While travelers adapt to the new normal and plan trips, many Americans found an alternative way to explore new places across the country. Turns out the best way to do it is by driving an RV.
We’ve asked an RV expert and experienced traveler, Mark Koep, to share his advice with consumers on how to set up an RV, plan a camping trip, choose RV campgrounds, and stay safe while RV traveling during the pandemic.
...camping and RVing did become the safe place where people could escape in COVID.
A few words about our expert before we jump into this video interview. Mark Koep is an owner of CampgroundViews.com, one of the best US campground directories and RV park directories currently available.
Mark is a full-time RVer who knows all the tricks and tips about RVing. In this video interview, he shares his experience with private and public RV parks and campgrounds in the United States. Find out what you should consider when planning your camping trips and get answers to all your RV FAQs.
Check these points covered in the video interview:
- How do you travel in an RV?
- How to find campgrounds?
- How to purchase an RV?
- How do warranties work?
- How to find a good campground?
- What tools to take on an RV camping trip?
- What are campground rules?
- RV trip during Covid-19: How to be safe?
1. How Do You Travel in an RV?
Elena: Today, we'd like to talk to you about traveling via RVs, about RV campgrounds, and tips on how to plan an RV campaign successfully and wisely… Please tell us about your experience with RVing. I don't know if it's a verb, but I think I've just made one, with RVing and RV campgrounds.
Mark: Well, first of all, thank you for having me here on your program. Thank you for stepping out and addressing this need for your customers.
So RVing has always been kind of on the outskirts of things. It's kind of been there, but it's something other people do. It's not something most people do. This year, most people have now gone camping or RVing. In fact, we expect about 70 million Americans that have gone camping this year alone during June, July, and August of 2020.
We expect that to continue in the future. In our case, we're actually, my wife and I and my family are full-time RVers. And what that means is that we sold everything that we own. We bought an RV and we started traveling and we did that 11 years ago in 2009, we started those travels.
We have now been around the country twice, two full trips with many different trips to all the different states. We've visited all the lower 48 States. I've personally visited over 5,000 campgrounds and RV parks.
And we not only love the lifestyle, but we live it. And that's because RV camping allows people and allows us to engage with the outdoors, engage with one another as a family, and enjoy our lives a little bit differently than that standard American dream.
So I'm actually at my parents' house right now and I'm filming from inside their house. Little side story. There was a health issue with some of our families. So that's part of the advantage of our lifestyles. It allows us to move towards our family, be there close by. And so that's actually where I'm at right now outside.
Just to give you some background on us, where my mother lives is up in the mountains and there's currently a forest fire going right around the area. We're in our rig, but it's really smoky out, so I came in here to do the interview. And you heard me get choked up there. That was a piece of ash that got on my tongue.
So yeah, the advantage of RVing is you get to travel and see all these different places. But also that means when crises are going on, you may be in the middle of it.
Elena: And you mentioned that it's you, your wife and your children. How many kids do you guys have?
Mark: We have two. We have a son and a daughter. We have a one-year-old daughter now and an eight-year-old son. So they were both born after we started these travels. They know no different. With our son, he's eight and a big thing now, a lot of folks with the schooling issues going on and working from home and stuff, they're starting to reconsider what they're doing and where they're living.
In our case, we did that math a long time ago and we recognized that we wanted to travel. And so we figured out this lifestyle, as long as we had a cell phone connection with a good data plan, we could work virtually.
And so that's enabled us to live this lifestyle. So now our son's eight, we homeschool him and it's funny people run into him like, "My God, this kid's like 42." Like it's amazing the questions that he asks in the engagement. Because he's already had this amazing life experience, even at eight years old.
2. How to Find RV Campgrounds in the US
Elena: ...You said you've been RVers for quite some time now. So let's say we are talking about a newbie, a fresh out of the oven RVer who doesn't know anything, blank page. What would be your advice and suggestions on how to find RV parks and campgrounds across the US? What are the most popular and the most unpopular campgrounds?
Typical Mistakes When Choosing RV Campground
Mark: So I think the big mistake a lot of new people make is they use the traditional sources that they use to find other things. So they go to Google, they go to Yelp, they go to TripAdvisor. All three of those places are good information sources, but not for RV parks and campgrounds, because there's a little difference with RV parks and campgrounds.
