3 Tips To RV Caravaning With Friends (Without Driving Each Other Nuts)
I had a special request to write my “how to” post on caravaning with friends a little early, and decided to jump on it. We’re not done with our current buddies (so, we have yet to see if we go nuts), but I’m placing good money on the fact that we’re going to be A-OK when we finally decide to part ways. You see, we’ve got a really good partnership going with a keen understanding of each other’s needs, which is pretty much the core of what this traveling together business is all about.
For those who’ve never heard the term, “caravaning” means several RV’s traveling together over a period of time. There are big organizations like FMCA, Escapees etc. who organize formal caravans to specific locations (e.g. Mexico is a popular one, especially for first-timers) and then there are informal caravans that happen when RVers meet and either plan or spontaneously decide to travel along together for a while. We’ve only ever done the second kind and it’s always been a fun experience. We’ve caravaned together with folks for as short as a week to as long as several months, and in groups of up to 3-4 rigs.
Of course part of our traveling happiness is that we’ve always traveled with folks we like and feel we have stuff in common with. But even then, most of the folks we’ve caravanned with have been “RV budddies” that we’ve only known for short times (sometimes just a few days!) before we decided to hitch up together.
So, how do you manage this without driving each other nuts??? What if you end up hating each other? What if your new buddies have weird all-night happy hour habits you never knew about? The key, in my mind, is communication and keeping things loose. Even if things don’t work out between you, setting expectations up-front can help to ease along the process and ensure you have an “out” if you need it. Here’s my top 3 tips on how to make that happen:
1/ Know Thyself
Sounds rather prophetic and deep doesn’t it? Seriously though, knowing yourself and your own (or your family) limits is the first key to establishing a base of operation with your RV buddies. If you’re the kind of person who needs a lot of alone time (kinda us), or you’re the type who will only go to places that are dog-friendly (yup, that’s us), or you don’t drink (errr, not us), or you hate pot lucks (ho hum) this is important stuff to share with your RV buddies. Can you handle being around people day-to-day? Are you the kind who likes everything organized ahead of time? Do you like to sight-see everyday? Or, do you prefer more home-days and a casual, laid-back itinerary? Do you need alot of personal “space”? This is really the basis to #2 and setting expectations with your buddies. The more you know yourself and your own likes & needs, the happier you are going to be in the company of others when those needs are met.
2/ Talk With Your Buddies & Set Expectations
They say most things in life can be resolved through good communication, and I do believe that’s true. Once you’ve grilled yourself on the questions in #1 it’s time to have a casual talk with your RV caravan buddies and set expectations for the road ahead. Even if you’re part of a “formal” caravan you can always talk to the wagon master about some of these concerns before you sign up.
a) Traveling Together – Decide ahead of time if you want to travel from spot to spot as a team or go at separate times & meet-up when you get there. Some people like the “togetherness” of being on the road within view of each other, while others will literally go nuts with this arrangement. We’ve tried both and have decided we really prefer to travel separately. We have a different pace than most folks -> we rarely leave a place before 10am, we sometimes like to take a different route (maybe a back road) and we don’t like to stop for rests along the way. That’s just our style. The last thing we want is the frustration of waiting for another RV or stopping along the way when we’re itching to keep going. So, we tell our buddies “we’ll just meet you there”, and that works best for us. For those that like to stay in “sight” without actually being in sight, there are plenty of apps that allow you to keep track of each other without chaining yourselves to each other’s travel pace. We particularly like the “Find My Friends” app (available on Apple & Android) and use that, together with texting to stay connected on the road. Some folks use CB Radio’s, while others just rely on plain ‘old cellphone calls.
b) Parking Together – Most folks will chose to park together when they travel together, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be side-by-side. If you’re boondocking you might chose a site a little ways away from your neighbor, or if you’re in an RV park you might decide to park opposite your friends. If you really need your “space” talk about it up-front so your buddies know it’s not personal when you park a little bit away from them.
c) Eating & Drinking Together – RVers like to socialize and the vast majority of RV caravans have many “happy hours” and pot lucks. Some even organize get-togethers every night! If you are a happy-hour-every-evening kind of person ask your buddies if they would like that too. If you prefer to eat in groups, talk about that. If you prefer to eat alone, share that info with your buddies too. Talking about this stuff up-front will avoid awkwardness on the road and prevent questions like “we never see you for happy hour, don’t you like us?”. We do happy hours quite often (not every night) and share food maybe once or twice a week, but it’s a very loose schedule and many evenings we just prefer to have a quiet night to ourselves. I always tell our buddies “If you don’t see us, it’s not personal. We’re just getting some alone time.”
d) Doing Outings Together – This is perhaps the biggest area that folks will differ in their travel styles. Some folks just love to go and see everything there is in an area and need to be out everyday. Others might be working during the day and need to stay in and have “quiet time” during office hours (really important to know). Others like to veg and relax without too many outings at all. We’re a mix of the latter and rarely pre-plan any specific outings with our caravan buddies. Our work doesn’t have specific office hours, but we DO work during the day and enjoy lots of home “veg” time & occasional days off during the week. If we’re going for a hike or to a sightseeing spot or out to dinner, we might ask our buddies if they’d like to come along, but most days we just stay at home, work on our stuff and enjoy wherever we are with our pets. Our caravan buddies know we’re not the “super-sightseeing” type, so they are free to speed around and see the area while we stay at home and enjoy the view. Knowing these things about each other makes for much better “together” time once you get somewhere.
e) Staying Together – We’ve rarely ever set specific time-frames for our caravans since most of them have happened rather spontaneously. But if you’re doing this for the first time, or planning ahead or traveling with folks that you don’t know that well (yet) it may make sense to put a time limit on your “togetherness”. A couple of weeks is easy whereas a month can start to feel reeeealy long if you find yourself in the wrong company. If you decide to specify a timeframe my advice is to err on the short side since it’s much easier to extend than cut short. Nobody minds if you ask them whether they’d like to keep going together for a few more weeks, whereas many folks might feel really hurt if you sneak out early.
3/ Keep It Loose & Flexible
By definition RVing is all about “jello planning” and accepting that sh*t happens, especially when you least expect it. Believe me when I tell you that opening yourself to your “jello” side will make you a much, much happier RVer in the long run. You could have an unexpected mechanical issue, or you might decide you don’t like a place, or you might decide you just need to get away from your caravan for some alone time. Allowing for those flexibilities will make your caravan experience a much more pleasant experience. With our current caravan buddies we set the expectation up-front that we did not need to travel together every step of the way. Plus we gave each other the flexibility to jump ahead, or stay a few days extra at a given location, or to just leave and be off. In the end there’s nothing wrong with saying to your RV buddies “we’ve loved our experience together, but we’re feeling the urge to do some alone-travel”.
So, that’s it folks. Honestly our best caravan’s have been the ones where everyone kept it “loose” and accepted each other’s need for alone-time, but you might be different and the key is just to talk about it and be up-front about your needs. We’ve loved our caravan experiences and will likely continue them as we meet and enjoy folks on the road. It’s all part of our master jello plan 🙂
Got any good tips from your own travels with buddies? Or, had a terrible caravan experience you want to share? DO feel free to comment & add-on below.