The 5 Best RV Road Trip Tips

In this article I’m going to share with you my top 5 RV road trip tips.

We are going to discuss ways to make your road trip more pleasant and enjoyable. And this is important, because for many an RV road trip is stressful and sometimes dreaded.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just a few RV tips from the pros who have learned how to make time on the road more fun, can be all that’s needed.

So let’s get started right away with my first tip!

The 5 best RV road trip tips on video
You can watch my video on the Top 5 RV Road Trip Tips by clicking this image

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website

Tip #1 – Don’t Be In A Hurry!

When you are on the road traveling in an RV, it’s so easy to get in a hurry. After all, you have to break camp in the morning, drive for hundreds of miles, and set up camp again.

Add into this mix stopping for fuel, for food, for bathroom breaks and so on.

And quickly a go, go, go mindset starts to take over. For many RVers it becomes more about the destination rather than the journey.

When this happens, stress starts to rise and mistakes are easy to make. Tempers can flare, and then the RV road trip becomes a nightmare.

So how do you avoid all of this? Well for us, the start of the day often sets the tone for the whole trip.

We make sure that we get up in time to leisurely wake up and have a bite to eat.

Then we use a checklist to steadily work through breaking camp. That way we don’t miss anything by simply forgetting to do it.

Once we are on the road, we make good use of the rest stops along the way to take a break. We often get out of the RV and take a good brisk walk around the rest stop area and have a snack.

It’s amazing how this simple activity can change a dull and boring RV road trip into one that is more pleasurable.

And that brings me to my second RV road trip tip.

Tip #2 – Practice The 3/3/300 Rule

A surefire way to increase stress and anxiety on a road trip is to try to cover too much ground each day.

So we use the 3/3/300 rule on our RV road trips. That is, we only travel 3 days in a row without stopping for a few days to rest. Then we only travel a maximum of 300 miles in a day and we plan to get to our destination by 3 o’clock.

Traveling no more than 3 days in a row is a big stress reliever. That’s because breaking down and setting up camp every day in an RV is a real chore.

It adds so much more effort to traveling on the road. And many campsites and hookups require you to be flexible and a good problem solver too.

So not having that added anxiety for more than three consecutive days is a good thing.

And making sure that the day’s driving is no more than 300 miles limits the fatigue that inevitably sets in after several hours on the road.

Finally, getting to the next campsite by 3 o’clock insures that you won’t be arriving in the dark or during rush hour traffic.

This is huge because if you have ever tried to set up camp in the dark, you know how challenging that can be.

If you leave by 9AM in the morning and plan to travel 300 miles that day, you will probably be arriving by 3 o’clock.

This is because we have found that counting rest stops and lunch breaks, we tend to average 50 MPH. So do the math and you can see that it all works well together.

Now for my next road trip tip.

Tip #3 – Plan Ahead For Your RV Road Trip

I know that a lot of folks love to live their life in the most spontaneous way possible. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But if you have a rig any larger than a Class B van, you will really benefit by planning ahead more.

Large Class Cs, Class As, 5th wheels and travel trailers need to know what is ahead of them. This keeps the trip more manageable and stress-free.

This is because bigger rigs require more advance thought when you are in areas that you don’t know well.

So we like to use an online trip planner called RV Trip Wizard to plan out our long trips in advance.

It will let you know where rest stops, fuel stations and campgrounds are located all along your planned route.

And you can print out the route and have a handy guide for that day’s travels right in your hands as you go.

The yearly membership to the site is really affordable, and it has been a very reliable source of on-the-road information for us. I highly recommend it!

But one more suggestion in this area is to make sure that you also have a reliable and trustworthy road atlas handy too. Don’t just rely on online maps or GPS units to always steer you correctly.

The truth is that no one RV trip planning tool does everything and is infallible. So have some printed backups on hand at all times, just in case.

Learn more about RV Trip Wizard by clicking here

Click here for the Rand McNally Road Atlas

(Some of these are affiliate links for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

Now for the fourth tip.

