Kitchen sink inside RV and close up of locks on outside of cabinets

RV Packing Tips for Beginners: The Ultimate Guide

Travel days while RVing can be quite stressful at times. From issues with your rig and tow vehicle to things getting thrown around in your RV with every turn or stop. Whether this is your first RV trip or you’re just looking for a new great idea, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got some key RV packing tips up our sleeves. These simple tips and tricks will help any RV newbie reach the end of those travel days in style, with less mess and more joy.

Woman inside RV with text 'RV packing tips to avoid disaster on travel days'

A TREKKN reader submitted this question:

“Any ideas on how to pack the rig on travel days to avoid having a disaster when you stop?”

What a great question! A question that’s worthy of its own post.

Lessons We Learned as New RVers

Learn by Doing

Early on in our full time RV travels, we did what most newbies do. We learned things the hard way. I mean, there’s only so much you can read, watch, and research before you realize the best way to start learn is to just kick off that road trip. Pack up that rig and get out there on the open road!

As Todd has mentioned before, we had never RV’d before we went all in and launched our full-time RV adventure. We moved from a house into an RV in 100 days with absolutely no experience. None. Zero.

Ok, Todd had childhood camping experience. But, this was the first time we would travel and live in an RV. Yes, I was the ultimate RV beginner. And I tell people all the time…if we can do it, so can you.

Avoid a Disaster Inside the Travel Trailer

Needless to say, we had a lot to learn in those early days and boy did we ever learn them fast. The first thing I learned was that a great way to create a disaster inside our travel trailer was to hit the road without securing everything.

I learned how to make sure plates don’t fly out of the cabinets on our way to the next RV campground. Another quick lesson learned was to secure items in the refrigerator so that a jar of pesto doesn’t fall out and explode everywhere. That lesson is memorable because I still have a pair of shoes with a stubborn pesto stain.

I also learned that latching the bedroom doors closed is necessary unless you like the look of markings and dents in the doors and walls.

Related Reading: The Best Advice for RV Beginners

RV Packing List

Before we dive into the core tips and tricks of this article, it may be helpful to review a quick RV packing checklist.

I would say some of these items are obviously a must-have on a road trip (e.g., first aid kit and mobile phone). But of course, many of the following items listed below are simply suggestions to help you get started.

Tailor it for your personal needs and outdoor adventure plans as well as what will be required for your specific recreational vehicle. Also ensure you have right gear for the specific destination and expected weather conditions.

Although this list may appear lengthy at first glance, try to pack light. As I’m sure you know by now, the storage space in any RV, whether it’s travel trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome, is minimal. In general, if you’re questioning whether or not to bring something, there may be a good chance you won’t need that item.

Here are a few things we recommend packing for an RV camping trip:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • First-aid kit
  • Emergency roadside kit, including battery jumper cables
  • Tire pressure monitoring system, tire pressure gauge, air compressor
  • Surge protectors and extension cords
  • Sewer hose kit, Fresh Water Hoses, Water pressure regulator
  • RV toilet paper (septic safe)
  • Leveling system and/or leveling blocks
  • Kitchen tools: bottle and can opener, cast iron skillet, coffee maker and filters, collapsible bowls, utensils, drinkware, knives, cutting board, zip closing bags, dish cleaning soap
  • Food staples such as seasonings and condiments, meal ingredients, and snacks (don’t forget travel snacks and drinks)
  • Recipes (prep and/or make meals in advance, if possible) and addresses of local grocery stores near your destination
  • Campfire starter kit and/or portable propane fire ring (check with campground in advance for fire restrictions)
  • Refrigerator bars and cabinet locks
  • Collapsible storage baskets or bins
  • Personal items, including clothing, toiletries, camera, headphones, and mobile phones (including chargers)
  • Entertainment items, including books, outdoor games, board games, puzzles, playing cards, and binoculars
  • Camp comfort items such as outdoor lounge chairs, bluetooth speaker, and hammock
  • Route plan and backup campgrounds in and near your destination

Free Printable RV Camping Packing Lists

Here are free printable copies of suggested list of items to pack for your next RV camping trip. Each list includes a few blank rows so that you can customize it to fit your specific needs and lifestyle.

