Prepare for your first RV trip with 37 things to pack, 3 things you should never pack, and the ultimate guide to packing well.
There is nothing more exciting than that first night you spend in an RV. Knowing you can go anywhere, surrounded by your family and friends, your own possessions, and even your pets.
Knowing that you’ve already unpacked for the holiday even though you’ve barely set off yet. And knowing that you are about to be treated to some of the finest views in the world, from the comfort of your cozy RV passenger seat.
We’re jealous. We wish we could do it all again, but we’ll settle for making other first-time campers’ experience as stress free as possible.
You’ve Booked Your Trip What Next?
So, you’ve booked your first RVing trip, what next? RVing isn’t anything like staying in a hotel or static caravan. It’s better.
You’ll only have to unpack once, there’s no limit to where you can go and what you do on your trip, and there’s nothing easier than setting up your camper after a long day’s drive.
If you’ve just booked your first RVing holiday, then you’re not alone. In the last two years RVing and camping has seen a huge boom. 28 million people spent time on an RVing holiday in 2018.
Early data suggests that that number was up to 68% higher in 2020. And that number is set to grow even more this year. RVing around the US frequently pops up on travel bucket lists.
There has never been a better time to treat yourself to an RVing holiday. So, how do you prepare for your first RVing trip? Well, there are lots of things you need to plan for:
- When you are going
- Where you are going to stay
- How long your trip will take
- What you are going to do on your trip
- Which route to take
- What to pack
Now, we can’t help you with everything on that list. What we can do, however, is take all the stress out of packing.
The good news is that packing for your first RV trip is fairly simple. However, there are some things that first time campers never think to pack.
Today we’re going to cover 37 things you shouldn’t go on your first RVing trip without, 3 things you should never pack, and a guide to packing like a pro. Let’s jump right into that list.
Essentials for a First Time RV Trip
Here are 27 things that you must pack for your first RV trip. These may seem like small items but they are going to make a major difference to your quality of life while on the road.
You’d be surprised by how many people are so excited to take their first trip that they forget the basic things like toothpaste or matches.
While it can be tempting to eat off paper plates and drink out of red solo cups for your whole holiday.
You’ll find it a much more relaxing experience if you pack your own cooking things.
Plus it’s way better for the environment. Here are two things that you should definitely make space for in your RV.
1. Crockery and cutlery
As we mentioned before, not only is bringing your own cutlery and crockery a great option for those looking to reduce their waste output and be environmentally friendly.
But it’s a simple trick to feeling more relaxed on the road. Being able to surround yourself with home comforts is a huge benefit of RVing. Nothing beats being able to drink your morning coffee in your favorite mug.
Your bowls will always be just the right size. And you’ll never have to worry about not being able to cut up your brisket when you have your favorite cooking knife to hand.
2. Takeaway cups
You may be scratching your head at this one. We’re not suggesting you bring takeaway cups so that you can drive your RV through a Starbucks drive-through every 50 miles. However, if that’s what floats your boat, more power to you.
No, we think takeaway cups are an essential part of RVing for another reason. Have you ever spilled hot coffee on yourself?
It hurts, doesn’t it? Well, not every road or RV suspension is made equally. You will inevitably experience a bumpy ride.
Most likely when you’re not expecting it, and most likely when you’ve just made a full cup of coffee. With takeaway cups, you don’t have to worry about spilling a drop, no matter how bad the road turbulence gets.
One of the best things about RV holidays is that you are in complete control of what you eat and when. If you want to get take-out every night you can.
But you also have the option to cook all of your favorite meals on the road. This can make RVing a really ideal holiday for you if you or anyone in your family has food allergies.
We know many children who have been able to eat the same food as the rest of their family on holiday for the first time, while RVing. It’s an emotional experience all around.
Bringing your own food also makes RVing the ideal holiday for anyone who is on a budget. If you want to you can meal prep everything you’re going to eat before you leave.
