15 Things I learned From my First RV Trip: Los Angeles to Sedona/Grand Canyon
My husband and I have always wanted take the family on an RV trip, and this summer we finally took the plunge! Check out some of the fun places from our Los Angeles to Sedona travels, and what valuable insight we have to share about RV camping that every newbie should know! We traveled from Los Angeles, California to the beautiful state of Arizona.
We stopped for 3 nights in Sedona, Arizona which was absolutely magical. We stayed at the Rancho Sedona RV park which we will definitely be going back to and it was my favorite RV campsite out of all 3. The campsite was full of lush trees and there was a creek nearby which kids got to swim and splash in plus, it was not at the least crowded. We also found the people in our RV park to be very friendly and kind.
Another thing I loved about Sedona was the food. Each restaurant we ate at had delicious food with lots of gluten free and healthy options. Sedona takes pride in its restaurants, for we were never at the least disappointed with a meal.
I thought Arizona would be pure desert, but I was mistaken. This state is so beautiful and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The mountains and earth were a deep orange, and there is an abundance of trees.
Some fun things we did in Sedona were:
- Hike to the Energy Vortex at Boynton Canyon and meditate (my kids made friends with a lizard and fed it water)
- Swam at Slide Rock State Park (there are areas you can dive from)
- Swam in the creek at the Rancho Sedona RV park
- Shop in town (I really liked the Native American Traders handmade jewelry store that featured Calvin Begay. His work is absolutely beautiful.)
Next, we headed over to the Williams Grand Canyon KOA for 2 nights. We walked the Rim of the Grand Canyon at Mather Point (South Rim) for about 2 hours. The kids were blown away by the beauty and grander of this natural world wonder. It was absolutely breathtaking. We also went to the Deer Farm and Petting Zoo in Williams, AZ where my kids got to hand feed deer, visit a camel, pony, and other friendly animals. Finally, for our last night, we stayed in Needles, California which was strictly for sleeping and breaking up all the driving. The next day, we headed back to Los Angeles completely rejuvenated. The experience was so memorable that we are creating a bucket list of places we want to RV to next. Even though we had a wonderful time, we learned the do’s and dont’s of RV camping. There are things that worked and did not work.
Below is a list of 15 Things that every novice RV’r should know. I wish we knew these tips, they will save you headaches and hardships!
- Do not over-pack. I seriously spent two days getting things ready for the RV and another five hours packing it. All this crazy packing led us to arrive to our destination at midnight. Yup, midnight! What I learned is that I only used half of what I packed, which encompassed: clothes, food, games, books and kitchen utensils. Please — keep it simple! Plan your menu ahead of time so you don’t overpack the pantry or fridge.
- Pre cook and freeze meals ahead of time. This was super helpful because there were times when we were out all day hiking or playing in the river and everyone was super hungry. Being able to defrost soup or make a burrito with cooked beans was a huge lifesaver. The more you prep meals, the better your experience will be. It is a tiny space to cook and wash dishes so if meals are cooked ahead of time, it is a life saver. Some of the foods I brought pre-cooked were my Instant Pot Pinto Beans, cooked rice, and 13 Bean Soup. We had lots of rice and bean burritos, which were ready in 15 minutes or less.
- Pack what you know you will use the most. For me, those items are the Vita-mix Blender for Smoothies and the Instant Pot for meals. I used these multiple times on the trip and it took up minimum space. I made tons of breakfast smoothies and Instant Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal for breakfast with these appliances. For breakfast, we would all have a bowl of Oatmeal, topped with fresh blueberries, almond milk, chopped walnuts and Lakanto.
- Make sure the sleeping arrangements are comfortable. This is something we really didn’t think through. I had a really hard time sleeping because I felt very cramped and hot! My husband is like a strong heater, and because the temperatures in AZ were high, I was sweating and tossing all night. Additionally, my daughter’s bed was way too small for her and it kept moving around so she ended up switching with my son. Be sure to check that all sleeping arrangements will fit your family’s needs. Test it beforehand and also imagine that if you share a bed, the other person will get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. They may or may not interrupt your sleep.
- Make sure you have a quiet AC. Since it was blazing hot in the RV at night, we decided to turn on the AC. Well, we didn’t realize how loud it was until it was time to sleep. Oh, I had earplugs on but this AC sounded like a small hurricane so please, make sure your RV has a quiet air conditioning unit so that you can sleep peacefully while staying cool.
- Don’t run around in the RV. My whole family learned this the hard way. Every time we were racing around, someone would bump their head or run into a corner. We all had to learn to “SLOW DOWN” in the RV. I came home with a huge bruise on my hip from running into the edge of the bed while racing to get something in the RV. Ugh..totally unnecessary.
- Find an RV campsite near water or with lots of trees. This was totally my husbands idea and it was the best thing ever! He found a lush campsite near a creek from the Colorado river and the kids loved it. They loved the privacy and tranquility. I have to admit, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Also, make sure there is a nice tree or shade near your RV. It keeps your outdoor seating area cool and makes it more enjoyable for meals outside.
