The Top 15 Things We Learned Renting An RV

I love how our family camping trips compel the kids to trade in their light sabers for sticks, their electronics for a simple old-fashioned game of tag and their own room for a cozy shared blow-up bed under the stars. Absolutely nothing’s better than seeing those happy little faces smudged with marshmallows and those hands caked in dirt, especially when they’re nowhere near my nice, clean house.

But, boy, am I ever tired of overhearing everyone else’s campfire conversations all night long only to “wake up” stiff with back pain. I’m done freezing my ass and both tits off only to have to insert a quarter when I want to warm up in the shower. And I’m through trying to pitch that supposed “one minute pop-up tent” in a reasonable amount of time only to end up pitching a fit instead.

So this summer, we decided to lose the tent and instead rent a 25-ft house on wheels (otherwise known as an RV) for an eight day adventure through the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s a rundown of the top 15 things we learned renting an RV for a week:

1. Starting up the RV with all of your stuff in it and driving for the first time will scare the shit out of you. All our dishes, pots, pans and canned goods started colliding around in the cupboards the moment we stepped on the gas. The noise was initially so unsettling; I didn’t know how I was going to survive 192 hours and 1000 miles surrounded by that racket. Luckily we got used to it within just a couple of hours. And, even though I lived in a constant state of fear that all of those dishes were going to come careening down on us, for the most part everything stayed put. Sure, there was the time the fridge opened up on a hairpin right turn causing most of the contents to come crashing out onto the floor, but thankfully the bottle of wine was unharmed.

2. Being scared shitless is a good thing … because you won’t want to go #2 in the bathroom. In anticipation of our trip, we were happy to know that a bathroom would be following us around, catering to our every bodily whim. But that was before we realized that we have to then dump all of the accumulated bodily waste out of the RV so that the tanks don’t overflow. And that was before we realized that pooping in your RV bathroom is like pooping in your kitchen. Because they are right on top of one another. I am proud to say we never let anyone drop a deuce in our RV toilet. Instead, we scattered our feces all across the great state of Oregon at whatever filthy bathroom we could find. When the boys said they needed to poop, we would throw open the RV door and start yelling “Go to that bathroom. Hurry up! Run! RUN!! RUUNNNN!!!” A dog doesn’t shit where it sleeps and neither does this family.

3. Speaking of dumping …it takes on new meaning in an RV. You have several tanks in your standard RV. One for gas, one for fresh water, one for grey water and one for black water. Grey water is the waste water that comes from your sinks and shower. Black water comes from the toilet. Both are disgusting, but the black water is the reason they give you a pair of plastic gloves. All the signs you see for “Dumping Stations” are not crude places you go to leave a turd. It’s where you go to empty your grey and black water tanks and refill your fresh water. Needless to say, we felt like total freaking superheroes the first time we emptied our tanks.

4. We never truly felt clean after showering. Sure, the water was warm and the pressure was good, but something about showering in a tiny box less than 6 inches from the toilet led to a not-so-fresh feeling. It was still nice to have our own clean shower instead of having to brave the public campground showers, usually far worse and full of athlete’s foot (or other communicable diseases) which I have no interest in catching.

5. Even when I wasn’t building campfires I still seemed to set crap on fire. The RV was equipped with a full kitchen, including a refrigerator, freezer, 4-burner stove, oven and microwave, so we could pretty much make anything we would make at home (although roasting a 20 lb turkey ain’t happening in that tiny oven). Cooking all those meals inside the RV helped me discover the importance of the hood fan. Apparently you want to turn that on every time you use the stove or oven, otherwise the smoke detector will go off … repeatedly … and everyone in the RV park will know that you are a total newbie. In addition, you’re working with only about a foot of counter space. So it gets really crowded, especially when you’re prepping and cooking meals for an entire family. Suffice it to say that several paper towels, one dish rag, and even an oven mitt went up in smoke. But that was just all part of the show, folks!

6. A malfunctioning TV is not necessarily an emergency. Before we left the rental location, the staff told us how to operate the TV and DVD player: “Just turn it on and follow the prompts on the screen. It’s totally idiot proof. You really can’t screw it up!” The next day when we turned it on, we couldn’t get any stations to pop up. We figured there was just poor reception in the region. Two days later, when it still wasn’t working, we decided that being stuck in an RV for a week with 3 kids and no TV qualified as an emergency. So… we called the 1 800 Roadside Assistance number. The lady on the other line responded “I can never get the darn TV in my RV to work either. Besides, they don’t instruct us on how to troubleshoot them” before (presumably) moving on to an actual real life emergency. The good news is that the kids lasted an entire week without watching TV and they hardly whined about it.The bad news is that my partner and I (and the roadside assistance lady) are apparently dumber than a box of rocks.

