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Monday, April 22, 2019

Getting Ready For Our First RV Road Trip

Are you getting ready to go on your first RV road trip? Read this post to find out what we did to get ready for ours for help in making your first road trip a smooth ride.

Make sure that your car is ready for your first trip, especially if you are pulling your RV. Our post, Getting The Car Ready For A Road Trip, to see the checklist we use before we hit the road.

Visiting as many National Parks as possible is on top of our Bucket List.  We talked about seeing them all once we retired.   We have been retired 3 years now and have visited one park, Great Smoky Mountains, partly because it is only 6 hours away from our home in NC.  (Read about our trip here.)  The more we thought about how we would get to the many parks on the West Coast and the others across the country, the more we thought that we would have to get an RV.  Flying to the parks, renting cars, staying at hotels and eating out 3 times a day would be too expensive for our retirement budget.**

We had conversations about taking a cross country trip in an RV before but we gave up on the idea because we were very nervous about towing a big camper and about having to buy a very expensive truck to tow it with.  But since we realized that camping our way to the parks would be the only way we could really do it, we started to consider looking for a pop-up.  We would be able to tow it with our van and we had seen pop-ups with bathrooms so it might work.  A couple of the families we went camping with every year, for about 15 years, camped in pop-ups, while we camped in a tent.  It didn't look that hard to tow or set up.   So one day, after talking to my sister and brother-in-law about traveling to the West Coast together after they retire, we all decided to go to Camping World to check the pop-ups out.

Our old reliable tent.  That's son, Joe, posing for the picture!

A very nice salesman was glad to show us a pop-up but asked if we wanted to see the RV he has and loves.  It is called a hybrid.  It is a small 18 foot towable RV that has full sized beds on both sides of the trailer that pop out like the ones in the pop-up.  We said "Sure!"  He showed us how easy it was to pull the beds down.  Then, he told us, "All you have to do is balance it, hook up the water and electric and you're ready to relax with a cold drink."  He sold us on the hybrid as soon as he told us we could tow it with our van!

We took a quick look at the pop-ups but thought about how much easier the hybrid was to set up.  We decided that if we did get something it would be the Starcraft Launch Outfitter 16RB.  We only had to think about it for a very short time before we went back to Camping World to purchase it.

So now we had an RV and had to figure out how to use it.  It was going to be a little more complicated than pitching a tent.  The nice people at Camping World went over everything we needed to know about how to hitch it up to our van, how we get water into and out of it and how to balance it along with many other things we needed to know.  It was pretty overwhelming and we were wondering if we made a mistake buying it.  We started to feel nervous about actually camping with it but we didn't have a choice of whether we were ready to try camping with it or not because of the 30 day warranty that came with the Launch.   We had to use it to make sure everything was working properly and we had to do it soon.  We decided that we would take a short trip with it at the campground nearest to our home.  

The closest campground was Lake Kissimmee State Park and only a 15 minute drive from our house.  Perfect!  And what made it even more perfect was that it only cost $20.00 a day to camp there.  Then we found out that since we were Florida residents and seniors, it would only cost us $10.00.  We were thinking this kind of traveling might work out very well for us.

We made our reservation for mid-week because all the weekends were booked for months ahead.  We packed up some camping gear, which was not much because everything we still had from camping years ago, was in our NC house.  We made a menu of easy meals, mostly food we could warm up in the microwave or on the stove in the trailer.  We weren't too worried about our supplies because we could just go back down the road to our house and get anything we forgot.

The day of our first trip arrived.  We were packed and felt confident we had everything we needed.  When we brought our trailer home from Camping World, it was already hitched up to our car and ready for us to drive it home.  This was the very first thing we had to figure out all by ourselves.   

Soko pulled the van up a few feet from the front of the RV.  I stood by the trailer hitch.  Soko slowly backed the car towards the trailer hitch.  The car hitch was about 10 inches to the left of the trailer hitch when Soko stopped the car, even though I had been waving my arms like crazy for him to move the car to the right.  He pulls up and tries again and instead is too far to the right now.  This scenario repeated many times.  We started out calmly trying to line up the car and trailer and ended up screaming at each other!   After about 20 - 25 minutes, we finally got the car hooked up to the RV but we were very discouraged about our ability to own this thing!

We drove slowly and carefully to the campground and arrived at our site.   I once again had to direct Soko.  This time to back the trailer into our campsite.  Luckily, it was a big site and it was not a big deal.  That really helped us to start feeling a little better about being able to figure RVing out.  

After we pulled out the beds, leveled the trailer and hooked up the water and electric, we were ready to break open the beers, relax and enjoy our little vacation.  We really do love to camp and, finally, we were feeling very happy with our decision to buy the Launch.

We were also happy to find Lake Kissimmee State Park.  It was quiet and peaceful and a perfect place to camp and enjoy nature.  There were some campers who were there to take their boats out to fish and others, like us, who used the few trails to walk and bike along.  There was a store, that was closed for the season, but you could sit at one of the picnic tables around it and use the internet if you wanted.

