This is Part 4 of a 7 part series on traveling with an RV or travel trailer. It's all about what has worked well for Fay and me over the last several years of traveling through the U.S. and Canada.
The 7 articles in the series are (click to view):
- Planning Your Route
- Finding Places to Stay
- Preparing For a Trip
- On the Road
- At the Campground
- Leaving the Campground
- After You Get Back Home
(Click here to read the complete disclaimer)
This is Really Important!
We all get anxious to get on the road and start on a trip. But before I begin, here's a short video from Larry and Joani over at Real American Trucker. It's a vivid illustration of the need to get your mind set on the importance of properly preparing for your travel and being extra careful while you're on the road. Don't let this happen to you!
So now that I've emphasized the risk and the need to be careful (hopefully the video didn't convince you to put your rig up for sale), let's get started talking about the travel time. Once you get it all figured out, the journey itself can be a great part of the trip.
All the dreaded drivingSo you've done it. You've planned your trip. You've left home and you're on the road. Congratulations! No big deal if it's a short trip to get to your destination. If you have to cover some distance though, hopefully you've done your homework in getting prepared (be sure to see my previous article in this series on Preparing for a Trip). But even then, after all the prep work, what's going through your head now?
- So what is this day going to be like?
- Will we run into problems?
- Are we going to get bored?
- Is this going to be too much "togetherness"?
- Will we manage to get everything setup right when we get to the campground?
- Was this idea of towing a small travel trailer really a good one?
Things to Keep in Mind Throughout the DayThe key to a great driving experience is finding a way to be relaxed while on the road. The first step is to minimize having to worry about things that could go wrong or just get more complicated. Here are a few things that will help:
- Walk around your entire rig and look everything over before you begin the day and during each stop.Just make sure everything looks normal (nothing loose, tire getting low, etc.)
- Each time you stop, check to make sure the trailer wheel hubs are not getting really hot.I have a great, inexpensive infrared thermometer that I bought on Amazon and really love. All I do is point at each hub to take the temperature. Of course if you don't mind getting your hand dirty, it really works fine to just place your hand on each hub. As long as it's not uncomfortably hot, you're good. If you burn your hand, however, there's a good change you have a wheel bearing going bad or brake that is dragging. By the way, if one side of the trailer has had the sun beating on it for a while, that hub will normally be hotter than the other side, but not hot enough to burn you. (I actually used my hand to make the check for a long time. But really, the infrared thermometer is really more fun...plus you can sit at your campsite pointing it all kinds of things when you have nothing else to do!)
- Keep your overall speed down.You may feel fine driving faster, as long as nothing goes wrong. But if you have any surprises, you will have much less control than usual. Don't take a chance...slow down!
- Make sure you're tires are kept close to maximum pressure.Tires fail when they overheat. This is caused by low tire pressure and higher speeds.
- Choose gas stations and parking lots carefully.It takes a lot of room to make wide turns. Be sure you think it out carefully before you leave the main road.
- Be prepared for areas without cell phone coverageThis is important not only for phone calls but also if you are using a GPS app on your phone , or even if you want to use the Internet to look up information along your way. We have run into places when traveling out west where we got a blank screen on the GPS app on our phone. It could find our location from satellites, but couldn't load the map from the Internet. Be sure to always take printed maps with you if you are travel somewhere you're not familiar with. I got this atlas on Amazon that I really like. It's pretty heavy duty and has held up well so far.
- Confirm campground availability by early afternoon.If you don't have reservations, be sure to call to check on campgrounds early enough to find alternatives if they are full. (see my article on Finding Places to Stay.)
Hey, it's a Road Trip...Enjoy it!So here is a list of suggestions to consider when you're on the road towing a small travel trailer.
- Plan your drive times so that you pull into your destination well before dark.
It's a lot nicer parking and setting up in the daylight. Be sure to allow for delays that seem to occur during the day
- At least every hour or two, stop and stretch a bit whether you really think you need to or not.
As we've gotten older, we find that if we don't stop at least this often, we'll be very stiff and know it when we get in bed at night.
- If you have the time, avoid the Interstates when you can.
The small towns you'll go through taking the old highways will add a lot of variety to your day and make the time go faster. There's also very little traffic on most of the old highways making the drive much less intense and stressful.
I actually wrote an entire article about this a while back that you might want to check out. It's entitled Enjoy Your Drive and Avoid the Highways.
As my dad used to say...
Take a few extra minutes when you stop to relax a bit, and maybe look around and even talk to some people. It will make for a more enjoyable day, give you and your traveling partner(s) (if you are not alone) something more to talk about, and generally make the driving time go faster. For us, towing our small travel trailer has become our favorite way to travel.
I hope you are enjoying my articles in this series. The next one will be all about your time at a campground. And as always, drop me a note if you have any questions.
Take Time to Smell the Roses!
Remember the old saying...
It's often more about the journey than the destination!
Are you a newbie?
If you are new to the world of Small Travel Trailers, here are the three most popular things for most newbies, here on my website. Please check them out and see if they aren't helpful to you:
- RV Surge Suppressors – What you need to know.
It's really important that you understand the risks and know how to protect yourself against bad electrical problems. Not only can these they cause a lot of damage to your trailer and electronic components, they can also be dangerous.
- A list of products we use and like.
All the camping and RV accessories can be overwhelming when you're first getting started. After trying lots of things, these are the items that have really worked well for us. The list may save you a few bucks on buying something you don't like or stuff you'll never use (I don't publish my long list of things we've purchased and wish we hadn't!).
- My free Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers
Over 100 pages, this guide is all about what we've learned since we got started owning and traveling with a small travel trailer.
Denny JohnsonAfter having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp.
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
I have been enjoying these, Denny! We are leaving after Labor Day from MO to MN to see family for a few days! Then we drive over to Lake Mi to camp at a Elks lodge for one night, catch the Badger across Lake MI to Ludington and camp there at a county campground a couple nights before we head
South a hour to Muskegon to camp at another Elks lodge campground for the rest of Sept and visit more family! Haven’t been in our Casita for a while! Replacing the carpet with flooring! We’ll check brakes before we head out! 6 weeks yeehaa!
Glad you’re enjoying my website Susan. I grew up just about 15 minutes south of Muskegon in Grand Haven! If you look at some of my older articles here on the website, you’ll find where I’ve written about the area a few times.
Hi Denny, I am enjoying your guides and tips. I am new to towing a small travel trailer, and have not towed mine at all yet. I am a 61 year old widow who has always been a tent camper/backpacker, but see myself towing my Aliner all over the country at some point. I was curious about this tip: Choose gas stations and parking lots carefully. I picture myself seeing a gas station/parking lot coming up, but not having time to calculate how difficult it might be to navigate in and out. How do you “carefully choose” while approaching and driving ?
Thanks for your comment Barbara, and glad you are enjoying what I’ve written.
First, let me admit, I’ve certainly been known to drive past a gas station looking, then circle back again! It’s not really that difficult, but I have gotten into a couple of situations where it was a lot of work to maneuver my way out. The main thing for me is to be sure I can look it over before I pull in. Most of the time this is pretty easy. I try to identify my route from the entrance, to the pump, and then out. I want to avoid the need to backup unless there’s a large open area. If you just get in the habit of thinking about it before you pull in, you’ll find that it’s usually pretty obvious. Since you’re just getting started, my suggestion would be to start paying attention to the different gas station layouts you see near your home now, thinking about whether you could easily pull through one with the trailer, without it getting difficult. Hope that helps a bit!