We have been full-time travelling RVers for two years now and often get asked about how we trip plan, so I thought I’d share some of my “secrets”. It’s really important to us to have a reservation and know what we’re getting into as much as possible since we have such a large rig. Our 5th wheel is 42′. Sometimes a 40′ site works, but sometimes it doesn’t. That said, we’ve only ever booked at one park in all of our travels that the site absolutely didn’t work and they had nothing else to offer us. It was early days in our travels. We’ve learned a lot since then!
We use quite a few tools to plan our trips and our adventures along the way. This is not a complete list, but it includes the things we use most frequently.
- A good old-fashioned planner and a PENCIL. I’ve learned to never write anything in my planner in anything but a pencil. We have to remain pretty flexible sometimes.
- Good Sam Club – We are Good Sam Members, but I don’t think you have to be a member to use the trip planner on their website. It’s important to find a good trip planning tool. The Good Sam Trip Planner is a great tool for visualizing what your trip will look like, mileage, fuel consumption, etc. It also has a feature which allows you to find things to do close to your route. Of course, you still have to do some tweaking, but I really like it.
- Passport America – We finally broke down and bought a Passport America membership ($44 for a year). I’m happy to tell you, it more than paid for itself twice the first time we used it! SCORE! I’ve used the online tool so far to find parks, but they also have an app which might come in handy when we are actually on the road.
- www.recreation.gov – Find federally owned lands to camp. Allows you to put in specific types of sites you are looking for (size, hook-ups, pet friendly, etc.)
- www.reserveamerica.com – Find many state and national campgrounds. Allows you to put in specific types of sites you are looking for. (size, hook-ups, pet friendly, etc.)
- State park websites – Each state does their state park systems differently. For example, in our home state of Texas, they not only charge a per night camping fee, but anyone over 12, has to pay an additional daily camping fee. That can add up in a hurry with 3 of us having to pay that daily fee. Since we do a lot of state park camping in Texas, it is beneficial for us to purchase Texas Annual State Park Pass for $70, which waves the daily fees. It pays for itself pretty quickly. You also get some 1/2 off camping coupons and a discount at park stores. Most states passes are not that expensive though. We paid $25 for an annual non-resident pass in Kansas. I’ve come across some other states that charge a larger fee for their passes and I’ve avoided them because of it. You just have to do your research for each state.
- Rest Stops App – This app is very helpful. It gives mile marker locations for rest stops in the United States, listed by state, then by interstate.
- RV Park Reviews – There is also an app available. This is a really helpful tool when searching out RV parks. Not all parks are created equal. Reviews are helpful sometimes.
- Google Earth – We use Google Earth on occasion to view state park sites. Sometimes it’s helpful to see how many trees are around, etc.
- Flattestroute.com – I actually haven’t used this one yet, but I’m positive it will come in handy when we start getting to the mountainous regions.
- Waze app – When we are on the road, we use the Waze app. A trucker actually told us about it. It’s a GPS app, but the thing I like about it is it informs you of upcoming hazards on the road, accidents, etc., and if you are the passenger, it gives you something to do. It’s kind of like playing a real life video game. 🙂
- Google Maps – Currently what we use for our GPS. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’ve got for now. We stick mostly to Interstates with our big rig, so it does the trick.
- TripAdvisor – Great for finding things to do and see according to your location. I like that they list things in order of popularity. That is helpful to me when planning what we will do at each stop.
- History Here App – If you are a history nerd, like myself, this is a fun app! It will tell you when you are near a historical site of interest if you set it to give you notifications. We have found some unique and fun places through this app.
- Facebook Events – I’ve found some really awesome events through Facebook Events. You can search the area you will be for local events.
Hope this information is helpful. Whether you are a weekend warrior, planning a vacation, a brand new full-timer, or you’ve been traveling for years, I think it’s helpful to know what others, who do a lot of trip planning, use on a regular basis. As stated before, this is simply a list of things we use frequently. These things are by no means the only things out there.
Have you found something else that works for your trip planning? I’d love to hear about it.
Happy and safe travels, friends! See you on the road!