As we wrap up the holidays and are coming into the New Year, I think a lot about the year behind me; the things I did, the things I didn’t do, and the things I wish I had done. In my travels I’ve made a lot of mistakes and there were things that could have turned out better. It’s all about how you look at things, though. We’ve had plenty of things go bad and instead of letting them ruin our vacation, we’ve found ways to turn them around.
Today, I’m going to talk about some of the things that have gone so terribly wrong with our adventures and how we handled them. Keep in mind that this isn’t an extensive list and that we often don’t consider mild things a big issue, but that we do in fact experience mild issues as well such as terrible traffic, rude people, colds, bad customer service, no parking, etc. Some other minor issues we experienced include:
-Finding places to dump our tanks and refill with water. Without sleeping at an RV resort every night, being able to dump and refill for free, we had to be very resourceful at finding dump stations. This is NOT EASY. As soon as we dumped in one area, I would immediately be on the search for the next one. We mostly used Cabela’s and state parks. There are also a lot of websites that list free dumping options or donation based dumping, so we found those websites quite useful. Just put ‘free RV dump sites’ in your search engine!
-Having limited water goes right along with the last one. We had to be extremely conservative with our water and usage because we weren’t sure where our next dump station would be. To help with this, we got a VIP membership to Planet Fitness which allows you to use their locations nationwide (this includes restrooms and showers) for only $20 a month. Also, we kept about 6 gallons of water on reserve if we ended up running out of water (which we did).
-Another thing to check before you leave is the hose you’re using at the dump station. Our hose was very short and if you can imagine, that’s not ideal.
-Long drive time and high MPG were big shockers for us with the RV. On the first leg of our road trip, it really freaked me out because it took the estimated time + ½ of that to get there. So, if the estimated time it takes is 4 hours, in the RV it would take 6 hours. Our first leg was supposed to take about 18 hours and it ended up taking us 27 hours. I had a pretty planned out itinerary that mapped out exact times to leave so that we would get to destination B at the perfect time. Now, my whole itinerary was messed up. Instead of getting upset about his, we just re-evaluated our planned times to leave and adjusted them all accordingly. We also had to cut out quite a few places we had wanted to go. Again, we didn’t get upset about this, just changed our mindset.
-Making sure things stayed charged. This wasn’t necessarily an issue for us but it could have become one had we not been prepared. We charged out phones when the RV was running. Also, in case of emergency, we had two back-up forms of charging, one that was solar powered and the other that was battery powered.
-Having two different cell phone carriers. This is more of a tip. Me and A.J. had different cell phone carriers, so when one of us didn’t have service, the other person might. A.J. had Verizon Wireless as his carrier and he had service almost everywhere he went.
-Making sure you have enough gas. There was one scenario where we really got nervous we weren’t going to make it to the next gas station; however, fortunately we were prepared. We carried an extra gas tank with us in case of emergencies.
-Yellowstone National Park southern entrance was closed ‘due to winter’ when we went in April. This was a big surprise for us and to get around to the Northern entrance it would’ve taken us about 9 hours. So a heads up is to read up on the parks your going to in order to make sure they are open, roads are open, and there’s nothing going to become an issue.
-Sequoia National Park could have been a similar issue for us, we just got lucky. There were two entrances and with one of the entrances RV’s over 26 ft were not allowed through. Fortunately, we had gone through the other entrance.
Now, most of these things could have been better if we had changed some of our ways and been more prepared. You live and you learn, though. As long as you don’t let any of those lessons ruin your trip!
Next up are some things that weren’t as minor:
-Grandma passing away. Two days before we were leaving for a trip to Colorado, my grandma passed away. This was one of the worst things that can/could happen to anyone before a vacation. Little did I know, A.J. planned on proposing to me on this trip. My whole family, including my grandma, had known though. They knew they would be okay and encouraged me to still go, that that’s what my grandma would have wanted. I set out a special moment of peace for her while I was on the trip and when A.J. proposed, I knew she was looking down smiling. Death never happens at a ‘good’ time, but it’s especially hard before a vacation. Travel insurance could be an option to prevent agony over this.
