Let me preface this entire discussion by first saying that for complete newbies (like we were), when you purchase your RV, they will go through the process of setting up and tearing down with you, and it will be specific to your RV. That is your real education on this matter. We purchased a used RV, and they still went over every single detail with us and answered all of our questions.
However, there will be some fine tuning of the process once you are on the road and faced with different scenarios, and that is where this article comes in. We want to give you our routine for you to learn from and add to to fit your needs. We have stayed in over 80 campgrounds now, so our routine has developed a natural rhythm. However, when we started out, we had to think through the steps and remind each other of the sequence to make sure we covered everything.
We are providing you with our routine here, and a checklist to learn from, so that you can take this information and make it your own. We are giving you a checklist based on our routine, and then a blank one if you want to create one for yourself. Since the tear down and set up processes are involved and can vary from campground to campground, we are also providing video footage of the process to help you learn and problem solve. Let’s get started…
Print the worksheets, if you want a hard copy:
It is important to set yourself up for success on travel days and following a few ground rules will help you to do it. Some of these we have learned the hard way, but they are all really common sense. It is just a matter of taking the time to prepare for the process.
- Don’t rush. If you want out early in the morning, start the process the night before. Nothing will frustrate you, or your spouse, more than rushing.
- Pack lunch or at least water and a snack. If you have trouble on the road, you will be so glad you did. Also, travel is not an excuse for eating junk food – you are the one who pays for it in the long run. Plus, you don’t want to be hangry (the anger that comes with hunger) when you get to your new campground – your spouse doesn’t want you to be hangry either. 🙂
- Wear sneakers. This also prepares you for trouble on the road. When we had our first tire blow out, Chris was working on it in the desert with thorns and cactus all around. This is also a good point to remind you that campground sites are dirty. I am not talking about the natural dirt God put on this earth; I am talking about the dirt that comes from man-made items.
- Have sanitary wipes on hand. You can also use gloves.
- Keep cool. For camping in warm climates, your RV interior will get hot on travel days if you have a fifthwheel or trailer. We got in the habit of setting our A/C extra cool on travel days to drop the temperature.
- Gas. Get gas the night before if you need it. This will save you from pulling your RV through the gas station.
- Adjust as you learn. Tweak your routine as you go. It will take a while to get a real routine down.
- Set your attitude. Work together. Encourage each other. You won’t know what challenges you will face, but if you commit to finding solutions together with the right attitude, you will avoid a lot of frustration.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but the process of changing campgrounds means that you are first going to tear down, and then set up; so we are tackling the travel day in that same order. Most RV campgrounds have a check out time around 11:00 or 12:00. That gives you plenty of time to pack things up in the morning. BUT, you are probably going to want to get on the road before those times, because you want to arrive at your next campground while the office is open and it is still daylight. You can do a late arrival at most places, but it is more of a hassle, as is setting up in the dark. So, be mindful of your travel time, and set your departure accordingly.
There are a few tips that we can give you to help you with the tear down. First, set your temperature down in the morning on your A/C – this will drop the temperature in your RV for travel. Second, don’t completely empty your grey or black tanks – it is better to have a little water in there that can slosh around while you drive. Sometimes, Chris puts extra toilet chemicals in the black tanks to slosh around while we travel – he will even, on occasion, put the chemicals in our grey tank and galley tank to give them a good cleaning.
Check the below videos on the process of tearing down – we broke it into two parts: the interior & the exterior. We also go over the specific tear down items that are unique to us due to our renovation. We were leaving Gunsmoke RV campground in Dodge City, Kansas.
Now, for the hard part. When you get to a new campground, you will probably have had a long day, and you will be faced with figuring out a new site. When you check-in, they will tell you your spot, and they usually also tell you the best way to get to your site, so that you are facing in the right direction for the hook-up. Once at your site, you have the challenge of figuring exactly where you want to park. Consider your slides, your water hose & electric cord length and then try to park your RV in the most level spot. For our fifthwheel, if we are not level side-to-side, then we use blocks under the wheels to level out. Once parked, then you can follow through with the rest of the steps outlined in the below video. As a tip, we like to take a photo of our RV in each site once we are parked, just so we have record of all the places we have stayed. Also, once you are inside, be sure to run your water for a minute or so until all of the air is released from the line. As a final quick tip for set-up, open your fridge very gingerly for the first time – 99% of the time it will be fine, but there will be that one time that eggs or the ketchup bottle attempt to make a run for it.
In our set-up video, we arrived at Council Road Campground in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma! A funny thing to note is that in this video, you can see how altered our moods are. In the morning, we are our normal selves, but by the time we are setting-up, you can easily see that we are quieter and less enthusiastic – that shows you the reality of the process. Also, you will note the difference in the two campgrounds. Our campground in Dodge City was outside of town, with beautiful rolling prairie and horses, and there were only a few other campers. In Oklahoma City, the campground was in a more industrial part of the city, and was much more crowded. Also, you will see a lot of white trucks and work trucks, which is an indicator of a lot of workers, usually young, single men. These campgrounds are great for Internet service.
And that wraps up our tear down and set up series! It is a lot of information to digest when you are first starting out, but trust me when I tell you that you will get comfortable and have a routine of your own quickly.