- Limit Electronics & Connect As a Family. This trip totally got our family connected on a deep level and back in sync. Over the summer, I watched way too much Netflix, and screens were monopolizing our time. On the trip, screens were limited to long drives. Other than a family movie, we canceled screens. It was the best decision we could have made. We had so much fun spending time together and connecting as a family — which brought us closer together. Some of the highlights of the trip were:
- hiking to a Energy Vortex to meditate
- using a Swiss army knife and learning to build a fire
- making popcorn on the campfire
- playing ukulele at sunset
- playing board games: our favorites were Connect 4, Blokus and Brain Quest
- visiting a Deer Park
- visiting Slide Rock Park
- walking along the ridge of the Grand Canyon
- swimming and rafting in the creek
9. Set expectations for the kids. This was one opportunity we completely missed out in the beginning. What we should have done was let our kids know what chores they were assigned ahead of time and be very specific with what was expected of them before packing and going on the trip. What we did was ask the kids to pack their luggage and load a few things but that was it. On the first day, my husband and I were doing most of the work. That was a moment of growth for us. Camping is an excellent opportunity for children to grow as individuals and contribute to the family.As we drove 10 hours in the RV, my husband and I discussed the shortcomings in our approach. We created some expectations and had a family meeting. Guess what? It worked! We came up with a plan to have my son help my husband every morning and every night with the exterior chores of the RV. Trust me, this is a hard job; my son gagged at having to “assist” my husband with sewage dumping. My daughter was in charge of helping with interior work; prep, cook meals, and clean-up. It took a few days to get in sync, but after a few tries, the ball was rolling and their self esteem and confidence skyrocketed. They were so proud of their accomplishments. Being part of a team effort did wonders for their enthusiasm and happiness. So if you plan an RV trip, let them know ahead of time what is expected of them, to avoid meltdowns and complaints. Just be sure to acknowledge them for their hard work and contribution to the family. Trust me, our kids had lots of fun and play time too.
10. Pack items in baskets or bins before placing them into shelves. This was something I learned from watching Tricia from Keep Your Daydream on Youtube. She suggested organizing items in baskets before putting them in the cabinets so they don’t fly around. This was super helpful and it worked like a charm! Everything had a basket; bathroom items, pantry items, fridge items — were all in baskets!
11. Know your gas tank needs. How far do you have & where is the nearest gas station? Our RV could go about 2 1/2 hours — but what we failed to realize is that when we got on the road, there was NO gas station for almost 2 hours, so consequently, we ran out of gas! Yes, we did. It didn’t occur to us — since we were so spoiled with gas stations at every corner — we didn’t think in a million years we would run out of gas. So yes, we got AAA to come out in the middle of the desert and sell us 5 gallons of gas to get us to the nearest gas station. Since I am an optimist, I told my family, “No problem, we will just hang out and have breakfast in the RV while we wait.” They were like, “Uh, ok, Mom.” Thank God we had a generator so I could use the electricity and make breakfast smoothies. I also brought lots of fresh and frozen fruit, gluten free waffles and the Vita-mix. We had food and a bathroom so we were good.
12. Have doggy bags for the bathroom. Guess what? No toilet paper can go into the RV toilet. I thought it would be gross and unsanitary to place used toilet paper into the trash can so we decided to place used toilet paper and feminine products into a dark colored doggy bag, tie it up, then place those into the bathroom trash can. Problem solved and it got the job done! Enough said in that department.
13. Have a checklist. We used a checklist before driving ANYWHERE and an outdoor evening routine checklist. The first time we drove off, we forgot to close the awning. Thank God we figured it out right away before smacking into something. Additionally, items will go flying everywhere, so clear the counters and close the cupboards, fridge/freezer. Below are the daily checklist’s we used, I had these on my “Notes App” on my phone so I could access them when needed:
Pre-driving routine checklist:
- close awning
- remove electric hookup
- remove water hookup
- lock RV door
- check counters for loose items (hand soap in bathroom/kitchen counter items)
- make sure everyone has seat belts
- make sure windows are closed
Evening routine checklist:
- Throw away the trash for the day
- Lock up all outdoor compartments
- Close the awning
- Turn off all lights
- Get PJ’s and clothes for the next day from luggage (see more on this tip below)
14. Keep clothing in individual suitcases/luggage in the RV outdoor storage bins. We had a pretty good evening system put into place. We would pick our PJ’s and outfits for the next day and bring them indoors into a bag. Every member of the family had their own clothing bag ready for the following day. It helped to reduce storing tons of clothes in the RV. Since most compartments are up high, it would have been madness trying to locate underwear and clothing. We found this system to be very effective.
15. Arrive a day early to unpack and clean out RV. We had a long drive back and drove through rush hour and it made it very stressful for my husband. We even left at 7:30am to get back on time and he was still 3 hours late returning the RV. We all raced to unpack the RV, get it cleaned up in 2 hours and it was exhausting. Plus, we spent another 3 hours putting everything back in its place. It took me a total of 2-3 days to wash everything and get the house back to normal. He said it would be worth it to pay the extra day to calmly unpack, clean the RV and drive it to its owner the next day. If you have a company picking up your RV then its not an issue but we rented it directly from the owner through RV Share.
Was RV camping worth it?
Absolutely! Even though it was a ton of work getting packed and unpacked. It is something I would do again and again! It created unforgettable memories and is a great way for our family to bond and connect. I mean, look at that pic below. It’s priceless!
Have you ever camped in an RV, please share in the comments below. What are your favorite camping recipes, trips, tips? We would love to hear from you.