A big primary difference is that the RV park industry is divided into two segments. On one side, you have publicly-run parks. These would be for service national park, state park style campgrounds. And then on the other side, you have privately owned businesses.
So RV parks and campgrounds are private businesses. The difference between the two and also their location, usually they're located in rural areas, mountainous areas. They're not well mapped.
What that means is that when you go to the major sources, we're talking to the Googles, the Yelps, and the TripAdvisors, those sources rely upon user-submitted information. And the users tend to only go to the most popular places.
For example, the four campgrounds on Yosemite National Park floor, the main campground in Yellowstone national park. So if you search those areas, you're going to find a lot of information about those four campgrounds, but you're not going to find the information on the other 150 campgrounds that are within a 50-mile radius of that national park.
...the big mistake a lot of first-time RVers do is… they totally skip out on some really amazing, lesser-known locations that are within that general area.
How to Prepare for RV Trip
Mark: If you're starting the trips out, you're starting your plan, you just bought the RV and you're planning your first trip, what I would encourage you to do especially if it's your first trip… stay within 20 to 30 miles of your home.
Go out on a short trip. It's a break-in trip. You're going to learn a whole heck of a lot about yourself, your RV, and that experience, but you'll be close enough to home. If things get messed up, you can easily get back to your house. So do a few short trips before you go out on the big adventure.
But when you go out on a big adventure, use sites like ours, there are campground views, there are campground reviews, there are sites like camp a DM. There are all these what I call vertical search engines that are very specific to this industry that has better information than the big players. So you want to kind of niche down into the detailed information on the camping and the RV parks.
Like in our case, what we focused on, and you mentioned it in the intro is the visual aspects of it. So one of the big problems a lot of folks find when they're starting to search for campgrounds is it's all review based.
And so they end up spending hours reading reviews then they have to try to interpret if those reviews are valid and so it becomes this guessing game as to what you're getting into. We focused because we experienced this problem. I'm coming to you from experience.
The reason we built campground views as we went through the pain point to discover this, that the visual. So we rely upon photos, videos submitted by users to actually show the campgrounds and RV parks. That way you can see, hey, what're the sites look like? What do the roads look like? What do the other RVs that are in there look like? That way you can make a more informed decision about where you're going to stay.
3. How to Purchase an RV?
Elena: ...Let me take a step back because before planning a trip, as we started this conversation, you need to buy an RV because you need something to travel with. Do you have any tips or points on what manufacturers are bad.
Should consumers go to the dealer or should they go straight to the manufacturer? What matters the most, year, model? I know there are so many things, but maybe you have just like some essentials that everybody needs to know who is about to shop for an RV, please.
Mark: So I'm going to answer this question in the form that we're not in the COVID situation that we are now. So this is in the future when things have normalized and you can go out and interact with people a little more freely.
Where to Look for RVs?
Mark: So that's how I'm going to answer this question. What I would encourage you to do is to start your research, not at a dealer, but at a campground or a local RV show. One of those two things. And the reason being is I want you to start asking people who own RVs that question.
Don't ask the dealers, don't ask the salespeople, ask people who own RVs, and you're going to get some insight from them.
Go to a local campground and start talking to some folks. And some of the questions that they're going to ask you, and these are questions you can ask yourself, how often are you going to go camping every year?
Where are you going to go every year? How many people are going to go camping with you? What type of camping experience do you want to have? Where are you going to store the unit when you're not using it?
Those are some key questions that when you start answering those, some deeper questions come out of it that'll help you find the unit. The big mistake and this has actually happened during COVID, a lot of folks just wanted to get the heck out of the house.
So they literally called the dealer and said, "I need an RV." And this is a true story. The dealers, they are sold out of inventory. They bring an RV onto the lot, it is sold the next day. They're just selling everything because people want to escape from the COVID in their homes.
So what I would expect is probably when you're watching this video a little bit in the future, there's going to be a lot of really good used units on the market. Because those folks that bought the wrong unit are selling it to buy the right unit, which if that unit happens to be correct for you, you're going to get a discount on that unit.
What RV Brands to Choose?
Mark: As for brands in the RV industry, there are a few specific brands out there and they're from major manufacturers. So one of the major manufacturers is Thor. Thor makes a whole bunch of sub-brands, including Airstream and a few other brands underneath it.
