The Flipping Nomad Shares Her Best Solo RVing Tips
Professional RV renovator Cortni Armstrong of The Flipping Nomad has accomplished many milestones in a short amount of time. Within her seven years as a full-time RVer, Armstrong has become a successful business owner and partnered with big-name companies like GMC and Keystone RV Company. Another milestone she is most proud of is solo RVing. In a recent article on GMC.com, Armstrong got candid about her journey to becoming a solo RVer.
“It was hard at first to figure it all out on my own. I used to think it would have been easier with a partner or a teacher to show me how everything is done. I definitely had moments of frustration working through it all. But now I’m glad there was no one there to help or show me the way. It has been empowering to know I taught myself how to do everything. And it is freeing to experience all these incredible places after finding the courage to go alone.”Cortni Armstrong
Armstrong reflected on her fears, learning curve, and tried and true tips. Her advice pertains to her experiences as a full-time solo RVer, but it really applies to all new RVers–solo, couple, family, full-time, and part-time travelers.
Initial fears before solo RVing
Armstrong was very hesitant about jumping into the RV lifestyle. She had zero background handling an RV, and without a travel companion, the whole experience seemed rather daunting. She also perseverated on the notion that because she was a girl, traveling would be even more dangerous.
“After a while, my desire to travel became greater than the reasons I had been telling myself why I shouldn’t. I metaphorically threw up my hands and yelled, ‘Enough! I want to go so bad! I’m going to figure it out no matter what it takes!’”
Solo RVing Tips For Beginners
And she did! One step at a time and one day at a time, Armstrong taught herself how to tow her fifth wheel, prep for a trip, and set up camp. The following are tidbits she shared.
1. Get started behind the wheel
Armstrong practiced driving her first truck and fifth wheel in a vacant high school parking lot one Saturday, circling around and figuring out how to back up.
“It gave me a feel for how the trailer responded to the truck. It also helped me figure out where the trailer would be in relation to the truck during turning maneuvers. The trailer goes anywhere you go. It just cuts the corner a little bit sharper.”
Armstrong admitted that backing up was confusing because the trailer moved in the opposite direction of the truck. She shared a trick she uses.
“First, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Next, push your hand in the direction that you want the trailer to go. By following these two steps, it takes the awkward, opposite motion out of backing.”
Once you feel comfortable behind the wheel, Armstrong suggested taking the RV to the grocery store or a fuel station and getting used to driving it in heavy traffic and tight spaces. Jump on the freeway and exit after a couple of miles. Turn around and get back on. This, she said, helps you get a feel for traveling at higher speeds and merging.
2. Prepare for the open road
When preparing for the open road, Armstrong suggested two things for a smooth departure and arrival.
- Plan your route before departing to avoid hazards like low bridges, steep grades, or questionable back roads. There are many online planning tools available. RV LIFE Trip Wizard is the best RV-friendly routing system that helps travelers get to their next destination safely. Users can create a travel budget, schedule stops along their route like fuel stations, and specify routing preferences like no toll roads—all of this and much more. A subscription includes the accompanying RV LIFE App with turn-by-turn directions.
- As a solo RVer, you are the sole accountable party. Whether written down in a notepad or digitally saved, having a checklist for different tasks keeps you in check. Armstrong has checklists for her campsite arrival and departure. She lists tasks like checking trailer lights and double-checking safety mechanisms like the hitch lock.
Regarding arrival and departure procedures, Armstrong emphasized the importance of staying focused as you check off each item.
“There are several safety tasks, and you should not be distracted while performing them. If someone wants to chat, politely ask to continue the conversation once you are done. This includes digital distractions. Don’t talk on the phone, text or browse social media while working through checklists.”
3. Set up camp
Situating yourself at a campsite is much easier with two people, but it isn’t impossible for one. Armstrong utilizes her rear camera when backing up into a spot, and if all else fails, she asks for help. Also, part of setting up the RV is making sure the electrical cord, water hose, and sewer hose are long enough to reach the hookups before unhitching.
As a safety precaution for solo RVers, Armstrong advised never posting your real-time location on social media accounts set to public viewing. She does share her location with her mom, however, as she is her emergency contact. As an extra precaution, if she goes hiking for the day, she’ll let her mom know when she returns and also carries a note in her backpack with her mom’s number.
Final thoughts on solo RVing from the Flipping Nomad
Some random but equally essential bits of advice from Armstrong:
“First, I don’t ever go below a half a tank of fuel…And trust your gut about the area you’re in. If it doesn’t feel right to you, move on.”
Armstrong also advised joining a virtual community. Becoming a part of an online solo traveler community was one way she was able to overcome her fears.
Meet other solo RVers, share your stories, and pick up all kinds of invaluable advice about RV living on iRV2 forums, with groups specifically geared towards solo travelers.
More advice on solo RVing
Sean and Kristy Michael of Long Long Honeymoon interviewed fellow full-time RVer and solo traveler Erin Jacobs. Although this video addresses women solo RVers, Jacobs offers sound advice for all solo RVers, regardless of gender.