How to Park an RV

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You’ve finally made it to the campground. But before you can run off to the lake or go for a hike, the first order of the day is to park and level your RV so that your refrigerator will operate properly and you don’t find yourself in bed at night with your feet higher than your head.

Never assume your site will be flat or level. That would make parking an RV too easy. Due to the nature of camping, chances are higher that your site will be rutted, gouged and somewhat uneven.

But don’t fret. You can still get your RV into your spot, and leveled so it operates properly, with a few easy steps. Here’s how:

How to Park an RV

With many campsites designed to accommodate smaller vehicles, easing your 30-foot long fifth-wheeler or even longer motorhome into some spots can be a challenge.

How to Level an RV

There are several reasons to make sure your RV is level, including proper refrigerator operation and safe slide out extension (if you have them). You’ll also want to stabilize your rig so that it doesn’t sway when you move about inside or in windy conditions.

Many luxury motorhomes and trailers come equipped with exotic self-leveling systems, with hydraulic or electric rams that extend at the touch of a button and level the coach automatically. For rigs without this nicety, leveling blocks or ramps and a small bubble level are required.

Leveling blocks or ramps don’t have to be expensive. They can be as simple as a stack of 2×10-inch boards. Or, you can step up to interlocking RV leveling blocks. Made of high-strength plastic, these blocks are touted as being able to bear the weight of even the largest motorhomes and trailers.

1) With your RV positioned in the site where you want it, place the bubble level on the floor to determine if the unit is level both front-to back and side-to-side. If you have slide outs, extend them now to see which way your trailer or motorhome leans. Then retract them for safety.

2) Next, mark some lines in the dirt in front or back of the tires on the side that needs to be leveled.

3) Now pull your rig forward (or back it up) so that the tires are clear of the lines. Place your boards or blocks in position. If you determine that you’ll need several layers of boards or blocks to get your rig level, build them in a ramp configuration.

Don’t try to force your RV to climb up more than 2 inches at a time.

4) Move your motorhome or trailer up onto the levelers, making sure to keep the tire footprint completely on the boards or blocks. Don’t let your tires overhang any edge as this can cause damage.

5) Now check the bubble level again and adjust the height of the boards or blocks as needed so that your rig is level side-to-side. When all looks good, place wheel chocks in front or behind the tires (depending which way the site slopes) to keep the trailer from moving. You can then disconnect your trailer from your tow vehicle and use the trailer’s hitch jack (or a fifth-wheel’s “landing gear”) to fine-tune the front-to-rear level.

For motorhomes, put the transmission in “park” and set the parking brake.

How to Stabilize Your RV

Now that your RV is level, you’ll want to stabilize it so it doesn’t rock back and forth when you walk around inside. You should use stabilizing jacks to accomplish this.

Note: These should never be used to level a rig, as they weren’t designed for that purpose.

Stabilizing jacks come in several configurations. The most common is the scissor jack, which is usually bolted or welded to the trailer’s frame at the front and rear.

Pop-up tent trailers are frequently equipped with a drop-down style jack, which, as the name implies, drops down from the frame.

To use the stabilizing jacks after you’ve leveled the RV:

1. Lower the jacks following the manufacturer’s instructions. To save time and give the foot of each jack a larger base, slide a couple of short 2×4- or 2×6-inch boards beneath each foot. This is especially helpful if the ground is loose or sandy.

2. Once the jack foot is in contact with the ground, give the crank a few extra turns to provide the trailer a secure footing. Check the bubble level to make sure your RV remains level. Do this for all four corners.

And that’s how to park and level an RV! Your RV is now safely in the campsite and ready to enjoy. When you get ready to leave just reverse these steps, remembering to raise the jacks to their travel position, and collect and store your leveling boards or blocks.

Ways to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling

Computer crime concept.

Tips for avoiding scams and theft while traveling are a staple of the travel writing genre; pretty much every guidebook or travel website dedicates some space to the subject. 

But in the 21st century, you are as much at risk of having your identity stolen — or more accurately your financial and digital identity — as you are of getting “mugged,” which almost sounds quaint these days (though I do not intend in any way to underplay the misery and danger of actually getting mugged).

Identity theft is a growing problem worldwide — especially for travelers, who are very vulnerable, forced as they are to use unsecured Internet connections, carry extensive personal documentation with them at all times, and share their credit cards with merchants about whom they know nothing and whom they’ll never see again.

Modern technology hasn’t made it any easier for honest folks to avoid identity theft, either; witness the practice of websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, which often keep you logged in to the site, even after you close your browser or turn off your computer. Someone getting unfettered access to your closest friends on Facebook could definitely shake out some very “helpful” information before you knew it.

As time and technology advance, this problem is only going to affect more travelers.

Here are tips to avoid identity theft while traveling:

“Unpack” Critical Documents Before Travel

If you carry some essential documents with you when you are not traveling — the average wallet or purse might include a Social Security card, bank statements, medical documents, checkbook and the like — remove them before you leave home. Essentially, when it comes to documentation, you want to “unpack” before traveling.

