Wednesday, January 16, 2008

(1-08) Tips and Tricks for RV campers

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR RV CAMPERS

Camper etiquette.

I had a fellow camper who’s new to the camping lifestyle, ask if I could give some tips about camper etiquette. Of course my first thought was common sense should always prevail. But past that, perhaps a few tips would be helpful.

Don’t be shy. Be the first to wave and say hi when you get to a new campground. Campers are the friendliest crowd you’ll ever meet. So don’t wait for the other person to come around and greet you.

Campsites:

It is considered rude to walk through another persons campsite to get to the restrooms or just going for a walk, it’s best not to walk through someone’s campsite.
Pet owners: You already know it’s wise to keep your dog on a leash and pick up after your pet.

Backing in to a Campsite:

A trucker gave me this advice a while back: When backing in, if you turn the wheel more than a 1/4 of a turn, you have turned the wheel too far. After the initial back in, pulling forward to staighten out then turning the wheel a small amount will often get you right in.

I recently purchased a set of small orange cones from the sports department in a K-mart. I'm sure other dept stores and sports stores carry them. I line them up on one side of the campsite, lined up to follow the curve I need to take to back in to the site. It really helps me to see where to back in.

Music:

So many folks like to play their music outside. I do too, but let's be kind to our neighbors. They may like their own music more than yours. I had a camper near me during Christmas and they put out one of those displays with Christmas music that keeps repeating. Of course they left their campsite for the day and left it playing. Needless to say I couldn't enjoy my ourdoor space. I left a message on their door "thanks for sharing your music with everyone, unfortnately, I've heard it so many times I can sing all the songs in my sleep. Please enjoy YOUR music when your around to listen to it". Recently I had campers playing old dance music... they too left their campsite and left the music blaring. I went over to their tent site and unplugged the boom-box. They got the idea.

Note: If you have problems with inconsiderate neighbors, leaving their barking dogs all day, music too loud or campfires the size of bon-fires ready to burn down the campground, call the front office and let them handle the situation. You do not need to confront the offensive camper.

Visiting a campers RV:

If you are invited in, make a quick note of shoes at the door. If the owners appear to take their shoes off at the door, removing your shoes before entering is a nice gesture. Even if the owner says, oh that’s not necessary, it makes a great impression and shows you appreciate their space. Full-time campers live in their RV’s and it takes a lot of work to keep them clean.

Firewood:

Try not to set up your campfire directly under your neighbors camper. Free firewood? If your at a state park/county park, quite often after the week-enders leave, they often leave extra firewood at their sites. Some will offer it to you, if not, it is ok to “collect” their firewood for your own campsite if your staying through the week. Obviously, make sure they have left and it’s better if you do it after most of the campers have left after the weekend. However, I’ve also noticed that some campground host are eager to “clean up” a campsite after it’s been vacated, so it’s sometimes a race to see who will get the free firewood.

Cleaning tips:

Every Rv’ers who’s worth his salt, has a million cleaning tips for cleaning the outside of a camper to toilet maintenance to general house cleaning chores. So here are a couple of mine.
Having worked in a few campgrounds as a camp host, cleaning bathrooms etc. I’ve learned that you can clean most everything in a house with two items. Get two spray bottles, add Clorox and water to one and a window cleaner (ammonia) and water to the other. Use the Clorox mixture on all surfaces you want to clean and sanitize and the window cleaner on all shiny surfaces.

Bathrooms:

If you have a “china toilet” with the round ball style valve you’ve probably already noticed that it’s hard to keep a small amount of water in the toilet as a seal. This occurs because grime and calcium deposits build up on the seal ring. I’ve tried everything and have discovered that “The Works” Toilet bowl cleaner works the best. I found a bottle of it at the dollar store (one of my favorite places to shop). It quickly removes the rust, lime scale and hard water stains and I now have a perfect seal in my toilet bowl and it removes all those ugly stains as well.

