Practical planning, and a few organizing tubs, help the good times roll.
When you RV with the family, a lot of the fun comes from rolling down the open road and camping in your own self-contained world. For maximum enjoyment, make sure your world is well-stocked before you leave. Working from a thorough checklist, you can equip your recreational vehicle with everything you need to be safe, prepared, and relaxed.
First things first. You need a comprehensive checklist. Several weeks before your departure, start the list. As additional items occur to you, add them to the list, find or acquire them, and put them in a dedicated location that won't be in the way. If you own the RV, stash items there. You want to corral everything for easy packing.
Be sure to take the list on your trip, refining it as you learn what you don't really need and what will come in handy for your next RV excursion. Consult with fellow RVers, as well, to find out what they can't live without. After a trip or two, you'll have your list finalized enough to laminate it. Post it somewhere in your home or your RV and check it whenever you embark on a new adventure.
Contact lists. In the excitement of leaving on your trip, remember you may want the option to be in touch with friends, loved ones and the world at-large. Cell phones and laptop computers allow you to stay connected. Take a list of e-mail addresses and phone numbers of important contacts in case of emergencies, too. For sharing your good times through postcards, bring a list of friends' and relatives' mailing addresses. Remember to bring stamps for the postcards, and you'll have won half the battle of sending them. Don't forget to leave your contact information and itinerary with friends, neighbors, or relatives in case they need to track you down.
Safety. Being footloose and fancy-free on the road is easier if you know you've got all your bases covered. The first of these is the safety of your family. Here are some must-have items.
If you don't already belong to one, join an emergency roadside service like AAA; and check your car insurance to see if you have roadside coverage; if you do, write down the 800 number for assistance. And of course, don't forget 911. Make sure you carry your current auto insurance, and of course, driver's licenses for anyone who will be driving.
Fixing It. You know the level of tinkering you're able to handle. Where safety is concerned, err on the side of expertise and get your sick vehicle or sick kids to the appropriate kind of caregiver whenever possible. But for basic jobs, pack tools. Fill a small tool chest or lidded tub with the usual suspects -- hammer, screwdrivers, wrench, and any other fix-it items you can't do without. A Swiss Army knife loaded with wine opener, nail clippers, toothpick and scissors always comes in handy, as does a Leatherman, which is similar to a well-loaded Swiss Army knife but equipped with tools. Ask your RV representative about any special tools you should have on hand for standard upkeep or Maintenance.
Cleaning and Hygiene. When you're in a confined space, keeping everything spic and span becomes more important than ever. Pack a small tub with the cleaning supplies you'll need for kitchen and bathroom. If you have little small children around, make sure to securely store anything that should not be ingested or spilled on sensitive skin. A tub of wipes can double as both grubby-hand sanitizer and kitchen and bathroom scrubbers. Fill a small plastic bucket with sponges, dish soap and cleaning spray for inside cleaning. Plenty of paper towels, dish towels and a box of kitchen-size plastic trash bags round out the home-on-wheels cleaning kit.
For personal clean up, you'll want soap -- try a squeezable body wash for the sake of convenience, shampoo, conditioner and bath towels. Keep toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash together in a sanitary container. Stock more toilet paper than you plan to use, or replenish along the way. Take or buy laundry detergent if you will be gone long enough to have to wash clothes.
Sleeping. Sheets, pillows, blankets, and a throw or afghan for cozy lounging should do it. Does anyone in the bunch need a night light? What other creature comforts could enhance your journey and enjoyment?
Cooking and Eating. Plan your meals ahead of time. And take whatever dry or canned goods, spices, salt and pepper, etc. you have room to carry. Factor in which meals you might want to eat in restaurants. Take any recipes you need In addition to specific ingredients you need for meals you'll be preparing, check the following list for additional prep items you'll need. (If you are renting your RV, call ahead to find out what items are included in the rental.)
aluminum foil plastic wrap Baggies (large and small) napkins matches sharp knife can opener bottle opener wine opener garlic press measuring spoons and cups cutting board coffee maker coffee filters waffle iron portable barbecue Brita water filter
bottled water salt and pepper spices coffee, creamer tea powdered milk fresh milk cereal bread olive (or other) cooking and salad oil butter vinegar sugar flour mustard mayonnaise ketchup garlic onions
Entertainment and Savoring Your Experience. You've done the hard work of preparation. Now comes the fun part: What do you need to take along to enjoy yourselves to the fullest? For ideas on games and things to do inside your RV, read our article "Fun Times Inside Your RV." And as you're having the time of your life, be sure to capture the fun on film. For those who savor and remember best by writing, stash those personal journals and a community journal for sharing memories as a family. When you're well-organized before you go, all that's left to remember is to let the good times roll.