Then freeze it and store it in the RV. This takes out all the hassle of going on the go and means that you can make huge savings when it comes to mealtimes. Don’t forget to pack snacks. There’s nothing worse than running out of snacks.
Now that you have planned out all the delicious meals you’re going to have and/or cook on our holiday, it’s time to choose the condiments you’re going to bring along with you.
Many brands now offer travel size containers of their condiments, but if you’re looking to save money you can just pack what you already have in the fridge.
One of the great joys of RVing holidays is being able to customize them to your exact tastes.
That means if you want to spend a week sunning yourself on the beach you can.If you want to spend a week hiking around Yellowstone then you can.
You can even plan a weekend away Skiing for yourself.
When it comes to an RVing holiday, the sky’s the limit. However, it will make you’re packing a lot easier if you decide what you’ll be doing on your holiday before you leave.
The good news we have for you is that there is no weight or packing limit when it comes to RV holidays.
You don’t have to worry about trying to fit all your clothes into one tiny suitcase. In fact, most RVs come with built-in clothes storage.
Swimwear and beach towels are essential items if you’re planning to spend any time at a beach or pool on your trip.
You should bring a set of towels that you only use for the beach, this will help you to avoid filling the RV with sand. Waking up in the middle of the night with sand in your sheets is never fun.
2. Waterproof jacket
No matter where you’re traveling, never leave home without a waterproof jacket. Having dry, warm clothing can be the difference between a good day and an awful one.
Even in the hottest, driest states – if you’re hiking (or taking part in some kind of other nature-based activity) then you’ll have to be prepared for sudden changes of weather.
At high altitudes, any location can experience snow, gale-force winds, and torrential downpours.
3. Warm pajamas
Even in the height of summer, many areas in the country can get really cold at night. Warm pajamas are a simple and cheap alternative to having your heaters blazing all night long.
When you travel with your RV you don’t have to worry about ending up in the middle of nowhere where the bar only serves your least favorite beer and Appletinis.
You’ve got a fridge, make the most of it by stocking it like your own, personalized minibar. Buying your alcohol in advance is another great way to make a saving whilst RVing.
Head down to a bulk buying store and make the most of their great deals. You can then store the crate in the back of your RV and top the fridge up as you go.
First Aid Kit
If you pack nothing else for your first RV trip then make sure you pack a First Aid Kit. They quite literally save lives every day. RVing is not more dangerous than any other type of holiday.
But it does give you the opportunity to try many you normally wouldn’t, often quite far away from a hospital.
Here is a comprehensive guide to everything you should have in your first aid kit. The following 5 items are parts of the first aid kit people often forget to pack or don’t see the point in packing. Let us remind you why they are so important.
Recent research unequivocally shows that we should all be wearing sunscreen every day of the year. It has been discovered that the most harmful parts of UV rays are not actually absorbed by the clouds like was previously thought.
This means that even on rainy days we are at risk of developing sunburn and skin damage.
Why is this something you should pay attention to, no matter what color your skin is? Well, UV rays (particularly UVA and UVB rays) have been linked with early aging and skin cancer.
The good news is that by applying sunscreen everyday, you can mitigate a lot of the risks to your skin. When on holiday you should look into purchasing waterproof sunscreen.
2. Space blankets
First developed by NASA for extraterrestrial travel, space blankets have found themselves a new life on earth.
They are now used by nearly every emergency service across the globe and have been used to treat many different problems – such as shock, hypothermia, and extreme weather conditions.
Why do you need a space blanket on an RVing holiday? Well, one of the best things you can do when packing for an RV trip is to prepare for the worst.
If your RV breakdowns you may be stuck waiting for a while, without a heater. You may also need to break out the space blanket in the event of freak weather changes, like an unexpected snow storm.
3. Burn gel
While this may seem self-explanatory, you’d be surprised by how many people leave home without a pack of burn gel in their first aid kit.
In the event that anyone on your trip is burnt (by boiling water, by something hot, or even by something extremely cold) burn gel can prevent long-term scarring and short term pain.