Then you have Forrest River. That's actually owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Warren Buffett's company owns Forrest River. Another one is Winnebago. And then within that, there's a whole bunch of other sub and smaller brands.
In our case, we actually stumbled across a fifth wheel made by a company nobody's ever heard of, but it's a giant unit. It's 44 feet long, it's 500 square feet inside. It has two bedrooms, a bathtub, a laundry, again, because we asked those questions about our lifestyle, being full-time RVers.
Being that this is our home, we weren't going to go full-time in a small Airstream, because it just didn't make sense to us. We needed a bigger unit where I could work and that our family could live. So you need to start it.
The mistake a lot of folks make is they jump in because they go and see the fancy colors. And I mean, the units are really nice inside. I mean, you go check them out, you're like, "This is awesome. There is led lighting." But you need to ask the more core questions of how you're going to use it, how you're going to store it, how many people and all that type of stuff.
4. How Do RV Warranties Work?
Elena: There’s a trend that we’ve seen on our website for quite some time, and please, let me know if you think it’s a trend. Our reviewers tell that they go to a dealer or a manufacturer, they buy an RV, whether used or new, and they buy a warranty with it. Let's say a two-year warranty.
So a couple of months later, something breaks, something happens with their RV whatever it is that is covered by the warranty. So they take it to the parking lot of the dealership where they are going to repair it.
The guys say, "Okay, cool. We take it. Yes, it's covered..." They put it there and they leave it there intentionally for months waiting for the warranty to expire. Then they keep telling people, all kinds of stories and fables on this and the other and making all kinds of pathetic excuses.
It turns out that they have just been dragging time to start charging these folks. Do you know anything about it? Have you heard similar stories? What's your take on this trend?
Mark: So the answer to this question is going to get me in a lot of trouble in the industry, but I'm going to answer it anyway because it's important for your consumers to know. And that way they become a smarter consumer when they're buying this product.
Is Extended RV Warranty Worth it?
Mark: So first off, the warranty you get with your new RV or you buy on the secondary market is completely worthless. Do not bank your purchase on that warranty. The reason being is because the warranty relies upon a dealer to actually repair the unit. So to get the parts in and repair it.
And what your consumers are experiencing is it goes back to what I just said earlier about how many units are being sold by the dealers. The dealers get paid pennies on the dollar for their warranty repair work. So they're going to staff and in this industry, it's actually, there's a shortage of qualified repair technicians for RVs.
So they're already short-staffed. They have limited staff in their dealerships. So what they do is they're going to focus that staff on prepping new units for delivery versus repairing warranty work that they're not making that much money on.
Then the dealer has to rely upon the manufacturer and they're two separate businesses, right? The manufacturer's a separate business from the dealer. They're not one and the same. So the dealer relies upon the manufacturer to approve the warranty repair and send out the repair parts.
So a lot of folks when they have warranty issues, they'll drop it off at the dealer, two weeks go by, they call them up and say, "Hey, what's the status of this repair?" And the dealer will say, "Well, we're still waiting on approval from the manufacturer." The dealer is not lying to you. They are literally waiting on the manufacturer to actually approve it and send them the parts. And so that process ends up getting the drug out.
By the time the parts get to the dealer, it's usually and your users have seen this, it's two, three months down the road. Now their warranty is almost up. Then the repair gets done and guesses what? Six months later, that same repair part fails on them. And then they go back and they say, "Oh, sorry, you're out of warranty. You need to pay for it."
How to Repair RV?
Mark: So what I would encourage your viewers to do is…
...do not buy the aftermarket warranty. It's worthless. It's completely worthless the amount of money you're paying. Instead, take that warranty money, pocket it in the bank. And either you or somebody you know needs to be handy. RVs are actually very easy to fix.
They're screws, glue, and tape. They're really, they're easy to fix if you're reasonably handy. If you're not reasonably handy, I would encourage you to get to know a local mobile RV technician that you can trust.
That person will be able to do the work right. And when you have work done, don't replace it with like-kind pieces. So if your water heater fails, don't replace it with the same unit water heater. Do a little bit of research, find the better units, the better quality units that are up there.
Just like if your house something breaks in your house, you would replace it with something better. Same thing on the RV. Now here's my strict advice. If you're having warranty issues with a dealership, stop dealing with that dealership.
