Feb 132010

How do you travel? Do you make a beeline for your destination by the quickest possible route, or do you casually meander along until you get there? Do you plan your stops ahead of time so you know where you’ll be every night, or do you worry about where you’ll spend the night when you get tired of driving for the day? Do you go from membership park to membership park, getting the most out of your annual dues?

Are you a planner who gets almost as much enjoyment in anticipation of your journeys, or do you like to be surprised by what you find along the way?

It’s only February, but we are already thinking about our summer travels. With a great big old country out there to explore, it’s hard to decide where to go next.

For several years our summer travels were dictated by our teaching schedule with Life on Wheels. We traveled a lot of miles, but it was always to the same places, and usually along the same routes. While I love teaching, the same old routine had stopped being fun. We’re ready to do something different.

Our Winnebago gives us the ability to travel some routes that we were not comfortable tackling in our bus conversion, and there are a lot of places in the Rocky Mountain west that we’d like to explore. So we may spend some time in Colorado and Wyoming. I’ve never been to Yellowstone and some of the other western National Parks.

Or we may go to the Pacific Northwest. We love the Oregon and Washington coast, and we haven’t been there in a long time. Then again, we really want to go to the big Winnebago Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa in July, so that would cut short a trip to the Northwest. Hmmm…. Branson? We haven’t been there in a long time. Our options are open, and our schedule is set in Jello. That’s the way we like it.

Our favorite mode of travel is to have some general idea of where we’re going, but no concrete plans on where or when we’ll be at any given time. We seldom make advance reservations, unless we’re going to be in a high traffic area where it might be hard to get a campsite otherwise.

I do a lot of internet research on areas where we’ll be traveling, and put together a list of places we’d like to see. We also get a lot of tips from our readers, and whenever we cross a state line, we try to stop at the State Welcome Center and pick up tourism brochures to give us more ideas.

When we’re going from Point A to Point B, we don’t stop in RV parks every night. I can’t see paying somebody $20 to $30 or more just for a place to park overnight. That’s why we have a self-contained RV. Between WalMarts, truck stops, city parks that allow free camping, casinos, Elks and Moose lodges, and VFW posts, we can always find a place to stop for the night. A few times we have taken readers up on their offer to park in their driveway for a night or two. If we do stop overnight at an RV park, it is usually a Passport America campground.

Once we arrive at a place where we want to spend a few days, we find a comfortable campground to settle into, and make day trips in a 75 to 100 mile radius to explore the region, in our van.

That’s the method that seems to work for us, but there is no one right way to live the RV lifestyle. It’s all abut what works best for you. So, how do you travel?

Thought For The Day – Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  14 Responses to “How Do You Travel?”

  1. Nick this will be our third year traveling as full-timers and we may take a somewhat different approach this year. The first two years I have done most of the planning and route selection. I enjoy doing the research of both places to go and campgrounds to stay in. (I extensively use RVparkreviews.com to select the campgrounds.)

    Many would call us “slow pokes”. Last year we usually drove about 250 miles and stopped and parked for a week or two. We prefer to stay that long in an area to explore the surrounding region. Plus we just do not like the setting up and tearing down routine. We are different than you in where we camp overnight on those rare occasions we do travel several days straight. We always stay in a campground. Primarily because we want to be able to put out our bedroom slide. It is just too much of a hassle otherwise getting in and out of bed at night. That can create challenges when it is hard to find a decent (or any) campground 250 – 300 miles from our current location.

    We are from the south and want to find cool weather for the hot summer months of July and August. The first year we were in Door County Wisconsin and then Michigan’s UP. Last year we stayed in the Finger Lakes region of NY, Lake George, NY and on Lake Champlain in Vermont. The weather was great, the scenery was beautiful, and the local people were very friendly in all those places. We stayed at least a month in one campground during those months.

    I planned the complete itinerary each year before we departed. I made campground reservations in advance for almost the entire trip, at least for those places we would stay a week or more. I am glad I did because we ended up in some poplar areas and campgrounds. Several times we we lucky to get a spot. Many of these campgrounds had local or regional campers who come back year after year and take up many of the available campsites in those summer vacation months. We have learned to definitely plan ahead for July 4th and other major holidays. Campsites can be hard to find otherwise.