When some is burnt, run the wound under cold water then quickly cover the whole thing with burn gel.
Allow the gel to absorb and then bandage up the wound. If the burn looks serious or continues to hurt constantly after a couple of days take the person to A&E.
4. Bandages and band aids
Most of us won’t witness anyone getting seriously burnt on our RVing holiday. However, most of us will find a use for bandages and band aids on our trip.
You may have to fit yourself with a compression bandage after dancing too hard at the camp disco. Or your grandma might get a papercut whilst reading her gruesome murder mystery too enthusiastically.
You never know when bandages and band aids may come in handy, so make sure you’re stocked up.
5. Bug spray
This one is mostly for you city folk. When traveling through areas of woodland, long grass, or walking alongside a body of water – bug spray is essential. Don’t let a series of poorly placed midge bites ruin your holiday.
Yes, we know you’re on holiday, but unfortunately, you will still need to do some cleaning. However, cleaning is not always a bad thing.
It stops viruses and bugs from spreading, it makes the bathroom smell a lot better, and it keeps your RV looking spotless. You might even find it a relaxing experience.
Here are four essential cleaning supplies to bring on your first RVing holiday.
1. Washing up liquid
We use this item every day. We understand its importance. But do most of us remember to pack it before we set off on our trips? No. Even veteran campers like us are guilty of this one.
While it might be tempting to buy the cheapest bottle possible for your holiday, we would recommend investing in the good stuff. It will make the chore of doing the washing up so much more bearable.
Plus, you get to bring the bottle home with you at the end of the holiday, so it won’t be a waste of money. You could even pack the bottle that you are currently using at home if you’re looking to save a little extra money.
Sometimes, trying to understand the world of RV toilets feels like trying to work at NASA when you can’t count.
Do you get a built-in toilet, a pressure toilet, an eco-toilet? Do you go in the woods (you never go in the woods, it’s dangerous for the animals and can lead to e-Coli outbreaks in humans)?
One thing for sure, you’re going to want to keep your toilet clean and smelling fresh. Bleach is the easiest way to do it. You can soak your toilet while you’re out on your daily adventures and come back to a sparkling porcelain throne.
Bleaches can also be used in other areas around the RV. You may want to use a small amount of it to clean your boots after a long hike or visit somewhere deep in nature. This will stop any diseases from spreading.
3. Room spray
You’re probably reading this item and thinking that you don’t need it. Trust us, you will definitely need to bring along a bottle of room spray.
RVing holidays often involve long periods of time spent on the road. This is not a bad thing, however, it can get pretty hot on the road.
Particularly, when there are a few people in a small space. You won’t want to open the windows as you won’t be able to hear yourself think.
So, how do you keep your RVing smelling and feeling fresh? Yes, that’s right, room spray. You’ll thank us later.
4. Anti-bac spray
If 2020 taught is anything it was the importance of regularly washing your hands and wiping down your services. This is no different on an RV trip.
In fact, it is even more important as you are visiting places you have never been before, moving around a lot, and meeting new people.
Pack yourself a large bottle of antibacterial surface cleaner and a set of J-cloths. Make sure to clean eating and cooking surfaces before every meal. And wipe all other surfaces down at the end of each day.
Is this the most embarrassing item on this list to forget? Most likely.
As we mentioned above, the world of RV toilets is confusing and sometimes treacherous.
All you need to remember on your first RVing trip is what type of toilet your RV has and how to use it.
The one thing that you will still need to remember, no matter what type of toilet your RV is equipped with is toilet paper. Some people choose to only pack enough toilet paper for the first day and pick up more on their trip.
While others stock up for the whole trip before they leave. Whichever you choose to do, prepare yourself for the freedom of not having to make a pit stop every time one of the little ones needs the loo.
Bed Linens and Towels
If you stay in a hotel then bed linens and towels are provided. For this reason, packing these for an RVing holiday often slips people’s minds.
