Towing a travel trailer isn't something anyone should take lightly. In fact, it can be an overwhelming nightmare for people who don't take it seriously. But after some significant research, I've found 15 tips that should help you make it less stressful.
When you're towing a travel trailer, the following 15 tips will help provide you a safe and hassle-free experience:
- Make sure you have a capable towing vehicle
- Pack light
- Prepare the trailer
- Follow the law
- Correctly hitch your trailer
- Check your visibility
- Know your trailer’s height
- Plan your route in advance
- Practice backing up
- Don’t rush when driving
- Never hit the brakes too hard
- Avoid 90-degree turns as much as possible
- Use your turn signals when needed
- Choose your parking spots carefully
- Eliminate distractions and stay focused
These tips are a little non-descriptive and require a bit more discussion to give you their full effect. So please, keep reading, and I'll further explain how these actions will make travel trailer towing a less-nightmarish experience!
15 Tips Travel Trailer Towing Tips
Travel trailer towing isn't something anyone truly enjoys, but sometimes it's a necessity. And when those times arise, it's best you're fully prepared for what you're about to encounter. If you're not, things can get out of hand rather quickly.
But with the following tips, your trip shouldn't be something you end up dreading. It'll instead be a run of the mill experience where nothing remotely interesting happens. And isn't that what we are all hoping for when we're towing a travel trailer?
Tip 1: Make Sure You Have The Right Towing Vehicle
It’s essential you understand that having a towing hitch doesn’t mean your truck or SUV’s capable of towing your trailer. There’s a reason these vehicles come with maximum towing capacity and adhering to it is a must.
This towing capacity should be in the manual that came with your truck or SUV. Once you do find the towing capacity, you must them compared it to your trailer's weight: make sure to include the weight of everything onboard the trailer as well.
Of course, nobody expects you to weigh every little piece of silverware or clothing; but you can get a general idea of the trailer’s weight by referencing the GVWR (your RV’s total load weight). From there, make sure your vehicle's towing capacity is equal to or above that number.
Tip 2: Pack Light
Packing light will make sure your trailer doesn’t become weighed down, which can cause some issues on the road. It’ll also ensure the limited space inside your RV isn't overly crowded during your trip.
As a result, pack what’s necessary and go easy on things like clothing, food, and other accessories. Another thing you can do to reduce your trailer's weight is empty your water tanks before your trip.
After all, water by itself weighs more than eight pounds per gallon!
Tip 3: Prepare The Trailer
Since you’re towing it around at high speeds, it's necessary to ensure nothing starts flying around inside the RV. Given this information, preparing your trailer becomes a big part of the preparation for your trip.
This process should include using bungee cords to tie things down, securing cabinet latches, tightly closing windows and doors, etc. In other words, do anything you think will keep things from breaking inside the trailer during the trip.
Tip 4: Follow The Law
If you plan on towing a travel trailer, you must have a grasp of each state’s towing laws. You see the rules will differ from state to state and some of them are rather specific. For instance, there are regulations about trailer length in some regions.
You also could come across laws stating whether or not you can tow another vehicle or boat behind your trailer. Keeping yourself aware of these regulations will make sure you aren’t ticketed or barred from entering a state.
Tip 5: Correctly Hitch Your Vehicle
If your trailer is hitched onto your tow vehicle incorrectly, your trip is going to be an absolute nightmare. As a result, please make sure your hitch is attached, secured, and the cables are correctly connected.
You’ll also want to evaluate the weight distribution between your tow truck and trailer. The trailer needs to be level, which you can see when there's a nice flat plane between both vehicles. If there isn’t and some tipping occurs, it’s a sign that they’re off-balance.
In some cases, it’ll be hard to determine strictly by eyeballing it. If you can't tell, go to a truck scale and let them measure all the weight put on your tires.
Tip 6: Check Your Visibility
Towing a travel trailer will cause you some limitations regarding viewing what’s going on behind you. In most cases, your rear view will be limited to whatever your tow vehicle’s side mirrors can provide.
If you intend on relying on these mirrors, ensure you can see your trailer’s rear end in both of them. Otherwise, your trip could end up being incredibly dangerous for everybody. If you feel uncomfortable with your visibility, investing in a backup camera or side mirror extensions to could improve it.
Tip 7: Know Your Trailer’s Height
This tip might seem a little strange, but knowing your trailer’s height is a necessary safety requirement. After all, there’s a reason bridges or tunnels advertise clearances heights at their entrances.
Don’t be the person who shrugs this information aside and ends up destroying your trailer by driving into a bridge. You should instead figure out your trailer’s height, add a foot onto it, and be cautious of clearance signs.
Tip 8: Plan Your Route In Advance
Before you start towing around your travel trailer, please make sure you know where you’re going. The confusion of being lost will only add stress and make it more likely you make a life-threatening mistake.
As a result, you'll need something to take this responsibility from you. An excellent option is investing in a top-notch navigation system. If you can, find one with an RV setting as it’ll steer you away from things like low bridges.
