Well, I don't know it all, but I've been RVing for nearly 40 years and have some opinions. Below, I've made a list of the top ten things I think anyone should have before they hit the road in an RV -- the list assumes you already have an RV. I originally created this list in 2004, updated it in 2007, then again in 2011. It's amazing how fast the technology changes and parts of the list become obsolete. If you want a laugh, check out my 2004 and 2007 lists. I've put them in order of importance and I'll gladly change the list if someone emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org with some better ideas. 1. Passport America Membership: First, you need a place to camp. I've checked out most of the camping clubs and have found this to be the best for providing low-cost, high-quality campgrounds. You camp across the USA at half what everyone else is paying -- can you beat that? Go to my camping clubs page to read more.
2. Road Atlas: (2014 UPDATE: I'm not really sure if anyone still uses printed maps - I never do. So, I'm deleting this one and adding Tools as #7.) #1 gives you a place to camp -- now you need to know how to get there. On our first long trip in 1984, we bought a bunch of state maps and area maps and spent much of our time shuffling through them to find the right one. The Road Atlas in a book form that has all the states, Canada, and Mexico is really great when you're moving from state to state. They're also very convenient for planning ahead and most contain other useful information related to travel. I buy mine cheap at Walmart's, but there are a number of others available. 2011 UPDATE: I realize that all new RVs are now sold with a GPS and navigation system, so maps might not be used that much anymore. Whenever we're planning a trip, I go online to MapQuest or Yahoo Maps, find the best route, then print it if it's complicated enough. All this being said, I'd think that having a Road Atlas onboard would still be a worthwhile suggestion. 2014 UPDATE: I'm not really sure if anyone still uses printed maps - I never do. So, I'm deleting this one and adding Tools as #7.
2. Nation-Wide Cellphone: I've had a cell phone with free long distance and no roaming charges for so long that I'm not even sure if there still is such a thing as a roaming charge. Whatever the nomenclature, be sure you don't have service that works fine locally, but costs you when you travel. As far as providers, I can't compare them all, but I can recommend AT&T. I've used them for over 10 years and have been generally satisfied. The only complaint I've had is that they improve their plans, but don't notify users. You have to call and ask for that free upgrade (e.g., they increase allowed monthly minutes with no change in price). As far as coverage is concerned, I've also been generally satisfied with AT&T in that regard. I've been to a few locations where only Verizon works, but likewise to places that only AT&T works.
3. Emergency Roadside Service: I'm a real believer in the value of paying for a motor club that provides RV emergency roadside service. I didn't have one when we first started, but have used it several times for flat tires since signing up. I joined after changing a tire on the left side of my fifth wheel on the edge of I-10 -- an experience I decided I'd rather not repeat. It sure is much easier to phone someone and watch them change the tire -- well worth the $70 or so that it costs each year. I was with Allstate, but left them when I had a couple of times that they had no service available. The most notable was about 10 miles outside of Montgomery, Alabama. I figured if they couldn't provide help in the state capitol, they really didn't have much coverage. Since then, I signed up with Good Sam and haven't had any complaints yet. They advertise that many companies won't provide service if you're on an unpaved road. I don't know if that's true but, if so, that one fact would make me select Good Sam.
4. National Medical Insurance: I mention this one because it's something you'll need to set up well in advance of your RV travelling and something we overlooked in planning for our first trip. If you're currently signed up with an HMO or POS insurer, you'll probably find that they don't do much for you when you're away from home. I've found that it commonly takes 6-7 months to get individual coverage -- something many people don't realize while they're employed and being covered by that convenient employer's policy.
5. Flashlight in a Convenient Spot: This sounds trivial, but has saved me several times. I keep one just inside the door, where it can be easily reached. Although I try to make it a practice to never travel at night and to find a parking spot while it's still light, I've learned that this isn't always possible. In my book "Retire and Travel for $1000 a Month", I suggested having a spotlight on the RV. Since then, I've realized that a flashlight that's not attached is a much better idea.
6. Tools: About 15 years ago, my son gave me one of the 150-piece tool sets for Christmas. At the time, I thought it was real overkill, but since that time I've found uses for many of those tools. Odd things like Allen wrenches come in real handy if there's a problem with your Blue Ox towbar or your exterior rear-view mirrors. The waterpump pliers and vice-grips have also been invaluable several times. I'm by no means a do-it-yourself-er, but there have been several occasions over the years when we're out in the boondocks and I'm forced to fix something myself. I highly recommend having a selection of tools, even if you think you'll never get around to using them.
Now these next few assume you want to get on the internet while you travel. If not, skip to #10.
7. Laptop: Although you can get by going to libraries, etc. where they supply the computer, I'd highly recommend spending the $300 or so to get a laptop of your own. It significantly increases the number of options you have for getting online, plus you'll no doubt find additional uses for the computer as time goes on. My Online On-The-Road page points you to many types of hookups you can find if you have a laptop. Many would probably say that having a Droid or iPhone works well for them, but I've never been too excited about tiny keyboards and screens ... just my opinion. 8. WiFi Capability: Many campgrounds today have high-speed wireless internet (WiFi) available, either in a small hotspot or around the entire resort. Most laptops are equipped with internal WiFi capability, so no additional equipment is required. For older computers and desktops, check my WiFi page for equipment suggestions. 9. Wireless Card: To have internet access almost anywhere in the USA, get a wireless card for your laptop. These provide service faster than dialup and slower than WiFi, and have both positive and negative features. For information on different types of wireless cards, check my Wireless Cards page. 10. Digital Camera: Now we're getting down to the not-so-critical, but I did promise 10 after all. While you travel, you'll find that you want to email pictures to several friends and family and you might even decide to set up a website to tell the world how much fun you're having. A digital camera makes these activities extremely easy. I tried the Polaroid camera and Scanner route for awhile and really had problems (as you'll note in the first 9 chapters of My Travel Log). Since getting the digital camera, I can't believe anyone uses anything else. I still disagree with my wife about her desire to have hard-copies of photos, but even that quirk can be easily accommodated with some of the new technology now available. 2011 UPDATE: There are those that would argue that having a cell phone that takes photographs (and movies) is adequate. I guess I'm old-fashioned there and prefer to use my camera. I've not yet had a cell phone that I use to take photos, but maybe that will change by the time I next update this page.
Well, I said at the start that these were only my opinion. Hope you find them useful and have heard something you didn't already know. I'd be glad to hear your suggestions for changes/additions to these Top Ten -- email me and we'll discuss it.