-new pet licenses and immunizations. Stock up on pet meds.
  • Stop mail, or have someone pick up for you. Can you plan to receive mail while on the road? Note that most campgrounds will hold mail until you get there, but be sure to let them know beforehand.
  • Notify credit cards that you will be away, and for how long.
  • Do you need to let your insurance company know you will be out of the country?
  • Unplug water heater if you will be away for long. Other electrical appliances?
  • Clean out fridge and food pantry. Remove items that may spoil while you are away, or take them with you. Note that if food and fluids will cause weight problems for your rig, it would be better to toss them and then re-supply when you get where you are going.
  • If you're taking bikes, secure them into your bike rack.
  • Upgrade phone plan if you will be in remote areas. Can you get internet on your phone?
  • Prepay taxes if necessary.
  • Check battery expiration dates.
  • Suspend memberships such as gym until you get back.
  • Should you leave car or house keys with anyone, in case of emergencies?
  • Let neighbours know you will be gone and for how long.
  • Get access code for your home phone voice recorder.
  • Set light timers.
  • Any smartphone apps you need while on the road? See list below.
  • Any account passwords you need to take with you?
  • Do you have roadside assistance? If not, take a look at Good Sam.
  • If you are going on a long trip, consider placing other vehicles' insurance policies on inactive status.
  • Torque the lug nuts on your tires. If you do not know the values for your particular tires, use Google or ask at a good tire store. Will you have a torque wrench with you in case you have to change a tire? See here for info on GoodYear Endurance tires which we use on our fifth-wheel.
  • If you have a central vac system, change the filter bag and make sure the suction line is clear. My wife puts one of those scented dryer sheets in the bag whenever I change it. Take extra filters if you will be gone for awhile.
  • Got a satellite TV system? If you haven't used it for awhile you may have to reactivate your receiver boxes before you go. This has often been true with our DirecTV boxes where I have to make a phone call to get them working again.

Things to take along

There are certain things that experienced RV-ers know they will need while on the road. Some of these will find frequent use while others might be needed in cases of emergency.

  • Tools. I have a small 3-drawer tool chest in the front compartment of our fifth-wheel which contains various tools for repairs, modifications, installations or the like. These tools include common household things like pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, side cutter, socket wrenches, open end wrenches, allen wrenches, hacksaw, tin snips, wire brush, pry bar, box cutter, files and so on. Not so obvious items include a level, tape measure, heavy hand sledge, soldering kit, ---. I also carry an electric drill with various bits and charger, 12v battery charger, ---. Emergency items include road flares and cones, long jumper cables, ---. If your truck, trailer or bus batteries are the kind where you need to occasionally refill the water, take along a battery tester and a jug of distilled water.

  • Fasteners. Screws, nuts, bolts, inserts and other miscellaneous hardware comes in handy for those little repairs or enhancements to your rig. Cable ties are particularly useful.

  • Ladder. No, not the roof ladder on the back of your rig, but rather a half-height foldable ladder to make it easier to hop up into the truck bed. You will be thankful for this if your rig is already hooked up to the trailer, or if like me you're not exactly a spry young chicken anymore.

  • Cell phone chargers. This includes both 120v elec outlet plugins and 12v cigarette lighter kinds. Nothing is more frustrating than being on the open road with dead cell phones - how are you going to use Google Maps? I use a 12v Y-splitter so I can charge both phones with one plug while travelling.

  • A long 120v extension cord. You'll be surprised just how many times this comes in handy.

  • Compressor and long hose. Tools include an impact lug wrench, sockets and a pneumatic jack for changing tires. A tire pressure attachment comes in handy for filling low tires. This is where the long extension cord comes in handy, as you might be able to pull up next to a building and ask the owner if you can tap into their elec outlet to run your compressor.

  • Generator. I have a --- that operates on either 120v or propane. The propane feature is especially nice because I can simply hook up to one of the containers in the rig.

  • Extra fuel can with fuel, especially if you know you're going to be far from service stations or plan to be boondocking. Extra oil, transmission fluid, windshield washer, RainEx and water are recommended.

  • Extra 12v and 120v fuses. Look in your fuse box to see what particular fuses you need. They are numbered by amperage, such as 15A, 20A and so on. I also take along a portable voltage detector and a multimeter

  • Extra light bulbs for both interior and exterior. Those little bulbs inside your exterior lights, brakes and turn signal lenses will be hard to find on the road.