If you own an RV then you might want to get a complete set bedding and towels to permanently keep in your RV.
That way you will never forget them and you won’t have to spend a whole trip without a pillow. If you are renting an RV for your first trip then you can bring the bedding and towels that you are using at home.
You only need to bring one set of towels per person on the trip. However, don’t forget to hang them up to dry everyday. No one wants to have to air dry themselves at an RV camping site.
Toiletries are another group of items that are regularly forgotten. Either people think they’ll pick them up on the way and then find themselves having to pay an extortionate amount of money for them at a campsite.
Or people haven’t got out of their hotel mindset and forget that these types of items are not provided on an RVing holiday.
For most of these items you won’t need to buy anything new, instead pack the toiletries that you are currently using at home.
There is no weight limit when packing, and you don’t have to travel with smaller bottles like you do on an airplane. Plus, you get to take it all back home with you at the end of the trip.
Here are three essential items that you must pack for your RVing holiday.
1. Toothpaste (mouthwash)
Avoid spending the whole trip with fuzzy teeth by packing your toothpaste and mouthwash. As we mentioned, you can bring your favorite items that you are using at home with you on the trip.
This means less waste and you don’t have to risk the store you visit on the trip not having any good toothpaste flavors. You can even pack and charge an electric toothbrush for your trip.
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Don’t forget to pack it and to make sure everyone else on the trip packs theirs. Deodorant costs a small fortune at campsites.
Be aware that some campsites won’t let you use aerosol cans or deodorants. You can contact the sites in advance to find out their policies or you can stick to a rollerball or stick deodorant.
3. Shower gel
Long days adverturing in the sun can be tough on the skin. You may find yourself wanting a little touch of luxury or spa style treatment when you get back to the RV. You can do this with your showering routine.
Why not treat yourself to a body scrub, facemask, and of course a high quality shower gel.
If your RV does not have a shower, and you are planning to use the shared facilities – here is a piece of advice. Never step barefooted on the floor of a shared shower. Instead wear a pair of flip flops in the shower.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of being prepared for anything whilst packing for your first trip.
Here we are going to talk about it again.
Our shoes get a pretty raw deal compared to the rest of our clothing items. Particularly when we are on an active holiday.
They get dragged through mud, water, sand, and across endless miles of tarmac. Always travel with a spare set of shoes just in case your main pair gets damaged beyond the point of use.
You don’t want to miss out on a few days of your holiday because you didn’t have any shoes to wear.
Chargers and Adapters
When packing you should make a list of all the electronics you are planning to bring with you.
You can then use this list to check that you have brought all the chargers you need for the holiday.
We all remember to pack our phone and laptop chargers most of the time.
But we often forget the small things like the charger for the Sat Nav or our electric toothbrush. If you are traveling abroad and renting an RV out there, then you will need to look into getting plug adaptors.
Even if the country you’re traveling to has the same shaped plug as you, the base current of the mains may be different. If you plug any items in without a convert you could fry the battery.
Don’t forget to pack extension cables as well. They can be incredibly useful if you want to spend time on the ‘porch’ of your RV.
When packing for your trip make sure to take two sets of matches with you. One set can be a general use set. You can keep it in your kitchen and use it whenever you need a match.
The other set should be wrapped in a ziplock bag and kept in your bag whenever you go hiking or do any other kind of nature based activity. It is important to keep this emergency set dry at all times.
Driving on roads that are new to you really can fill you with joy. What will not fill you with joy, however, is getting so lost on these roads that you miss your overnight stay at the campsite that offers an all you can eat buffet.
To avoid this problem you should do three things. Firstly, plan out and get to grips with your route before you leave. Secondly, pack a Sat Nav – these are amazing tools and you’ll be glad you brought one along.
Finally, you should also bring paper maps of the area with you. This will keep you out of trouble if your Sat Nav breaks or you go to an area with no signal, or if you just want to feel like an old school explorer for the day.
