5 tips for first-time motorhomers

By: Claire Smith


Claire Smith shares her tips for those planning their first motorhome holiday as she heads away with the family in a Maui Discovery

Taking away a motorhome for the first time can be a bit of a shock to the system for many. Romantic ideals of waking up to beautiful sunrises and relaxing with the family can easily dissolve into a headache if you’re not properly prepared or have overlooked some of the basics.

1. Choose the right vehicle for your needs

One of the first things you’ll realise when you look at the range of motorhome rentals available is that there is quite a variety to choose from. From snug two-berth campervans to family-sized six-berthers, there’s a motorhome to fit every family and to cater to every budget.

My last motorhome holiday was relatively short, with just hubby and our teenage daughter. RV Super Centre, through THL’s rental company Maui, sorted us out with the perfect solution—a 2016 Maui Discovery.

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This four-berth model has a large drop-down bed, plus the lounge seating area below transforms to a second double bed.

If you’re motorhoming for the first time or in a model you’re unfamiliar with, make sure you have one of the motorhome centre staff show you how to make the beds up. Sometimes there may be a switch, button, or technique you need to know to drop the bed down, and it can get frustrating if you’re not aware of it.

Speaking of having the staff show you the 101’s, that brings me to my next point...

2. Make sure you know how to use everything before you drive away

Most rental companies will make a point of demonstrating the intricate workings of your motorhome, but if they don’t and you’re unsure, it’s vital to ask. You don’t want to be trying to figure out how to empty the tanks, hook up the gas bottle, or get the heater to work while the kids are demanding dinner or the toilet is making funny noises.

The first thing I learnt when taking away our first motorhome was that it wasn’t quite as simple as I thought. I was thinking more about family bonding and enjoying a quiet coffee surrounded by birdsong than how to hook up the gas bottle or clean out the black water tank.

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Fortunately, the handover we received was very thorough and we drove away feeling pretty confident about how to use everything.

Top tip: When you pick up your motorhome, let them know if it’s your first time and ask for a full rundown on how to use it. It may even be useful to take a quick video on your phone as you’re shown various aspects.

3. Packing and preparing

Realistically, the first time you take away a motorhome, you’re likely to find yourself repeatedly saying, ‘Oh, we should have brought the…’ or ‘oh, we forgot the …’ For us, it was a broom, a canvas floor mat for outside (to help prevent dirt and grass from being brought inside), cooking oil, and a torch. Things I was glad to have remembered included rubbish bags and cleaning spray, my benchtop coffee machine, and my reading light.

Some rental companies provide crockery and cutlery, blankets and towels, while others may not, so it pays to check what’s included. We opted to pick up our motorhome and take it home to pack before heading away. The Maui Discovery had plenty of storage for the three of us, including a huge amount of space above the cab for things such as cameras, spare blankets, and backpacks.

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Packing your motorhome can take a fair bit of time, and it pays to do it properly the first time, so allow plenty of time to do this.

Top tip: Remember that everything needs to be stored securely before each drive. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you can’t leave a stray cup of water on the bench or the kids’ jar of marbles on the couch!

4. Plan your journey

Part of the joy of motorhoming is being able to take your time, go where the mood takes you, and discover parts of the country you’ve never explored. And that’s true, but until you’ve got a few trips under your belt, it pays to make sure you know exactly where you’ll be staying and how you’ll get there.

There are a number of options available these days when it comes to where to stay. Campsites and holiday parks are a good choice. For a fee (usually per person), you can enjoy facilities such as bathrooms and toilets, power, potable water, and more.

DOC campgrounds are another option. For a modest fee, you can enjoy staying in some of the country’s beautiful DOC grounds, which range from basic with limited facilities through to serviced sites with power, barbecues, etc.

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Another option is to freedom camp, in which case, you’ll need to ensure your motorhome is fully self-contained and that you know how and where to empty your tanks and how to properly sanitise them before returning your motorhome.

Freedom camping also means you’ll need to manage without plug-in power, so it may not be a good option during winter or if you will be relying on electricity for cooking, etc.

Top tip: Be sure to arrive at your campsite before dark. We made so many stops on our first trip that we arrived at our campsite very late. With limited lighting, we managed to get stuck in the mud, which made for a very stressful evening.

5. Care with driving

It goes without saying that driving a motorhome is a completely different kettle of fish to driving a car. Obviously, it’s a lot bigger and a lot heavier, which means driving up hills or around windy roads can be challenging. So it’s wise to take this into consideration when planning your journey. It’s a good idea to know the height and width of the motorhome and be aware of this if parking under trees or driving down narrow streets.

The Maui Discovery has an LDV base with automatic transmission. The driver’s cab includes all the creature comforts, including drink holders, USB chargers, air-conditioning, and a radio. Although, our teenager did bemoan the fact that it didn’t have a CD player (she has an impressive road trip collection). This motorhome also ticks the box for a safe drive with features such as driver and passenger airbags, electronic skid control assistance, and hill-hold starting assistance.

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Plan to give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, and remember it will take you longer than if travelling by car. Having a long stream of traffic behind you can become stressful for everyone involved, so make use of slow lanes and lay-bys to allow other drivers to safely overtake you.

Top tip: Remember to close any ceiling vents, wind down satellite dishes, and retract the steps before driving away.

To rent the Maui Discovery, visit www.maui-rentals.com. This motorhome is also available to purchase from RV Super Centre.

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