Packing is one of the challenges of planning any trip. I always seem to forget something. The solution is to write detailed packing lists that you can check off as you fill the RV.
What should you pack for an RV trip? Pack the necessities first. Fill the galley with kitchen supplies, pack toiletries in the bathroom, and ensure that you bring fresh changes of clothes. Extra blankets, emergency supplies, and entertainment are also recommended.
While an RV may offer lots of cargo room, deciding exactly what you need to bring can be stressful. To simplify the process, I’ve created this guide to packing lists for RV trips.
How to Start Packing for an RV Trip
It’s easy to get carried away, packing half of your house into the RV before driving off. However, bringing too much may lead to clutter and unnecessary stress.
Before you start filling the storage compartments and cabinets of your trailer or RV, take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:
- How long will you be gone?
- How many people are you traveling with?
- How much room do you have in the RV?
- Will you have access to electricity and water hookups?
- What will the weather be like?
- What do you plan to eat during your trip?
The answers to these questions help determine what you need to bring. If you’re only going to be gone for a few days, you only need a few changes of clothes. If you’re gone for a couple of weeks, you may also need laundry detergent as well as more clothes.
It’s easier to prepare for a trip when you’ve considered these details. It also helps to divide your packing lists into categories, allowing you to focus on one area at a time. Some of the main groups of items that you’ll likely need include:
- Kitchen supplies and food
- Toiletries and healthcare supplies
- Clothing and bedding
- Entertainment and recreation
- Emergency supplies
- Camping gear
RVs and trailers are typically equipped with a small kitchen, bathroom, and one or more sleeping areas. This allows you to travel in comfort, bringing many of the same things that you use at home each day. Take the time to go through each of these categories to avoid the headache of leaving anything behind.
Pack Your Essential Kitchen Gear
One of the benefits of traveling in an RV is having a portable mini kitchen for preparing food instead of needing to cook around the campfire or eat at restaurants.
To determine what I need to bring, I plan out meals for most of the trip. Make a list of what you plan to eat and then create a second list of necessary kitchen items and ingredients. A typical packing list may include:
- Bowls and plates
- Drinkware and utensils
- Cooking pots and pans
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Mixing bowls
- Bottle opener
- Cooking utensils such as tongs, spoons, and spatulas
- Dish soap and hand soap
- Sponges and scouring pads
- Towels and rags
- Trash bags
- Food containers
Keep in mind that you may not need everything listed. If you only plan on grilling burgers, you may not need measuring spoons. Just think of the meals that you plan to eat and the items that you need to handle food preparation.
There are also a few tips to avoid food spoilage during your trip. While your RV may have a mini fridge and counters, take care of as much food preparation before you go as you can. You’ll reduce the risk of contaminating your food and eliminate the need to bring as many kitchen items.
Some foods can be frozen before you leave, increasing their shelf life during the trip. For example, you can freeze meats and then allow them to slowly thaw in the RV fridge.
It’s a good idea to keep food and drinks separate. Instead of filling the fridge with cans of soda pop, store the drinks in a cooler. Save the space for food as you can always chill the drinks for a few hours.
As a word of caution, things move around a lot inside the RV. When packing kitchen supplies in an RV, avoid breakable items. Skip glass cups and porcelain dishware for plastic items.Outdoorsy RV Rentals – #1 Trusted RV Rentals. Low On Cost, High On Adventure. $1M Insurance Included. Plan Your Trip Now!
While many RVs include refrigerators, it’s also important to realize that they may not always have power. Keeping the fridge running requires battery power. If you plan a long RV trip, you should rely more on foods that don’t require refrigeration, such as canned goods and packaged foods.
If you decide to fill the fridge with items that require refrigeration, turn on the fridge the day before your trip. It can take up to 24 hours for a typical RV fridge to cool down to a suitable temperature as they are not as efficient as standard household fridges.
Stock Up on Your Toiletries and Health Aids
After filling the galley with supplies, start stocking the bathroom. Remember to include any medications or health aids that you require.