Call the manufacturer and become the squeaky wheel, become the pissed consumer, and call them every day and be annoying until they actually take action.
Now, if they do not take action, understand your legal rights within your state. Some states vary and speak to a lawyer. I know I'm going to get flamed for saying that, but I'm seeing that more and more.
And that's actually the big black eye in our industry is that because they're pushing these units out so fast right now, there are these warranty and usability issues, which means the folks that own the RVs can't use them. They can't enjoy them. And when they are using them, they're having a bad experience.
They're hurting our industry. So if you're a manufacturer watching this right now, and you're mad at me, take a mirror out and look at yourself. You should be mad at yourself for producing products that break on people and get those things fixed and make sure people's warranties are handled right.
Now, all that being said, I do know within the industry that a lot of the major manufacturers are aware of this issue. They're aware of the warranty issue. And I've actually had some conversations with some of the big, big manufacturers where they've started hiring specialists to handle this customer service side of it and improve their product.
So they're aware of it. They're working to fix it, but I know that doesn't help you right now if you're having issues. So I'd encourage you if you're having issues, be forceful, understand your warranty, understand the relationship, and also understand that it's not necessarily your dealer's fault. It may be the manufacturer's fault. And I would encourage you to reach out to the manufacturer.
A Typical Mistake With an RV Warranty
Mark: And one of the mistakes a lot of folks make is they think it's like buying a car where there are lemon laws. There are no lemon laws on RVs. So it's a different type of product. It's not a house. It's not a car.
So the mistake some consumers will make because they don't know is they think it's like a car. Oh well, I got a warranty forever. No, it's a different industry and that's why, if you go to a dealer, say you're shopping right now for an RV, and you're doing a little bit of research right now on buying one. And you go into the closing and here's what they'll do.
You're in the closing process and they'll whip out this three page, little laminated sheet. They'll put it on the desk and they'll say, "Oh, here's our extended warranty. This is the basic middle and platinum." Do you know what you say? Thank you and hand them the sheets back, we're not interested.
5. How to Find a Good RV Campground?
Elena: Let's say I already sort of know where I want to go geographically. How do I find a good campground? First of all, what is to look for and how do I know that this campground is worth staying at for example?
Mark: So we go back to those original questions you asked about before you bought the unit about the type of camping and who's going and so forth. So that kind of forms your baseline on your travels. From there, there's going to be a little bit of trial and error as you find out the difference between a campground, an RV park, a resort, right?
There are different levels of parks. I mean, you could park in a Walmart in some places and camp there, right? So you've got this wide spectrum of camping types and locations. What you're going to find is that the right RV parker or location or campground is going to vary between people. What I find good you might not find good. So really what we recommend you do is pick that location.
RVs vs Cars
Mark: For example, you live in Los Angeles, you're buying an RV and you're planning a trip to Yellowstone. That's about a 1500 mile drive to Yellowstone. The first key and this is a deep insight into driving an RV. It is unlike a car in that driving an RV will completely exhaust you, whether you're towing a trailer or driving an RV in comparison to a vehicle.
So if you're familiar with LA, you can drive from LA to Las Vegas in about five to six hours. That same trip in an RV is going to take about eight hours. So you've added on two to three hours for that drive. In addition to that, in a car, you can get to Vegas and go gambling all night long, and you're completely fine.
In an RV, when you arrive in Vegas, if you drive straight through from Los Angeles, you'll set up your unit and you'll go in and pass out. You'll be completely exhausted and there's a reason why.
When you're driving an RV, you're driving something that's very large, very heavy, and it takes a lot of your effort. You are constantly checking your mirrors, rearview mirror, side mirrors, you're checking your gauges. You need to be fully alert and are aware of the entire time. You can't hit cruise control and lean back and cruise. You actually have to be aware.
How to Plan Your RV Trip?
Mark: So when you're planning these trips, recognize that a good day of driving in an RV is about 300 miles. So if you're going on a 1500 mile trip, that means you're going to make five stops or four stops on the way to your destination to get there overnighting along the way there.
So what I would encourage you to do is find spots that are convenient to get to on your way there, easy to get to from the interstate of the highway you're taking, that you can easily navigate into and out of.
But in addition to that, and actually before that, on the way to those stops, you're going to need to stop for fuel. That's actually where the bigger headaches arrive because unlike a car, you can't just pull into any gas station.