This item speaks for itself. If you would like to eat, drink, or hangout on the ‘porch’ of your RV then you are going to need anti-bug candles.
Particularly if you’re staying in Southern States with tropical climates. Here is a list of effective anti-bug candles.
Other Fun Things to Pack
Now that we have covered the pragmatic items that you need to bring with you, let’s look at the fun items. These items are just as important as the items above as they will help keep morale up on the trip.
What’s the point of going on holiday if you don’t have a good time?!
Board games are the perfect way to kill time during a long drive. You can play one-off games whenever you fancy.
Or you could even set up a ‘best of’ tournament that lasts for the whole trip. Don’t forget to play a few rounds in the evening so the driver doesn’t feel left out.
When you have to share a fairly small space with a few people, books will be your best friend.
Not only does each book provide hours of entertainment while taking up very little space.
They will also transport you places around the world and into magical lands.
But they are quiet and unobtrusive. They won’t annoy the people around you by making constant noise, like a TV or games console.
Whilst not strictly necessary, camping chairs are a great luxury to bring along with you. Having somewhere to sit and enjoy the view at beauty spots is priceless.
As is being able to kick back and relax on ‘porch’ each evening. To avoid arguments and lifelong rivalries being formed, make sure to pack enough chairs for everyone on the trip.
Camp chairs don’t sound relaxing enough for you? Why not kick it up a notch and set yourself up a hammock.
Enjoy the sun, sounds of nature and maybe even a good book (or a nap) whilst being suspended in the air.
The best thing about hammocks is that they’re so easy to set up. You can go from driving to relaxing in your hammock in minutes.
We can’t think of a cuter idea than filling in a travel diary together as a couple, family, or friendship group while on an RV trip.
The diary will give you a chance to reflect on what you’re grateful for on your trip – and gratitude makes us happier in the long-term. You can fill your diary with drawings, photos, flower pressings, momentos, and so much more.
We can’t imagine anything better than collecting all of our beautiful RVing memories in one place.
Boujee Things to Pack
Finally, here are some non-essential items that will seriously improve your quality of life on the trip.
Did you know that there is only one thing worse than having a bad wifi signal at home?
It’s true, the only thing worse than that is having bad wifi signals in your RV.
There is nothing worse than precariously balancing your phone in one spot so your Road Trip playlist will load on Spotify.
Save yourself the hassle and invest in a Wifi Booster. These devices usually cost less than $20 and can be installed in under 5 minutes.
With one of these lifesavers you will be able to listen to your tunes in the shower, watch Netflix in bed, and even update your Instagram from the passenger side.
We’ve talked about how warm pajamas are essential on RVing holidays, but if you’re feeling particularly boujee (or you’re always cold) then you might want to invest in a heated blanket.
If you’re the kind of person who sleeps with two duvets, even in the summer then this is going to be a space saving, life improving item for you.
Many people believe that a rainy day can ruin an RV holiday. However, we challenge you to not enjoy a day tucked under a heated blanket, with hot cocoa, and a good book.
Just a warning, if you are someone who is always cold, once you try a heated blanket, you’ll never want to go back and you may have to end up buying one of these for your home too.
Another issue we touched on above is the fact that when driving its best to keep your windows closed.
Why? If you like using your ears then you are going to want to avoid the deafening noise of wind rattling through your window on the highway.
We mentioned that to keep your RV feeling fresh whilst driving you should invest in a room spray.
Particularly if you are travelling with a few people. Another investment you should consider is clip on fans.
These fans are portable and can be attached to any part of the RV. With these fans you can keep yourself cool on the drive whether you’re a passenger or driving.
Camera or GoPro
Whether you fancy yourself as a professional photographer or a bit of an armature you should definitely bring a GoPro or camera on your trip.
Your first RVing holiday will be a really special experience that you will want to look back on.
There are many ways to record these memories. A photo album is a traditional but still great option.
You might want to consider making your own home movie (or vlog) detailing everything you get up to on your trip.