Cleaning the outside:

I use a simple jug of blue carwash cleaner that has the soap and a bit of wax in it for cleaning the camper and truck. Any brand will do. When you traveling across country, many places will not let you wash your tow vehicle or camper, but will let you wash the bugs off the front of your camper. Get a brush with on a long pole for cleaning the vehicle and camper. I’m able to wash my entire truck with one bucket of soapy water. Start at the top and work you way down. The wash mixture will clean the vehicle and leave almost no residue even without rinsing!

Cleaning the Awnings:

I found a really cheap and easy way to clean the awnings. And I’ve tried all the regular stuff like 409 and Simple Green, but the best of them all if my spray bottle of Clorox mixture. Just spray it on and leave it. Within about 30 minutes to an hour, the awning will look clean and new. You can hose it off afterwards, But I find the bleach mixture continues to work for days afterwards.

Washing windows.

Use your amonia cleaner mix and get a squeegee & brush on a long extension pole. You can find these in the auto department. Then use it to squeegee the windows clean on the Rv and tow vehicle. I use mine all the time particularly since my large back window gets lots of road dirt when traveling. If your permitted to use your hose, it makes the job really quick and easy with a quick wipe of the squeegee afterwards.

Tip:

Use your Clorox and water mix to spray your potable water hose ends to disinfect them and the water faucet. Have you ever seen a racoon, squirrel or bird drink from a faucet?
After attaching and stowing the sewer hoses, if you don’t use rubber gloves (which are then contaminated after the first use) have a bottle of hand soap handy and wash your hands. I also use an anti-bacterial hand wash after I use the soap and water. One wash is good, twice insures your hands are clean.

TIRES:

Tire inflation is so important. Your Rv or trailer has the recommended tire pressure printed on an outside label on the camper. Follow it, not what the max amount of tire pressure is for what ever brand tire you have on the camper. This is important folks. Over inflation will cause your tires to wear out much faster and having a tire inflated to it’s max level is dangerous. Note: when traveling to higher elevations, if the tire is inflated to it’s max at sea level, it will be really over-inflated at higher elevations. I know, I’ve seen tires blow out at higher elevations because they are now over inflated due to the altitude. If your heavy duty truck indicates 80 or 90 lbs of pressure on the back tires, note that that is if the truck if hauling a full load. It’s the tongue pressure on the truck that counts. If it’s around 1,500 to 1,800 lbs which mine is on my 5th wheel camper, that’s not a “full” load on the truck, so I don’t fill the rear tires to the max.

Age of tires. Check the age of your tires by looking for the 4 digit number after the DOT. Example (1504) indicates the tire was made on the 150th day of the year 2004. All tires have a life span of approx. 5 years, even if the tire hasn’t had much drive time and the tread looks almost new, a tire deteriorates and dry rot sets in from the day is was made. Personally, I always replace my tires at least every 4.5 to 5 years.

Spraying your tire with a good wet look cleaner also protects the tires from UV sun rays.

Talk to a good tire shop mechanic about inflation and learn more about it.

TRAVELING TIPS:

If you don’t like traveling through big cities and there‘s no easy way around them, try to schedule your travel through them on a Sunday. I waited an extra day to travel through Houston and it made the trip much more pleasant.

Many secondary roads that basically parallel major highways are great roads for Rv travel. Many are 4 lane divided roads with grass medians and little traffic.

TECHNOLOGY:

Verizon and AT&T are the best for coverage across the U.S. Both also have air-cards for connecting to the internet from your laptop. I have Verizon and have been very satisfied. Wi-Fi is great when available and I often stop at a Panera bread restaurant and have lunch and check my e-mail. Many other chains have free wi-fi as well.


