The wide-open road unfurls at your feet, your travel possibilities limited only by your imagination. You’ve got ample snacks, your favorite tunes, and your trustiest set of road maps beside you for the ride — and if you’re lucky, some great company, too. Best of all? You’ve got your very own bed and kitchen along with you, so you don’t have to stress about where you’ll stop for the night. (And you even get to bring your favorite blanket and just-perfect pillow!)
When it comes to RVing, there’s a whole lot to love. Flexibility and freedom combine with comfort and convenience to make this style of travel uniquely attractive. (Plus, it’s relatively affordable — especially when you sign up for a Passport America membership, which saves you 50% on your campsite accommodation fees every time you stay at a participating location.)
But for many RVers, there is one fairly significant drawback: actually driving the darn thing in the first place.
Is Driving an RV Difficult?
If you’re used to tooling around town in a four-door sedan, driving a big motorhome can be pretty darn intimidating at first — and even smaller RVs, like campers and travel trailers, can come with a bit of a learning curve. Of course, every RVer was once a beginner, and RVing generally doesn’t require any special licensing. There’s no doubt about it: You, too, can become an old pro at driving even a 40-foot diesel pusher, given a little bit of time and practice.
That said, there are some conditions and situations it’s best to avoid when you’re traveling in such a big vehicle. Even though it may be possible to drive an RV in these circumstances, it’ll be safer — and, let’s be honest, just a whole lot less stressful — to circumvent the experience altogether.
But don’t worry! The number of situations in which it is safe and relatively simple to drive an RV far outweigh their counterparts. In this post, we’ll discuss a few of these trickier RV driving moments, and also give you some advice for finding ways around them that still allow you to visit your favorite destinations, no matter where they are or when you want to reach them.
RV Driving Tips
Here are a few hair-pulling rides to avoid in your rig.
1. Big, crowded cities.
Although an RV is a great way to travel even if you’re looking for an urban adventure, actually taking it through the streets of a city is not quite so much fun. One-way streets, distracted pedestrians, and interminable traffic… all the stuff that makes city driving a chore in a normal-sized vehicle is just amplified when you’ve got all that extra size and weight along with you.
If you’re looking forward to exploring a destination city and want to travel by motorhome, no worries: You can always set up camp on the outskirts of town and use other transportation — whether a toad vehicle, public transit, or uber — to find yourself in the thick of it all. (Plus, that way, you’ll also have somewhere quiet and serene to return to at night when you’re done with all the hubbub!)
2. Extreme mountain ranges.
Listen, we get it. From skiing in the winter to hiking in the spring, summer, and fall, mountain ranges are some of the best outdoor playgrounds. And RVing is a really convenient way to explore them. (Psst: Here are some ski areas that allow RV camping!)
But if you’re a novice RVer or traveling during chilly times when there may be ice or snow on the road, inclines and declines make the whole prospect that much more harrowing. Braking can become a whole lot more difficult when you’ve got a weighty trailer or motorhome behind you, and you may need to rely on electronic brake controls and learn the ins and outs of downshifting. So if you’ve got mountains in mind, be sure to get some RV driving practice on the flatlands first!
3. Anywhere experiencing inclement weather.
The dangers of snow, ice, and rain are obvious: the roads become slippery. But if you’re driving your RV across the USA, don’t forget that extremely hot areas can be treacherous, too, especially during the popular summer travel season. Death Valley, for instance, frequently sees temperatures as high as 110 degrees or more, which can wreak havoc on your RV’s sensitive systems and tires.
We highly recommend all RVers keep one eye on the weather at all times — after all, when your house has wheels, there’s no reason to endure a storm or oppressive heat wave when you can just drive away from it! Downloading a weather application with push notifications, like Dark Sky, is a great way to stay on top of this issue.
4. Down narrow or unpaved roads.
It may sound like fun to go off road with your motorhome, and sure, some of the best boondocking campsites are way out in the wilderness. But exercise caution on that intriguing-looking dirt road: You want to make sure you won’t get stuck in the mud, and that there will be ample space for you to turn around and come back afterward. (Obviously, all of this is a little less critical with smaller camper trailers and sleeper vans, but it’s still a good idea to take it into consideration!)
RV Driving Restrictions
At the end of the day, keep in mind that RVers are a tenacious bunch who end up driving their rigs into all sorts of unlikely places, including snowy mountains and tiny unmarked trails.
But the best practice for RV driving, whether you’re looking to head to a winter destination or find the most remote spot to set up off grid, is to get lots and lots of experience before heading into the wilderness. Once you’re comfortable handling your RV on regular highways, then you can start tackling the challenges!
No matter what roads you use to get there — or even if you simply have your rental RV set up for you at your destination ahead of time — RV camping is one of the best ways to enjoy your journey with all the comforts of home at the ready.
This post may contain affiliate links.