  • Extra long cable TV line. You never know where a campground's cable hookup is going to be. I have been places where the hookup didn't work and I had to tap into the one at an adjacent site. In such a case a cable splitter might be necessary.

  • Water faucet Y-splitter. This allows you to hook up another hose in addition to your normal water line. This comes in handy if you need to rinse something or even wash your rig.

  • A short water hose is recommended for washing out your sewer line. Don't be tempted to use your normal water hose, especially if you have folks along that may be susceptible to contaminants, bacteria and the like. A spray bottle of bleach kept in your hookup compartment is recommended.

  • Water, electric and sewer extensions. We have been at more than one campground where the hookups just couldn't be reached with normal lines and hoses. Sooner or later you will find that a sewer line extension will be a godsend. A second water hose is cheap. A 20A or 30A elec extension is not chedp; I haven't had to use mine a lot but there have been cases where I would have been up the creek without it. If you do get either sewer or elec extensions, don't forget the adapters.

  • A water pressure regulator and an elec surge protector are recommended, especially if you travel to places like the Canadian Maritimes.

  • Flashlights. I carry several: one by the door for walking the dogs, a couple more inside the rig, one in the front storage compartment, one in the hookup compartment and one inside the truck. Don't forget to take extra batteries.

  • Extra keys. Having locked myself out before, I'm pretty paranoid about this. I carry extra door keys inside the truck, and extra truck keys inside the rig. Don't forget the basement door keys. I don't recommending the magnetic key holders you might stick somewhere outside you rig since they inevitably shake off during travel, especially on rough roads. You might also want to carry an extra key in your purse or bag.

  • Various lubricants and caulks. See here for what types to use and when.

  • Roadside service membership. We've used our Good Sam Roadside Service more than once and it's more than paid for itself. We're now lifetime members. Note that a lot of campgrounds offer Good Sam discounts, usually 10%. AAA also provides a roadside service but we've not looked into it yet.

  • I always carry a notepad and pen inside the truck. There's something about white line fever that causes me to think of things that would unfortunately be lost if I didn't immediately write them down.

Stocking up your rig

One of the first things I did after we got our new rig was to sit down and itemize a list of things to furnish it. Of course I didn't think of everything but it was pretty long. Travel experience tends to hone the list, adding some things and taking others off.

Here is a link to a rather extensive list of things you might want to consider. It's not to suggest that you take everything on the list with you, but rather to serve as a list for you to pour over when making your own decisions.

Stocking your fridge, freezer and coolers

It's certainly quite natural for new RV-ers to cram as much food stuff into their rigs as they can before heading out on their first trip. We certainly made that mistake our first few times, which helped contribute to tire blowouts from too much weight.

If you have a motorhome with a big fridge and freezer you can probably stock up almost everything you'll need for the whole trip. But if you have a small camper or even a large fifth-wheel, we recommend that you forego the urge to hoard and only go with the basics. Try to limit your fridge items to things you will need when you arrive, unhook and relax. Plan and stock for your next dinner and breakfast, and then go shopping the next day.Even if you're going on an extended stay, try to anticipate your needs for the next few days and stock accordingly.

If you're going dry camping or going somewhere there is likely to be little or no shopping available then you won't have much choice but to pre-stock. But even then, try to do it just before you get to your destination.

Rather than make this page any longer than it already is, here is a link to a fairly exhaustive list of dried and fresh food items to consider. Although the list is rather long it is not meant to suggest that you take most or even many of the items shown. It is intended solely to remind you of things you might need on your trip. Different people have different needs for different kinds of trips, so scan over the list and mark those things you absolutely have to take, including those things you might not be able to find at a local grocery. Oh, and the list also serves as a pretty good shipping list for when you get there!

Hooking up and unhooking

I use a 40-point checklist for attaching our trailer, and a similiar list for detaching. These activities usually have to be done in a particular order, and omitting a step could lead to disastrous problems. Due to their lengths I have placed them on a separate page [see here].

Important: Be sure you are undisturbed while hooking or unhooking your rig. Do not let anyone distract you. I have more than once encountered near catastrophies when allowing others to talk to me while I was trying to perform these important steps.