If you're driving a big diesel pusher, it takes diesel fuel. If you're towing a trailer, generally you need stalls that you can pull into and out of. So I would encourage folks, this is where Google comes into play.
Utilize Google maps and start routing your location generally speaking. So Los Angeles to Yellowstone, you route that and you put your blue line to get up that road. Then use it and find about 200 miles into your trip and find a fuel station around there and then use the satellite and street view to zoom down on that gas station, to see where you would enter and where you would exit it.
Actually, visualize and see how you could get in and out. Drop down to the street view, make sure you can fit. That also goes for your rest stops. So if you're on the interstate, usually there's going to be rest areas where you can pull off into, but if you're taking secondary roads which I encourage, it's actually a better, more enjoyable experience getting off the interstate on the secondary roads, you won't have those rest stops.
You'll need to plan ahead. Hey, in this small town, oh, there's a city park that we can pull right into and park along the curb and take a break. You need to plan this out a little bit more in advance because your unit's large, it takes more effort, takes more energy.
And you're going to take the stress off of you when you're on the road. So you've got your gas stops. You've got your break stops, now picking your campgrounds and RV parks.
How to Choose RV Parks?
Mark: On the way there, you want to stop in a place that's convenient, easy to get into, and easy to get out of, and safe. You can easily find those reviews anywhere, just search that destination. But let's say you're going to Yellowstone and you're going to spend a week there. You're going to want to stay in a place that's suitable for your stay.
So Yellowstone may be a bad example because anybody who's been to Yellowstone knows that you basically spend all your days driving around Yellowstone. So let's make it into something easier like let's say you're going to go to the beach.
You're going to go to San Luis Obispo. You're going to go to the beach. You want to find a place that is close to the beach, has full hookups, has wifi and amenities or on the flip side, say you want to rough it up a little bit more.
You might want to find a state park where it's a little bit more rustic and you have to use the shared showers and stuff like that. So it's going to depend upon your camping types. So there is a research process that goes into it. And it's going to vary by who you are as a camper or RVer.
Unfortunately, this one I can only give you those details because the rest of it's up to you and your camping type and what you find that you're going to like. So a big thing to consider when you start out if you're starting out fresh and brand new is you're going to have to drop some of your preconceived notions.
These are not hotels. There is no concierge service. It is camping and RVing. It's a little bit of a different experience.
...if you drop your expectations a little bit, you might find that you discover a pretty amazing and fun way to tour this country.
6. What Tools to Take on an RV Camping Trip?
Elena: Before you go on an RV trip...What's your tool kit and what do you recommend as a must-have in a tool kit at all times when you are traveling via RV?
Mark: To that, it is going to vary based upon the type of RV you drive with. So we'll talk about two. We'll talk about motorized RVs, class As, class Bs, class Cs, and then we'll talk about trailers.
Tools for Motorized RVs
Mark: So when we talk about motorized RVs, you need to have parts or tools available to repair the mechanical conditions of that vehicle. So think about your wheels, your tires. Do you have a jack that can lift up that RV and pull the wheel off? Do you know how to do that? Like are you safe and proficient?
If you're not, they need to make sure you have a solid roadside assistance program that will get a tow truck out there and so forth. And there's a number of them out there. The best one out there for big coaches is a company called CoachNet. So, CoachNet, that's a good one to have for roadside assistance.
But if you're handy, make sure you have a jack and the tools to get the wheels off and have a spare tire that you know how to install and remove. So that's that part of it.
In regard to the engine, transmission, drive train, if those things fail, you're going to need a tow anyway. So roadside assistance on that. The next thing you're going to need is the actual camping unit tools to handle that.
So you're going to need a Phillips screwdriver, a flathead screwdriver, a few pairs of wrenches, a hammer, and some cock glue, and some extra screws. Literally, that is your basic toolkit for repairing your unit.
90% of the pieces in your RV utilize screws, glue, and cock to stay together. So that's the basic repair items.
If parts break, like say the water heater breaks, generally speaking, there's not a lot you can do to fix that. It's going to be something that's going to have to be fixed later.
So the basic toolkit is simply a household toolkit, right? Phillips screwdriver, flathead, and those types of items. My big advice for you if you're not handy on an RV, is there are some websites out there, YouTube, right?