7. God bless heat and A/C. We’re used to shivering all night long when camping in the Pacific Northwest. So it felt luxurious to be able to leave the wool hats and gloves at home, put on a normal pair of pajamas, and click on the heat to warm up the RV. In fact, the first couple of nights it was so warm outside we actually needed the A/C on. The vent blew right on the boys all night long as they slept in the double bed above the cab.

8. We never loved Benadryl more. Thanks to the A/C blowing on him all night, my son woke up with a full blown cold our second day of the trip. That night when we went to bed, he was up half the night blowing his nose. Loudly. Which meant that we were all up half the night hearing him blow his nose. The next day everyone was exhausted, so that night we came to our senses and gave him a dose of Benadryl. Same with the next night, and the next night, and the…. you get the idea. You hear everything in such tight quarters. So if you’re a light sleeper like me then you might want to drug the kid. Or yourself. Or both.

9. The only thing we loved more then Benadryl was the slow lane. I finally get why the slow lane exists! 70 miles per hour seems outrageously fast when all of your worldly goods are clanging and banging around you. Not to mention it’s just nice to stay put since it can be challenging merging into other lanes. It’s like East Coast in the left lane and the West coast in the right lane. Two totally different worlds!

10. We didn’t move around the RV while driving as much as we thought we would. We envisioned maneuvering around the RV at our leisure, cooking lunch while cruising down the highway, dancing around to the tunes on the radio. But every time one of us got up we’d sort of flop around the RV, at the mercy of the many windy roads we traveled. I’d get up intending to get something out of the pantry for the kids and end up being tossed onto the rear bed instead. Moving around didn’t seem as important as surviving. So… mostly we just sat.

11. My heart actually stopped the first time we filled our gas tank. In Oregon, they only have full service gas stations because that’s the law. When the gas station attendant returned to take our payment I actually screamed out in horror when he told us we owed $170. My brain started immediately tabulating how much money we were going to spend on gas during the trip, and how one of the kids was going to have to settle for community college now. (Later, when I realized that my SUV costs about $70 to fill up, it helped put things in perspective a little.) In the end we used less than 4 tanks of gas – not as much as I thought we were going to need. Still, we do have a really nice community college right down the road…

12. I finally understand why they have designated RV parking spots. I’m not even sure why they bother putting rearview mirrors in RV’s because you have to be insane to even try to use it. No matter what you do or how you maneuver yourself, you won’t be able to see a single inch of what’s behind you. You either need to just completely trust in the universe or you better have someone outside directing you, which can be treacherous for that person depending on the setting. So it’s just far better to not put yourself in a situation where you have to reverse. Ever. Hence the reason why those extra long RV parking spaces at rest areas and pull through campsites exist.

13. It turns out U-turns are not for u if u are in an RV. Occasionally, however, we found ourselves in a situation that required some backward maneuvering of the vehicle. Like the time we were lost on a very curvy road heading in the wrong direction (fuck you, Siri). We realized that if we didn’t turn around immediately, we might not be able to turn around for another twenty miles or more (which meant we’d have to back track the whole way and that’s oodles of time and, like, a car payments worth of gas $ right there). So I did what any sane person would do – prayed to God that none of the 530 residents of the town were coming around the bend and then flipped a bitch before reciting another prayer asking God to please not let us slide off the road into the ravine that lay behind me.

14. Having shelter is undeniably beautiful. When a wicked thunderstorm barreled through Crater Lake National Park and a hailstorm quickly followed, we were safely stashed inside the RV with warm teacups and books in hand. In the Pacific Northwest, with such unpredictable weather, it’s nice not having to rely only on your tent for shelter. We hoped for great weather during the day, but never gave a second thought to what Mother Nature was doing at night. That little hussy.

15. We can’t wait to do it again! I was sure something awful was going to happen. But it never did. We didn’t accidentally leave the side mirror defroster on and run our battery out. We didn’t accidentally pull away with the water and electricity still hooked up. We didn’t accidentally forget to put the slide-out back in before getting on the road. We didn’t accidentally reverse into anything. We didn’t accidentally damage the RV. We didn’t accidentally leave one of our children at the gift shop. Okay, I admit we did do that but it only took us a few (ahem, 20) minutes to realize it.