    This year may be different. We are a bit uncertain when we will be leaving SC heading out on our travels. We have been thinking about heading to SD (our “home state”), Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Then working our way back to SC and Florida for the winter. If we do that, we will revise our routine and travel more days before settling in for a week or more. However we are having a few health issues we need to get resolved and are uncertain exactly when we will be leaving. That makes planning a trip and making reservations more difficult for popular destinations like Yellowstone, Glacier NP, etc. So this year, we may do less planning and just head in a general direction. I want to explore Virginia some more as well more of the northeast. Once we start I will make key reservations for holidays and popular destinations. Then we will just wander around a bit in between. There is plenty to see and do in this great country.

  2. We plan major destinations, and little in between. Yellowstone, what a paradise. It is now almost ruined by too many people. Sandy and I were there in September of 64 and we were one of about 10 campers in the park. We had it all to ourselves.

  3. Nick: Good question. We are working on our fourth year of full timing. We went to a life on wheels event in BG, KY in 2006 and did meet you and other full timers there. We use a lot of what we heard there in our travel plan development. The first couple of years we spent traveling the southwest in the winters and mid west in the summers, generally traveling 250 miles a day or so. Mostly stay in campgrounds that my wife checks via reviews online and pick one the day we are planning on arriving unless we expect availability issues due to destination or holidays. Only really advanced reservations are at a membership park system we regretfully belong to, but use infrequently.

    We are currently spending the longest in any one place since we started. Two months near Naples,FL After only being here two weeks, I am already dreaming of moving on.

    We generally make only an outline of where to travel and then see what happens. When we leave Florida this spring, we have only two firm stops. A WIT rally (our first) in Springfield/Chiacgo and our first Winnebago GNR. Besides that maybe, GA, AL and WV before the planned events and no idea yet what we will do after GNR. And so it goes.

  4. “Our favorite mode of travel is to have some general idea of where we’re going, but no concrete plans on where or when we’ll be at any given time.”

    “We do a lot of Internet research on areas where we’ll be traveling, and put together a list of places we’d like to see.”

    “When we’re going from Point A to Point B, we don’t stop in RV parks every night. We can’t see paying somebody $20 to $30 or more just for a place to park overnight. That’s why we have a self-contained RV.”

    The three sentences above certainly define our style of traveling. We take our time and meander our way to our next destination, where ever that may end up being. Although finding a reasonably priced campground with full hook ups is occasionally a nice treat we prefer the solitude and tranquility of boon docking! The less crowded a spot is the more likely we are to stick around and explore the area. When traveling around we love doing research on the history of the areas we are in. We also love to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the nature that surrounds us. 🙂

  5. After nearly 8 years full-timing, we’ve slowed down A LOT because of medical reasons, but our goal is to become true wanderers. In our first year out, we were in hurry-hurry mode, made reservations in advance, attended three major rallies. We have made some major tours with specific destinations and had to plan those too much. Once we get outta here again — maybe in September, we’d like to roam generally east. BUT – we have just taken on specific responsibilities here in the SKP Chapter 21 (Suzy is Treasurer / Membership Chairman, I’m the newsletter editor) so we have committed to three Chapter rallies each season, all here in the desert southwest. Not too bad, however, because we love the desert southwest! Touring elsewhere will be a challenge!

  6. I’m a combination of all of those! Since I’ve finally crossed over to overnighting in Wal Mart and Flyin J’s on the way out here to AZ this year, I’m up for loosening up on the planning. In the long run, I usually have a pretty good plan of routes for the summer season. Sometimes I venture out in the short tours by vehicle up to 200 miles.

  7. We have been traveling for a year in a half in a 24 foot motor home without towing a car behind us. That let us pick “roads” to travel. We drove Route 66 from downtown Chicago, where we parked on the street to eat our first meal on the route, to Santa Monica, California. We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drove the Natchez Trace. We drove the Great River Road. Now we are ready to pick an area to explore. So we are buying a 35 foot motorhome to make long term parking better for us and a car to go exploring in.
    I research all this travel on the internet using mostly http://www.towd.com/ to decide what we want to see then all the other great park information sites to decide where we want to stay. But we don’t make reservations anywhere except for rallies and Key West because you never know what fascinating thing you’ll need to stop and explore along the way.