YouTube is your friend on this. Search the brand of your unit and the item that broke and you might find five or 10 other people who have not only had that experience, but they actually show you in a video how to repair it. And it's always been amazing to me.
You want to get proficient in doing searches within Google and YouTube for your part, for your unit and you'll find a lot of clues on how to repair those units yourself. That being said, if you do not feel comfortable, like if it's anything related to your propane system, fuel tank or if you have to jack up the unit and you're not used to doing that, I always err on the side of the caution.
Tools for an RV Trailer
Mark: Now, if you have a trailer, your toolkit is really a jack to lift it up and change the tires. In fact, talking about tires, I'll go specific on this one. If you're buying a trailer, generally speaking from the manufacturer, it shifts with a tire that's branded ST, special trailer tires.
The idea behind trailer tires is they have a softer sidewall that gives it more flex and gives it a little bit of suspension. Something about those tires though is they're generally or not generally, they do not need to meet any sort of federal requirements for tires. So literally…
...somebody can manufacture a tire, stamp ST on it and sell it to you without certifying that it can carry the weight load that's printed on the tire. And there's a phrase for it, but basically, they explode.
So after a while, if you go too fast, if they get too hot, they literally blow up and take off half your RV with it. So I would encourage you if you're buying a new unit to understand what tires and wheels you have on it. In my case, whenever I buy a fifth wheel RV and advise anybody to do it, the first thing that comes off the second I get it are the wheels and tires, the rims and the tires.
I replace both with automotive-grade units. So I buy automotive rims that are zero offsets. And then I buy an LT, which is a light truck designated tire that has at least the same or greater load capacity, able to carry the same amount of weight and I install those on my trailer.
And the reason being is like our current unit is six years old. I installed these tires and wheels when I bought it just like I'm advising you. And other than a nail in one of the tires, I have never had to adjust the air inflation in those tires at all and I've had zero problems. And I've towed that unit 35,000 miles since I got it.
That's big one is the wheels and tires. That's usually where a lot of folks have big headaches and blow out some flats. The other thing they do is their driving style because they're used to driving a car, so they tend to take corners a little bit too tight. And when they do that, they're dragging the tires over the gutters and over the side where they're picking up nails, rocks, and burrs, and that causes those tires to fail a little bit sooner.
So if you've ever seen a big rig drive, how they go wide and they take corners slowly, emulate that when you're driving with the trailer. Take your time until you get used to that unit and how it handles.
7. What Are RV Campground Rules?
Elena: Well, a little bit more about campgrounds. How should I put it, a routine? Just again, this is probably more a question that would meet the requirements of the newbies. So we brought our RV to a campground. We parked. What's next?
How do I behave? Are there rules for behaving on campgrounds? And a little bit more about the actual life on a campground, especially when you are staying overnight.
Mark: it's actually been a big issue with all the new campers...So you arrive into a campground, in the COVID world, a lot of the campgrounds have gone to like a touchless check-in system where they'll send you your site number or they're basically touchless, right? They'll check you in virtually.
You can ask and I encourage you to ask. If you're new, ask them if they can guide you to your site, because they'll take you down the right roads and kind of help you get to your site. Now in some RV parks, they will help you back in by spotting you, but they're not going to drive your RV for you.
How to Set Up an RV?
Mark: There are three primary things that you may have to set up. It depends upon the utilities they have and those utilities are water, electricity, and sewer. Maybe have a checklist for yourself of ‘here's what I need to do’ and you check it off very much like an airline pilot would.
So that way you don't forget something and you go in a very methodical manner because if you forget something, it could become a big issue. You would hook up your sewer and then your electric and electric can vary.
Some units have a little 20 amp like a plug you would have in your house. Most do not have that. Most have what's called a 30 amp or a 50 amp. The difference being a 30 amp has three prongs on it. A 50 amp has four prongs. In all cases, before you plug it in, turn off the breakers.
There'll be a breaker of the box. You just flip it down off, then plug in your unit, and then turn the breaker on. Then go look inside your unit may be at the microwave to see if a powered on and electricity is running through your unit.
Then you want to hook up your water. Your water, you're going to use a freshwater hose. They're white in color. You buy them at the RV or on Amazon. It's a freshwater hose. It's different from a garden hose because it's not going to leach material into the water. It's designed for drinking water so you're not going to get any chemicals in it. And generally, they're white.