The RVing traditionalist in us was hesitant the first time we brought our laptop on a trip with us. Our worries were completely irrational however. We’ll never go back to laptop-less trips.
Being able to have instant access maps, travel blogs, and booking websites has made all of our most recent trips a lot less stressful.
We’ve been able to look up restaurants’ reviews before we went there. We’ve been able to find well hidden gas stations in emergencies. We’ve easy access to our banks when one of our cards was lost on a hike.
Not to mention that fact that we can still watch all of our favorite shows at the end of the day.
Tips for Efficient Packing
I think we can all agree that packing for trips is the worst part about going on holiday. Sadly, it also happens to be the most important stage of going on holiday.
For this reason, we set about collecting and testing all the best advice out there on how to make packing for your holiday stress-free. And luckily for you, we’re going to share that with you today.
Plan in advance
The more you plan your RV holiday in advance the easier it will be to pack for it. What we mean by this is, if you know that you want to go hiking and visit a water park while you’re away, then you can pack accordingly.
When you don’t know what your plans are then it can be hard to know where to start. We become overwhelmed by choice and possibility and quickly develop decision fatigue.
The more you know about your holiday, the easier it is to pack effectively.
Make a checklist
The best way to avoid forgetting anything while you are packing is to make a checklist. You can even use this packing checklist as the basis for your own (as we have already done a lot of the hard work for you).
As you take each item out to the RV, tick it off your checklist. Then you will be able to see what you are missing.
You may even want to create two checklists, one that covers everything you can pack in advance, and one that covers things you will need to pack at the last minute. The last minute checklist is particularly helpful as this time can be very stressful.
Everything needs a space
Research has shown that one of the key factors that make people so relaxed on holiday is the fact that they aren’t surrounded by stuff. We temporarily live a minimalist lifestyle and reap all the emotional benefits of that.
While it can be tempting to pack EVERYTHING for your first RV trip, it’s best to limit yourself. Only pack what you can fit in your RV without it feeling cluttered or overwhelming.
Allow yourself the space to relax. If it doesn’t fit, don’t take it.
Put everything away before you leave
It can be tempting to chuck everything into the back of the RV and set off. However, if you take the time before you leave to unpack everything and put it in the right place then you will be much happier.
By the time you reach your first destination, you will be tired and probably won’t be in the mood for unpacking. You will just want to cook and get to the relaxing part.
By unpacking before you’ve even left you to save yourself a lot of hassle. And you will know exactly where everything is.
What Not to Pack
Now, before we send you off on your adventure of a lifetime, we want to leave you with one more piece of advice. Here are three things you don’t need to worry about packing for your RVing holiday.
Wood is heavy and a waste of space.
Most RV campsites sell it in small bundles, meaning you can stock up one night at a time.
However, most people find that they can go a whole RVing holiday without needing any wood.
While you should make sure you’ve packed a well-thought-out variety of clothes, you don’t need to pack 3 of each item.
The likelihood is that you won’t wear most of these clothes and you could use the space in a better way.
If you are worried about running out of clean clothes during your trip then factor in a couple of stops to a laundromat or book yourself into a campsite that offers the use of washing machines.
When it comes to bedding you don’t need to go overboard. Yes, it’s nice to have all your home comforts with you. But you don’t need three blankets.
Your RV will be small enough that you don’t need a different blanket for the living room and the bedroom.
So, save yourself some space, and only pack the blankets that you need.
Going on your first RV holiday is a magical experience. However, the weeks leading up to it can be very stressful as it’s hard to prepare for something you have never experienced before.
The good news is that there are many veteran campers out there (like us) that are more than happy to talk you through everything you need to pack for your first holiday.
You’re most likely going to overpack for your first trip. That’s not a bad thing, as you can never be too prepared. The more time you spend in an RV, the better idea you will get about what you do and don’t need to bring with you.
But for now, this list is a great place for first-timers to start. Enjoy your trip!