How to pack up an RV for a travel day: The only external RV packing list you’ll need!

travel trailer and truck once it is all packed up to go!

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RV travel

What does packing up an RV for travel from spot to spot really look like? Traveling all over the United states in an RV (travel trailer, motor home, 5th wheel) no matter what flavor of recreational vehicle you have is a fun experience. But, there are several very important aspects of traveling in this manner. Packing & preparing your before you set off and if you’re long term traveling, packing up between each destination.

Much of RVing comes with practice but here is a general checklist once we made the decision to buy a travel trailer that helps us to ensure that we haven’t skipped any important safety tasks before getting back on the road to exploring. This checklist is focused on the outside of the RV detailing how to pack your RV for travel. Read on for all of the details!

Short Term Travel Trailer Living

RVing and living out of a travel trailer definitely can be a more permanent lifestyle. It’s not for everyone but it creates a great amount of flexibility especially for those who love to explore. Just to give a little context, I grew up camping however as an adult this is my first ever travel trailer that I have owned. My husband and I are relocating from Minnesota to Texas and in the interim purchased a travel trailer to live out of, work remotely from & travel throughout the United States. It’s definitely a lot of packing up and moving, but in the time so far that we’ve been doing it gets easier and easier. The system of how to pack an RV for travel will help you if you are newer to RVing. I’ve also shared several other things about how we decided on our specific travel trailer as well as how we set up our trailer with mobile RV internet so we’re able to work remotely.

travel trailer and truck once it is all packed up to go!

How to pack an RV for Travel: External RV Pack-up Checklist

This checklist is focused on the external part of the RV/travel trailer and all of the items that need to be addressed before you’re ready to hook on and head out down the road to your next adventure!

Holding Tanks

We’ll start the exterior RV packing up for travel checklist with probably the least fun task of all, the holding tanks. Depending on your specific model of travel trailer, you may have a different configuration or capacity of holding tanks but regardless you’ll want to follow these steps:

Empty the Black Tank

The black tank is essentially your sewer holding tank and you’ll want to empty it if you’re in an RV park with a full hook up you can do it at your site, while some RV parks or even gas stations have RV dumping facilities. Depending on the type of camping you’re doing and where you’re staying you may have to transport your trailer somewhere before you empty the tanks.

(Disclaimer: This RV packing to travel checklist is more specific to a full hook up RV site but the same steps can be performed at an RV Dump site.)

Connect Black Tank Flush hose (if applicable)

Not all trailers or RV’s have a blank tank flush. However, if you do have that connect it to water and flush out your black tank. It’s a great feature to have for ongoing maintenance to ensure your tanks are as clean as they can be.

Fill Black Tank 2/3 Full

You’re always supposed to dump your black tank at 2/3 full as a good rule of thumb. The more water you have in the tank, because it’s a gravity flow system, the more clean your tank will get while you’re flushing it out.

Empty Grey Tank

Your grey tank is your shower & sink holding tank(s). Your rig may have more than one grey tank but generally you will have at least one.

Empty Black Tank (once again) repeat as necessary

In order to flush out the water that you put into the black tank and drain it. Empty the tank yet again. Continue to add water and flush the black tank as needed. (See more details and tips in our exterior RV packing to travel YouTube video!)

Empty Additional Grey Tanks

If your trailer or RV has more than one grey tank, flush the additional tanks as you’re completing your exterior packing checklist before traveling with your RV.

Stow Sewer Hose & all connections

Once you’re completely flushed and all of the tanks are empty, stow your sewer hose. It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your sewer hose and other hoses separate. (In bins or on opposite sides of the stowage or separate compartments if that’s your configuration of your specific RV.)

Water

Fill fresh water tank 2/3 full (if needed for next location)

Depending on where your next location is and if you have full hookups, you can fill your tank if you need it once you get there and won’t have access to water. Typically, we like to have full hookups but it depends on how long you’re going to be somewhere and if you have access to other water or shower facilities etc. as to what makes sense for you to do. You don’t want to travel with extra water in the fresh tank if you don’t need it because it just adds extra weight that you’re towing around. So, this step may be null and void as it’s specific to everyones own situation but it’s something to consider as you pack your RV for travel.