RV-ing with pets

Many, many RV-ers take pets along when they go camping. I can't say for certain but I believe most RV pets are dogs, although cats are popular too. Can't say about birds, reptiles, zebras or alligators but we would probably both be surprised what we would find if we could peek inside the rigs we park next to at campgrounds.

In this discussion I'm going to concentrate on dogs because that's what you see most. Taking the puppies along can be a rewarding experience for both you and the dogs. Ours love to ride in the truck and all we have to say is "in" and they're right in there with us. You likely won't have any more difficulty with your pets in an RV than you would at home - assuming they're reasonably well behaved!

Taking your pets with you is also much cheaper than boarding them, especially if you will be gone for a long time. Moreover, they will probably prefer being with you than staying with strangers.

Here is a rather lengthy check list which we go through before any trip with out dogs. Some items may not apply to your pet, but the intention is to jog your memory about things you might not otherwise have thought about.

  • Unless you have a motorhome, don't leave your pets in the rig while driving. Bouncing around can cause injury or trauma. They might not want to eat or drink while they're scared.
  • Common sense dictates that you don't leave pets or children alone in a hot vehicle. If possible, leave someone inside and run the A/C in hot weather. Also check state laws about leaving pets alone; I found out the hard way that Florida has a law making it illegal to leave dogs in a truck without a person inside.
  • I don't know about your dogs but our Bam Bam will jump out of an open window if there is enough clearance. Squirrels, dogs and kids are just too hard to resist.
  • Take food and water in the tow vehicle. Stop occasionally so they can drink; if you're dogs are like mine they probably won't eat until they get into the trailer.
  • Most dogs have a collar, leash and/or harness. Make sure the collar has a name tag with contact info in case they get lost. Rabies tags are also recommended.
  • Other items to take include water and food bowls, meds (flea, tick, heartworm), toys, chewies, treats, sprays, beds, blankets, cat litter, pee pads and grooming products.
  • Some campgrounds have a max of two dogs. We sometimes travelled with three with no problems; now we have four. I have never seen anyone ejected from a campground for having too many dogs, but if you're worried about it make sure you don't walk them all together. I wouldn't suggest owning up to having too many dogs when you make your reservation; if you don't advertise the fact when you go or walkies then you'll most likely be ok.
  • Take poop bags with you when walking the dogs. Don't let them drink water unless you're sure it's just polled rainwater. For example, don't allow drinking out of firepits or where the water looks oily or funny. Never let them drink around a dump station.
  • If you have small dogs, an outdoor fenced area is commonly found at campgrounds. Make sure they can't jump out of it. For larger dogs, screw downs work well.
  • Do your cats or dogs use a kennel or cage?
  • If there is a chance you may be taking a ferry somewhere, you may have a choice of leaving them in the truck or RV, or housing them in an on-board kennel. If you use a kennel you will probably have to take your own. If you leave them in the truck, trailer or motorhome, make sure they have plenty of food and water, and put down pee pads in case of accidents.
  • Make sure the pets have all vaccinations before you set out. Take along relevant medical records, especially rabies certificates.
  • Some campgrounds have pet runs or dog parks, but it isn't common. If you stay somewhere that does, don't use them with an aggressive dog - the management may ask you to leave if they get complaints. Also ask the office if they routinely sanitize the area; this is especially important for puppies that might be subject to parvo
  • Rest stops and visitor centers can be problematic for dog walking. Other folks are likely to be using the same area too, and aggressive dogs (either yours or theirs) could cause problems. Try to walk your pooch when there aren't other dogs milling about.
  • Do any of your pets have allergies? If so, do they need special food or meds? Depending on where you go you may not have access to a vet, so take plenty of meds and special foods with you. If your pet has medical issues, pre-research a vet or animal hospital where you can take it in case of emergency. What about after hours emergencies?
  • If your pets are picky eaters or drinkers, be sure to take along enough until you can wean them.
  • In case of emergency, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control number is 888-426-4435.

Like I said, taking your pets along can be rewarding for both you and the pets. A bit of forethought and careful planning can make the trip enjoyable for both. Although we did have medical issues with one of our dogs while in Newfoundland, they have all been wonderful to have along, and we couldn't imagine taking an RV trip without them!

While on the road


Campground hookups

If your next trip will be your first RV campground experience, here is an overview of what you can expect from typical campground hookups like electric, water, cable, wi-fi, internet and sewer.

