How to Plan for Your 1st RV Show!!!!

aka Lessons Learned From My 1st RV Show Because I Failed To Plan!

Why make a plan for an RV show?

RV shows can be very overwhelming. I attended my first at the Suburban Collection in Novi, MI this year.

  • 18 Aisles that ran the full convention center
  • 26 Exhibitors – RV Retails, Financing, Parts, Campgrounds and more
  • 32 Booths with so many cool gadgets – Campgrounds to Segways to Tupperware
  •  340,000 square feet of Camper & RV Information

A plan will help you avoid wasting your time, getting turned around or lost, and not finding what you came for in the first place.

First Question to Ask Yourself:

Am I making a purchase that day or am I just window shopping)?

This post is geared toward someone window shopping – if this is your 1st RV show you are probably just starting the looking process and not intending to purchase that day.

Do you have an idea of what will work for you? Before going to the show, search online. 

  1. How will you use your RV? Not everyone uses their RV the same – some are only for weekend excursions, extended summer vacations, and some people are Full-Time RVing.
    • Knowing which one you intend to be can help you determine some important dos and don’ts. Examples:
      • Weekenders can live out of a suitcase. This reduces the need for Washer and Dryer and storage for out of season clothing.
      • Summer Vacationers do not need to worry about 4 season or arctic options.
      • Full-Time RVers do not need to store lots of glamping/camping equipment.
    • Consider how many people will be staying overnight? How old are they? Do they have any special needs?
      • Planning on bringing a lot of people, then you might consider a bunk hour or making sure everything turns into a sleeper.
      • Small kids can take up a lot of space…well at least their stuff does.
      • An elderly or handicapped person might need a shower that allows them to sit down.
      • Don’t forget to consider 4 legged family members too!
    • Consider both traveling, parking, and storing.
      • If you are planning a motor home, will you require a tow vehicle
      • If you are towing, does your truck or SUV what are the limitations, it will affect the weight of the trailer you can tow.
      • Height, length, and weight can limit the roads you can travel and places you can park.
      • Do you intend on sleeping in your RV while at a Rest Area? Most do not allow slides to go out, so make sure you can access everything you need with the slides in
  2. What’s your budget?
    • Are you planning on purchasing new or used?
    • Are you planning on financing?
      • Have you researched your finance options?
        1. Do you know your credit rating?
        2. How much will you have available for a down payment?

Dress for comfort! You will do a lot of walking, going up and down stairs/stoops, as well as climbing ladders on bunks. You never know what the temperature or weather will be like.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. – I cannot stress this enough – WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
    • You will do a lot of walking! Shows are big, my first was 340,000 square feet.
    • The whole point is to walk through and see the RVs, this means you will be climbing stairs. Yes, they only have about 3 or 4 each RV, but you will be going up and down those stairs how many times?
    • Expect to climb or  get on your tip toes
      • Ladders to see what is on the roof
      • Ladders for bunks and lofts
      • How deep is that cabinet above the TV
  2. Dress in layers, whether it is an indoor or an outdoor show you still need to prepare for both cold and hot temperatures?
    1. Some events drop the thermometer to account for the number of people
    2. Some RVs have the heaters turned on so you can feel how well they work
    3. Who doesn’t want to test the Recliners with Heat & Message?
  3. Do not wear restrictive or very loose clothing. You will be doing a lot of standing, sitting, bending, and reaching.
    1. Nothing sucks worse than having to pull your pants up every time you sit down and stand back up. You will be sitting down and standing back up a million times
    2. Don’t wear a skimpy shirt or skirt that will show your unmentionables as you reach high cupboards or bend down to check out storage
    3. Avoid scarves and cardigans that get caught on everything
    4. High heels and tiny open stairs do not go together. If you are a runway model for a shoe designer, then maybe you would be able to go up and down little stairs without issue, but why take the chance?
    5. Those tennis shoes with the laces that come untied every 10 seconds…leave them at home!

Location, Location, Location…Map, Map, Map!

  1.  I do not care how good your sense of direction is, you will get turned around. Most decent sized RV shows will provide you will a map or layout.  USE IT!
    • Not all RVs will face the same direction.
    • Some have one door, while some have two
    • Entry could be the main area, the bedroom, a half bath, or the toy hauler
    • Some doors are in the front, some in the center, and some in the back.
  2. At some point, all RVs will start to look the same and you will want to go back through your favorites or even try to recall them later
    1. Market them down on the map
    2. Grab a brochure and take notes
    3. Use a notebook or if provided a sheet to mark down your favorite makes, models, and options
  3. Ask for directions! Most people working an RV Show know their way around. They are almost all friendly and helpful (usually because they want you to buy something from them). If you become turned around, don’t just keep wandering – Ask for Directions!

