Beginner’s guide: Tips for First-Time Travel Trailer Adventurers

Heading out camping for your first time can be both a scary and exciting experience. If you’re new to travel trailer camping you’ve probably spend a lot of time reading and asking and learning how best camping should be done. But, there’s no better way to learn than by doing.

Here you’ll find one mom’s story of what they learned and why you should take note of these first time travel trailer tips!

A vintage travel trailer hooked up to a truck

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A first time travel trailer camping story by Heather of Nesting Intentionally

As first time travel trailer campers, we have learned a lot!  …mainly what NOT to do! 

Even though we had expert campers to help guide us, we still managed to learn a ton of lessons, the hard way.  We have many, many tips to share.  There are a few camping tips that you may have heard before that you should not ignore.  Then we have a couple lessons we learned that we hope will help you in your camping adventures too.

When I was a kid we didn’t camp much.  When we did camp it was in a tent with 3 kids and my mom for the weekend.  I grew up in Florida.  It’s hot there.  Especially in a tent, in the summer, with 4 people.  My memories of camping are okay.  We had fun playing in the dirt and going on scavenger hunts, but it was so hot!

My husband went camping all the time as a kid.  His family had a camper.  They had a pop up first, then a trailer, then a 5th wheel, and now his parents have an RV.  But if you were to ask him if he liked camping as a kid…. he’d tell you no.  It was hot and there were too many bugs.  Oh and he doesn’t like to eat outside… strange, I know.  

So naturally, two people who didn’t like camping as kids, what do they do?

They go out and buy a camper!

A camping trailer all hooked up after opening for the spring

We talked about it for YEARS before we bought one.  The memories that we made as kids surpass all the negative feelings we had toward camping. 

As a kid you love getting outside, playing with dirt, experiencing the outdoors.  Whether you live in bug infested Florida or the snowy mountains, there is always fun to be had outside.  That is what we want for our kids.  We want them to have the experiences that we had and then more.  

The camper we bought is a 2005 KZ Coyote Hybrid.  It’s a cross between a pop up and a travel trailer.  The beds pop out like a pop up trailer does.  But the whole trailer is hard sided like a regular travel trailer.  It’s very spacious inside, compared to most travel trailers.  

First, passing along some travel trailer camper trailer advice:

Some camper tips that we did because we were told to by expert campers….

  • Park the camper at the house at least 2 days before you leave so you can pack the camper and turn the fridge on.  
  • Do a running check of everything before you leave to make sure that all brake lights, appliances and camper is all in working order. (Here’s an RV checklist to help you make sure you’ve done and checked everything before you head out)
  • Pack a level…. Yes, the level tool you use to hang pictures on the wall.  When you put the stabilizers down you have to make sure the trailer is level and not too high or low on a side.
  • Practice towing and backing up the camper…every camper has a story or two.  You’ll thank yourself later for doing a couple (or a couple dozen) practice runs.  

Now, for the first time travel trailer tips and tricks:

1. Pack everything in totes  

Put food, bedding, and camper parts in separate totes. 

Once you get to camp you can unpack all that needs to get put away.  Then all the totes can go outside and be stored under the travel trailer.  You’ll want to pack the camper well and totes are the answer.

a pile of camping gear and packed tubs
tubs packed with food for a camping trip

2. Once you get to camp, put everything away 

Make all the beds, put all the food away, put all the clothes and towels in a place, make the beds, make sure everything has a place where everyone can get to them as needed. 

Get everything nice, neat and organized.  Everything needs a place or you’ll feel like the walls are caving in with all the stuff everywhere.

3. Get some command hooks  

We have command hooks for our keys by the door.  There are 5 in the itty bitty bathroom for our towels.  There is one near the door for the fly swatter.  And a couple others spread throughout the camper. 

Yes, command hooks are super handy! 

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4. Bring extra shoes for the kids  

My kids get so muddy…. They must gravitate to the mud.  They literally had to wear wet, muddy shoes for about a day until the sun came out for a couple hours to dry them up.  

5. Bring cash for laundry 

There is usually a change machine in the laundry room to exchange your dollar bills for coins. But if you don’t have cash…. you’ll need to find some.  If you’re camping at an older facility, the laundry machines vending machines might also only take coins…not cards.

6. Do research on your campsite

Do you want to be near the bathrooms? Does it have a general store in case you forgot salt & pepper?  Are there trees for shade?  Does it have a laundry room?  Does the campsite have full hook up (cable, sewer, electric, water)?  Does it have a picnic table or fire pit?  Does it have cell service or Wifi? 

These may not be things you need/want but if you are looking for something specific, I’d check, because not all campgrounds are the same… (don’t ignore this one)!

READ MORE: This article will give you some tips and suggestions for choosing the best campsite for your family’s needs.

7. Don’t remove the yellow blocks too early  

…not until everything is hooked up and you are about to pull the trailer out of the driveway.  I took those little yellow triangles out too early.  The trailer was on the ball.  It managed to get pushed off the ball and roll almost into the back of the truck. (don’t ignore this one either)!

8. Get a big outdoor rug

You’ll want a rug for the outside of the camper.  Trust me: the bigger the better.  You’ll need it for everyone’s muddy, dirty shoes/feet.  

A family set up at the campground with a vintage trailer, some bikes, and toys
notice the big rug at the door, under the tarp?

9. Make a list for everything  

You need a checklist to make sure that your camper is ready to leave your driveway.  You need a list of kitchen stuff and food.  You need a list of clothes and accessories to bring.  It’s overwhelming if you don’t have a list for it all.  You will forget something! 

My in-laws… who have been camping like 40 years, still have a list.  It’s a lot smaller than mine, but you get the point.  (don’t ignore this one)

Here’s a free printable camping packing checklist you might want to check out if you’re looking for a starting place.

a printed camping checklist being used to pack for a camping trip
Grab these camping lists here

10. Don’t pack too many rainy day games  

Don’t pack 3 board games, 2 movies, and a deck of cards for the kids, in case it rains or they get bored. 

If it rains, go play in it.  If they get bored, go outside and explore.  All that extra stuff only takes up space. 

Travel trailers don’t have a ton of space to begin with, so use it wisely and leave that extra stuff at home.

But, here’s a post full of camping games and camping toy ideas in case you do want a few suggestions.

I hope our mistakes and lessons learned help you on your first travel trailer camping trip or your next one!

children running on a wet park path

Written by Heather

You can read more of Heather’s writings on her own Blog, .

Also written by Heather is this article, Surviving Quarantine with kids

image of printable family camping planner
Go from Camping Mess to Camping Success! Grab this in the Etsy Shop Here

5 thoughts on “Beginner’s guide: Tips for First-Time Travel Trailer Adventurers”

  1. I agree with your point about making a list of everything because it is very important to make sure that we don’t forget any essentials during our trip. So thank you for sharing this checklist, I like the way you make a separate section for everything.

  2. Great article! Your Tip 9 (Make a list for everything ) is great because when we make a list we take everything we need to camp with us. I agree with you all. Thanks for providing such information

  3. Thanks for the tips! But I disagree on leaving the games and movies at home. On a stormy night, those were some of our best memories! I’d rather have them and not need them (keep ‘em in a bag in the car) then have restless kids and grumpy parents in a small space.

    1. Yeah, that’s a tricky one! I agree that I don’t want my kids to just hang out inside an watch movies. If this were me (and I actually had something to watch videos on in a camper) I’d probably just tuck them away as a last resort option instead of the first choice… but, you’re right, cuddling and movies can be great family time together!

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