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Top 10 Tips for Using Your RV

RV expert Mark Polk provides an invaluable lesson on how to properly enjoy a home on wheels.

Plan Your Trip
Travel guides, magazines, state tourism boards and Internet sites offer valuable information to help plan your trip. Route it out on a map or from an trip-planning site. Always keep an atlas or maps in the RV or tow vehicle. Driving a motorhome or pulling a trailer can be stressful, especially if you don't know the route you will be traveling. Using a GPS system can make traveling much less stressful.

Make a Pre-Trip Checklist
Making one final walk-around the RV can prevent costly damage to items like steps and TV antennas. Simple once-overs like checking your tires, lights, hitch work and other items all contribute to a safer trip. You should make these pre-trip checks each day before heading out. Also be sure and check both the inside and outside of the RV.

Take Breaks
Stopping, stretching out and taking brief walks can revitalize you. Do not rush to get to your vacation destination. Driving too fast and for long periods of time can result in fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel. If you feel tired, you should pull over and rest or change drivers. It's a good idea to switch drivers every few hours. Keep a window cracked open to help you stay alert, and only eat light meals when you stop to eat. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Avoid Traveling in Bad Weather
Because of the size and mass of RVs, it can be extremely dangerous to travel during periods of inclement weather and/or high winds. It's better to get to your destination one day later than to risk the well being of the folks on board.

Limit Driving Time
Limiting your driving time to five or six hours a day (300 to 350 miles) will help you stay alert. You'll also arrive at the campground with plenty of daylight to get set up and settled in before it gets dark outside. This also gives you a chance to unwind and get rested for another day of travel as well as to enjoy some of the amenities the campground has to offer.

Drive Defensively
Stay alert and monitor what is going on around you at all times. Use your mirrors. For increased visibility, purchase some convex mirrors that you can stick on your side-view mirrors. These mirrors are inexpensive and are available in most auto-parts stores. They come in various sizes and will improve your visibility a great deal, especially along the sides of the RV and in blind spots. If you're pulling a trailer it may be necessary to add mirror extensions so you can see along the sides of the vehicle.

Make Campground Reservations
Making reservations in advance not only assures you there will be a campsite available when you arrive, but you can also make other important arrangements. For example, you can request a site large enough to accommodate your RV and tow vehicle, or a pull-through site versus a site you would need to back into. You can make sure the site has the proper electrical hookup for your RV, or make sure you get a full hookup rather than a partial one. You might want a site with a telephone line or a campground with wireless Internet access. If you just cross your fingers and pull into the campground late in the afternoon, without reservations, there is a good chance you'll be turned away or get a site you really don't care for.

Know Your RV Plan Options
Before you agree to purchase a plan, make sure you understand all of your options. Extended service plans are great as long as you understand a little about them and how they work. Make sure you read and understand the extent and time period of coverage before signing any agreements. If you don't understand something, ask to have it explained to you. Also make sure that the company offering the plan is reputable and will be acknowledged by other RV dealers and RV repair centers. A good plan should be transferable if you sell your RV, renewable so you can extend the coverage, and it should offer a pro-rated refund if coverage is terminated during the term of the contract.

Protect Your Investment
To protect your investment you need the proper type of insurance coverage. There are several major insurance companies that specialize in RV insurance, and I strongly recommend that you use one. You might have a great insurance company for your home and automobiles, but an auto policy can't begin to cover the complexities of an RV. You need specialty coverage like vacation liability, total-loss replacement, personal effects and much more.

Store and Maintain Your RV
Extend the life of your RV by properly storing and maintaining it. In cold climates, make sure that the RV water system is winterized. Over time, the roof and exterior of the RV begin to show signs of wear, caused by the constant exposure to the elements. Ozone in the air and ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun start to take their toll, which is first evident by signs of fading paint. The ozone in the air also causes products like rubber and vinyl to dry out, crack, and start to deteriorate. The UV rays from the sun make this aging process happen quicker. If possible when you store the RV you should cover both the vehicle and the tires. Be sure the cover is breathaable, protects against UV rays, is water-resistant and has a warranty.

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