It’ll also keep your clear of one-way roads, which always represent a hassle for people towing travel trailers.
Tip 9: Practice Backing Up
I don’t think there’s any more frightening than trying to back up when you’re towing a travel trailer. I mean, the way a towed trailer backs up isn’t what you’re used to experiencing in other vehicles. It takes a little bit for it to feel natural.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to practice backing up where there isn’t anything you can hit. It’ll give you some much-needed experience before you have to do it in a real setting. Just remember, you should take it slow to ensure you avoid making a mistake.
You should also try to avoid situations that require backing up under pressure such as within a roadway. It’ll only add stress to an already anxiety-filled scenario and make it more likely you make a mistake.
Tip 10: Don’t Rush When Driving
This tip is borderline common sense; however, you’d be shocked how many people driving way too fast when driving around a towed travel trailer. This approach is asking for something dangerous to happen given the weight that you’re dragging behind you.
It’s better to keep yourself in the right-hand lane and pace yourself: keeping under or at the speed limit is an excellent idea with a situation like this one. Plus, it allows you to enjoy the striking scenery that you’re driving past.
So please, relax and take it slow. It’ll benefit not only you but everyone that’s driving around you as well.
Tip 11: Never Hit The Brakes Too Hard
When towing a travel trailer, braking too hard is a recipe for disaster. Trailers aren’t meant to stop on a dime due to their massive size. All slamming on the brakes does is make things like skidding, trailer swaying, flipping over, and jackknifing more likely.
In other words, slamming on your brakes isn’t a good idea in any situation; therefore, keeping your speed at a reasonable pace is an essential part of this entire experience. You can also take comfort in knowing many trailers have electronic brakes that’ll reduce the risk.
Tip 12: Avoid 90-degree Turns As Much As Possible
Sharp turns are the enemy of people driving around towed travel trailers. If you see one that’s sharper than 90-degrees, it’s going to be an issue: the swaying back and forth could cause some severe complications.
Given this information, it’s best to avoid these type of turns as much as humanly possible. If you do have to take one, make it as wide as you can. This action will reduce the risk of the trailer flipping over or doing some other nightmarish thing.
Tip 13: Use Your Turn Signals Often
When you’re towing a travel trailer, your turn signals become crucial to keep everyone safe on the road. You need to realize that in your current situation you take up a lot of room; therefore, you must use your turn signals to let other drivers know where you intend on going.
Other drivers will appreciate your use of turn signals because now they can make room for you. It’ll also ensure that they won’t have to slam on their brakes as you won’t be moving without signaling.
But it’s also essential that you don’t signal too early as it’ll only confuse the other drivers. In fact, early signaling is just as bad as not indicating in the first place.
Tip 14: Choose Your Parking Spots Carefully
At some point, you’ll need to park your tow vehicle and travel trailer. The problem is that parking when towing a travel trailer can be difficult. It’ll take a lot of time and effort to find a spot that gives you enough room. With your current situation, you’ll need to take up two spaces.
These two spaces will ideally be away from other cars. If they’re not, you’ll have a decision to make regarding whether or not you can squeeze into it. It's also vital that you avoid parking on an angle, diagonally, or horizontally.
If you do, you’ll end up taking up too much room for the other drivers. And you’ll have a tough time getting out of the space as well.
Tip 15: Eliminate Distractions
Getting rid of distractions is key to any type of driving; however, it has an even higher level of importance when your towing given the massive size of your combined vehicle. Items like your phone should be complete afterthoughts in this situation.
You should also let other passengers handle things like changing the radio station, keeping track of directions, etc. It’ll make sure your entire focus stays on the road and toward keeping everyone safe.
Throughout this post, we've linked to various other posts on the site. Take the time to dive in and learn more about safe towing.
With these 15 tips now at your disposal, towing your travel trailer should seem a lot less daunting. If you have any suggestions of your own, we'd love to hear about them. Please feel free to post them in the comment section below!
Saturday 29th of February 2020
Any tips on good navigation programs that give good safe route options
Thursday 5th of March 2020
We appreciate the inquiry, John. Most modern smartphone GPS programs (such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Waze) provide timely and accurate traffic information (road closures, accidents, traffic congestion, etc.) that can help make drivers more situationally aware — something that's critical when towing a travel trailer. If you're looking for something a little more high-end, Garmin offers a wide variety of navigation systems that won't disappoint. We hope this helps. Stay safe!
Thursday 13th of February 2020
About a week ago, I got invited to a dune buggy competition. I really want to go, but I have no way to get my bike, dune buggy, and tools there. I think that I will need to look into different trailer options and maybe even look into getting one custom for my needs. Thank you so much for your advice to give the people in front of you plenty of room as you do not want to slam pon the breaks with a trailer. I will have to follow your tips once I get everything!
Friday 14th of February 2020
Thanks for the comment! We're glad you found the post helpful. As always, stay safe, especially when trailering!