Tip #4 – Use Helpful Apps And Guides

There are several useful guides to travel on the road but we have found a couple of them to be exceptionally useful.

There is a real need to know what services are available at each exit before you get there.

For instance, you may need to fuel up, or maybe stop off for a bite to eat, or even a sudden bathroom break.

But how do you know about all the services that are located at each exit?

One of the best sources of information we have found is a book called “The Next Exit”. It conveniently lists pretty much all of the offered services at each exit and gives you valuable information about them.

There is also an app that does a very good job of providing this kind of information too if you prefer apps. The one we like to use is called “I-Exit”.

Again, it’s not a bad idea to have more than one tool in this area. It helps to give you a complete picture of the offerings available at each exit.

This allows you to avoid wasting time searching at exits for needed services. Instead, you will know what to expect from every exit before you get to it.

This is another real stress reliever on an RV road trip!

Click here for the Next Exit Guidebook

Click here for the I-Exit app

(Some of these are affiliate links for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

Now for the fifth and final road trip tip.

Tip #5 – Stow Anything That Can Move

One of the biggest irritations of traveling on the road is having to clean up a mess after a long day.

And traveling down the highway subjects all RVs to all sorts of bumps and shakes that can move things around in your RV.

So before you leave for the trip that day, stow anything that can move. Tie it down. Tape it down. Bungee it down. Put fragile items on the couch or bed.

Whatever you do, just make sure that RV travel is not going to make a mess in your RV.

The end of a day’s travel is not the time to be dealing with a mess. Especially so, because you now have to set up camp and get dinner going too.

A little advance preparation in this area will make the end of the day much more pleasant.

We have found that having a checklist helps us remember what needs to be done in this area too. Just follow the checklist and most spill accidents will be avoided.

Conclusion

RV road trips have their own set of unique challenges and difficulties.

But if you are well organized and do a little advance planning, road trips can be much more enjoyable.

So how do you make RV road trips better?

  1. Don’t be in a hurry
  2. Use the 3/3/300 rule
  3. Plan ahead with RV Trip Wizard and an Atlas
  4. Use guides or apps to know what is at each exit
  5. Before you go, stow anything that can move

I hope this information has been helpful for you.

Have safe and happy travels my friends!

Towing With An RV Tow Dolly

When it comes to pulling your towed vehicle behind a motorhome, there are two main choices. Either flat tow it, or use an RV tow dolly.

And the truth is that either method works very well. You will see plenty of examples of RVers on the road using either towing method successfully.

I wrote an article recently on the pros and cons of flat towing vehicles behind your RV. And you can read that blog post by clicking here now.

But this article will provide a discussion of the merits of using a tow dolly instead. And it will cover the advantages and disadvantages of RV tow dollies.

So let’s get started now.

Is an RV tow dolly right for you? Watch this video to find out.
Watch my video on RV tow dollies by clicking this image

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website.

What Is An RV Tow Dolly?

When you are using an RV tow dolly at least two wheels of the towed vehicle are off the ground.

There are flat bed tow dollies that lift the whole vehicle off the ground too. But those are not a common site on the road among RVers. So this article mainly focuses on the two wheel tow dolly.

The tow dolly is usually attached to the back of the motorhome by means of the RV’s towing hitch. And it’s often just a simple ball hitch arrangement.

So using the tow dolly is fairly simple and straightforward after it’s attached to the motorhome. You just drive two wheels of the towed vehicle up on the dolly, usually the two front wheels.

The wheels settle in place on the dolly and they are then anchored down by the use of straps. This keeps the vehicle attached to the tow dolly as you go down the road.

What About Braking?

Many states require that you have an arrangement for braking in the towed vehicle that is separate from the RV braking system.

This is a safety requirement in case the RV has to make a sudden stop. With additional brakes on the towed vehicle, the RV can stop in a safe and controllable manner.

So how do you get brakes on an RV tow dolly? The good news is that many tow dollies already come with some form of braking system installed.

Of course, you have to be careful because there are also tow dollies that do not have a braking system. And these kind of tow dollies are not really suitable for most RVing uses.