  8. Nick:

    We are native Oregonians and can tell you that the Oregon coast is wonderful in August and even better in September. Go to the GNR in July and then head west. Go to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons after that but probably make reservations because it will be the middle of the summer and last year they set attendance records. Then continue west through Montana and end up in Oregon in August or September. I’m sure you have a fall rally that you will need to be at but if you didn’t then you are good snow-wise until about the first of November before you need to be across the Rockies again.

    Doug and Sheila

  9. I usually take the freeways being a single woman, not comfortable with the back roads. I do stay at Flying J’s and Wal Marts as a last resort. I joined Passport America and used them all the way out. I live in Ontario and will be spending the next two years in the west. I pick an area and stay for at least four days or a week depending on what there is to see.

    I can’t believe Nick that you haven’t been to Yellowstone it is amazing. We did the Lewis and Clark Trail with 13 singles and we saw everything and then more on the route. What a beautiful country and nice when you can be in warm weather in the winter. See you at the rally.

  10. Elaine and I tend to stay in membership parks so we do have to plan ahead. This has been our routine for last 5 1/2 years fulltiming. Going from point A to point B we to stay at Wal Marts and truck stops.
    Now this year the only plans we have are Winnebago GNR, Gypsy Gathering, and Escapade. What due in between and where we travel is just not known at this time. We will just travel where the mood takes us.

  11. We are “extended timers”, traveling about 7-8 months per year in multiple, 3-5 month trips. We joke that we are sometimes “geographically-challenged” having a turn-around destination but not necessarily getting from Point A to Point B the way the GPS routing would take us.

    For example, last May we left Northern California en route to the GNR in Iowa. Our travels took us along the CA North Coast, up through the Pacific Northwest, across British Columbia and Alberta, back into the US via Montana, then eastward through Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and then down into Iowa. This portion of the trip took 45 days with extended stops in the Seattle area, Calgary area (for Banff, Lake Louise, the Canadian Rockies, and the Stampede), Glacier NP, and Hart Ranch. We are SKPs (active in Boomers and Geocache BOFs) and use our Yahoo BBB groups to meet up with new friends along the way. The homeward bound trip will often have a deadline for a family commitment or medical appt. but we try to take new routes whenever possible. With family in PA and SKP Escapades, we have made x-country trips via different routes for the last 5 or 6 years. When not staying with friends or family, we will use Elks Lodges, Passport America parks, and the occasional Wally-World or truck stop for overnight stops. I am the trip planner and navigator. We seldom make advance reservations and normally don’t narrow the evening stop decision until after lunch and then use rvparkreviews.com and the SKP Discussion Forum to select our overnight spot. I’ll phone ahead to see if a same-day reservation is needed to hold a spot, but we normally try to get off the road by 4-5 pm (earlier in metropolitan areas). This past summer’s trip was 79 days and our average camping cost was $19.
    – CoolJudy
    (meandering in Arizona with our next destination the Yuma GJ Rally – due home in mid-April)

  12. Hi Nick, We’re not full-timers. For 13 years we have taken two-to-three month long trips in the spring plus several short trips throught the year from Feb/Mar through Thanksgiving and an occasional week’s sojourn to FL at Christmas.

    The short trips are “destination trips.” The spring trip is almost always wrapped around Chuck’s annual conference. Wonderfully for our travelling, the conference is in a different part of the U.S. or Canada each year, bouncing from east, west to midwest. So, conference becomes the destination and the weeks before and after are for our own fun.

    We try to establish a focus for those weeks. One year the conference was in Connecticut. We wanted to visit our daughter in Wisconsin (we’re in Ohio). So we went up to see her then picked up the Mississippi River and drove along the river all the way to New Orleans. The river culture was a fascinating study. From New Orleans we followed the Gulf Coast east to the Atlantic then north along that coast. We took every ferry boat we could find as we headed up the coast to Connecticut. To get home, we went up through MA, NH, and VT into Canada and across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula then back down to our daughter’s in Wisconson, then home. That was quite a round-about-way to get to Connecticut! But we sure had a good time.

