Customize these arrival and departure checklists

Whether you love them or loathe them, checklists are an absolute essential for RV travel. If you think they are "not for you," or that you are "too experienced" to use them, we hope this blog converts you.

That's because we strongly believe checklists do a lot of good no matter how long you've been Airstreaming. Every RVer should have a customized set of checklists that reflect their own personal travel needs. 

Here are a few reasons why these trip planning tools are essential:

1. Checklists can save you money

If you forget something important, you may have to buy a replacement when you get home, or to your next destination. Sometimes it's just shampoo. But other times it's something more important. 

Like the pricey, special-order hitch part that we left on the truck bumper when we got distracted while hitching. Yikes.

Want to know the most common repair caused by failure to use a checklist, according to the Airstream Service Center? A broken power hitch jack, because people forget to take it up fully after hitching. That repair costs about $500 plus half an hour’s labor.

Another popular repair: bent entry steps, because people forget to stow them before departure.

Checklists can also remind you to perform important safety tasks that avoid costly repairs. Checking tire pressure, which can avoid a blowout and costly aluminum repair, is one example.

2. Checklists can save you from a potential disaster

Like a side window flapping and nearly shattering because it wasn't locked.

On that trip, we got on the road in a hurry and didn't use our checklist. A passing driver let us know about the window before it broke.

Sometimes the things you catch with a checklist are major. A few years ago, we installed a new brake controller. It worked when we tested it. But on departure day, it didn't, so we had to cancel the entire weekend trip. A real bummer. 

3. Checklists can save you the grief of forgetting something important

Like contact lens solution or sunscreen when you're headed to a remote area. Or a critical ingredient you needed for the potluck dish you planned for the rally happy hour.

Or not remembering a key departure step such as switching the refrigerator to propane (or off).

Bottom line: whether you are a new Airstreamer or an experienced one, without a checklist, you will make an expensive or annoying mistake sooner or later.

That's why we are such fans of these simple tools. We enjoy them so much we update them after most trips, and at least annually.

3 checklists to customize

There are many sample checklists on the Internet. Here are three of ours that you can download and customize for your own travels. They are all in Microsoft Word so you can easily modify them.

  • The Departure Checklist will help prevent damage to your rig by reminding you to complete the many tasks necessary prior to leaving home or a campsite. 
  • The Arrival Checklist will help you avoid frustrations like stepping into the shower only to realize you forgot to turn on the water heater when you set up.
  • The Walk-Behind Inspection Checklist is a safety verification and “overlooked item” check. Without it, you can easily forget something in your campsite—only to realize 200 miles later that you've left it behind.

If you travel with nothing but these three checklists, you’ll be in good shape. But we also have several other checklists we rely on, prior to our trips. You may want to create your own versions of them as well.

  • My Plan Ahead Checklist helps me remember tasks like changing the oil in the truck and prepping the Airstream for travel. Tasks on it include filling the fresh water tank, topping up propane, and lubing the hitch. Tothie has one of these checklists too. Hers includes tasks such as arranging cat sitting and cutting up veggies and fruit ahead of time so on-the-road meal planning is easier.

  • Our Grocery Checklist ensures we don't forget something important, like half and half, coffee, mayo, or a bag of ice.

  • Our From the House Checklists help us remember clothes, toiletries, and things like the dog's prescription medicine and food.

  • The Restock Checklists are what Tothie uses after every trip to review all the consumables we keep in the Airstream – body wash, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap – and replenish them within a day or so. She's got one in the bath and one in the kitchen. These lists make packing up for the next trip a lot easier.


Have we converted you to checklist nerds? Probably not. But we hope this blog at least motivates you to update your existing checklists, or start using checklists, this season. 



Dennis Komeshak

Dennis Komeshak

Timely! Last week I found an app for my Android phone that works really well for this. It’s called Check Off. It has some interesting features and is free!
I’ve created a departure checklist, arrival checklist, and a putting it in storage checklist for the trailer. I’ve also created a Costco groceries checklist. Check it out.

Brian Powers

Brian Powers

We do in door and out door check lists. My wife does the inside and I do the outside for traveling. Then we switch, I check the inside and she double checks the outside. This really helps as we have caught missed items.

James Carsten

James Carsten

Check lists are absolutely necessary! My vehicle tow package, like many others, contains a customizable checklist for departure and arrival. For the other key checklists, I have been using “Memo” on my phone but after reading one of the previous comments have downloaded and am now using “Check Off.” My son is a retired Navy pilot and Navy flight instructor. He also handles all the logistics for our Appalachian Trail section hikes. We Do Checklists! Jim Carsten

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