Be Very Careful About Shared and Insecure Internet Connections

This is one thing that I have found very difficult to do – when traveling, it is hard to find connections other than public ones at hotels, cafes, airports, you name it. To see the warning “this connection is unsecured and others may see your information” is almost a staple of the travel experience. The risk applies to anything you type into your keyboard while connected, such as email passwords and website logins.

Use Only Bank ATM’s

A recent trend among identity thieves has been to install card readers in an ATM by which they can access your card number and PIN. This happens most often at non-bank, “generic” ATM’s (in hotels, convenience stores, etc.), which have less oversight and are therefore more vulnerable than bank-run and hosted ATM’s. Stick with the ones at banks; these can still be compromised, but tend to be targeted by thieves much less often.

Change Passwords and PIN’s

You may want to change your passwords after a trip; identity thieves are thought to be very patient criminals, and often wait until you are less likely to pay attention after a few weeks at home.

How to Escape While Staying Connected

travel digital detox

Leave the laptop behind, dump the mobile device and otherwise abandon anything that could be called “always on” — so goes a frequent recommendation to stressed vacationers. The thinking is that if it’s too easy to stay in touch via phone and email with work, social obligations and the daily grind, you’ll never really get away from it all.

Sounds like sound advice — except that I’m not sure I agree. I have found that sacrificing a little bit of free time to staying connected while traveling typically makes exit and re-entry — when the most draining work of travel and vacationing takes place — go much more smoothly. In the end, checking in a few times during your vacation is a small price to pay to avoid returning home to a chaotic swarm of neglected responsibilities.

Some folks wouldn’t take a walk without all their devices, while others can’t wait to jettison everything and get off the communication grid. When my own five-year-old cell phone suffered some water damage,

Laptop, cell phone, tablet — take ’em along, leave ’em home, take your pick? Let’s say most of us have three primary email addresses (work, home, alternate) and matching triple voice mails (work, home, cell). That’s a lot of stuff to check while you’re trying to unwind; a couple of hours can pass in a blink by the time you have gotten through them all.

Less to Do Before and After Your Trip
As mentioned above, I believe the most compelling reason to stay connected on the road is to reduce the strain of both leaving and returning. As comfortable as home can be, few things can diminish the glow of a good trip quite as quickly as arriving home to find that two weeks of the detritus of modern life has been accumulating in your absence and that it’ll take days to clear it out.

I would say that the only thing worse than a pile of junk mail in a plastic USPS box and fading newspapers on your stoop is a “mail box is full” message on your voicemail and a couple dozen screens worth of email on your first login when you get home.

And it’s not just when you get home. Leaving notes for dog walkers, putting your house in order and letting everyone who might want your attention know that you will be away is almost always more trouble than checking email for a few minutes in a hotel room every day. While traveling, if you can dispatch tasks and information with short, concise emails written in a few seconds during your trip, there is a lot less accumulated clutter when you return, and less to do before you leave.

Fewer Surprises
The only thing worse than returning from a trip to an inbox full of nuisance emails is finding out too late that a major problem has come up. Keeping in touch with work and personal email semi-regularly is the best way to keep on top of big events. It also gives you…

Increased Control
Trying to fix big problems from a hotel is not a fun place to find yourself. If you have a speedy laptop stocked with all your likely contacts, you’ll be well positioned to deal with anything that goes wrong.

Lowered Expectations
An “away” or “vacation” auto response message followed up with an email with a footer that reads “sent from my cell phone” lets you get away with murder in terms of brevity and specificity — folks are just grateful to get a reply so they can keep working on or stop worrying about whatever it is for which they needed your attention.

 

Cleaning the RV Shower

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Most RV’s these days come equipped with a fiberglass or acrylic shower stall. They are lightweight and can be manufactured in unlimited sizes and configurations to fit any RV floor plan. The stalls are attractive and easy to maintain. Many RVers are dutiful about using a squeegee after a shower and some folks even dry the stall with an old towel – but one day you are going to have to clean the surface.

Fiberglass shower stall manufacturers provide detailed care instructions, but basically they state to never clean the surface with an abrasive cleaner (like Ajax powder) or pad (like steel wool). The best way to clean the shower stall is with a dryer sheet. Bounce, Snuggle or any brand will do – just choose your preferred scent, and hop in the shower.

The procedure works best if the shower stall and dryer sheet are wet. Moisten the dryer sheet and wipe the walls of the shower stall – when the motion becomes smooth, the gunk is gone. All you need is a little teeny bit of elbow grease. Two or three dryer sheets will clean an entire shower stall.

If the floor of your shower is textured, this can sometimes be very difficult to clean. But our old friend, fabric softener, comes to the rescue again. Pour a capful of liquid fabric softener on bottom of a wet shower floor. Use a fiberglass or acrylic-safe scrub brush to spread it evenly over the surface and let it sit for ten minutes. A little scrubbing with the brush will have it looking new again.