Most RVs include a toilet, sink, and walk-in shower. As with the kitchen area of the RV, it’s important to bring the items that you tend to use at home, such as soap, shampoo, and towels. However, it’s also easy to forget things that you may only need occasionally.
The most essential toiletries and personal items include:
- Soap, shampoo, and conditioner
- Toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste
- Brushes, combs, and hair ties
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Contact lens case and contact solution
- Cotton swabs
Some people only feel clean when they’re freshly shaven. You may also want to bring razors, shaving cream, and aftershave. Personally, I find that shaving is too messy to deal with on an RV trip so I pack an electric razor to get rid of the stubble.
You should also include any items that you use regularly for health reasons. For example, depending on your medical conditions, you may need denture cream, a cane, or extra batteries for a hearing aid.
If you take medications, you need to follow a few extra steps. For example, you may need to keep medications cold when traveling. In these situations, an insulated medication cooler bag or a plug-in cooler is your best option.
Medication cooler bags typically include freezable inserts that help keep prescriptions at a colder temperature. As an added precaution, place medications in a sealable plastic bag before placing them in the cooler.
A plug-in cooler also allows you to keep medications cool. These coolers typically plug into an outlet in the console and only require a minimal amount of power. The reason to avoid placing the medication in the RV fridge is for protection in case food gets spilled while driving.
Bring Suitable Clothing and Extra Bedding
The next area of your RV to pack is the bedroom. Depending on how long you plan to be gone, you may need several changes of clothes.
For trips that last less than a week, I typically bring one fresh change of clothes for each day plus one or two extra sets. Bringing extra socks and underwear is also a good idea.
Longer trips may not always require more clothes. Some RVs are equipped with small washers and dryers. If your RV doesn’t have one, you may choose to add a travel washer/dryer. Instead of bringing your entire wardrobe, you can do laundry once or twice. Just remember to bring laundry detergent.
While it’s important to dress for the weather that you expect, it’s hard to predict the weather. Meteorologists are not correct 100% of the time. Always bring a few items for warmer and cooler weather.
Even if it’s going to be sunny and in the 80s during the day, temperatures may drop in the evening. Bring sweaters, jackets, and extra blankets.
Besides clothes, you need bedding. If you’ve got bedding still on the bed from your last trip, make sure that you wash it before your next trip.
Pack Entertainment and Recreational Gear
Spending more time outdoors is one of the reasons to go on an RV trip but sometimes you simply want to sit in the RV or on a picnic bench and relax with a good book. Bring things to keep you and your family entertained.
Pack a few books and magazines along with some fun outdoor yard games. Ladder ball, hula hoops, and horseshoes are all things that you or your kids can play with inside a campground without the need for electricity.
You may also want to bring a few traditional camping items. These items are easy to overlook when you plan to spend most of your time in the RV:
- Bug spray and insect repellant
- Visors, hats, and sunglasses
- Beach towels
- Camp chairs
- An outdoor mat for shoes
After you pull into an RV park, you may want to enjoy the outdoors. These items help you stay clean, comfortable, and free of bug bites.
There are also a few miscellaneous items that you may need, such as:
- Phone chargers
- Maps and directions
- Reservation confirmations
These days, fewer electronics use disposable batteries. However, you may need to bring a few extra batteries for your flashlights.
Always Travel with Emergency Supplies
One of the joys of RVing is traveling to remote areas in the middle of nowhere. If you plan on boondocking, it’s a good idea to bring emergency supplies.
While you have a shelter inside your RV, you may need to venture out for help. Pack a survival kit before your RV trip just as you would pack if you were camping or hiking. A typical survival kit includes:
- First aid kit
- Basic tools
- Food and water
- Signals or flares
A first aid kit is recommended for any trip. In fact, I like to keep a kit in the glove box of my regular vehicle. A good first aid kit should include bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic solution, tweezers, adhesive tape, gauze pads, alcohol wipes, and antiseptic wipes.
Of course, there are dozens of other items that you can add to a first aid kit. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of gathering these items, there are many prepackaged kits that include everything you need.