We stayed two nights and then it was time to pack up.  Soko unhooked the hoses and electrical cords and took care of packing up everything that was outside while I took care of the inside.  I needed to take some things out of the trailer, make sure that the things we were leaving inside the camper were secure and gave it a quick but good cleaning.  We worked together, like we did two days before, to hitch the trailer to the car.  Surprisingly, we had them hitched together in less than half the time it took us when we first tried it.  We were not sure if we just got lucky or if my directing and Soko's driving improved!

Now for disposing of the gray and black water.  We used the campgrounds bathrooms except for during the night.  We also used their facilities to take showers and their sinks to wash most of our dishes.  We were not sure exactly how much the trailer's water tanks held and we didn't know what would happen if we overfilled them and we didn't want to find out.    

We drove to the dump station and Soko figured out how to hook up the hoses and flush out the water. We found out that the tanks were barely filled after two days of camping which was good to know before our first road trip.

We made it home safely and felt pretty good about our first trial run.


The second trial run we took was to a campground about 30 minutes from our home and down the same road as Lake Kissimmee.  Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo  was where we met up with our son Mike, DIL Chrissy and their friends Bronson and Chloe to celebrate Mike's 30th birthday.

This campground was more expensive than the state park, $60 per night, but it was a fun place with plenty of activities.  A perfect place to party!  We had a great time skeet shooting, grilling, relaxing around the campfire and rooting the bull riders on at the rodeo.  


The best thing about this place was that we could walk to all the activities from our campsite.  We definitely would have visited the petting zoo if we had kids with us.  Some other things we could have done, maybe next time, was ride the mechanical bull, horseback riding, zip lining, swim in the pool, eat at one of their restaurants or have a couple of drinks at the bar.  And that's not even half of the activities that are offered here. 

The only real challenge we had on this trip, was that the sites with electricity were all booked for the weekend.  We actually hesitated about making the reservation, but Mike's friends had already booked a cabin, which is one of many choices of accommodations here besides for camping.  You can even choose to go glamping in a tee pee here!

We have never been camping at a campsite without electric but we decided to give it a shot. We are glad that we did because we learned a couple of things from the experience.  We found out that we could run our refrigerator with the propane tank, that is hooked up to the trailer, for longer than we thought.  

Soko heard a click, after 180 hours of having the fridge running on the propane, and thought it was the fridge shutting down but it turns out that the click Soko heard was not the fridge.  When he went to fill the propane tank, after we got back, we found out it was just a little more than 1/4 empty.  We could have run the fridge our entire trip and more.  We were glad we found this out before our first road trip.

Knowing that we wouldn't have electricity, we brought plenty of lanterns and used our propane stove and a grill to cook.  We didn't miss not being able to use the microwave or stove.  The lanterns gave us plenty of light inside and out.  Luckily, we didn't need to use the air conditioning or we might have missed that.  After we got back from this trip, we bought a fan that runs on batteries, as well as electric, just in case we camp without electricity again.  We never would have looked for a fan that was battery operated if we didn't camp without electric.

For our first official road trip, two of the four campgrounds we booked don't have water hook ups.  We only booked them after Soko assured me that we will be able to use our bathroom in the middle of the night.  It seems we have a holding tank for water that we can fill at the campground that will allow us to use the bathroom and wash dishes in our sink.  We are not sure how many times we can use the bathroom or how many dishes we can wash though.  It will be another learning experience for us.

We will let you know how our first road trip goes when we get back!  Wish us luck!

**Comparing the cost of traveling (not counting air fare compared to driving and towing the Launch)

Cost of trailer - $14,000 (rounded up)

Two nights accommodations at Lake Kissimmee                                                 $      20.00
Four nights accommodations at River Ranch                                                             240.00 
Dining out                                                                                                                       0.00
Rental car                                                                                                                        0.00
Total                                                                                                                       $   260.00

Six nights accommodations at hotel (avg. $150 per night)                                   $   900.00
Dining out (3 meals for 2 people = $100 per day)                                                     600.00
Rental car ($50 per day)                                                                                             300.00
Total                                                                                                                       $1,800.00                   
Total savings after our first two trips with the Launch                                          $1,540.00                    
$14,000 - 1,540 =  $12,460 - The Launch will pay for itself very soon!     

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  1. Oooh Sounds like a fun way to camp. Thanks for sharing with the #DreamTeam

    1. So far it has been. Taking off tomorrow for the real test of how we like RV traveling!

  2. Sounds like you are well on your way to figuring it all out. My grandparents owned an RV and I can remember going on vacations with them when I was younger... I never appreciated how much work goes into one and preparing for a trip until I was an adult. What a great way to start ticking items off the bucket list! Thanks for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

    1. We are leaving tomorrow for our first road trip. We actually are meeting our son, DIL and grandson to join them on the baby's first camping trip. I am hoping that he will remember going on vacations in our RV. It made me so happy to hear that you remember the vacations you spent with your grandparents in their RV!!

  3. Looks like a fun and relaxing trip! Thanks for sharing at the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home! --Jennifer

    1. Yes it was! Thank you for hosting your nice party every week!

  4. Enjoy your trailer. Camping is always fun!

  5. That looks like tons of fun. #alittlebitofeverything

  6. Just a fun way to road trip... thanks for sharing it with us at #alittlebitofeverything

    1. Yes it is! Thanks for hosting your party each week!

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting and for your kind words. Please come back soon!

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