So be sure that the tow dolly you purchase has either electric or surge brakes already installed. And now let’s discuss these two braking systems and explain how they work.

Electric Or Surge Brakes?

If you get an RV tow dolly with electric brakes, it means that the brakes on the tow dolly wheels are activated electrically.

To do this, there are wires on the tow dolly that connect to the motorhome, usually through a 6 or 7 pin connector on the back of the RV.

These wires receive signals from the RV whenever the brakes are being applied in the motorhome. So when you push on the brake pedal in the RV, the brakes are also activated on the tow dolly.

If your tow dolly has an electrical braking system, you will also need to install a brake controller in the RV. This fine tunes the communication between the two vehicles to make the braking on the tow dolly is smooth and safe.

If your tow dolly has surge brakes instead, the brakes are activated without receiving any signal from the RV. This is accomplished through inertia.

When you apply the brakes in the motorhome, the whole rig will change speed as it attempts to stop. The surge brakes sense this change of inertia, and start applying brakes automatically on the tow dolly as well.

Either method of tow braking is very effective and has been used successfully by many RVers. Of course, surge brakes are more simple because there is no wiring or connections required to make them work.

Lights For Your RV Tow Dolly

Many tow dollies also come with lighting installed too. There are usually lights mounted on the fenders of the tow dolly for braking and directional signals.

Once again, these are activated by connecting to the RV through either a 4, 6 or 7 pin connector. The number of pin connections often depend on whether there is electric brakes installed or not.

Many RVers use only the lights on the tow dolly. Others have a lighting system installed on the towed vehicle itself instead. This allows the lights of the towed vehicle to be used instead of the tow dolly lights.

But other RVers use an auxiliary lighting system that is independent from the tow dolly and the towed vehicle.

They are simply two lights that attach magnetically to the roof of the towed vehicle at its rear. Then wiring is run outside the towed vehicle and connects to the RV through a 4 pin connector.

Of course, this kind of lighting system has to be installed and removed with every tow. So it’s less expensive initially but requires more work each time you tow the vehicle.

Many RVers feel that the lights on the tow dolly are not enough for safe viewing because they are not at the rear of the towed vehicle.

So either using the lights of the towed vehicle or an auxiliary light system will do the job at the rear of the vehicle instead.

Click here for my recommended towed vehicle hard-wired lighting solution

Click here for my recommended towed vehicle auxiliary lighting solution

Tow Dolly Pros

  • The cost. Tow dollies can often cost half the amount of a flat towing arrangement. In fact, some new tow dollies can be had with brakes and lights for about $1500. And if you buy used, you can lower that cost quite a bit.
  • Simple setup – you drive the vehicle on to the dolly. Then you anchor the wheels on the dolly, connect the lights and brakes, and you are done.
  • You can choose from a wide range of vehicle that be towed on a dolly. Flat towing can only be done by a relatively few amount of vehicles. But many front wheel drive vehicles can be successfully towed on a dolly. Be sure to check with the vehicle manufacturer to be sure though.
  • With the drive wheels off the ground there is no fear of major damage to the vehicle’s transmission.
  • Since the front wheels must be locked in place on an RV tow dolly, you don’t have to leave the key in the ignition. Many flat towed vehicles require this step to allow the wheels to move as the motorhome makes a turn. But this can also run down the battery in those vehicle as it is being towed. So all of this is avoided with the use of a tow dolly.
  • If you get a new towed vehicle, there is not much to change when you tow it on a tow dolly.

Tow Dolly Cons

  • More physical work and effort is required with a tow dolly. You have to be able to move the dolly around to connect it to the RV. And you have to be able to anchor the front wheels down securely as well. This kind of work may be difficult for some with physical limitations.
  • If a flat towed vehicle has its lights and brakes hard-wired, the tow dolly will take longer to setup instead. If you flat tow a vehicle without hard-wiring the lights and brakes, there is not much difference in time for setup.
  • You will need to find a spot to stow the tow dolly whenever it is unhitched from the motorhome. This may be a challenge in some tight campground spots.