To access your free, printable packing list, simply click on the links below. A new tab will open to display the checklist. Righter click on the file to either save it to your computer or print it out.

Top Tips for Avoiding a Disaster on RV Travel Days

Now let’s get to a few ideas we want to share so that you can benefit from the many lessons I learned as a first-time RV owner.

These are simple tips and tricks anyone can do. We narrowed our list to the basics to help you avoid issues inside the rig while driving. Nobody wants to clean up broken dishes (or jars of pesto) when they arrive to the campsite.

There are many more tips and lessons to learn but we keep it fairly simple today because I still believe that perhaps the best RV camping tips will be learned through experience.

Tip #1. Clear Off Your Counters

I caught myself thinking a time or two, surely I can leave this on the counter and it won’t go anywhere…it’ll be fine, right?  Don’t do it. Don’t give in. Clear those counters!

RV packing tips

I once left bananas on the kitchen counter and after we reached our destination, although they didn’t fly anywhere and stayed put, they looked like they had been through some hard things in their short little banana lives. They took a serious beating being bounced around the counters. 

I’ve also left odds and ends on the counter, only to open the door and see that they had flown off the counter (probably like a torpedo) across the RV.

Your best bet is to just take the extra minute or two to clear off the counters.

Tip #2. Use Refrigerator Bars

A Camco RV Refrigerator Bar costs about $10 and is worth every penny. It’s spring loaded to keep the items in your refrigerator where they belong. Just insert the bars across the opening like a gate, on the inside of the refrigerator door. These bars will save you a lot of clean up time.

The bars help save you clean up time because the contents inside your RV Refrigerator will shift and slide and fall during travel. When you open that door, items will fall out. Ask me how I know that? It’s just another one of those lessons I learned the hard way.

But after a jar of oily, strong-smelling pesto falls out of your fridge and sprays bright green pesto all over the floor and walls, you realize the importance of using a refrigerator bar.

After purchasing one of those, we never had another spilling incident.

On a side note…if you plan on RVing to Canada, they will most likely open your refrigerator to check the contents. Imagine a jar of pesto falling on the feet of one of the border agents.

Double RV Refrigerator Bar

Prevent spills with refrigerator bars that hold drinks, food containers and other items in place while traveling. Adjustable, spring-loaded bars extend 16" to 28".

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Tip #3. Use Tension Rods in the Cabinets

Another inexpensive and handy gadget for move day, are these cupboard bars.

Use them in your cabinets, pantry, and bathroom to keep things from falling and shifting.  I used them in our kitchen cabinets to keep the plates, mugs, and cups from falling out when I opened the door.

Related Reading: 50+ RV Accessories You Should Have

Tip #4. Lock Your Cabinet Doors from the Outside

To keep your cabinet doors from opening in your RV and everything flying across the room, using simple child locks will keep them in place. We can recommend Kiscords Locks for cabinet knobs.

You can also use simple bungee cords to secure the cabinet doors and keep those kitchen items inside where they belong.

Kiscords Cabinet Locks

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Tip #5. Put Loose Items in Bins and Store on the Floor

One item we used over and over, were these foldable cube storage bins.

Living Area

On move day I put all the personal items and household items that were placed on the counter and dining table into bins. These bins are then placed on the floor. They didn’t slide around a lot because they are made of cloth.

This is a quick and simple way to ensure all the basic items we use daily are both secure during travel and also easy to find when we reach our destination.

Another reason we buy these inexpensive baskets is because they are collapsible, which is perfect for storing in small spaces. When not in use, I fold it up flat and store it behind our couch. We use bins like these in our closets as well to store clothes and shoes.

RV Bathroom

In the bathroom, however, it’s a good idea to use plastic bins. You can easily find collapsible crates made from a waterproof material such as plastic. Use those tubs to store shampoo, conditioner, and soaps on travel days. Unless you have a permanently installed wall unit or one with a strong suction, place the bathroom bins on the floor.

Collapsible Storage Baskets
$27.99 ($14.00 / Count)


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Collapsible Storage Crates

Foldable, collapsible, and stackable storage boxes. Pack of 4.