The dryer sheets also work wonders on glass shower doors and an old toothbrush dipped in liquid fabric softener will make quick work of soap scum on the metal and rubber seals around the door.

Once finished, rinse the stall with the shower. The fabric softener will cause the shower stall to become slippery during cleaning, so take precaution.

Fun Games for the RV!

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Playing Cards:  These are a no-brainer. They take up hardly any space and, especially with playing cards, the games are nearly limitless.
Yahtzee: Another must-have. Roll the dice and try your luck. Points are scored in various combinations of the die, including straights, three- and four-of-a-kind and the elusive Yahtzee.
Monopoly Deal: You’ve got it my friends, Monopoly has been dissected and put into a travel friendly box of cards!  It’s a great game for just 2 people or an entire group.  You get all the fun of the classic game with some great twists!
LCR: LCR is a tiny game and a ton of fun. It has three dice, each marked with three dots, plus an L for left, a C for center or an R for right, which is where the name comes from. Each player has a predetermined number of chips (or coins, or pretzels, or M&Ms …). Each player takes a turn rolling all three dice. If an L appears on one of the die, then that player must give on chip to the player to his or her left (or to the right if an R appears). A dot means the player can keep their chips that round. Last player still with chips is the winner.
Jenga:  An oldie but goodie.  Jenga is a tower of fun!  Each player must take a piece out of the tower without knocking it over, first player to make the tower fall loses, pretty simple.  If you want to kick it up a notch you can write truths/dares on each piece that the player who pulls it must complete!
Apples to Apples: We have this card game with us on every trip. The party game consists of two decks of cards: Things and Descriptions. Each round, the active player draws a Description card (which features an adjective like “Hairy” or “Smarmy”) from the deck, then the other players each secretly choose the Thing card in hand that best matches that description and plays it face-down on the table. The active player then reveals these cards and chooses the Thing card that, in his or her opinion, best matches the Description card, which he awards to whoever played that Thing card. Once a player has won a pre-determined number of Description cards, that player wins. If you don’t have this game, you need to get it. There’s an Apples to Apples Junior version, too.

Gifts for RVers

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Another aspect to consider when RVing for the holidays is the purchasing of gifts for other RVers. If you are purchasing for a fellow RVer you may already know what types of items might be most useful, which can make great gifts. If you are not an RVer, but are purchasing for an RVer you may want to remember when purchasing a gift that RVs have limited space. Gifts should be small, or have a space saving purpose, or be an type of RV gear. If you want to give a type of RV gear to an experienced RVer you will probably want to be sure that you have the correct type of item. Gift cards are also excellent options to give to RVers since they leave many options open for satisfying all types of needs.

The holidays always present some special challenges, especially for those that spend the holidays in an RV, but the rewards are great and many.  Make the most of your holiday by celebrating with family and friends – new and old.  And always remember how blessed you are to be able to live (even if for just a few weeks) the RV lifestyle.

How to Park an RV

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You’ve finally made it to the campground. But before you can run off to the lake or go for a hike, the first order of the day is to park and level your RV so that your refrigerator will operate properly and you don’t find yourself in bed at night with your feet higher than your head.

Never assume your site will be flat or level. That would make parking an RV too easy. Due to the nature of camping, chances are higher that your site will be rutted, gouged and somewhat uneven.

But don’t fret. You can still get your RV into your spot, and leveled so it operates properly, with a few easy steps. Here’s how:

How to Park an RV

With many campsites designed to accommodate smaller vehicles, easing your 30-foot long fifth-wheeler or even longer motorhome into some spots can be a challenge.

That’s why it’s important to:

  • Verify that your RV can get to your campsite. While the roads in most campgrounds are easy to navigate, there are still some that could be difficult to access due to hairpin turns and tight squeezes among boulders and trees. Some camping websites post caution notices to warn owners of longer rigs that they might want to consider another campground. If such warnings don’t appear on the website and you have concerns, contact the campground directly and ask.
  • Make sure your rig will fit the campsite. Most campground reservation websites provide details for each site, including its length. Check that the spot you’ve selected will accommodate both your tow vehicle and your trailer, or your motorhome, without sticking out into the road. Some reservation sites will also indicate low hanging tree branches or other obstructions.
  • Check the campsite before you pull in. If you can do so without blocking traffic, get out and look the spot over. Scope out any objects or terrain that might pose hazards, such as drainage ditches, roadside markers, low hanging branches, posts, and power and water hookups. These same obstacles can prevent you from extending slide outs, so make sure you have clearance. Also, check to see if there are any especially low spots in the site that you’ll want to avoid.
  • Have an assistant guide you in. No matter how skilled you think you are at backing into campsites, things will go a lot smoother with extra eyes watching. There’s nothing worse than the embarrassing crunch of an RV bumper kissing a large rock or a picnic table. Your helper can also make sure you’ve got the rig in straight and that you’re completely out of the road. For easier communication, get yourself a pair of two-way radios so you and your assistant won’t have to yell.