-Motel room in Louisiana. We were staying very cheap at a motel for under $40 a night. I had very low expectations. We got there finally and headed up to our room with our bags in hand, tired after a 15 hr drive. The room was disgusting. A.J.’s quote “A crack head had to have been living here for 10 years.” The lights didn’t work, they were flickering all creepy like, and the bed mattress was basically black. This was after already reading reviews to bring your own towels and toilet paper because they don’t give you new towels or replenish your TP. A.J. went to talk to the front desk about a different room, not even really wanting to stay there after seeing that, and the lady said something along the lines of that being an accident because that room had been ‘blacklisted,’ GROSS! Any who, we go to our second room and what an adorable little room. It was completely re-done in bright colors and modern furniture. Very comfortable bed and new appliances were installed. I really wish we hadn’t have seen the first room, but the outcome ended up being fine. We had brought our own blankets, towels, and TP, everything worked fine, and it was extremely cheap compared to many of the surrounding hotels.
-Break pads were getting too hot in RV. Long story short, if we were using the break pads for an extended period of time, such as a long hill or mountainous area, they would end up giving out. Fortunately, the only time they ever actually gave out was in a position where we were going very slowly (under 10 MPH), but I definitely freaked out a little. I was driving when it happened and it was a big shocker when I was pressing the gas pedal and it was no longer working. It was a good time for us to learn that though because we had a lot more hills ahead of us. What we learned is that if we ‘pumped’ the breaks while going down the hills and used the breaks as little as possible, we would be okay. We would also take breaks if we were in very mountainous areas by pulling over and sitting for 10-15 minutes and letting our breaks cool off a little.
-The door breaking in the RV towards the end of our trip and the fridge not working were two inconveniences. We closed up the back door, tied it up tight, and had to use the front cars doors the rest of the trip. For the fridge issue, we ended up spending a pretty penny on a real thick, nice cooler, where we ended up having to ice down everything for the rest of our trip. We tried to figure out why our fridge wasn’t working but it got too technical.
- Our fuel pump got clogged up and stopped a few times during our travels. It was a real easy fix, but the first time it happened scared us good. The RV just wouldn’t turn on. Fortunately, my dad is quite the mechanic, so we gave him a call and he guessed a few things it could be. The fuel pump got clogged and luckily, A.J. was able to fix it. We were on the road in no time.
-The tanks not being clean at first. This was definitely our mistake that we should’ve been more prepared for. Before we left, the water must have sat in the tanks for a long period of time. We got on the road and when I went to wash my hands, the water smelled funny. The water was bad. Not only was it hard enough to find dump stations, but we also had no idea how to properly clean the tanks. I did a lot of research and found out that bleach would do the trick. This took a lot of time to clean the tanks though and it was something that we should have checked before we left. Plus, after we cleaned the tanks with bleach, the bleach was still in the system and we spent a lot of time having to get rid of all the water, refill, and clean it all out. My first shower, my eyes literally hurt because of the bleach that was still in the system. Fun times;)
-Pouring bleach down the drain also caused a big scare. When it got hot, the tanks would start to smell a bit if the tanks were close to full. At one point, it was smelly and we thought we should pour bleach down to help a little bit. As soon as I did that, the toilet started smoking. I did a little research and I’m no scientist but I think the smoke was mustard gas, the bleach was mixing with ammonia and was obviously not a good combination. We turned on all the exhausts, fans, and rolled down all the windows. For the next few hours, we were pretty worried about dying, LOL. So don’t do that!!!
-Not having A/C. This was another thing we could’ve checked and tried out before we left, but the RV was new to the family and we just assumed things worked. Driving around New Mexico in 110 degree weather (and don’t forget that we sat above the RV’s engine, so we had extra heat from that) was seriously dangerous. I often joke saying ‘I’m going to have a heat stroke’ if I’m hot in the summer, but this was no joke. At one point, we had to pull off to a gas station and sit in the A/C for an hour to cool our bodies off. We were drinking gallons of water and not using the restroom the whole day, all of the water in our bodies was sweating out and we were very dehydrated. This was pretty miserable. Our solution for this was just driving home instead of trying to see a few of the last few places. Best decision we could have made considering all the places we wanted to go would be just as hot. It wouldn’t have even been fun for us. Tip: know when to change up your vacation if things aren’t working out accordingly.
