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RVing is a lifestyle. Nearly 9 million households own RVs. Plus, RVing can save a substantial amount of money on vacations— anywhere from 37 percent to 42 percent versus a getaway where you stay in a hotel.

rv camper

The key to an enjoyable excursion is good RV road trip planning. You need to make sure you have your route well mapped, unless of course you are intentionally trying to get lost just for the adventure of it. You also need to ensure you are up to date on RV maintenance, especially if intentional wandering is a part of the itinerary. However, in the end, perhaps the most important step is mastering RV packing essentials. Properly packing your RV will separate a smooth trip from one of desperate searching and expensive mid-trip purchases. That’s why we’re preparing this handy guide on how to pack an RV for a trip. By following this guide, you can make sure your travel goes off without a hitch. So take our advice, prepare your RV packing checklist, and make sure you get to where you’re going as quickly or slowly as you like.

How to Pack for an RV Trip: The Initial Steps

Before we get to specific RV packing lists, we want to cover first things first. You need to know what you want this trip to be. Are you going to stop at campgrounds? Are you trying to rack up as many miles as possible? Are you trying to visit relatives on the cheap without taking up space in their guest room? Once you figure this out, you can begin to make more concrete plans. Next, you want to start actually preparing a list. This means figuring out what you need for whatever kind of travel you might be doing. If you’re going to be doing a lot of eating on the road, do some meal planning so you aren’t stuck with a can of pineapple chunks, lima beans and ramen noodles. You aren’t going to make anything edible, let alone enjoyable, when combining those ingredients. So now that you’re ready to start making your packing list, you can begin thinking about what to pack for an RV trip. Here are some suggestions — some worded more strongly than others — for your RV packing list.

RV Packing Essentials

One of the benefits of RV travel is you get to skip many of the hassles of staying overnight in hotels or frequent stops at rest stops. But there are certain things you need to make sure to bring if you really are going to take the comforts of your own home with you. If you forget toiletries and sanitation essentials when packing an RV, it won’t be long before your RV is the last place you’ll want to be. These are your must-haves:

Basic Toiletries

Do you have your shampoo, soap and any other shower essentials? How about a toothbrush and toothpaste? These may seem like basic items, but the moment you forget them, you will realize how much they can be missed. We recommend buying travel-size toiletries and leaving them in your RV, just in case. Especially if you only travel by RV, these are items you use every day, so why not leave them where you need them?

toothbrushes

Additional Personal Care Items

In addition to basic toiletries, you’ll also want to make sure you have other personal care items on hand. Hand sanitizer is great, especially if you like to stop and explore the outdoors while you travel. Make sure you have tissues. You never know when you might find yourself in a new climate and suddenly experiencing a runny nose.

Essential Medications

Obviously, this is a big one. Hundreds of miles from home is the last place where you want to discover you left your meds in the medicine cabinet at home. If you have especially important medications, consider putting a few in a sandwich bag and leaving them in your RV, just as an emergency back-up.

Cleaning Supplies 

It won’t take long before living in your RV will require you to do some cleaning. So make sure you have a short-handled broom and mop, along with any of the required cleaning products you’ll need. Also make sure you have dish detergent and drying towels. Towels are especially important, since you won’t have nearly as much counter space for air drying.

Waste Baskets

You also want to have a good place to store your waste, even temporarily, before you can make a stop and dispose of it properly. So make sure you have a small wastebasket and garbage bags on hand. You don’t want to be stuck with a banana peel or sticky wrappers left out because you don’t have somewhere to throw them away.

Laundry Supplies

This need depends on how long of a trip you are taking. But if you expect to be making an occasional stop at a place with laundry facilities, make sure you have soap, or else those facilities will be far less useful.

Food Supplies

Much of this list will depend on your tastes. For instance, don’t pack pickles if you know you hate them. But there are some good RV packing tips when it comes to food. You want food that will keep well while you travel and that doesn’t require too much involved preparation. Here are some essentials:

Canned Goods 

The best part of having canned goods is they’re shelf stable. No matter where you go, if you have canned food, you can eat it. Granted, having the right tools for preparing it will make it more palatable, but that’s something we’ll cover later on our list. In the meantime, stock up on basics such as tomato sauce, canned fruits, tuna and anything else that might fit your particular tastes. •

Pasta

Like canned goods, pasta is easy to store and also easy to prepare. All you need is a pot of boiling water, and you’ve got a standard basic for a lot of different meals. If you prefer spaghetti, make sure you have plenty. If you’d rather have macaroni and cheese, that’s easy too. When you’re traveling and have a limited kitchen set up, you’ll be thankful for these comfort foods that are also simple to prepare.

pasta macaroni

Granola and Energy Bars

These are especially good if you’re driving. Sometimes you’re making good time and don’t want to stop, even if you’re hungry. A granola, energy or protein bar is ready to eat and fills you up. Keep a box on hand, just in case you have a craving you need to satisfy quickly. •

Nuts and Trail Mix

Like granola bars, this is a quick snack that will satisfy hunger without requiring any preparation. It’s always nice to have something you can eat by the handful whenever you need it. •

Camping Foods 

Of course, if you camp when you RV, you will want to pack essential camping foods. Some of these, such as s’mores ingredients, are easily stored without refrigeration, unless you plan on leaving chocolate in a hot RV during the day. However, some items, such as hotdogs and hamburgers, require the added effort of keeping refrigerated while you travel. Fridge space will be at a premium, but these foods are worth the valuable space. Remember, loading your RV fridge with cold foods when you start it, makes it easier to cool down. •

Nighttime Relaxation Essentials

These are items that should only be consumed once you’ve parked for the day. But if you plan on kicking back and relaxing in the evening, make sure you have the proper beverages for doing so. If you want a cocktail, we suggest choosing one “signature” cocktail for the trip. That way you can have the proper ingredients without taking up too much space.