You simply plug that in, screw it onto your units. It's a hose bib, just like a hose out in your front yard. You thread it onto your unit. You thread it onto the water spigot, turn it on. When you turn it on, you're now going to look for any leaks. If it's a new unit, there may be leakage from vibration on the first trip.
So check under your sinks, check the different valves and just simply look and feel if there's any moisture there. And if there is, it's just screwed on settings, tighten things to see where that little leak is. Once a unit becomes used and you get used to it, generally speaking, you don't have to worry about that, but those are your only three connections.
The other thing that folks will consider when they're setting up is leveling their units. So it may have auto levelers. Jacks can come down, they'll lift the unit up to make it level, or you may have to park it on blocks. That'll depend upon your unit. You do that before you hook up all these utilities.
RV Campground Etiquette
Mark: So now you're on your site. What is the campground etiquette? And this is actually a very important thing a lot of folks miss. Campground etiquette is making sure that you are not negatively impacting the experience of the other campers.
The thing about a campground or RV parks, unlike a hotel room where you can go and shut the door and have a party and you're not really going to bother the neighbors unless you're throwing a really wild party.
In a campground or RV park, your neighbors can hear you. They can see you. So don't go crazy. Respect your neighbors and respect the site around you.
So your site that you've rented is technically yours during that stay meeting, you can hang out there. You can put your chairs out there. You can have your campfire. You can use the picnic table, but respect the other site next to you, that's their space.
You shouldn't be cutting. When you're walking around the campground, don't be walking through their campsites because it's a shorter distance from the bathroom to your campsite. Walk around, respect their space, respect their timing.
The campground may have quiet hours too. So they may say by 10:00 PM, you need to be quiet. And you're quite all the way till 7:00 AM. Respect that, be quiet. Because you might be in an RV with an air conditioner where you can drown out the noise, but your neighbors might be in a tent and they don't have that.
So they're going to hear every little sound. And when you're camping, it's really quiet and it could be really dark. And when it's quiet and dark like that, you could hear every little sound, right? So respect that.
Another thing, pets, people love traveling with their pets. Dogs, cats, birds, pigs, whatever, people bring them to campgrounds and RV parks. Now your dog may be amazingly well behaved and you love it and you don't need a leash for it and he listens to you every time. Guess what? So what? Put it on a leash, make sure it's not barking and yipping.
And also be aware that your dog might be really good, but that person down the way with the pit bull, that pit is nuts and it's going to get out and your dog might be great, but how's it going to do in a fight against a pit bull, right?
So you want to control your pets and also pick up after your pets. If they relieve themselves on the road in the sites, even in your site, use the baggies. Most parks help provide them or you can bring your own. Pick up that waste and dispose of it in a proper location.
Campfires in RV Parks
Mark: The other big thing right now is campfires. Campfires are like the quintessential camping thing. Everybody, you get the RV. The first thing that you buy is not the sewer hookups, it's the barbs to roast marshmallows over the campfire.
During the summer though, generally speaking, depending on when you're going, there's probably going to be a fire ban because it's very dry, very hot, very windy and that could lead to forest fires. Understand the rules and laws of the area you're going into and whether or not you can even have a campfire.
If you do have a campfire, burn wood, they're fire starters, but
...don't burn your plastic plates, your trash, everything else. The fire pit is not a trash can. Don't dump your trash on it.
There are trash cans to dump your trash into. The fire pit is for burning wood and all that stuff. Because guess what? If you do your trash there, the park management has to come and clean it up afterward. So somebody is still picking up your trash. You're essentially littering, but you're just littering in a fire pit versus on the ground. Don't do that. Throw it away in the trash and properly remove it.
Public Restrooms at the RV Campground
Mark: The other thing is a lot of folks will use the public restrooms at the campgrounds, meaning the public like the campground maintains a restroom with a shower facility. So bring your shower materials meaning slipper, flip-flops to go into the restroom and shower, your soap, and everything else, and respect those showers.
Keep them clean and use them as if they're in your own home and respect that space. Understand that in COVID right now, there's going to be special requirements, cleaning procedures, and all that type of stuff. So understand that the park will give you that information. The big thing though is that if you take away any one thing from all that is when you go camping, understand that you're not the only one camping. There are dozens if not hundreds of other people camping in that same space around you, show them respect, show them consideration. And if you do that, they're going to show it right back to you and everybody's going to have an enjoyable camping time.
