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  • Tony the RV Tech

5 tips for a smooth road trip

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Mitigating the challenges on migration day, and how to recalculate your plans when life throws in an unexpected curve.

Traveling is always a fun adventure. The excitement of going to the place you have been (hopefully) planning for awhile, or spontaneous spur of the moment trip. Looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones along the way, or just to escape the ones you see everyday ;-). We all have different reasons to hit the road. Here are a few tips to make that trip be as smooth and memorable as possible.

“Just remember. You can plan the whole trip down to the second on paper, but once you put that plan in motion expect a lot of it to change.”

1. Rolling with life's punches. How NOT to be the punching bag.

Everyone has their dream hashtags ready to go. This will be the best #dream #summer #vacation. Then comes the car sick kid. Or a tire blow out.

Or on a cross country

trip 15 years ago your brother parked in your blind spot when you were trying to back the moving truck into a tight parking spot and you accidentally drive over his hood, fender, driver door, mirror, etc. Allegedly. Not that this oddly specific example ever happened.

The point is, travel days can be stressful. Then add a breakdown (or having to search junkyards and dealers for a Saturn Wagon driver side door... allegedly) , and tempers can fly, anger can brew, emotions come into play putting a whole damper on it. Just remember. You can plan the whole trip down to the second on paper, but once you put that plan in motion expect a lot of it to change.

Take a breath, get a cold drink, and while you may not be laughing about it now, you will be for years to come down the road.

2. Speaking of blow outs...

Before hitting the road, check all your fluids (or take it to someone who can if you aren't sure how), check your tire pressure, check for a roadside emergency kit, etc.

I have come across a ton of people who are stuck on the side of the road with no jumper cables (or jump pack these days), road flares (or LED safety flares), tire iron for the lug nuts they have, or even the proper jack to get them on their way.

Even if you don't have all that (you should), at the very least have some snacks, drinks, and weather appropriate comfort items handy. There was one elderly couple I helped out who had been stuck on the side of the road over 6 hours waiting for their club membership to send someone to change a tire blowout on their 5th wheel. It was over 100 degrees that day. They had no water, Gatorade, juice, or anything to keep hydrated. Luckily they had a full tank of diesel to keep the AC going, but even still with the blazing sun it was a sweltering day. I had just pulled over to check on a fellow RVer to make sure they were OK. After I saw their situation, I got them some water, took out all my jacks, jack stands, and wrenches, then got their tire swapped (2 hours by the time we got all the steel belting unwrapped off the axles and brake wiring repaired). I got them back on the road with a few extra bottles of water. That road side service guy was still 2 jobs behind, if they were even going to come at all.

The point of the story, be prepared for the conditions you will be traveling in. Even if it is just a "quick trip".

3. Check your lights and brakes

After you hook up your trailer or towed vehicle, or even just your own vehicle, do a light check. Do all the marker lights work? Tail lights flash on brakes, turn, and running lights? Sometimes the 7 way connector (or 4 way on small trailers) corrode, get a loose wire, bad ground, or all sorts of gremlins. The first clue will be if your lights are working.

As you are pulling out of your site, test your brake controller without hitting your vehicle brakes. Is your trailer or towed vehicle responding? This also helps check all your hitching is locked up good and tight. Better to find the issue now, then out on the road when your vehicle goes, but the trailer stays. Or worse.

4. Route planning

Even though we use an RV specific GPS, with our length, width, height, weight, etc. all programmed in, every once in awhile it's evil twin replaces it on our dash and we get led astray. Trying to guide us down a road with 9' bridge clearances in Ohio. Taking us down roads you pray no one is coming the other direction because the dually barely fits as it is. The infamous "make a U-turn when possible" when the combined length of the truck and trailer is over 60 feet, and you are currently on a 2 lane road.

The key is trying to do as much research about your route and your destination as possible. Google Earth is somewhat your friend, but it still can't help you with clearance heights, uneven terrain in a campground, approach angles for those gas stations and parking lots which notoriously bend your rear stabilizer jacks.

Don't forget to read the website of campgrounds too. Sometimes they have great tips on what roads to avoid when arriving, which entrance to use when bringing in oversized trailers, or even "Don't use Google maps because it has our address wrong on the map"

5. Take breaks along the way

I know your excited to get to that destination, but don't rush it, especially with something in tow. We try to stop in a big shopping center shortly after departing just to double check nothing has shaken loose, popped open, or if any surprises have arisen. After that, 2 hours is the maximum we can go with 2 kids before we need to stop. Someone always has to go to the bathroom, or "so booooooored" and starting to have a melt down. Games, coloring, movies, back seat bingo.... they only get you so far. Plan on stopping to stretch the legs, have a snack, get something to drink, and just take a break. There is no gold star, trophy, or checkered flag waiting for you to get there at some record pace with the least amount of stops.

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