I’ve been in love with maps since I was a little kid. I remember that my dad always kept half a dozen gas station roadmaps in the glove compartment of his car and I would spend a lot of time looking at them, reading strange names of far off exciting places like Des Moines, Wichita, and Paducah. I think those maps helped spark the wanderlust that still drives so much of my life.
I remember that whenever we planned a trip, my dad would unfold those big old maps on the kitchen table and trace out our planned route, telling me where we would stop every night and about the places we’d see along the way. And as we drove to wherever our destination was, I played the role of navigator, keeping track of our progress.
Of course today’s travelers have it a lot better than dear old Dad ever did. We’ve got printed road atlases that we don’t have to figure out how to fold back up like we did those old time maps, along with computer mapping programs, and GPS units that can select the best route for us based upon the size of our rig, our preference for highways or back roads, and if we want to avoid tollways. A good GPS will even include extra features like nearby attractions, locations of fuel stops, and when you can expect to get to your destination based upon your trip speed.
There are a lot of excellent websites and apps for smart phones and tablets that make traveling, especially RV travel, even easier. Some of the ones I use often are RV Park Reviews, Casino Camper, All Stays, RV Parky, Diesel Boss, and Gas Buddy.
Early in our fulltime adventure we carefully planned each trip and every detail along the way, but that didn’t last long. We’ve been fulltiming for so long that I don’t do a lot of detailed trip planning any more and we try to avoid being locked into a schedule whenever possible. That takes all the fun out of it.
Sometimes we stop for the night thinking we’ll continue on down the road the next morning and instead we hear about some interesting museum or historic site we want to check out so we say a day (or a week) longer. And sometimes we think we’ll stay a while and wake up the next morning and decide there’s someplace down the road where we’d rather be.
Unless we are going to be in a busy tourist area, or traveling on or near a holiday we seldom make RV park reservations. Between Passport America, fairgrounds with RV parking, Elks and Moose Lodges, VFW posts, RV friendly casinos, free campgrounds, and WalMart, I know we can always find a place to park overnight.
I use Microsoft Streets and Trips to decide on a route, my Rand McNally TripMaker RV GPS to navigate, and have a general idea of where I’ll be at the end of the day. Then I check the resources listed above to get an idea of two or three options for an overnight parking place. I also try to have a place or two along the way where we can stop sooner if bad weather, traffic problems or whatever delay us.
For printed maps, I prefer the WalMart Rand McNally road atlas, since it lists all WalMarts and Sam’s Clubs nationwide. We have spent many a night at these RV friendly businesses. If we’re going to be traveling through mountain country, I always check my Mountain Directory West or Mountain Directory East to see what kind of climbs and descents are along our route.
And that’s about it for trip planning for us, but our style may not work for you. Like everything in life, there is no one size fits all. Some RVers seem to just go where the wind blows, some like to know exactly where they will be parked tonight and tomorrow night, and most are probably somewhere in the middle.
How about you? Do you plan every stop along the way or do you just have an eventual destination in mind and leave the details up to fate and whimsy? What tools do you use to plan your RV travels?
Today is the last day to take advantage of our special promotion on Gypsy Journal back issue CDs, so if you haven’t ordered yours yet do it now. This is a heck of a deal, eleven years of our RV adventures and misadventures, from 2003 – 2013 in PDF format for the amazingly low price of just $50, with free shipping! The back issues are in searchable PDF files that will work on any computer. If you were to purchase them individually from our online download site, they would cost you $198. How can you lose with a deal like that? To order, just click the button below or log onto www.paypal.com and make payment to [email protected].
And finally, today is also your last chance to register for this week’s Free Drawing for an autographed copy of The Dumb Things Sold Just Like That, A History of the RV Industry In America by Al Hesselbart, historian for the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. The winner will be selected by random drawing this evening. All you have to do to enter is click this Free Drawing link and enter your name in the comments section below. Only one entry per person per drawing please!
Thought For The Day – The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for. – Louis L’Amour