For me, planning the trip is a huge part of the fun of experiencing a trip. I get to look at the map, pick a destination, and then start establishing a route to get there and back. An extended trip is both exciting and daunting at the same time.
This post is going to talk about the few web sites that I use when planning my trips. Or, if this all sounds like a little too much, check out RV Trip Makers, an RV trip planning service.
Finding Where to Go
It’s an absolutely beautiful country out there. You don’t have to go far to find interesting places and things to see. For the most part, I often read online forums and groups and take mental note of cool places that I read about. RV Trip Makers has a great feature where people can add interesting places to a shared map.
I have a couple of friends who use Evernote to keep track of cool places for each state.
Pinterest can be a good place to store trip ideas.
For me, I’m still trying to find my way on this one- I started a Google Map with pins of cool places and even tried a map on RoadTrippers of the same. Neither let me put in notes, but I liked the map-based visual experience; and RoadTrippers maxed out at 60 points. For now, I’ve switched to a simple Google Docs document with an outline of things to do near each destination that I’ve considered.
Making a Route
Different people have different opinions on how to get from your starting point to your destination when that destination is hundreds of miles away. I talked before about how to figure out how far you can travel in a day. For some, they’re perfectly fine traveling no more than 200 miles in a day; others want to push on and make 500+ miles in a day.
For planning legs of my journey- it’s a pretty good toss-up between RVParky.com’s Trip Planner and the RoadTrippers.com site. I generally fall back to RVParky.com because I like the simplicity of it over RoadTrippers.com. But, if I am trying to find cool stuff along the route, I’ll use RoadTrippers.com.
If you’re making a plan where each stop may have you staying for a couple of days, then RVParky.com is the better tool. You can set your starting date and then from there- you simply say how many nights you’ll be in each location. If you change your start date, it adjusts the dates of each location. If you change how long you want to stay at a stop, it trickles down and changes the dates for each stop after that one. This is my single biggest beef with RoadTrippers.com– planning legs of a trip and tying it to a calendar is a hassle. One place that RVParky.com fails is when you are planning a longer trip and have hard dates for specific things (say Yellowstone in the tourist season or say you’re attending a wedding and MUST be in a city by a certain date); you don’t have the ability to set a specific date for a particular stop. As you adjust your start date and stays prior- you have to be aware that you need to keep refining your target dates.
When using RVParky.com, planning out stops becomes a bit of best guesses and art. Based on the scale of the map, I’ll try to best guess where a stop could be. This is usually geared around how far I want to travel in a day. I’ll refer back to my mental notes of places I want to visit and/or document of cool stuff around the USA. To get the miles right, I’ll play around with locations closer/further until I hone in on decent bite-sized legs (when given our option- we strive for 200-300 miles per leg).
While planning on legs, I do try to keep my campground memberships in mind- specifically Thousand Trails and Harvest Hosts. These have limited locations, so I try to keep them in the forefront of my mind. If I did more shorter stays (i.e. less than a week, I would also be very mindful of Passport America). (Don’t forget, I list off the campground memberships that are good for weekenders and fulltimers alike.)
Where to Stay at Each Leg
Ironically, while I use RVParky.com for trip planning, I don’t actually care for their RV listings for finding parks.
When we have a decent plan, a vast majority of my stays are found and picked by checking parks and reviews on RVParkReviews.com. Second to RVParkReviews, I’ll often use Google Maps to check for RV parks in the area.
Again, I try to keep in mind my various memberships as I look for places to stay. We aren’t members, but if we boondocked- I think I would definitely keep BoondockersWelcome and FreeCampsites.net in mind when planning on places to stay.
Hire It Out
The other option to doing the trip planning yourself is to hire a service to do the trip planning yourself. There are a few different offerings, some will do everything from make the plan to making the reservations on your behalf. Some charge per stop and others charge a flat rate based on the length of the trip.
For more information, checkout RV Trip Makers.