Oh no! What did you forget? Do you ever have that nagging feeling that something was left undone before you hit the road? Have you ever witnessed someone’s motorhome driving down the road with a basement access door swinging in the breeze and thought, “I sure hope I never do that?” I’ve even heard of people driving off without their satellite or even their off-board generator, which can easily be explained by the “burning daylight” feeling many people get when breaking camp. Whether there is a strictly enforced checkout time or it’s just the excitement of getting back on the road, campers often rush through this part of the trip.
It's this very thing that caused my husband and I to develop very specific responsibilities. He handles all of the outside chores and I take care of everything on the inside. By delegating and assigning specific responsibilities, we are more apt to catch and remember everything. Here's a breakdown of how we do things:
Prepare the RV’s Exterior for Traveling
The first thing you want to do to get your RV ready for travel is put away any outdoor decorations. Stow any patio furniture, outdoor plants, welcome mats, tablecloths, citronella candles, and the like. Don’t forget to unhook and pack away your TV antennae or satellite dish. Traveling down the road with your satellite extended is a recipe for disaster.
Next, tackle the hookups. Take the opportunity to dump the water from the black and gray holding tanks, if you haven’t already. Rinse them out, then disconnect and rinse out your sewer hose and coupler. Put them away. Fill your fresh water tank, unhook, and put the hose away.
Some people prefer to drive with their tank empty with the intention of filling it upon arriving at their next destination. Although this probably saves a bit of fuel, we always fill up so we have constant access to water — and flushable toilets — in case of emergencies. For example, we had a leaky radiator at one point, and being able to periodically replace the water from our fresh tank was the only thing that got us through an extremely secluded trip through South Dakota.
Unplug the electrical power cord and put it away properly, being sure to lock the access door to ensure that the cord doesn’t come out while you’re driving. If you used the cable television that some parks provide, unhook that cable, as well. And make sure to turn off the propane.
Check the Exterior
You will want to check the condition of the slide out covers to make sure they don’t have anything on them, like bird’s nests, leaves and twigs, ice or snow, or other debris that could slow or damage your slide outs.
Double check the locks on all undercarriage access doors. The one time you don’t check is the time you have forgotten to lock up. In fact, we got lucky the one time we forgot to check. The door popped open as we turned into a truck stop, and although the freezer had started to slide out, we didn’t lose anything.
Assess the tires for any cracks or signs of wear, and check the tire pressure. If you have an air compressor, fill the tires to the recommended levels. Lastly, check the oil level, as well as the radiator to ensure it has the proper amount of water and coolant.
Check Your Rig
If you pull a cargo trailer, you should check the contents to ensure that they haven’t shifted and are still evenly distributed for balance. Check the tires to verify that they have the proper amount of air pressure, as well as for any signs of distress.
Hitch your trailer back up to the RV, if it isn’t already. Hook up the safety chains and lock the hitch. Plug in the trailer lights and brakes, and hook up your break away cable.
Make sure the trailer lights operate; you don’t want to discover that they don't while you are driving down the road. Also make sure you have locked all of the trailer doors.
Note: Obviously, if you are towing a car, you will have a slightly different set of directions to follow. Add those details to your checklist.
Prepare the RV’s Interior for Traveling
The first step for getting the inside of the motorhome ready for moving is to pick up everything possible. Gather all of the trash together so you can properly dispose of it on your way out of the park. We like to make our RV as homey as possible when we’re parked for anything longer than one night, so I often have to pack up lamps, scented candles, pictures, and other knickknacks. Then, starting in the back, I finish each room moving toward the front of the RV.
When we know we are leaving an area, as soon as everyone is showered, we lock the shower door to keep it from banging open and closed while we drive. We make sure the vent fan is turned off, shut the windows and secure the blinds. It is definitely important to make sure that all of the cabinet doors are firmly latched. I once did a visual inspection and failed to realize that one of the doors to the medicine cabinet was closed, but not latched. I don’t think we lost anything, but it made quite a mess. Now, I push on each door to ensure that it is in fact latched.