Conclusion

A tow dolly stored on a campsite.
An example of storing a tow dolly on a campsite

You will see a lot more flat towed vehicles behind motorhomes than those using tow dollies. Don’t let this dissuade you from the use of an RV tow dolly.

As long as you are physically capable of working with tow dollies you will be fine. This includes loading and onloading the tow dolly, strapping down the wheels and moving the dolly on the campsite.

A tow dolly is a very simple and straight-forward piece of equipment that does its job extremely well. And tow dollies last for years with very little maintenance required.

I hope you enjoyed this discussion of using a tow dolly for towing behind a motorhome. If you have anything to add to this discussion, please leave it in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

Have safe and happy travels my friends!

Flat Towing Vehicles – The Pros & Cons

Flat towing vehicles, or dinghy towing, as others refer to it, is very common. Especially, when the motorhome is a big rig!

After all, who wants to use a large and unwieldy motorhome to drive around town or run errands?

So you will see motorhomes pulling a vehicle behind that has all four wheels on the ground all the time. And that is what flat towing means, all four wheels of the towed vehicle are on the ground.

But how can you do that without tearing up some very important parts of the towed vehicle?

Well, let’s talk about that and also about whether flat towing a vehicle behind your RV is the best choice overall.

Tow bar or tow dolly? The pros and cons of Tow Bars.
Watch my video on flat towing vehicles

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website.

Can You Flat Tow Any Vehicle?

So can you just hitch up your car and flat tow it down the highway? Probably not. Only certain vehicles are designed so that RV flat towing is possible.

Most cars and trucks simply won’t tolerate being pulled down the highway with all four wheels on the ground. Mainly because of the damage that can be done to the drivetrain, especially the transmission.

If you have an automatic transmission in your vehicle, in many cases it can’t be used for flat towing.

In fact, flat towing vehicles not approved for dinghy towing down the highway will simply tear up the gears. And then you will have a huge repair bill!

If you have a manual transmission in your towed vehicle you stand a much better chance of being able to flat tow it. But even then you need to make sure that the vehicle’s manufacturer has approved it for dinghy towing.

But does this mean that all cars with automatic transmissions can’t be flat towed? Actually, there are some vehicle that have been designed by the manufacturer to be approved for this kind of towing.

Which Vehicles Can Be Flat Towed?

If you watch for motorhomes going down the highway, you will begin to see the same flat towed vehicles often. So which ones are you going to see?

Overwhelmingly, you will see a lot of Jeeps being dinghy towed. It could be a Jeep Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, or Wrangler.

A lot of RVers like these vehicles because they also often have four wheel drive capability. And some are even known for being great for off-road adventures, like the Wrangler.

Some other good choices could be a GMC Terrain, Chevy Equinox, or an older Honda CRV, especially pre-2014. And some pickup trucks are flat towable as well.

All of these cars may be able to be flat towed successfully. But before you buy anything, make sure that the year and model you are considering is specifically approved for RV flat towing.

Any mistake made in choosing a tow vehicle here would be very expensive. So make sure you do your homework well on choosing a dinghy tow vehicle.

You also want to make sure that the towed vehicle’s weight is within the guidelines for your motorhome. Some vehicles are relatively light in weight, like the Honda CRV. Others, like a pickup truck are heavy in comparison.

So stay within the approved towing weight and hitch weight for your particular motorhome.

RV Tow Bars And Face Plates

RV tow bar for flat towing vehicles.
An example of a tow bar for flat towing

Once you have selected your towed vehicle, what now? Well, before you go dragging it down the highway, you will need a few essential pieces of equipment.

The first is an RV tow bar. The tow bar usually attaches to the hitch on the back of the motorhome.

There are two telescoping handles that come out of the tow bar and attach to the towed vehicle. The two most common tow bar manufacturers in use these days are Blue Ox and Roadmaster. Either one would be a good choice.

But there is one more issue here. Many vehicles do not come with a provision for flat towing already installed. So there are no hookups for the tow bar to use for a connection to that vehicle.

