As a fulltime RVer without location dependent work, the road is wide open for us, sometimes too wide open.
Many people have a blank slate and need help knowing where to start, where to go and how to plan their route. Here are five things to help you get your route planned and not miss anything on your way.
First, get an map of the USA! The first thing I like to do is find space to open my U.S. map and get a better idea of where we are and the direction we are planning on heading. We tend to plan in chunks of eight weeks at a time. It’s enough time to cover some distance, but short enough to stay focused and delve into a few different areas.
We also have the flexibility to move mid week, but planning stays for a week at a time keeps things easier to keep track of and allows enough time to hit the highlights of each area. A more detailed atlas is also a great tool. We get our supplies from the American Automobile Association. Most maps are free to members and we purchased an excellent atlas for only $5. www.AAA.com
Check out the national parks along your route. We are big fans of our national parks system and use the Junior Ranger programs as part of our schooling. We have a national parks map that shows the location of parks throughout the country, but a digital copy of this can be found at www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm.
Some national parks having campgrounds right in them, and they are not always full service, but they typically are not big rig friendly. We usually have better luck staying within 30 miles of the park and driving in for day trips.
Next, check to see if there are factory tours in the area. You would be surprised how many companies still allow you a glimpse into how they make things. We use www.factorytoursusa.com to find tours. The best part? Most are free!
We have seen glass blowing in West Virginia, Martin Guitars and pretzel making in Pennsylvania, and Kazoos being manufactured in New York — and that was just last month!
Once you have identified all the fun and interesting places you’d like to visit, then use a map app or website to lay out the general route. Once you know where you are starting and the locations of a few things you would like to see, plug them into a map service. We use www.mapquest.com. This will layout a rough draft and you can simply click and drag your route to alter it as you find other stops you would like to make.
The next step for us is to then crosscheck that route in our RV specific GPS. This allows us to make sure the roads are safe for our rig to be on and that we won’t find ourselves screeching up to a 11-foot bridge that we can’t go through. We recommend at Garmin OnTheRoad device, which you can find by clicking here.
Also, get a copy of the Mountain Directory East and West. These books offer very detailed descriptions of the toughest mountain passes in the United States. When possible, avoid them. But, if they are directly on your route and a reasonable detour isn’t possible, you will have the information you need to safely handle the terrain. www.mountaindirectory.com.
Be sure to check social media, too. Asking for route advice and things to do in an area from those that are local to an area or have recently passed through is an excellent way to “learn from others mistakes” and copy their successes. Their are many facebook groups that are excellent for this. Some Facebook groups to consider joining are Fulltime Families, Living the RV Dream, RV Tips and Workampers.
Once you have your route planned, finding campgrounds to stay at should be on your list. Sometimes this step comes higher up in the order if you are set on visiting a particular campground. If you don’t have a travel budget, then I would simply pick campgrounds closest to the main areas you are choosing to spend time in.
Campground Views is a great website to use for that. Just type in an area and you will see ALL of the campgrounds to choose from with a basic overview of the campground and many have photos and videos. www.campgroundviews.com
For those of you on a budget, like us, we have to be a little pickier when choosing campgrounds. This is our preference in selecting campgrounds:
- Thousand Trails campgrounds — By purchasing an annual membership, we can stay free at these RV parks for three weeks at a time, so it is our “go to” first choice. www.thousandtrails.com If you are a member of a different group of campgrounds I would start there.
- Passport America — At only $44 annually, this membership pays for itself it one to two stays and gives campers 50 percent off nightly rates. Every campground is different so be sure to read the fine print. Passport America is great for short stays and nightly stopovers. www.passportamerica.com
- RPI — A perk of our Thousand Trails membership, we are able to stay for $10 per night at select campgrounds. www.resortparks.com
- Ready Camp GO — After purchasing this membership, campers pay just $20 per night for camping. The benefits of different membership levels can be found at www.readycampgo.com
- County and state parks — These local parks don’t always have full hook ups, but usually offer rates in the $15 to $25 range and are great parks to connect with nature.
If we still don’t find anything after those five options, then we see if we can find a private campground with rates under $25 per night. Sometimes we just skip an area or find a boondock spot around the location we would like to visit.
Using these tips will allow you to make the most of your time on the road. Happy Trails!