Set your destination- This part should be easy, right? Where do you want to go? Our favorite areas are around National or State Parks.
Plot your course – We cheat on this step and use a GPS designed for RVs. We like to use Rand McNally for a couple different reasons: It is user friendly, and it came with a good trip planning application (Tripmaker). The TripMaker app allows you to put in the final destination and find the fastest/safest route. It bases the suggestion on the height, weight, and length of your rig. You can choose to avoid tolls, dirt roads, U-turns, or small roads in general. You still have to double check what it comes up with, but it saves a lot of map reading time. Garmin and TomTom also make versions of an RV GPS that have good reviews. Google Maps will fail most of the time with a larger rig.
Pick the “waypoints”- Waypoints are places you want to see or stop at that deviate from your route. The GPS can quickly reroute to keep you on track while you travel, but still let you see what you want to.
We try not to travel more than five hours a day. We stick to this because we do not want to get tired on the road, or experience travel fatigue. Safety is usually our biggest priority. Since we don’t have a deadline to be anywhere, we tend to go with safety first.
We often run into people who travel with much longer days. If you are planning longer days, I would suggest more breaks to help reduce travel fatigue. We will usually stop at rest stops or truck stations to stretch our legs and let the dogs out for a minute. If the entire driving time added will be more then 5 hours that day, we usually find a good spot to get some sleep.
Overnight Breaks – We like to stop at Walmart Super Centers due to their large parking lots, and they’re open 24 hours. They’re the best option for quick overnight breaks. As soon as we get to the supercenter we ask permission to stay, and usually buy a couple things. We have yet to be told “No”, and we are extremely polite about it so we don’t ruin our luck. Some important guidelines we follow: we do not detach our vehicles, we do not put jacks down, and we don’t put slides out. We try to be as respectful as possible (which to us means being as invisible as possible). Lowes and Home depot also frequently allow this, and the same rules apply. Wherever you degree you’re going to stop at use Google Maps Sattelite view to scout it out. You can see if it’s near the highway or if you can get your RV down the roads to the spot you choose.
Tuck stops are a tricky subject. Since truckers have mandatory break laws they must follow. We try our very best to stay out of their way so they can do their jobs more easily, and safely. These areas are usually louder and not great for us anyway with the dogs. Truckers also have limited options for where they can stop. They need someplace with a bathroom, food, shower, etc. RVers have all of that with them already. So they can mostly park anywhere their rig fits.
Other factors for trip planning include:
Weather– Avoid areas of natural disasters such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes (know hurricane season!), ice storms, and blizzards. If you are getting close to your trip, and there are major storm concerns, be willing to change your plans to stay safe. In order to have a good driving experience with an RV, good weather has to be present.
Heavily Populated Areas- We choose to avoid these areas. We will stop early or late if it keeps us out of rush hour traffic. Certain events or seasons may also change how many people are around as well. The less cars/traffic on the road, the easier it is to travel with an RV.
Fuel costs- During the fall and spring gas and diesel are usually cheaper then the summer. During the winter you may burn more propane using the heater to keep you warm. When it gets closer to the trip make sure you have a little extra money set aside just in case fuel costs are different where you are going. In some places, paying with cash can save a few dollars every fill up.
Elevation- Flat roads are easy on the RV and driver. If you are going up and down steep grades you will be burning more fuel, and using more brakes respectively. It also makes for tougher travel days for the driver.
Planing a break or two can help keep everyone on track and limit extra stops. Have something ready to eat so that you don’t have to take long breaks, and make sure you walk around during the break to relieve travel fatigue. Another important part of breaks is checking your rig. Check your tire pressure and temperature to avoid blowouts. If you have any rock chips in your windshield find someone to fix them, or cover them with packing tape until you find someone who can.
To plan our trips we use the following books to help guide us:
National Geographic – Guide To National Parks – This is a really awesome resource for best times to visit each park, how to enter the park, what pass you will need, and some of the history of the area.
59 National Parks, 100th Anniversary Eddition – Gives more indepth history of the parks and areas surrounding them. It also gives more detailed maps, information on seasons, and when to visit.
National Geographic – Secrets of the National Parks – This book offers up places to go off the beaten path. This is best utilized when you have more time in an area. It tells you about the different trails that you can take away from the tourists. It also gives you better information about local wildlife, and great local places.
National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition – We use this with the RV GPS to find out what parks are nearby the route we’re taking. It is sometimes easier to plan what you will do in the area.