If this is the case with your towed vehicle, you will need to install a face plate on that vehicle. A face plate will be mounted securely to the vehicle so that towing it down the highway can be done safely.

This is not a job that most people can do easily or well. So unless you are very mechanically inclined and have experience in these areas, leave it to a pro instead.

It may cost more, but it is well worth making sure that you have a quality face plate installation. Once installed the face plate has the connections included for the tow bar hookup.

Don’t Forget The Safety Cables

One last piece of equipment needed in this step is safety cables. They will attach the vehicle face plate directly to the hitch of the motorhome.

This is a safety precaution in case the vehicle somehow breaks away from the tow bar. It doesn’t happen often, but you sure don’t want your vehicle falling into traffic behind you untethered.

Brakes Installed For Flat Towing Vehicles

So far we have the vehicle connected to the motorhome using a tow bar and face plate. But what about the vehicle’s brakes?

In most states you are required to provide some means of vehicle braking for the towed vehicle. That is, other than using the motorhome’s brakes. This makes sure that the motorhome can use all of its braking power if an emergency should arise.

So there are usually two choices for dinghy vehicle braking. And either choice works quite well for many RVers.

One is to install a system for using the brakes on the vehicle itself. This means that you have to tie into the braking system of the vehicle.

Then a brake controller will need to be installed in the RV to fine tune the braking communication between the RV and the vehicle.

The braking commands are then usually passed through a 6 or 7 pin connector on the back of the motorhome. And the vehicle is wired to plug into that connector.

So when you apply the brakes in the RV, the vehicle’s brakes are applied as well.

If the braking system is installed correctly, this arrangement can work very well. But installing this kind of equipment is also beyond the average person.

So if you are not very familiar with working with vehicle braking systems, it’s probably best to have a pro install it instead.

Click here for my recommended hard-wired braking system

Click here for my recommended RV brake controller

(These are affiliate links for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

Auxiliary Braking For Flat Towing

The other solution to the braking issue is to use an auxiliary braking system. These do not tie into the towed vehicle’s brakes in any way.

They are usually a boxy piece of equipment that is placed in front of the driver’s seat in the towed vehicle. The rear of the unit is then secured up against the driver’s seat for leverage.

A mechanical arm protrudes from the system that can be attached by hand to the brake pedal of the vehicle. It usually just wraps around the pedal to hold it firmly.

The system is then plugged into the DC outlet in the vehicle for power. It is then ready for use.

The system works on inertia activation. In other words, if you put the brakes on in the RV, the system detects it in the vehicle.

It then activates the arm on the unit to physically apply the brakes by means of the brake pedal in the vehicle. It can even be trained to apply the brakes with a force in proportion to what is applied in the RV.

There is also a kill switch on the unit to apply the brakes quickly if it senses that the vehicle is no longer connected to the RV.

Some well-known brands of these units include BrakeBuddy, Roadmaster, and Blue Ox. There is also a low-profile version of the system made by RVi Brake.

An auxiliary braking system example
An example of an auxiliary braking system connected to the brake pedal

These auxiliary braking systems also work very well for many RVers and have lots of fans. But they take a while to install before each tow and must be removed and stored somewhere afterward.

Click here for my recommended towed vehicle auxiliary braking system

(This is an affiliate link for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

Lights For Flat Towing Vehicles

Now we have one more step before we start flat towing this vehicle. We have to arrange for proper running and directional lights.

It is also a state requirement to have some means of displaying brake lights, night lights and directional signals. So once again there are two choices for most people.

You can either hard-wire the lights into the vehicle lighting system or use auxiliary lights. And either system can work well depending on your needs.

If you hard-wire the lights they are controlled by the 6 or 7 pin connector on the back of the motorhome. But if the vehicle brakes are not hard-wired, you may only need a 4 pin connector for the lights.

Installing the lights this way means that whatever lights are used on the RV are also used on the towed vehicle. This kind of installation can also be tricky though.

So use a qualified mechanic for the project if you are not completely comfortable with it.

