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Ask the RV Experts

How to act, what to buy and where to stay on your RV trip

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In 2015, Joe and Kait Russo were living the 9-to-5 life in Los Angeles and growing tired of it.

That’s when Kait had an idea to “just sell everything, get rid of the house, grab our dogs, buy an RV and travel around the country for a year,” Joe recalls.

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Although this may seem like a far-fetched, off-the-cuff master plan that typically comes after one of those long, hard days at work, the Russos turned this dream into a reality. One year on the road quickly turned into six.

As outlandish as it may seem to some, the Russos’ story is not that unique. According to some estimates, there are as many as 1 million full-time RVers in the United States.

If you’re interested in getting a taste of that lifestyle, you can start the easy way — rent a recreational vehicle. Cruise America, which has more than 100 locations in 33 states, offers everything from trailers to 30-foot RVs — with rental costs ranging from $80 to more than $300 per night (plus an additional 35 to 50 cents per mile traveled). Outdoorsy and RVshare offer peer-to-peer rentals, with many personally owned vehicles available for less than $200 per night. RVshare even has a destination delivery option, so you don’t have to drive the vehicle at all.

As for a place to park, campsites can range from remote dry camping, or boondocking, with no hookups (no electricity, sewer or water) to RV parks that offer basic facilities such as restrooms, showers and picnic areas to RV resorts that have endless amenities including pools, restaurants and game rooms.

Several sites can help you find what’s right for you. The Dyrt and Hipcamp allow users to search for and book outdoor stays based on location, features and available hookups. Harvest Hosts is a platform that lists more than 4,000 wineries, breweries, farms and attractions that allow RVers to stay with no camping fees.

Whether you’re living on the road, interested in owning your first camper or seeking a summer rental, there are rules of etiquette to the RV lifestyle. We asked five expert couples for tips on how to act, what to buy and where to stay. Here’s what they told us.

Meet the experts

Joe and Kait Russo: The Russos spent six and a half years RVing full-time. They now live in Indiana and are on the road about half of their lives.

Julie and Sean Chickery: The Chickerys, both military veterans, started RVing in 2014 after they became empty nesters.

Stacy and Phil Farley: The Farleys are Navy veterans who have been full-time RVing for five years.

Marc and Julie Bennett: The couple have been full-time RVing for more than six years and have written two books — Living the RV Life: Your Ultimate Guide to Life on the Road and RV Hacks: 400+ Ways to Make Life on the Road Easier, Safer, and More Fun!

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Heath and Alyssa Padgett: The Padgetts have traveled by RV to all 50 states and 10 countries, and Alyssa has written two books — A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Full-Time RVing Across America and RVing Across America: A Quest to Visit All 50 States

AARP: What tip would you give an RV beginner to make sure they got along with their neighbors at the campground?

Joe Russo: Understand your limits. We’ve gone to a lot of campgrounds where we will arrive during the week and it’s nice and quiet and empty and you kind of have the run of the place. But especially during the summer when the weekend rolls around … there will be kids running around and stuff all over the campground. So if that’s something that bothers you, I would say try to camp during the week rather than the weekend.

Stacy Farley: Respect personal space. Do not walk across, walk through or encroach on your neighbor’s campsite. It’s considered our only space. It’s already crowded, and it makes it more crowded when people are walking through somebody else’s campsite.

Julie Bennett: Be aware of your dog. It’s really important to keep your dog on a leash, pick up after them, control them if they’re barking. Check with an RV park before you go, on their rules. We’ve been to some that have restrictions on breeds or even size — that you can only have a dog under 35 or 25 pounds.

Marc Bennett: Don’t leave bright exterior lights on all night. In the last three or four years, there’s been a trend in the RV industry to put these lights on the outside of RVs. They have these fancy shaped lights or colored LEDs, and in my opinion, they’re obnoxious. Those lights can be super bright and very bothersome to your neighbors.

Sean Chickery: Respect the quiet hours. Most campgrounds have posted quiet hours that start at a certain time in the evening and end at a certain time in the morning, and I would say both ends of that you have to respect. Be aware that RV walls are very thin. You can still enjoy your space, just be aware that you don’t want to be too loud.

AARP: What tool or gadget have you bought that you would consider a game changer to RVing?

Joe Russo: Cellphone booster. Having that allowed us to camp in a lot of places where we normally wouldn’t have gotten cell service, although I will say, over the years, cell service has gotten better. … Having something like a Garmin inReach allows you to text people over satellite. … If you’re out on a hike or someplace where you’re not within cell service, it has an SOS feature, so if you had a medical emergency, you could get help right away.

Stacy Farley: Lithium batteries. We do like to go off the grid a lot, so it allowed us to live in an RV like we would a house, and I don’t have to worry so much about power. So now I can get up and not have to turn on my generator to start my coffee, which is really the most important thing. 

Julie Bennett: Strongback camping chairs. There are camping chairs, and then there are camping chairs. Marc’s got a back condition, and he’s very particular about back support. (Strongbacks) are more expensive, but they last a long time, and they’re incredible.

Heath Padgett: Tire pressure monitoring system. When we were driving down the road, I was always stressed about a tire blowing out, so it was a game changer because I always knew what was going on. Dorky answer, but I love that thing.

AARP: If you could park your RV at one campsite in the country for a week, where would you choose?

The Russos: Any campground in or around Yellowstone National Park. ... Yellowstone has to be one of the most spectacular national parks we’ve ever been to, and that whole area is magnificent.

The Farleys: Lower Lee Vining Campground in Lee Vining, California. It is not a regular campground — there are no hookups, so it’s dry camping — but the peace and quiet, I have never felt so serene as I did at that campground.

Julie Bennett: Camp Margaritaville in Auburndale, Florida. It’s like Disneyland for grownups and kids without a theme park. It’s got something for everyone.

Marc Bennett: Marina Dunes in Marina, California. The big car show is in August — that would be the week I would choose. … Monterey is a beautiful city with amazing landscapes, and it’s a cute little boutique campsite.

The Chickerys: Camp Margaritaville in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It had the best of both worlds. Number 1, it was super close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park … but then … you could come back to this mega-resort.     

The Padgetts: Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur, California. You’re on this bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Share Your Experience: What etiquette do you expect your neighbors to observe at the RV campground? Tell us your expectations in the comments.

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