And then lastly, if you go to CampgroundViews.com, we actually have a campground etiquette guide that you can download that's a quick cheat sheet that you can use to kind of get an idea.
And that cheat sheet was actually written by owners.
We queried 2000 owners on what they see all the newbies, all the new campers not understanding, and we created that document to help you. So the big thing is all that being said, recognize that if you're new, nobody expects you to understand everything.
Feel free to ask questions and even dumb questions are good questions because asking those dumb questions is going to get you the right answer and then you'll understand it and be able to teach other people going forward.
8. RV Trip During Covid-19: How to Be Safe?
Elena: We did mention the COVID, the pandemic situation a couple of times during our conversation today. So in your professional opinion, how did the pandemic, the Coronavirus pandemic situation affect the RV campaign, positive way, negative way. If it affected it at all, what do you have to say about that?
Mark: So during March and April, obviously the world stopped. So all businesses stopped and it affected campgrounds and RV parks also. But what happened was then the Trump administration did their opening America, reopening America plan, and some states began opening and that was right in the springtime.
So what ended up happening in the RV and camping industry, it's important for your viewers to know, is that in any given year, on average, about 40 million Americans go camping. We're estimating that this last year, and we're talking from late May to now we're filming this in early September. So May, June, July, August, in that time period…
...70 million Americans went camping, almost double the amount of normal people, normal campers went camping. So we went from 40 million to 70 million this year.
A massive boom in camping and RV, because basically, it was the only way you could get out. You couldn't go to the movies. You couldn't go shopping, couldn't go to restaurants. Let's get an RV, go to the middle of the woods, at least we can run around there. Right.
So that's what everybody did. And so what has happened is there's been this massive influx of new campers. So if you're a new camper, welcome. You're going to find this to be an amazing way to experience this country.
I hope that you have a good enough time that you want to keep drawing it more and more and get really proficient at camping and really have amazing experiences. And what we're seeing now as a result of this is it's significant capital investments in new RV parks and existing RV parks.
So we're seeing really nice RV resorts being built and opening up. We're also seeing a lot of parks that may have been run down, bought by new owners, fixed up, and creating better camping spaces.
So if you have been traveling and you've seen some of the good, and you've seen some of the bad, you're going to start seeing more good, you're going to see more positive things. In addition to that, Congress and signed by President Trump passed a bill to reinvest in the national forest and national parks.
So you're going to start seeing over the next decade, significant improvements in both the roads and campsites within those national forests and national parks. But you're just going to see more development of campgrounds in those areas. And that's over the next decade.
We're talking a longer-term period here, but you have now had the opportunity to either enter or join in with tens of millions of Americans in what I feel is the last living community within the United States. There are no gates. You're there whether you're poor, you're rich, you're engaging with your neighbors across all spectrums of our America is found in the campgrounds.
It's across a spectrum of all nationalities, all races, all income levels are in campgrounds and RV parks. And the cool thing about it is everybody's there to have a good time. So you'll be able to engage, learn, and connect with. Hundreds if not thousands of different people from all across this world.
It's going to be a fun and exciting time as we look into the future as this industry benefits from COVID. And when I say that, I understand that there's been a lot of businesses. I mean, hotels, airlines, all these other types of travel and accommodations have been hit really hard and we hope that they all come back strong.
But if there's one bright light it's that camping and RVing did become the safe place where people could escape in COVID. So I hope you found this useful. Again, my name is Mark Koep. Our company is Campgroundviews.com and we want to make your camping trip amazing.
We believe we do that by getting you in the right campground, in the proper equipment, at the right time, and on the right days in that right equipment so that you can have an amazing camping experience.
I personally feel that camping and RVing is the last best way to engage with the outdoors, your family, and your friends. And if you do it right, and it doesn't mean you have to be perfect, just if you do it right for yourself, you might just find that this is an amazing way to go about and have some enjoyment in your life…
Elena: Thank you very much, Mark.
We thank Mark for his detailed and valuable insights into RV travel. No matter if you’re an experienced RV traveler or a newbie who wants to buy an RV and take a trip across the US, these tips from an expert will come in handy.
Stay safe while RV traveling and make sure you’ve got everything set up to enjoy your trip.
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