After you've stayed at a few different campgrounds you will surely come to the universal truth of RV-ing: you never know what you're going to get until you get there, and hookup facilities are no exception. We have seen all sorts of variations of water, electric, sewer, cable, wi-fi and internet. We have also been to campgrounds like state parks where there were none of these at the site, even water (but it wasn't far to a water spigot).

Let's start with electric. What you'll get in terms of electric hookups can vary wildly. A very few campgrounds will have 20/30/50 amp sockets all on the same post so it won't matter much what type of rig parks there. Some will have 30/50. Some will have only 30 and some only 50. Some will have switches youat all so you'll have to play the "Can I get a different site?" game.

Water can sometimes be fun too. We've been at sites where I had to get down on all fours to reach the faucet buried deep in a hole in the ground. We've had broken faucets and faucets that just wouldn't turn. We've been at campgrounds where the water pressure would have blown our PVC pipes apart if we had not had a regulator (do you have one?). We've been in more than one campground in Canada where water boil warnings were in effect.

Wi-fi and internet? Good luck. Although most US campgrounds offer wi-fi internet, the service is almost always spotty at best, or totally unavailable at worst. A campground full of campers places heavy demands on the service and few campgrounds make the investment to install a decent service with repeaters scattered around the grounds. This causes slow service as well as service denials. The folks at one campground in Canada told me they were in the process of upgrading their service at a cost of around $16,000. Thinking back to the 50-or-so campgrounds we've been in, I believe we had reasonable service at exactly two.

One alternative to being subject to the whims of campground internet is to have a good phone plan where you can get internet on your phone and channel it to your computer either via hotspot or USB cable. If you have such a plan or will be getting one, make sure the plan won't throttle down your speed in periods of heavy usage, or has a maximum monthly usage.

Sewer can be the most problematic in terms of availability. Sites close to water tend not to have sewer hookups. State and national parks likely won't either. Campgrounds parked on very rocky substrate usually eschew having to excavate in order to provide sewer. In such cases, dump stations will almost always be available at the exit. Some dump stations even thoughtfully provide convenient water hoses and sewer hoses for your use. Some campgrounds also have a "sewer sucker" truck that comes around to your rig; sometimes it's free and sometimes there's a charge.

Ok, that leaves cable. Our experience is that campground cable is pretty good, if it is in fact offered. Note that I have seen campgrounds that offer internet over cable for guests that have long term stays.

Be warned that some sites will have hookups so far away from your rig that your electric, water and sewer lines won't reach. I always carry extensions so I'm prepared. You might want to ask when reserving a site how far away the hookup box is from the middle of the parking pad.

When you make your reservations make sure the folks know what you need in the way of hookups. But be prepared to settle for less, unless you want to look elsewhere. Also bear in mind that so-called "full hookups" tend to cost more. Also know that the shorter your stay, the less likely the campground will be inclined to give you a full hookup if they are limited.

Some useful smartphone apps

Here are some phone apps that we have found handy to one extent or another. Actual usefulness depends on where you're going, RV-ing experience and so on.

  • GPS routes
  • RV parks
  • Truck stops
  • Camping World locations
  • Cracker Barrel locations
  • Costco locations
  • Good Sam roadside assistance
  • RV Care Network
  • Passport America campground discounts
  • Weather forecasts
  • Compass
  • Gas Buddy

Other phone apps you might want to consider might be on-the-road banking or stock trading, credit card accounts, language translation if you are going to Canada or Mexico, music and so on.

Apps for Android phones like Samsung Galaxy can be downloaded from CNET or Google Play. If you have the Google Play Store app on your phone you can also use that. iPhone users can download apps from the Apple App Store.

When you come back

"Undo" any of the above items you may have done before you left on your trip, such as changing your answering machine message and notifying the bank and credit card companies that you have returned.

Returning from a trip, especially a long one, doesn't mean you can just park your rig and forget about it. RVs need lots of love even when they're sitting. The sections under the How To heading have a number of maintenance suggestions. Here are links to most of them.

And finally, when you get back, if you had an especially memorable trip consider letting the world know about it by commenting on our forum. Other folks will want to know where you went and what you did, how you liked the campgrounds, and any other helpful hints and suggestions you can offer. Be sure to let us know what type of rig you have, your travel history, what pets you have and so on. RV-ers are a community that loves to share stories and hear about the adventures of others.

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