  • Hawking Technology makes a wi-fi antenna HWU54D. It connects to a USB port on my laptop. This enables me to pick up a wi-fi signal from a longer distance from the wi-fi tower.
  • Verizon Notes: Verizon has new Wireless card(s) using Rev A. I got the USB model UM150. If you own one that is more than one year old, you are using the old broadband access and need to upgrade. The Rev A service is 10 times better. Yippee! The USB model UM150 also has an additional connection for an external antenna in case your in a remote area.
  • I also upgraded my cell phone to the LG VX8350. It is a great little phone and also has a connection for an external antenna. A must for any camper who finds themselves in remote areas. This is one of the few remaining new phones that has an connection for external antennas.

There are a ton of gadgets one can buy as well to extend coverage. External antennas for the cell phone and for wi-fi reception. Check them out on the internet.

CAMPING CLUBS:

Joining the various camping clubs can be a great help. Each makes their own mark on camping and building communities within the camping world. Also, most everyone who plans on camping for part of the year or is thinking about full-timing get either the Motor Home or Trailer Life magazine. Both offer tons of helpful hints and trips to take throughout the year. Good Sam’s has Highways magazine which you get free with your membership.
I joined a number of clubs and magazines the first couple of years before I became a full timer, just to get an idea of what the community was like out there. After a couple of years, I’ve kept my favorites and dropped the rest. Listed in no particular order.

Escapees:

It’s one of the best communities of Rv’ers you’ll ever find. With great support groups and individual clubs with just about every interest and hobby a person could think of. They own a number of campgrounds that you can get really great rates for camping and they provide a 10-15% discount at other campgrounds throughout the country. http://escapees.com/index2.asp
Membership: $60.00 + $10 enrollment fee.

Good Sam’s:

Is good, but personally I haven’t had much need for them, and their 10% off campground fees has not been much of an incentive. They do have lots of Rally’s and caravans if you have the inclination and are willing to pay for the trips. The trips can be very pricey. https://www.goodsamclub.com/
Membership: $29.95

Passport America:

My favorite club. It’s a 50% off camping club that gets you 50% off the campgrounds that have signed up the campground agreements with Passport America. http://www.passport-america.com/main/default.asp
Membership: $44.00

Happy Campers:

This is my second favorite 50% off camping club and mirrors Passport America with perhaps a few different campgrounds than what Passport has. . http://www.camphalfprice.com/
Membership: $49.95

Camping Club USA:

This club is sponsored in the Camping World stores. I checked out the book and talked to a sales person on the club. One of the features that folks may like, is that they only accept campgrounds that have at least a 3 star rating from Woodall’s. Which also means they may be a bit higher in price from the other half price clubs, but your still saving half off. I’m considering joining this one. http://www.campclubusa.com/
Membership: $49.95

Recreation USA:

I found this club on the Internet and it advertises that all of it’s campgrounds go for $10.00 a night. Which of course is a good deal. I did go online and check some of the parks out and I’m familiar with a couple that belong to some of the other half price clubs and it looks like a great deal. I joined in spring 08 and have used it a couple times. It's online resources, maps etc are excellant. This could become my favorite club.

http://www.campingandcampgrounds.com/member_updates.html
Membership: $44.00 per year.



CAUTION !!!! “United Rv Club, Internet Camping Co., Great American Camp Rate Savings, also known as Internet Camping“.
These are all the same company and are a SCAM! I joined and used their online listing and a CD they sent me. Very slick. Unfortunately, none of the campgrounds on their listing offering $10 a night or 50 percent off, ever heard of the company. Needless to say, I lost all my $$ I paid to join for a year.
Hint: if you see one of these listed on the Internet and are considering joining, jot down a half dozen campgrounds from their listing and call them to see if they are really members of this supposed half price/$10 a night club. If not, you can be sure it’s a rip off.


Extended camping/Full Timing:

I have a final destination for each summers trips. The trip getting there can and sometimes takes all summer just to get there! This past year, my destination was the Grand Teton Mountains and Yellowstone Park. It took me 4 months to get there.