Basic tools should be kept in your RV as you never know when you may need a hammer, screwdriver, or wire cutters. You should also pack extra fuses in case you blow one or more during your trip.
A package of fuses is a cheap purchase. You can typically get over 100 fuses for less than $10. First, check the owner’s manual to determine what type of fuses you need. A fuse tester is also useful for testing the fuses to determine if they’ve gone bad.
Keep a spare flashlight in your emergency kit. This flashlight should be separate from any extra flashlights that you decide to bring on your trip. You don’t want the batteries in your emergency flashlight running out.
Food and water are also items that should be included in a survival kit even if your RV fridge and pantry are fully stocked. Dry foods such as jerky, nuts, and seeds are perfect choices as they take up limited space and have long shelf lives.
Unfortunately, water takes up too much space to bring extra. Instead of adding bottled water to your survival kit, pack an emergency water filter or purifier. In most regions, you’re never far from a source of water. With a purifier, you always have access to fresh water.
Signals and flares are recommended for signaling for help in case of an emergency. As with some of the other items in your survival kit, it’s a good idea to keep a flare in the trunk or glove compartment of any vehicle. Besides signals, you should also pack a spare blanket for each person in your RV.
While blankets can help keep you warm, it’s also smart to bring supplies for added warmth. A magnesium fire starter and flint provide an easy solution for starting a fire in almost any weather. However, it can be a little tricky the first time. This short video explains the best method for starting a fire with a magnesium fire starter:
Learn How to Change a Fuse in Your RV
One of the most common issues that RV owners experience is blown fuses. It’s also one of the easiest electrical issues to solve on your own without hiring a mechanic.
Fuses typically get blown when you try to power too many appliances and devices while hooked up to the electrical grid at a campground or park.
If you exceed the wattage available, you’ll likely trip a circuit. When a circuit breaker gets tripped, there is a small risk of a fuse getting blown. If the circuit gets tripped frequently, there is a greater risk of blowing a fuse.
Luckily, replacing the fuse is easy. With most RVs, you simply need to disconnect from the electrical hookup or turn off the engine and then replace the fuse. The old fuse pulls right out while the new fuse goes in its place. You may not even need any tools.
Tips for Keeping Your RV Organized and Safe
If you pack everything discussed, every cupboard and storage compartment in your RV is likely to get filled. With limited living space, it’s easy for things to get disorganized and cluttered. It’s also possible for things to fall off shelves or bang into each other while driving.
Use the following tips to keep your RV organized:
- Store items in containers or totes instead of bags
- Wedge items into cupboards and tight spaces
- Use bungee cords to secure large items
- Empty your trash at every stop
As mentioned, it’s easy for things to move around when you’re driving. To keep things in place, store items in containers or plastic totes. They are easier to stack and secure compared to plastic bags or fabric totes.
It also helps to wedge items into spaces to help keep things from sliding around. For example, you may find that two containers fit perfectly below a cabinet or underneath the table.
Bungee cords are essential for RV travel. You can use bungee cords to secure containers throughout the RV. Connect one end of the bungee cord to a cabinet knob or hook and then secure the other end as far as it can stretch. You then have a stable cord for keeping items in place.
It’s surprising how much trash you can accumulate in just one day, especially when traveling with the family. If you want to keep the trash from spilling out everywhere, ensure that you empty it at every stop. Every gas station, rest area, campground, and park should have a dumpster, making this an easy tip to follow.
How to Prepare for Your First RV Adventure
If this is your first RV trip, there are several details that you may overlook. Before hitting the open road, take a moment to review these beginner RV preparation tips:
- Learn more about your RV
- Practice driving your RV
- Plan your route
- Determine if you need reservations
Knowing your RV inside and out isn’t required but is helpful. While you may not need to know how to solve mechanical issues, you should know the height, width, length, and weight of your RV. You should also know how to change a tire and replace blown fuses. Luckily, these steps are covered in the owner’s manual for your RV.
In some states, driving an RV may require a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Typically, if the RV weighs more than a specific weight, the CDL is needed. Due to the larger size, driving a motorhome isn’t the same as driving a sedan or SUV.