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Tip #6. Use Plastic Picture Frames

Whether you use command strips, nails or screws to hang pictures on your RV walls, chances of them falling on a travel day are high. This happened to our pictures several times and I was incredibly thankful I had chosen frames with plastic covers instead of glass.

I’ve heard a story or two of RVers finding broken glass everywhere after pictures had fallen during travel.

Another option is to remove the glass cover completely, which is what I did with these printables I hung up.

But, there was one piece of art we purchased from the Ansel Adams Art Gallery in Yosemite National Park that I wanted to protect. So it was hung with an acrylic cover.

Christmas in the RV

Tip #7. Follow the Same Routine Every Time

The best way to make sure you’re doing everything on your list to avoid any disasters on a travel day is to follow a routine. Whether that’s starting from one side of the RV and making your way to the other side, or using a physical checklist to mark things off.

Having a routine of some sort will help you remember important things on a travel day, like taking all the soap containers off the shower shelves and storing them in the plastic crates.

I covered a few of these packing tips in our RV tour video below. Check it out!

Get Out There and Enjoy the Ride!

I truly hope these RV packing tips will help you pack in a way to avoid travel day disasters. I’m thankful our lessons learned were only minor ones!

If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments below. We love hearing from the RV community and learning about more great RV tips!


RV Packing Tips

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  1. I always put the coffee mugs in the sink for move day. a qqNever had any break. We also used corell dishes, much nicer than plastic.

    1. Great idea about the coffee mugs! And I definitely got sick of our plastic plates while we were full-timing. I’ll have to look into getting some Correll dishes. Thanks, Kathryn!

    2. We have been raving for the past 17 years. (Got a late start in life) but have enjoyed every minute. I purchased Cornell from the start! I don’t like paper plates either. Like the idea of cups in the sink. Always ready for a cup when we stop!

  2. We don’t go far or for long. Our RV is a 25′ toy hauler which is made for tying stuff down. We use most of the above, but bungee cords are great and so are cargo nets. (Put a sleeping bag over the stuff on the bed, top with cargo net.) A lot of the roads we travel hardly deserve the name, so it matters.

    1. Those are great tips, Marianne! Thank you! I’ve never thought of using cargo nets. We definitely hit some brutal roads on our travels. I was always so scared to peek inside the trailer afterward.

  3. I love Corelle too. Just be careful to secure when moving. They don’t break easily but when they do, it’s a thousand tiny slivers & shards. I had a cabinet shelf give way in our house & it was a nightmare!

  4. Where did you get the plastic cover for your art? I have a painting I got in Peru that must go with us.
    I use clear sticky pads for permanent things around our RV. However, they don’t work for walls.
    Everything in our cabinets are stored in plastic tubs either with or without lids but I still use tension rods.
    Thank you for your tips!

    1. Hi Deby,

      I actually just bought frames with acrylic “glass” instead of real glass. You can search for “frames with acrylic glass” on Amazon or I know stores like Walmart and Target carry them as well. I would love to get a painting from Peru some day! 🙂

  5. When I was growing up, my mother use to pack the decorator, sofa pillows into the cabinets to keep dishes from falling out onto the floor. My sister does the same and puts a pillow in the microwave to keep the turning plate in place. Worked for them, maybe will work for you too.

  6. I have used a yard stick to keep drawers from opening during a move. I also have learned to cut the toes off socks to slide over any wine or alcohol bottles to keeP them from clanking. Cut the top part off of the sock to slide over my wine glasses to keep them from getting scratched. I also use a cabinet rubber liner to eliminate many things from sliding around, plus keeps cabinets looking nice.

  7. Thank you for your tips. We just purchased a 5th wheel and we will transition into full time living over the next few months. We have folding kitchen chairs, where is best place to store them while traveling?

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Congrats on the purchase and the new adventure you’re about to embark on! 🙂

      It all depends on your set-up. In our rig, we were able to store some things behind our couch.

    1. Sorry about that, Kim. We do not have an updated Travel Binder available for 2023 (so it will have an outdated calendar), but I will email you our latest version from a couple of years ago that still has tons of useful resources in it.
      Hope that helps, and sorry for the inconvenience!

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