I can only imagine what the next trip will bring.

About the writer


Jill Ginsberg has several 3-letter certifications behind her signature but the one she is most known for having is OCD. As a Writer, Holistic Nutrition Coach and the mother of three wild little humans, she relishes order, tends to think in lists, appreciates humor and doesn't mind offending people. You can find her at, a lighthearted lifestyle and wellness blog that helps moms lose their shit and get it together at the same time. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


mel 10 months ago

love our RV, finding a place to store is a bummer, but being able to go to bed on a Friday night and say we are going to … tomorrow, priceless. we have a electric water heater, o 6min showers for us, and I;m a nurse emptying the tank thing no problem.

Lisa 1 year ago

My father bought a new RV this September and drove it for the first time down to a campground near where we live. What did I do? I drove my car into it (albeit slowly)! The RV was fine, but I did about $5K in damages to my car and really upset the baby!!!

Carl Dana Jackson 1 year ago

Actually, I looked forward to reading this — until I read it!

All the writer did was bitch and moan!


It sure didn’t make for fun reading.

If you don’t like adventure and the unpredictable, don’t rent — or buy, for that matter — an RV!

Misty Herd-Stiff 1 year ago

First class flight, all inclusive to Mexico …thanks….side note: momma’s who are brave enough to do this whole rv/camper/possible sewage pump/ bug infestation…KUDOS!!! If there was a prize in the gift shop in Mexico I would send it to ya. You totally deserve it!

Pamela Adams 1 year ago

Doing it now as I type this!

Meg Reilley 1 year ago

Only if I either drunk or medicated the entire time!

Lilly Zavala 1 year ago

Funny!! Can’t wait for our trip!!! Took these tips very seriously thank you!!!

Andrea Anderson 1 year ago

This sounds awful. Only thing that sounds worse would be sleeping in a tent.

Sarah Julia Herrmann 1 year ago

I would only do one that can be disconnected from a car. We rent a tent trailer (one we didn’t have to put up and down would be great!). There are always places we want of go that are not realistic with a big RV. Plus, the gas costs….
I’m in Iceland though so being able to leave your camper at a campground is a must. You would miss so may great sights if you couldn’t go off paved roads.
There are swimming pools in every town here so no problem keeping clean–you COMPLETELY wash (hair and body–with shampoo and soap and without a swimsuit) before going into the pool.

Kirsty Sweeting 1 year ago

weve have done in a caravan 2 dogs 1 toddlers and young baby was lovely. i wouldnt do an aeroplane holiday!

Kayla Barnett 1 year ago

We went on an RV trip when I was 10. There were 5 kids ranging in age from 12-7. 3 days into our 8 day trip I was suddenly overcome with uncontrollable vomiting and pain in my lower right quadrant… This lead to an appendectomy in the middle of Florida a whole days drive from home… Riding home in an RV with stitches in my stomach was miserable.

Emily Audirsch 1 year ago

I lived in an RV with my family of 9 kids and 2 parents for 16 months. Went through 22 states. So much fun.

Kate Cooke 1 year ago

We camp in our RV all weekend – every weekend – during ski season. It’s crazy but fun. However with three long haired females, one shortish haired male and three hairy dogs, our RV is a “bit” hairy by the end of the weekend!! Plus hanging up the wet ski gear is an exercise in creative use of space.

Jesserea Morgan 1 year ago

We LIVE in our travel trailer. My husband is a pipeliner so we move about every 3-8 months.

Amanda Liebeck 1 year ago


Melissa Simpson Howell 1 year ago

Bring hand sanitizer and drop cords!

Belynda Kirby 1 year ago

We did a month in northern WA with a 3 year old and a 12 month old. My tip? Don’t do it 😉

Amanda 1 year ago

We own a 31 ft motorhome and love it!!!
secure your fridge door ( camping world sells em) & stuff it full so it doesn’t bang around!
Don’t store heavy items above! (Bad)
Use the tub for bikes, storage etc.
Fuel is really expensive, plan on $500 a 800-1000 mile trip!
Watch out for lower brsnches=awning damage! Oops
Have fun & don’t forget the chocolate!

Mary E. Williams 1 year ago

We love ours! We have had our RV for 14 months and have went on countless adventures with our two daughters, 10 & 12. The best, our pillow top mattress! It’s our second home. We have it stocked and ready to go at all times. The key to an RV is to use it! Just got back from a two night trip camping by river.