    We seldom stay at RV parks since we are “travelers.” We may stay in one area for a few days but, since we don’t tow, we will take the RV and stay “where-ever.” We’ve gone to a theater and told them we’d like to see their performance but could not unless we could remain in the parking lot overnite. No problem. We’ve stayed next to the railroad tracks in a teeny tiny town then eaten breakfast with the locals on main street. I stay in the RV while my husband attends his meetings and stays in the hotel. Sometimes I find a nearby (w/in 50 miles) campground but I’ve also stayed in the RV in the hotel parking lot!!! I wave to him as he peeks out his window. (Can you tell I hate hotels?).

    Some of our other focused trips have included following the California Trail from Independence, MO to Santa Barbara, CA; following the Santa Fe Trail from central MO to Santa Fe; spending days on Route 49 in California (the 49ers trail); studying music history and Ozark culture in Missouri and Arkansas. Oh, yes, then there’s Route 66. What a wonderful tour of American History. Start in Illinois and end at the Pacific!

    When we do choose to stay awhile, we rent a car. That work’s for us. But we’ve found that we really can get that 40′ RV into places you wouldn’t believe. If a tour bus can get there, so can we! And road-building equipment, if they go, we go.

    Places we love to return to are Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM and the Rockies. Check out South Pass in Wyoming. Historically significant on the California Trail as this is where the Donner family made their fatal decision in 1846 to take a newly blazed trail south only to meet their death near Reno, NV. And, there’s never enough time to explore Utah. The beauty of that state is unmatched!

    Most RVers don’t consider themselves “campers.” However, that word occasionally slips into our vocabulary since we’ve actually been on the road in one way or another for 52 years. First, sleeping in our 1956 VW Convertible, followed by tents, pop-ups, and a 32′ Class C. God has been good to us!

    And, yes, planning is as much fun as going! Stay well.


  13. This is our 14th year out. We have a home base in Florida but our coach is really our first home. We spend from 6 to 10 months a year on the road & occasionally visit our stuff in Florida. We like to rally with several groups (FMCA, Beavers, Escapees, SKP Genies, Gypsy Journal). So we first look at the dates for rallies or genealogy conferences for the next year & pick the ones we want to go to. Then we just fill in the time ambling along between rallies & conferences visiting friends, family & sight seeing.
    This year is a good example. We left Florida Dec 9 (we ran a 6 day Beaver rally in central Florida). We then had/have rallies scheduled for Indio, CA (FMCA and Beaver), Quartszite, AZ (2 Beaver rallies & INTO FMCA), Mexican Connection (Escapees Chapter 8) to Bahia de Kino in Mexico, Gypsy Journal in Yuma, AZ, Albuquerque (Beaver lead-in & FMCA). Late April will find us in Salt Lake City (NGS Conference & genealogy research). Middle of May in Winterset, Iowa with the Teggatzs for a computer rally. Then back across the northern US & Canada as we will be meeting friends around July 1 at Sydney, Nova Scotia to go to Newfoundland for 3 weeks or so. Then back to Florida by second week of August as we are going on a Riverboat cruise (Beaver rally) in late Aug-early Sept from Amsterdam to Budapest.
    We have visited my sister & her husband in Lake Jackson, TX, seen Big Bend park in TX and Death Valley in CA, visited three high school friends of Peter in San Diego, Phoeniz and Tucson, visited Phil and Ann Botnick in Quartzsite several times & looked at the scenery all over the SW.
    So like you, we are jello in between rallies, etc we want to attend. We rarely make reservations except for major holidays when campgrounds are so very crowded. We use Passport America & call the same day to check if there are any openings. We like at least electric hookup so don’t boon dock much. There are always VFW, Moose, Elk lodges, city, state & national parks, Corps parks, etc. We also look at websites that review campgrounds if we are unsure of where to stay. We travel at most 300 or so miles a day. Done by 3-4 pm. We travel at most 55-60 mph. We get great fuel mileage that way & we can actually see the country side we are traveling through.
    We suggest that you don’t miss Antelope Canyon (take 1/2 day tour & CAMERA) near Page, AZ, Zion and Bryce NP s (to die for), in Moab, Utah take a 4 wheeling trip with experts on some 5+ rated trails & Crater Lake in Oregon.
    So much to see & do, so little time.
    So “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez.”

  14. Forgot, Mount St. Helens. Go to visitor’s center, see the film & then the mountain. Now that’s awesome.

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