-Getting sick in Louisiana. We were sleeping at campgrounds in a tent our first time in Louisiana. Both times I’ve been to Louisiana, I’ve experienced terrible allergies. I think the trees and pollen are different in different cities and whatever is in New Orleans seriously affects me! I don’t know if it was the allergies or the difference in foods we were eating, or a combination of the two, but every night we were there on the first trip, I would go through about an hour of terrible itching, then my stomach would start to ache, and I would need to go to the restroom ASAP (TMI, sorry). A.J. didn’t experience any of this, so I knew it wasn’t bugs, but that’s what it felt like. It felt like bugs were biting me all over my body for at least an hour, then my stomach would start to ache and I would need to go to the restroom, every night, same routine, same cycle. I didn’t necessarily have a solution for this, because I never knew what it really was or how to ‘fix’ it, but I can tell you that I didn’t let it ruin my trip and that I still had fun when I wasn’t trying to go to bed.
-Broken down van. My brother in law flew down to Key West and didn’t want to come back home. A few months in, he called us and asked if we would drive his van down for him and then fly home, he would pay for gas. We said yes and got all the way to South Carolina before it broke down on a Sunday. We didn’t look at it negatively though, which I swear is why our day ended up turning out perfectly fine. We had AAA so we got a free tow and thank the Lord, one shop was open that day. Also, thankfully, our tow truck guy told us which one was open because the AAA representative suggested we go to one that wasn’t open until the next day (thanks so much). Another stroke of luck happened when the shop said they had the part and it would be fixed within 2 hours. We were a half hour from Hilton head beach, called up an Uber and ended up enjoying a nice beach day on a beautiful beach that I’d never been to. We got back to the van and left for Key West within 3 hours.
-Getting drunk in Key West. We were so gung-ho to get there and have a good time, that I went a little too hard a little too fast. There’s really no good solution to a hangover, but I just wanted to share that I got so drunk that I don’t even remember any of downtown Key West and got very lucky I didn’t get kidnapped considering I kept *literally* running away from my group. Tip: don’t get too drunk on vacation. You could hurt yourself, you don’t know the city or the people who live there, plus you might miss the chance to even see the place your in. The next day I had a terrible hangover so I practically ruined two of my days of vacation.
-Something that could’ve held us back from a vacation opportunity was the cost of hotels during Mardi gras. When we began looking up prices, most hotels were already booked and if they weren’t, they cost $600. Our solution for this was finding a cheaper method! If there’s a will, there’s a way!
-Another thing that could’ve held us back from our travels was our car breaking down before our trip to Idaho. Instead of letting this hold us back, we considered different options and we ended up renting a car. Our car had come out of the shop before we left, but to reduce the risk of another possible breakdown, we still went with the rental car. We were very pleased with this decision and we had no worries during our road trip.
All in all, none of these mishaps ruined our experiences. If someone were to ask ‘how was Louisiana?’ My first thoughts would be about the great food, the drinks, and the fun we had, not about the motel and sicknesses. This is true for every single one of our vacations. We don’t let the bad things ruin our time, we just move on. We all experience things that don’t go as planned and aren’t perfect, but it’s all about perspective. Enjoy the little things and don’t hold on to the bad things. Maybe you read through my list and said ‘ah, those aren’t too bad’ or maybe you were the person who said ‘wow, I would never go back.’ I’m the kind of person who says ‘that’s not too bad.’ I don’t complain; I come up with a solution and continue enjoying the adventure we call life. Good luck on your adventures and just remember that a lot of other travelers have probably experienced similar issues; reach out and ask for help because every fellow traveler I’ve ever met would be more than happy to share some advice for a solution! (Including me!)