Tips for First-Time Winter RV Travelers

Josh SchukmanNovember 17, 2023

Tips for First-Time Winter RV Travelers

If you’re looking to travel in an RV for the first time this winter, you’re probably feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. 

Excitement to embark on your first trip of this type.

And nervousness because you’re just not sure how a camper will hold up to the winter!

Rest assured, with the right plan in place, you can have a wonderful winter RV road trip with your family.

This post breaks it down to help you and the family plan out the best trips and pack the right stuff to stay warm and safe on a winter RV trip.

RVs For Rent Near You

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Family Road Trip Tips

One of the best ways to embark on a winter RV trip that the whole family will enjoy is to help your kiddos help you plan the trip. When everyone gets a vote on where you stop, what you do, and where you sleep, everyone feels more a part of the journey. 

Plus you can make fun new discoveries when you let the whole family put part of themselves into the trip. 

Once you’ve got everyone on board with planning, there are a few important things to bear in mind for smooth rolling: 

Winter RVing Safety Tips

Campervan in the winter

When it comes to winter RVing, here are important safety items to check off your list:

Winter-ready tires — Whether you’re rolling in a motorhome or towing a trailer, your tires are literally the most important touchpoint of your trip. Make sure they’re all in excellent condition with fresh treads.

And winter RVing also demands that you have, at minimum, all-season tires on your rig. 

If you’re renting an RV, be sure to ask the owner what sort of winter tires you’ll be rolling with and how recently they’ve been checked/changed.

Call ahead for campground openings — Some RV parks close for the winter months. That’s why it’s an important safety tip to always call ahead so you don’t end up heading to an area with nowhere to camp.

Four-season camper? RVs that are made for the winter are called four-season campers. This means they’ll have beefed-up insulation, more advanced windows, and other features to keep you toasty. While four-season functionality isn’t necessary for all winter camping destinations, it’ll usually make for a smoother winter RVing trip. 

Heated RV water hoseEven if you plan a winter RV trip in sunnier climates, temps can dip below freezing at night even in places like Arizona, New Mexico, and California. When it does, your freshwater hose will likely freeze unless you roll with one of these hot items.

Extra heat — Space heaters pull a fair bit of electricity, so you want to be mindful of your RV’s power constraints. But, as long as you can fit the amps, space heaters like these are a nice supplement to your main RV heater (which usually runs on propane).

Note that if you plan to boondock, space heaters are usually a toughie because they can tax generators and onboard batteries.  

Tire chains — Planning to tackle any mountain passes? Even southern peaks see snow and ice, so you’ll want to pack a good set of tire chains to make the climb. 

Need more winter RV safety tips? Check out this article we wrote up for an exhaustive list of tips for winter RVing.

Roamly RV Insurance

Winter RVing Pack List 

Camping in the winter brings a special flavor to family travel as you enjoy things like hot chocolate around the campfire, cozy sweaters, and maybe even some snowbound fun. 

But winter camping also calls for the right set of items to keep everyone safe and cozy. If you’re renting an RV, be sure to check in with the owner for winter items they provide versus ones you should bring:

-Blankets like these compact ones are easily packed and will add an extra layer of toastiness anywhere you need it. 

Hand warmers will help take the edge off so you can get outside.

First aid kit

Layered clothing — The key to winter camping is the ability to adjust the thickness of your clothing based on weather. Winter gear like this can be easily stacked to match whatever momma nature throws at you.   

Hot chocolate and marshmallows

Camp-friendly coffee

Stocking hats for all family members

Winter hiking boots

Cozy PJs

Puzzles and board games for when it’s just too cold to be outside

Snowshoes and skis (if that’s your thing)

Sleds (if you’re heading to sledding country)

For an exhaustive pack list, check out our ultimate camping checklist here.  

Winter campfire

Winter RVing: Keeping the Kids Entertained

You’re embarking on this journey to create family fun and family memories. Here are some of the best ways to do that:

Engage in exploration — One of the best things about RVing is that you get to check out the spaces in between. Have each family member pick out a few spots they want to explore on your road trip, from museums to roadside attractions to natural wonders that fall along your path. 

Road trip bingoFun games like this help cure the are-we-there-yet? blues. 

Hiking — As long as you have the right gear, hiking is a stellar option in almost any scenario. AllTrails is our site of choice for finding epic hikes anywhere we roll. 

Wildlife watching — Animals are out and about in all seasons. Check out this article for tips on seeing wildlife during your winter RV trip. 