Breakfast Foods

Some people only want cereal in the morning. If that’s the case, packing for breakfast is easy. However, if you are the type of person who needs protein first thing, make sure you pack enough. Eggs especially can quickly disappear. And don’t forget coffee. If you drink coffee regularly, one morning off without it can leave you with a headache that will make the day’s drive miserable. •

The Proper Equipment

If you’ve been waiting all day thinking about an evening with a frozen margarita, you will be pretty sore if you realize you forgot a blender. After you plan out your menu, make sure you also know what kind of equipment is needed for each item. Pots and pans are standard, and you’ll probably want to have a set specially reserved for you RV. But some special equipment might not be worth it if you’ll only be using it for one trip a year.

Comfort and Entertainment RV Packing List

Now that we’ve got the necessities out of the way, let’s discuss those things that make RVing so enjoyable. When considering things to pack on a RV trip, don’t just think about bare essentials. Also consider what is going to make your trip comfortable and fun for the whole family. With that in mind, here are some ideas for bringing the best parts of home with you: •

Games

One of the joys of family is playing games together. Whether you want to enjoy manic party games where everyone is shouting answers or more calculated strategy games, consider bringing a few board games with you. Or maybe you just need a deck of cards and some poker chips. Either way, if you do that, you will also want to bring a playing surface along as well, so don’t forget a card table.

chess game

Electronics

Some people enjoy roughing it. But the nice thing about an RV is you don’t have to if you don’t want to. There are a number of electronic items, such as TVs, satellite dishes and Wi-Fi connectivity devices, that will transform your RV into a mobile living room. So if ultimate relaxation for you is streaming the latest episode of your favorite show or popping in a DVD or Blu-Ray, the right equipment is available for you.

Musical Instruments

Some of us are musical. If that’s the case, you should definitely bring your instrument along, although a tuba may be a little too big. Sometimes you need to get away to really enjoy the simple pleasures of strumming your guitar or singing family favorites with your loved ones. If you’re musically gifted, don’t leave your gift behind when you travel.

Exploration Equipment

If you are the type of person who loves to adventure out when you’ve parked for the night or weekend, make sure you have what you need to make the most of it. If you want to scope the wildlife, bring a good pair of binoculars. If you like exploring at night, make sure you have a heavy-duty flashlight and fresh batteries. If you’re a hiker, make sure you have the right shoes and a pack to carry water. And bring a good camera so you can capture what you discover without actually disturbing it.

Emergency Preparedness

Unfortunately, even with the best-laid plans, sometimes things go wrong. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected when creating an RV packing list for a trip. Keep these essentials in mind in case of emergency:

Fire Extinguisher

This is especially important if you plan on camping. Even if you are an expert fire builder, sometimes things go wrong, whether it be a burst of something flammable or an unexpected wind. The best fire builders know a fire extinguisher is a must. If you plan on cooking with grease in your RV kitchen, make sure to have a grease fire extinguisher as well, because a traditional extinguisher will only make a grease fire worse.

Solar-Powered Charger

In the case of an emergency, a cell phone is a lifeline. But if your cellphone dies, you can be stuck without any way to communicate your need for help. A solar charger can charge your phone even if your engine is dead and you’re nowhere near an electrical outlet. They’re inexpensive and a must-have in any RV.

Duct Tape and Other Handy Items

If you’re handy, you can fix things yourself. But not without the right tools. Duct tape is universally known as one of the handiest materials around. Make sure to have a couple rolls on you at all times. Gorilla glue is another useful tool for fixing unexpected problems.

Whistles

If you’re a hiker, one of the scariest things possible is getting lost. Whistles are useful and easy to pack. If you go on a hike during your RV trip, make sure you have a whistle, preferably one that is very, very loud. That way if you get separated from your group, you can let them know where you are. Make up a group-specific blowing pattern that is only used in case of emergency so your group will always know it’s you who needs assistance.

Jugs of Water

A lot of things can go wrong, but if you’ve got water, you’ll be able to last a while. Have gallon jugs of water on hand, and don’t use them unless you are in an emergency. You never want to be stranded without water.

Good Luck With Your RV Road Trip Planning

Hopefully this guide on what to pack in an RV has been helpful. We think there is no better way to travel, so we want you to enjoy it, too. Of course, if you have any RV needs, feel free to look through our online store. We are always adding new items to help make packing for an RV trip more enjoyable. Whatever you do, don’t stop living the RV lifestyle.

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