Using Auxiliary Lights Instead

The other choice is to use auxiliary lights that usually mount on the back of the towed vehicle. In many cases these lights are magnetic and can attach to the vehicle roof for easy visibility.

Then the wires for the lights have to be run to the front of the vehicle. There they are connected to the motorhome through the 4, 6 or 7 pin connector.

OK, let’s review the results of the two choices for vehicle lights.

If the lights are hard-wired into the flat towed vehicle, they can be ready for use by just making the connection to the RV.

If auxiliary lights are used instead, they must be setup and installed each time you tow. And then they must be taken off and stored in between tows.

Click here for my recommended towed vehicle hard-wired lighting solution

Click here for my recommended towed vehicle auxiliary lighting solution

(These are affiliate links for the product on Amazon. It does not cost you any extra to buy the product using my affiliate link if you choose to do so)

What Is The Cost Of Flat Towing?

Obviously, we have discussed quite a bit of equipment that will be needed for flat towing vehicles. These include a tow bar, face plate, safety cables, and braking and lighting systems.

So what are we looking at for the cost of this kind of setup? Very often, anywhere from $3000 – $5000 if new equipment is used.

If you hard-wire the lighting and brakes and install a face plate, these will probably need to be done professionally. If so, there will be labor costs. And some of these projects are time-consuming.

If you choose to use auxiliary braking and lighting instead, you will probably have a lower overall cost. But you will also have to install these systems every time before you tow. And remove and store them afterward.

So the more convenience you have in towing, the higher initial cost. But the lower initial cost of the equipment also means more hassle each time you tow. Your choice.

Of course, if you buy used equipment you may save quite a bit on the initial purchase costs. But make sure that the items you buy are in good working order.

So with all of this said, here are the pros and cons of flat towing vehicles:

Dinghy Towing Pros

  • If your brakes and lights are hard-wired, hooking up and unhooking is a breeze. It only takes just a few minutes. You drive the towed vehicle up to the RV and connect the tow bar and safety cables. Then you plug in to the 6 or 7 pin connector and you are all set. Quick, simple and easy!
  • There is little to store with flat towing. The tow bar folds out of the way on the hitch. If you use auxiliary braking and lighting, they don’t take up much storage room either.
  • Flat towed vehicles track behind the RV like a dream. They usually have the same turn radius as the RV. Easy, peasy.
  • In a tight situation, it is easier to just unhook the towed vehicle before maneuvering the RV. A tow dolly is much more cumbersome in these kind of situations.

Dinghy Towing Cons

  • The cost. Setting up a vehicle for dinghy towing can cost more than twice the amount of a tow dolly. This is mainly due to the additional equipment needed and the installation costs by a professional.
  • You are limited in your choice of tow vehicles. Because the vast majority of vehicles can’t be flat towed, you can’t even consider them. You only have a relatively small pool of vehicles to choose from.
  • Many vehicles require leaving the ignition key in the “ON” position to allow the front wheels to turn freely. This can easily run the battery down unless even more equipment is installed in the towed vehicle to prevent this.
  • If you hard-wire the brakes and lights, you have a tough decision when you get a different vehicle. One choice is to remove those systems and have them re-installed again in the new vehicle. If professional removal and installation is required, this is very expensive. Or you have to let all of that equipment go when you sell the vehicle and buy new again. Either way, an installed face plate will certainly have to go with the old vehicle. And then a new face plate may be required for the new vehicle too.

Conclusion

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when flat towing vehicles. It is not a simple setup.

In the end it mainly comes down to ease and convenience vs. cost. The more you spend, the easier it is to hook up and unhook your towed vehicle each trip.

I also will be writing a companion article about the pros and cons of tow dollies for RV towing. So be sure to read that as well to be able to make a fair comparison.

And remember that what works for others in their situation may not work for you. As always, do the research and make your choice based on your personal circumstances.

If you do, you will most likely make a choice that you will be pleased with for years. And there are plenty of RVers who happily use either one of these towing solutions successfully.

Once again, have safe and happy travels my friends!