RV Trip Planning

 Posted by at 2:33 am  Nick's Blog
Nov 172013

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?

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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

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Nick Russell

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  9 Responses to “RV Trip Planning”

  1. Pat Kitchen

  2. Nick, we’ve used Google Maps to help us get from point A to point B in the moho. with the instructions printed out, it’s pretty easy to figure out. But there’ve been a couple of times that I wish we’d had the Rand McNally RV gps, or something similar, could’ve made getting to point B a lot quicker and easier. Gonna have one for sure when we hit the road again.

  3. Hey Nick
    Have you updated your RM GPS lately. If you have the lifetime maps feature, A major update to the map is available with, finally, better accuracy of locations of RV parks etc. They got rid of the Woodalls icons and rating, added some new features, all in all a much better product now.

  4. this article brought back memories of when we first traveled not in an RV but going from one base to another on assignment.I learned I was map challenged in other words could not make hide nor hair of the darn things. I was so glad when Triple A came out with the map tickets that showed one page at a time.Now 45 yrs later we us the RV GPS. We put a tentative route in and usually follow it. A few times it has gotten us into some tight spaces and adventures but that is the fun of our life styles. It tells us of the RV camps along the way but we usually use either a Flying J or a good old Wal-Mart.

  5. I have a love affair with maps. Because my father was a truck driver he made all his children learn a bunch of things while growing up. Reading a map & navigating were essential parts of knowledge prior to getting a learners permit. So while I use Google & streets & trips for planning , the maps are always near by. Even going down the road I love to be able to look and see exactly where we are. Having a map has kept us out of trouble when planning an alternate route in case of a needed detour.

  6. Our traveling styles pretty much matched yours. After being on the road since 2000, we usually decide the night before what general direction we are going. Then, after hitting the road between 10 & 12, we travel happily along until about 2 p.m. and then I start checking possible parking for the night. Since we are almost always on two-lane roads, I look at intersections, flat spots, whatever. We have had some wonderful parking–all by ourselves–and still keep our sense of adventure. Life is grand.

  7. I know you guys just take off and hope to land wherever you can at night but that would freak me out. There is no way I’m going to get stuck driving all night looking for a place to stop. I never start the key until I haver reservations made for my entire trip. I’d much rather have to pay for a campsite I could not get to because of weather or whatever then get there and not find one available.

  8. the nights sitting in the breezeway with my dad going over the map for a road trip…guess that’s how we get it in our blood! thanks for the links!

  9. A recent addition to the campground apps is The Ultimate US Public Campground Project, at http://www.ultimatecampgrounds.com. It focuses on public camping facilities of all types, with over 18,500 locations. The app contains all the data so it can be used without internet access. Lots of filters.

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