We have a large vanity area in our bathroom, so the counter often has a few regularly used appliances and other decorative items on it. Although I used to wrap and stow all of these things, I now arrange them in the sink basin making sure there is a buffer like a Kleenex box between any glass items. I plug the drain so none of the small things slip through it. This strategy does a pretty good job of preventing things from shifting or falling and breaking; plus, it is much easier and faster than individually wrapping everything.
The other bathroom, if you are fortunate enough to have one, is usually much easier as it is smaller and doesn’t hold much. Make sure to check the medicine cabinet door and put away anything that was left on the counter. Turn off the vent fan, close the window, and secure the blinds.
We hang the over-the-door coat rack that holds our jackets and housecoats on the inside of the bathroom door to keep them out of the way. When it’s cold, we have to remove the rack from the door before traveling; otherwise, the weight from our heavier coats causes the door to bang open into the bedroom door, potentially causing damage. During winter travels, we move the rack and lay everything on the bed for the drive.
First, the kitchen needs to basically be put in order. If all messes are handled as they occur, this doesn’t take very long at all. Any dirty dishes must be washed and returned to their method of transport, and the coffee maker and appliances have to be put away and secured for travel. We put the plants in the sink and then, make sure all of the cabinet doors and drawers are closed and latched.
We don’t stop there, though; we’ve had too many latches malfunction while we were in route, allowing the cabinet contents to come crashing out. In fact, once, we once lost an entire set of bowls and totally freaked out our dog. Now, we use shoelaces or bungee cords to tie or secure each cabinet, whether we think it needs it or not.
From there, check the contents of the refrigerator and assess the “riding” position of each item inside. Put things that may roll around in the crisper drawers, otherwise, you are liable to experience a food avalanche when you open the fridge. Make sure the doors are properly latched. During our first drive, which was when we picked up our RV, we didn’t realize that the refrigerator had a strap that held the two doors closed. A few minutes into the drive, after our first big turn, the larger door swung open. Fortunately, at that time, the fridge was empty or it would have been a big mess.
Pull in the Slide Outs
Once the majority of the work is done, it’s time to retract the slide outs. This process varies depending on the complexity of your rig. Some slides are moved in and out with a hand crank, and others are hydraulic and activate automatically at the push of a button.
With the hydraulic slides in our RV, we mainly have to make sure everything is out of the way, so they don’t get hung up while retracting. A misplaced pair of socks, for example, can easily get stuck in the slide, causing problems in the future.
We handle the slide outs in the bedroom first since it is extremely difficult to get back in or through that room once they are in. When those two slides are retracted, the back half of the RV is entirely done, so we shut the door.
The big, living room slide has a safety feature that won’t allow the slide to move if the Captain’s chair isn’t adjusted to the front-most position and out of the way,so we do that, and then pull in the slide.
Turn off the Major Appliances
One of the last things to do is turn off all of the appliances. This saves energy while you’re traveling and reduces the likelihood of a mess if something unexpected happens. Turn off the water pump after everyone has used the facilities and washed up, and make sure the propane and electric water heaters are off. From there, turn off the thermostats and fans, and make sure that the windows are closed and blinds secured in the living room and kitchen area.
Prepare to Leave
There are just a few remaining steps at this point. We choose to leave our pets free until we are about ready to go, so they can be comfortable for as long as possible. We take them out to do their business just prior to securing them for the trip.
Then, as we raise the jacks and check the mirrors,which often get moved when the RV is stationary, we look over the checklist one last time. After making sure that our steps have retracted, if we haven’t done so already, we dispose of all of the trash on the way out of the park.
The first few times we broke camp, we ran back and forth trying to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. Invariably, we did, and I would address those things — often at the first stop sign — while we were on the road.
Although many RV requirements vary, hopefully the following checklist provides a starting point for you to add to when compiling your own. If you found this helpful, please share on a social media sites like Facebook, so no one else will have to drive down the road with his or her electrical cord dangling behind.
RV Departure Checklist