Know that you don’t know everything!

  1. Be humble about the experience, and you will learn more than you ever expected.
    • Prepare a list of questions – the whole point of an RV Show is to have access to a lot of experts all at once.
    • Ask if there are any hidden gems in the RV you are exploring
  2. Explore each RV as if it was your first time looking, you never know what you will find
    • Kick the tires
      • If it has a handle open it – Are the doors easy to open and close, and do they latch securely?
      • If it slides, slide it
      • Pretend you are cooking a meal
        • Imagine you are prepping, cooking and serving your favorite or most cooked meals
      • Step into the shower
        • Do you fit?
        • Can you stretch out your elbows to reach your back?
        • Can you wash your feet and toes without hitting your head
      • Not all furniture is alike
        • Just because it says Queen does not mean it is a fullsize queen, it could be a ‘Short Queen’ or ‘Camper Queen’
        • Can your family sit at the dining table and eat a meal?
      • Where are the controls kept
      • Envision you and your family actually living in the RV. This is much more important than how big the TV is or the color of the feet on the sofa.
    • Don’t make any assumptions
      • You have seen that microwave a million times, but in this one, it has a convection option
      • A chair is a chair, right? No this one’s seat might open up for hidden storage
      • Did you know that behind the TV there may be extra storage space?
      • That closet whose doors you didn’t open hides hookups for a washer dryer
      • This toy hauler is equipped with a screen or net to keep creepy crawlers out.
      • These slide-outs are so durable that you can walk on them.
      • The list goes on and on!!!!
    • Outside can be just as important as what is inside
      • If you find something you think you like on the inside, make sure you check out its outside features from hitch to tail light
      • Look closely at the fit and finish of all exterior body panels and other items such as mirrors and awnings.
  3. Don’t forget about the things to you cannot see. Salespeople are of course looking for serious immediate sellers…but they will take the time to answer some questions.
    • What is under warranty and for how long?
    • Ask about how it is made
    • Insulation, Tanks, Wiring, Pipes, Electronics, etc.
    • Access to batteries, leveling systems, and inverter if so equipped
    • If it is a motorized rig, is there easy access to service items such as air, oil, and transmission filters and dipsticks.
  4. Find out what is standard and what is add-on or optional
    1. Is the one you are looking at the Base Model or the Executive Upgrade?
      1. Just because it has that massage chair in this one, does not mean a massage chair comes with the base package.
      2. Get a full list of options available

Be as prepared as a Boy Scout

Don’t just grab a hoodie and some jeans and think you are ready to go. You need to bring the right gear!

  1. Flashlight – for looking into compartments, closets, and such
  2. Camera or Smart Phone – so you can take pictures
  3. Pen and Notebook – you cannot remember everything, so take notes
  4. Tape Measurer – Take measurements to compare rigs or see if something own fits
  5. Backpack or Bag – Having something to put brochures and swag in is a must! Though some Retailers provide SWAG bags for brochures, don’t expect it.
  6. Cash – It will be a long day and you will probably want to buy snacks, some places take credit cards, but again why to chance it.
  7. The right co-pilot – Bring someone with you to help you make decisions or help you explore. Make sure they will take the time to be attentive to your needs and not just their own. A devil’s advocate might be helpful, but a Negative Nelly won’t help you.
  8.  Eat before you go – Unless convention center food is your favorite, you might want to consider having a good healthy meal before you get there. Try to avoid foods that will cause odors, you will be in small spaces. Heavy garlic or tooting beans should not be on the menu!

Pace Yourself

A big RV show is like a long marathon you have to pace yourself!

  1. If you can download the map ahead of time (Use It!)
  2. Find the Brands and Types you are interested in Most
  3. Plot out a route that will take you to all of the brands and types you have pre-selected first, then explore some that are out of budget or way too big, but too cool not to walk through
  4. Set times for when you want to take breaks or eat meals
  5. Know where the restrooms are located
  6. Drink lots of water

Additional Tips

  • Many RV retailers put brochures in microwaves or cabinets
  • Not all models are available at the show, so look at the brochure if you find you like, but it isn’t exactly what you are looking for
  • A “Show Special Price” will be just as special back at the dealer’s lot after the show
  • If possible, attend the show on a weekday. The crowds will be smaller.
  • Vendors and Seminars can be just as educational as walkthrus – take the time to attend and meet with the ones that fit your goals.

Good Luck To You!


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