One of the biggest mistakes most everyone makes when they first begin to travel for extended periods, is to travel too long distances. I have found that traveling only up to 200 miles in one day as more than adequate. Also, staying a couple of days minimum and not just hopping from one campsite to the next down the road will save on your nerves. The more you have to plan each step of the trip, the more the frustration level rises. Taking longer stretches of a 3 days up to a week or more at a campground, just to have time to relax and enjoy the area will add to the joy of exploring this country of ours. After all, you need time to plan the next leg of your journey, do laundry, shop for food etc. Also, having a set time you need to get to your next stop really adds that old pressure back into your life and that’s what your trying to get away from. Or at least I am. The only time I get uptight is when I commit to meeting up with family and friends at a particular date. If at all possible, don’t make commitments to meet with friends and family until your within shouting distance.

Getting back to the hopping between camp site to camp site. I rarely ever make reservations unless I’m on the east coast, where there are higher populations and the campgrounds can fill up on weekends in particular. If you can find campgrounds that are first come first serviced (some State parks and National parks), all you need do is show up by early afternoon and then reserve the site through the weekend. Calling ahead to insure space is available is all one normally has to do.

The Internet can be a great help in finding local campgrounds that may not be listed in those HUGE campground books that are the size of a New York phone book. I usually do a search like “Orlando campgrounds”. It will list commercial, city, and county links to campgrounds. And don’t forget those Casino campgrounds.

I use my favorite map book, Road Master, Road Atlas (Large Print) to plan a basic route. I even use a highlighter to show my basic route. It’s your book, mark it up. Road Master has lots of Points of Interest highlighted in RED. I use those to determine if something might be of interest along the way. Also try to stop by local Visitor Centers as well to find out what’s interesting in the area. I always try to stop at each states Visitor Centers as well to map out what routes I should take and what to see in each state. Many times, I may not be able to see everything the first go around, but I get ideas for future trips too.

MAIL SERVICE:

Many of the camping organizations provide mail forwarding service for full timers. Escapee’s, Good Sam being the top two. However, any local Mail R Us type places can also forward mail to you. At the back of the Trail Magazines will also list many mail forwarding services. You must sign up and agree to have the company you choose be your “Mail Agent”. Cost is usually around $150 per year, plus postage.

The service you select can sort your mail (throw out all junk mail) and deliver only your personal mail and any magazines or catalogs you tell them to forward.

I usually have my mail delivered about once a month when on the road, when I’ve settled into a campground for at least a weeks time. I can either call or go online to give instructions for delivery of my mail to the campsite I’m at. Make sure to ask the park your staying in if they will accept your mail. You can also have it sent General delivery to the local post office. I do this in small towns and always go into the post office and give them my business card and let them know I’m expecting a one time delivery.

If you become a full time camper, you will want to select the STATE your mail forwarding service is from, as that will determine if you have to pay state taxes (Fla and Tx have no state taxes). It will also determine where you get your vehicle tags and insurance rates. I have also set up voting via absentee ballot, so I can continue to vote in Fla.

Note: I do all of my banking (Credit Union) and paying of bills via the Internet. Many are paid automatically through my Visa acct. with a notice being sent to me via e-mail to let me know how much is being charged. Example: my Verizon bill. I receive an e-mail 10 days before my acct. is charged. That way, if I have a dispute, I can call Verizon and get it straightened out before they charge my Visa Acct. It works quiet well.

Business Cards:

I’ve created two Camper Business Cards. The first one has my basic address, e-mail, phone number and Blog address. I use this one to hand out to new found camper friends I meet along the way.

The second one is for handing out to the campground check-in host. It contains information required for check-ins. Including Truck and RV description, tag numbers for both, my name, address, phone number. It makes it much easier for the person checking me in to have all the info already printed out. Some campsites just staple it to their form.

3 comments:

mary lu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Debbie said...

Thanks for all the useful information, Doug. We really appreciate all your tips! Safe travels.

Debbie & Eddie

Cj Cozygirl said...

What a ton of great info...not sure how I found your blog. But it's just loaded and I'll be reading happily forever. Thanks so much!