Tech-free chilling — RVing creates a valid excuse for your whole family to limit the use of tech. You could even force the issue by rolling into spots like national parks or national forests where cell service is often nonexistent. 

Old-fashioned fun —  Once you’ve established tech boundaries, embrace your tech freedom with family activities you probably rarely do otherwise. Read together, bust out a board game, play cards together, get the whole family involved in meal prep, and more.

Get creative to find ways of creating the peace, solitude, and togetherness that’s often too elusive in real life.   

Child playing Jenga

Budget Friendly Winter Camping

The good news about winter camping is that prices for RV sites tend to be lower in many areas during the colder months. Some spots, like the Florida Keys, will see a price surge in winter, but for the most part, winter RVing is more affordable than summer RVing. 

One of the most budget-friendly ways to go winter camping is to head into some of the in-between spots that still benefit from nicer weather, but aren’t so crowded that prices surge. Here are a few examples:

Southern California — Cali can be expensive during the winter as snowbirds flock there, but spots like Joshua Tree National Park still offer budget-friendly camping and family-friendly activities like rock climbing and sightseeing. 

RVs for rent near here

Northern Arizona — Home to camping meccas like Sedona, Flagstaff, and Prescott, Northern Arizona features stunning red rock formations, pine-topped mountains, and world-class hiking in places like the Coconino National Forest.

This zone sees winter snows alternating around gorgeous sunny days, so you’ll have a mix of activities for the family to enjoy. Budget-friendly camping abounds at boondocking sites all over the Coconino National Forest

For full hookup RV sites, look at Thousand Trails Verde Valley. This fully loaded RV resort sits just outside a winery and is centrally located to all the things in Northern AZ.

RVs for rent in Northern Arizona

Southwest Utah — Winter is still a great time to explore spots like Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Affordable camping options abound in this zone as do family-friendly activities like hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.    

RVs for rent near the parks

Roamly RV Insurance

Texas Hill Country — The town of Fredericksburg is smack in the middle of hill country and serves up South Texas’ usually mild winter. Check out a haunted tour with the kids, see why the area vineyards are gaining national recognition, or try your hand glamping at Outdoorsy Hill Country.   

RVs for rent near Fredericksburg

The Southeast — Here we’re talking about areas like the Florida Panhandle, Southern Mississippi and Alabama, and southeastern Georgia. Rolling through these areas for some winter RVing brings milder climates and the chance to explore friendly cities like Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA

Check out the haunted tours in Charleston, explore the history museums of Savannah, and then roll down to one of the lesser-known beaches in spots like Gulf Shores, AL and Biloxi, MS.  

Rent an RV in a place like Atlanta to launch your winter RVing from a central location. 

Other Budget-Friendly Winter Camping Activities

Mountains and the Milky Way

Still jonesing for more family fun this winter? Here are more budget-friendly options that you ought to be able to make happen along your route:

Take an outing to a thermal (hot) springs

Dutch Oven Cooking

-Ice fishing (if you’re in a cold enough climate to do it safely)

-Snowshoeing and/or cross-country skiing

Guided journaling as a family

-Pick up a new hobby — Make this fun and get the family involved before your trip to pick out a new activity you all want to learn together. 

-Family movie nights

-S’more fests, every night 🙂 

Winter RVing Safety Tips

Here are the most important things to bear in mind when camping this winter:

-Stock a roadside hazard kit.

-Pack ample fresh water and emergency food rations in case you get stranded.

-Read up on the rules for safe winter driving

-Bring plenty of extra blankets, gloves, and winter hats for everyone. 

-Know the signs of frostbite and how to prevent it

-Have a personal locator beacon with the family at all times in case you get stranded in an area without cell coverage. 

-Double-check that your RV has winter-ready tires and tire chains.

Winter RVing can be a fun and affordable way to spend time with the family if you have the tips and tools we’ve laid out above. By venturing out for some winter camping, you’ll also usually benefit from smaller crowds, better pricing, and better campsite availability.

Check out our winter-ready rigs for rent and show Father Winter who’s boss. 

RVs For Rent Near You

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Josh and his wife traveled around the country in an '88 Airstream for 4+ years of full-time RVing. They made an unexpected pitstop in Montana in 2020 and haven't left since. That's because they got hooked on the glamping resort they run by Glacier National Park. Fittingly, they keep up their RVing love by renting out vintage Airstreams and other retro RVs to travelers hitting Montana.

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