Travel is both a hobby and a passion for me, so I read travel books, watch DVD’s, and read travel blogs habitually. Planning is just plain fun. Crazy, right? So I wanted to share some of the resources I use when planning to visit a new destination.
Step 1: Consult my Travel Notebook.
Before we set off on our RV adventure, I spent a year and a half filling a notebook with travel ideas. Because we were focused on the United States, I made one notebook page for each state, and as I read books or came across ideas, I simply jotted it down in my notebook. Many people use a spreadsheet or the notes App on their phone, but sometimes, I just love a good old pen and paper. Usually there is one or two places per state that I am passionate about visiting, so those dictate the route.
Step 2: Determine the Next Stop.
We consider our current location and decide what major National Park or city we would like to explore that is nearby. Ideally, we like to drive the RV no more than 4-6 hours in a day, and travel is much slower than it would be in a car. But if there is even a great location within a couple hours, that works for me.
Call me a weather snob, but weather definitely plays a factor in where we go and at what time of year. Best case scenario, we can find a great place to stay for a minimum of a week within a few hours of our current location. If it’s a location that we really want to immerse ourselves in, we target a month stay.
Step 3: Determine the Timeframe.
Once I’ve figured out a city or location to stay next, I spend a little time researching what attractions are in that area. This helps me determine how long we will want to stay. I check out local attractions, free activities, museums for weekday field trips, and short hikes we can do after work hours. I mainly use Trip Advisor for this information, and also each state’s travel bureau website, as well as recommendations from Facebook groups.
Currently, we try to stick to weekends to move for work purposes. So, if there is just one major, all day attraction, such as a National Park, I know that we need at least one week. If there are at least two all day attractions and several half day attractions, we definitely need to be in that location for two weeks. This also gives us some downtime. And keep in mind that this is not a vacation, but a lifestyle, where we still need to grocery shop, homeschool, work, and have some downtime, so the slower, the better.
Step 4: Travel Route
I need to make sure that the roads can handle our 40 feet Motorhome. Maybe even more importantly, I decide if we can handle the roads. There are 3 major ways that I make this determination:
- First, I use the Mountain Directory for Truckers, RV, and Motorhome Drivers. I will tell you, this is WORTH the purchase! You can buy a physical book copy or an E-Book. I spared no expense, and bought both the East and West Version because mountains grades are NO joke and brought me tremendous stress. The map view shows yellow triangles where the steep grades are located, and then it will give you detailed information down to which milepost numbers the major mountain grades begin and end, and even where you can stop and rest your brakes. We follow this to the letter.
- Second, I double check my route using a real, physical Trucker Atlas that we picked up at a Truck Stop of America last year. All the truck approved roads are highlighted in yellow. If a trucker can handle the road, I know we are fine. If the road isn’t highlighted in yellow, I find a different route that is highlighted.
- Third, if I am debating between two routes (usually trying to find the least mountainous or least busy) I often “google” my route to include something like “best rv friendly route from x to y”. I can often find a thread from someone else who has already researched it. Gotta love the internet.
Step 5: Choose a Campground.
I typically don’t pre-book my campgrounds too far out, but there are three exceptions:
1. If we are staying over a holiday.
2. If we are staying for an extended period of time.
3. If we’re traveling with others and want to ensure we get close spots.
I like to make a list of 2 or 3 really good campground options, and then once we have firmed up our plans, I book it. As soon as I arrive at the campground, I pick up travel brochures from the office or recreation room. Then we simply talk to the staff and other campers to get great recommendations of places to visit in the area.
See, it’s that simple! Happy Travels!