Katherine 1 year ago

Lesson learned from five months across Australia with 5 & 3: Take WAY less than you think you need. If you really need a replacement, try a thrift shop. Showers at public pools or rec centres are a luxurious break if your own is too small/ cold/ just annoying.

Vanessa Janik 1 year ago

Rented one & went up the coast (Ca) camped in Big Sur right on a cliff.. Then Monterey (camped on Marina Dunes) & rented a car for a day trip to San Fran. It was a blast. My boys got a little restless w/all the driving but it was worth it. RV camping is the only way 2 go for me!

Shelly Spaeth Cottle 1 year ago

My family went RVing with my grandparents every year when I was little. My tips: BUNGEE CORDS are lifesavers for holding things in place, pack clothes economically and plan to use laundromats, and last but not least, pack plenty of patience and a sense of humor. We still laugh about all the places we have broken down–side of a hilly 2-lane highway, front entrance of campground, every other place in between!

Stacy Arnold 1 year ago

Just got home today from a week of it. My tips? Don’t do it for longer than 3 days, prepare for the tiniest/quickest showers ever, grey water tanks reek too, the a/c is always wrong (too cold or hot as hell), LOTS of spare clothes, xbox if you have a tv or leave the kid with gramma, pets are holy terrors, prepare for little or no sleep and you will sweep every 10 minutes because small spaces trigger OCD you never knew you had :-/ All in all, it’s worth it. Even if only just once :)

Morgan McQuade 1 year ago

We have a camper and wouldn’t travel any other way. We do take occasional plane trips, but this is so convenient because we have two toddlers and four dogs. Our own rest stop, make our own food instead of stopping along the way or carrying a huge cooler. Plus we can sleep in our own linens each night. When we stay with family we have our own place while we are there…I love it!! We reserve the tv for when it’s raining that way our kids are always outside enjoying family time with us.

Alexis Bruzzi 1 year ago

Not for a zillion dollars! But I’d gladly go alone.

Melissa Mau Holahan 1 year ago

Probably a big mistake, but I would love to :-) My mom, brother and I along withy Aunt and cousins drove through New England in one for a summer vacation when we were little. I remember having fun, should probably ask my mom how much fun it was being the adult :-)

Ann-Marie Cahill 1 year ago

Hubby and I did the mini-campervan around NZ. Loved it! Now planning the 5-berthed with kids next year. Hold me…

Chelle Collywobbles 1 year ago

Love to

Amanda Barker Mitchell 1 year ago

We’re planning to do this with our kids in the near future. We have been tent campers, but now the ground seems to be getting harder the older I get. J Adam Mitchell

Christina Stepnitz Crise 1 year ago

My family and I traveled several times in an RV, the longest trip lasting five weeks (Alaska). Two adults, three kids, and one medium sized dog in a small RV. We had a blast! So many fond memories. My husband and I plan to do this once we can afford an RV.

Danielle Maher Wetenkamp 1 year ago

No. No. No.

Dinene Knighten 1 year ago

Hell no. Just no.

Jennifer Smuck 1 year ago

Can you not get this as an app anymore?

Amelia White 1 year ago

This is something that is on our to-do list :-)

Tiffany Bartoo Craig 1 year ago

We have a camper and love it! Give me a camper and some awesome family time over being stuck on a plane with smelly strangers going to someplace that I will probably be disappointed in anyway and then staying in a hotel where I can only imagine what was done on the bed previous to my arrival. I will take mosquitoes over bed bugs any day!!!

Erica Jo Shaver 1 year ago

Let me tell you the down side…the damn thing is huge. Dont use tiny gas stations or you’ll end up crashing into the pump barrier. Dont listen to your grandpa when he says “back it into my yard” there was a small ditch, the sewage plug broke off spilling it everywhere. The gas tank cover wasn’t attached so it got left in alabama, somewhere. Dont get sick or you’ll have to lower the awning and drive to the store. Dont take other people’s kids..they “dont have time” to go to the bathroom..crap everywhere..hosed it off, with cold water. Kids climb above the driver seats and make gestures at passing cars, hang their crap out the windows, and spy. If you have a slide-out, DO NOT take crayons or anything small..they get stuck in the slider. Expect to spend about $2000 more than you originally planned..because of the wreck and all.. Plus side-great memories to laugh about for the rest of your life. Did I forget anything Amy Eacret Walters?

