Whether you're heading out on the open road with just your partner or gathering your extended family for a grand cross-country adventure, practical planning and a few organizing secrets can help ensure your RV trip is a success.


RVing is all about the fun and adventure of 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.


Contacts and Safety Tips

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.

  • A fire extinguisher. Bring one and store it properly.
  • A complete first-aid kit and basic first-aid book (the Red Cross publishes a good one)
  • Snakebite kit
  • Syrup of ipecac (in case of poisoning)
  • Prescription medicines that need to be taken regularly
  • A bottle of over-the-counter fever medication.
  • Write the phone and fax number of your family doctor on a note card, along with the 800 number of the Center for Poison Control in the region or regions where you'll be traveling, and place the note card in the first-aid kit.
  • If you are going to be in a buggy locale, have adequate insect repellant on hand.
  • If you are going to be somewhere sunny, sun protection in the form of hats and sunscreen is imperative.
  • As a safety and practical consideration, have at least one flashlight and extra fresh batteries along, and assign them a specific, easily accessible place in your RV.
  • In case of power loss, and for general use, bring a battery-powered lantern. (You might also wish to have candles on hand, being extremely careful not to leave them unattended or to leave them in an unsafe place.)

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 be sure to pack a variety of dry and canned goods--like canned soup, spices, salt and pepper, etc.

You'll also want to factor in which meals you might want to eat in restaurants, and budget accordingly.

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.)


Non-Food Basics

Before you pack up and hit the road, be sure you're stocked up on the following non-food essentials taht can help make your meal times easier:

  • 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

Food Basics

Building an RV pantry is key to helping make your on-the-road cooking fun and easy. Here's a good list with which to start:

  • 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 
  • canned Progresso soup
  • dry pasta and/or rice
  • condiments (such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup) 
  • garlic 
  • vegetables
  • fruit

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.


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