You need to take wider turns and avoid turns that are greater than 90 degrees. Backing up can also be a challenge. Personally, I use a backup camera as most RVs make it almost impossible to see directly behind the vehicle.
Before traveling on a highway, you may want to practice driving your RV around town. There will be more opportunities to make tight turns and practice your parking. You may also feel more comfortable driving in an area that you’re familiar with compared to unknown highways and byways.
Planning is the central theme of this guide. You need to plan everything from the items that you bring to the route that you take. Even if you don’t stick to your plans, you should have a general route that you intend to take.
Let a family member, friend, or coworker know about your travel plans. Provide someone with a list of the places that you intend to visit. If an emergency occurs, at least someone knows the general area where you planned to travel.
After planning your route, choose some of the places where you’ll stay and determine if reservations are needed. National forests and grasslands are often open to the public and allow dry camping without any reservations. However, you’ll want to make reservations for any RV parks or campgrounds, especially during peak travel seasons.
How to Keep Kids Entertained During an RV Trip
Before a big trip, the entire family is likely to be excited to get away from the house and see some new sights. Unfortunately, after a few hours on a boring highway, kids tend to get bored. It doesn’t take long for children to start asking if you’re almost there.
When packing, ensure that you bring entertainment for the children. While today’s kids grow up around technology, try to include items that don’t require batteries or a micro USB charger, such as:
- Card games
- Board games
- Activity books
- Coloring books
- Road games
Pack some card games, board games, and books to keep your children busy and entertained. There are also road games that you can play, such as spotting license plates from different states or playing I Spy.
Of course, you won’t be able to completely avoid technology. Your child will likely want to bring his or her phone, tablet, or handheld video game system. If the RV isn’t equipped with a USB port in the driver’s console, you can purchase USB car adapters.
Keep in mind that charging these items will use battery power. Avoid charging electronics while parked. Plug in the device when you’re driving. While you may only be able to charge one device at a time, you’re less likely to drain the battery.
You may also want to prepare these electronics before the trip. Most streaming services allow you to download titles for viewing when you don’t have Internet access. You can download your child’s favorite shows and then use a tablet holder that attaches to the back of a seat.
Besides TV and movies, consider downloading a few new games or apps on phones and tablets. Even if your child gets bored with the new app within a few hours, it’s better than listening to your child repeatedly ask how much longer until you reach your destination.
Should you use a 30-amp or 50-amp cord?
While many RV campgrounds have both 50-amp and 30-amp electrical hookups, there are still many locations that only support 30 amps. If you already have a 50-amp cord, purchase a 50 to 30-amp adapter.
How do you know if you’ve tripped a circuit?
First, check the GFCI receptacles by pressing the reset button on each receptacle. If the lights in the RV remain off, reset any tripped circuit breakers in the main electrical box. If the lights remain off, a fuse is likely blown.
How many appliances and devices can an RV power?
To determine the total wattage available, multiply the voltage of the electrical hookup or battery by the voltage of the RV electrical system, which is either 30 or 50 amps. Subtract the total wattage of the fridge, AC, and other components to determine how much electricity is left for other devices.
Can you leave the RV fridge running 24 hours a day?
RV fridges do not use compressors so they use less electricity, allowing you to run them constantly. However, they still drain battery power. Always count the energy needs of the fridge when totaling energy consumption.
Last Thoughts on Packing for an RV Trip
Packing for an RV trip typically requires a little more planning compared to packing a regular vehicle for a short trip. RVs are bigger and include amenities that you don’t have in an SUV, truck, or sedan.
As you have a fridge and extra storage space, you’ll want to bring everything needed to feel at home. The main groups of items that you need include food, kitchen supplies, clothing, bedding, first aid supplies, tools, and entertainment.
Trying to pack everything into your RV can be stressful. Taking the time to properly plan for your RV adventure eliminates some of the stress.
To ensure that you don’t leave anything out, make lists for each category. Write down the items that you think you’ll need and then check them off as you pack them into the RV.
As a final reminder, don’t forget to include entertainment for your children.