Irene Amaya 1 year ago

Nope not for me!I want to keep my sanity.

Clarissa 1 year ago

As someone who has used a RV to go camping since birth I couldn’t help but laugh at some of these… you really do get used to pooping and showering in the teeny bathroom, and while you will never cook while driving you do get used to walking around successfully and might even venture into making a quick sandwich. Also when you have your own you get used to putting soft things (like dish towels) between dishes and packing them so they don’t move therefore avoiding the shifting sound.

Nicole Kirch ODonnell 1 year ago

That’s how we always vacation! 2 adults, 4 kids, 2 dogs and a hamster. We love the family friendly campground atmosphere♡

Shannan Arty Eisenklam 1 year ago

Jesus- hell, no! Are you on crack?

Cyndi Bernsen Brown 1 year ago


Emily Peterson 1 year ago

We have an RV and it’s the only way to go. Especially with little ones. As long as there are water/electric/sewage hookups life is good. One hint though for people who plan on renting one. When you leave make sure all the water/sewage tanks are empty. Fill up the fresh water tank when you get to your destination and when you leave empty your sewage and your fresh water. This will give you way better gas mileage.

Samantha Bostic 1 year ago

We tent camp with a 3 year old and honestly she’s way better behaved on vacation than ever at home! I have never left a trip saying “I will never do this again” that includes 14 hour car rides

Elizabeth McCosky 1 year ago

Definitely, it’s a blast! Went with my parents, daughter and a couple of my brother friends when my brother graduated boot camp and we all talk about doing it again.

JoAnn Strickland Jacob 1 year ago

I could have written this! We did this last month with our kids! I still vomit a little when I recall our “black water” tank experience! Love it!!

Sabrina McGrath 1 year ago

I have done this (well, the Irish campervan version!) with my family (pets included) and there can only be one winner Valerie Ann..The lawyers! Lol. Nightmare on wheels! We always thought it seemed like a fab idea, we now tut and shake our heads sympathetically when we pass them on the road and think of its poor occupants in that tiny confined space! Definitely not the holiday for this family!

Jennie Stolfi 1 year ago

We do it all the time! No technology or tv allowed in our motor home just family time.

Barbara Mastroddi-Lackey 1 year ago

I actually want to do this with my husband and daughter. The plan is to go on a two-week trip of various national parks; I took a similar trip with the Girl Scouts as a teen and it was one of the best experiences I had visitng around this great country of ours.

Terry Janzen 1 year ago

YouTube tutorial for the hook ups and pack some pre cooked food. Muffins, chili, potato salad. … keeps you from getting hangry lol

Jennifer Shepard Camacho 1 year ago

Yes! The hubby and me, two kids (9 and 7) and two big Labs. We traveled in February in Central California for a three-day weekend. Pre-made food so we could just heat it up. Will bring extra blankets next time.

Sharon 1 year ago

I cannot even tell you how much I love our rv. We bought one two years ago and have never looked back. Best family vacations.

Erica Jo Shaver 1 year ago

They didnt wreck?

Valerie Ann 1 year ago

I can’t wait to do this with my family (pets included!) but hubby disagrees – we shall see who wins one day!

Maria Grant 1 year ago

Of course…it’s a blast. Just spent a month in ours. Super easy

Jessica Josh Marek Pman 1 year ago

Husband and kids, yes. We actually own one because they are way better than hotels!

Rachelle Dixon 1 year ago

We took a 3 week trip across the country in our van with 2 kids ( a 10year old and a 16 year old) We would get a hotel about every 3days. My tip is leave the 16 year old home . :)

    Meg Reilley 1 year ago

    Baahaaaahaaaa! I have a 16 year old, too!

Breanna Brinkerhoff 1 year ago

yup! overpack clean clothes, linens, and snacks. Bring extra flashlights, and if you hve a baby, a super yard or playpen. if the RV doesnt have a tub, a giant tote like youd use to pack swimming or bbq supplies works great and you can bathe kids as old as 6 or 7 in it at night when campsite-to-site visibility is low. Then towel dry them on the RV steps and pass them inside clean to be jammied.

Tricia Rathgeber 1 year ago

Just did it over Fourth of July week with 4 kids, my husband and my mom, but not in an RV, just our SUV. We repeatedly watched Frozen and the Lego Movie. Those are no memorized and “Everything is Awesome” is my iPhone ringtone lmfao!!


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