Optional: Fill Black Tank (10-15% capacity)

Again, another optional item but definitely wanted to mention it in the RV packing to travel list. Before removing your water hose connections, you can also fill your black tank just a little to help clean it out further by adding a little water to slosh around as you tow to the next location.

Remove hose connection

Be sure to turn off the water first, then remove the hose connection. Otherwise you might spray water everywhere!

Stow water hoses

After you’ve filled appropriate tanks if needed and removed your water connections be sure to stow the hoses. You’ll want to ensure your water hoses are stowed separately from your sewer hoses to not cross contaminate any germs.

Electrical

Bring Slide in

When the RV is still connected to power at your site, bring your slide in. You can conserve your battery energy by using the electricity when you’re still connected to bring it in. If you have multiple slides this could make a huge difference! While you’re bringing the slide in be sure someone is outside watching to make sure you don’t hit something and people stay out of the way for safety.

Retract Stabilizers (if electric)

One of the best features of our trailer is the electric stabilizers. Not all trailers have this feature but it’s definitely nice! There are buttons on the outside of the trailer as well as a handy dandy remote to make packing up your RV on travel day really slick.

Remove additional stabilizers (if applicable)

If you have any additional stabilizers, be sure to remove these and stow them. We have additional stabilizers that really make a huge difference toward the back of the trailer. They aren’t necessary but they are definitely nice to have.

Power off & remove surge protector and cables

First, turn the power off using the breaker (that is the most important part!) Then remove the surge protector and electric cables from the pedestal and then trailer.

Stow surge protector & cables

Roll up your electric cables and surge protector and stow them away safely.

Wheels

Check PSI of wheels

Check the tire pressure of the RV wheels with a tire pressure gauge. Keep in mind that as you drive and your tires heat up it will expand so don’t fill them to the max. Your tires on the sidewall should state what PSI to keep them at. For example for our trailer, if it is at the maximum weight the PSI of the tires should be at 65 PSI.

Torque wheels (if needed)

Before setting out on a longer term time on the road, we replaced our tires to the trailer. According to the tire technician he recommended torquing the wheels and checking them every so often. Just so you don’t lose sight of it, it doesn’t hurt to check and torque them as a part of your pack up routine. For reference, the wheels on the tire are aluminum rims so recommend torquing the wheels to 100 Ft-lb. Essentially what this means is how much force is applied per foot. Definitely check the specifics on your wheels and what they should be torqued to.

Remove chocks & stow

Remove any chocks out from under the wheels and ensure you stow them in their appropriate place.

Final once over/walk through:

The last thing you should do when packing your RV for travel is to walk around your whole trailer making sure everything is as it should be before hooking on and heading out!

Tow vehicle

Be sure your tow vehicle is gased up, has tires in good condition and is good on the oil change as well as no other known issues with the engine or general operability.

Hitch connections

Check your hitch lock and be sure it’s secure. That the electrical connection is working as well as the trailer braking and lights to the trailer are operational.

Propane

Be sure to switch your propane off! It’s very dangerous even if it was a mistake to leave this on while driving down the road.

Storage Doors & passthroughs

All of your storage for the hoses, tools and the things you need to set up and tear down your RV are really important so be sure the areas where these things are kept are closed, locked and secure!

Windows

Double check that windows are closed & locked before you head out.

Stabilizer jacks

Double check that the stabilizers are fully up.

RV entry steps & door

After you’ve completed the interior RV pack up checklist, ensure that the RV entry steps are stowed and secure, the bar is tucked away and the door is locked.

Downloadable PDF: how to pack your RV for travel

RV Packing Checklist

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    Beyond How to pack your RV for Travel: More RV & Travel Trailer Information:

    Travel Trailer Decision

    Mobile RV Internet Set-up & Decision

    Published by WanderLust in Real Life

    I'm a 30 something living in the Midwest of the United States that loves every aspect of travel. Researching, planning, & of course actually going on adventures whether near or far.

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