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Planning a Road Trip? New to traveling the Open Road? New to Van Camping? Need Help With That?

I'm constantly planning one! There are so many different ways to plan a road trip. Personally, I enjoy the planning stage, however, I am likely to change the plans once we get started. Road trips can be either journey based or destination based. We do both but prefer the journey based trips. The last few trips have been destination based. So as I sit here thinking of where to go next I'm keeping my fingers crossed that nothing pops up to determine where and when we need to be in a specific place.

This topic is on my mind due to our most recent van conversion for my mom. She has been here with us for over a month and is ready to journey home with her new van build. The trip home for her is on the heels of a major holiday and reservations are a bit tricky. Due to the heat waves across the country it is important to have power for her AC. The frustration I saw for her while navigating different websites and apps was eye-opening for me. I now wonder how often this is the case for would-be travelers.

There is help. There are those of us that enjoy the plotting and planning. You need only to reach out and ask. For those of you that don't like asking for help, you are in luck. I am a trip planner for hire as well. Best of both worlds here.

There are so many apps on the market that are designed to make this an easy task. However, not all apps are one-size-fits-all. Some apps have an emphasis on boondocking/dry camping, some are for established campgrounds and some feature both. Some map apps allow multiple destinations some don't. Some map apps allow you to drag the route where you want it and others don't. So you see the source of frustration? I use all of the above, based on where I am and where I'm going. My most favorite? A paper USA Road Atlas - Rand McNally to be exact. This may age me but I must admit, I tend to get one about every year just to have on hand. There are those that like to go way off-grid and they use things like the Garmin handheld GPS thing-a-ma-jig.

I don't usually go that far off grid, intentionally anyway, so I do not see a need for this for myself. I do know folks that have them and use them with great success.

RV Resorts

RV resorts can be very pricey and very crowded, they can also be very fun and relaxing. There are some companies that offer discounts for memberships, some companies that charge annual fees for 'free' stays with restrictions and then the stand alones that charge outrageous prices... in my opinion of course. We took the dive and bought a membership with Thousand Trails. Their Camping Pass is the entry level membership which suits us just fine. They have many high-end options. So far we are pleased with our experience with the Thousand Trails we've been to and hope to continue our relationship with them. We love National Parks, State Parks and BLM land boondocking but having the option to pull into a Thousand Trails to shower and enjoy some nice amenities is a big draw.

National Parks

National Parks should be on your bucket list. Reserving a campground in one can be a challenge. Back country dry camping can be a hurdle some aren't willing to manage. So what should you do? Learn to navigate the areas you aren't familiar with. It is trial and error but it is worth it. Recreation.gov can be a very useful app for making reservations near National Parks, Be sure to setup an account with them to make it easier, if time isn't an issue, feel free to call them at 877-444-6777. Each park has different nuances, so do a little light reading and decide what may work for you. Also - buy that annual Parks Pass!

It is very useful, especially if you are over 62. You get discounts on federally owned property such as National Parks and Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds. The Corps of Engineers Campgrounds are open to everyone, don't let the name fool you. My favorite guide to these wonderful site is an e-book from Amazon, The Wright Guide to Camping with the Corps of Engineers. Many can be found on Recreation.gov but others you must call directly, they are in over 30 US states. These campgrounds are spacious and clean in my experience.

State Parks

State Parks are plentiful across the US, some states may have park pass requirements. Weeding through each state to find the park right for you may take some patience and 'old school' phone calls to get fully informed of any unforeseen requirements or lack of them. As they say, you can't always trust the internet. Most states have their own reservation system and some link to others. Once you register with one you may automatically be registered for others so keep that in mind as you go. There is another e-book on Amazon that can be very useful, RV Camping in State Parks.

Boondocking/Dry Camping

Boondocking is always an option for self-contained campers. This type of trip planning is unpredictable but the sense of freedom here is rewarding. Actually, boondocking can be accomplished flying by the seat of your pants if you have no set plans or destinations. Our first coast to coast trip took over 6 weeks and was over 11,000 miles, we paid for three nights while on the road. We weren't using apps at the time and were only armed with the Rand McNally Atlas. We found amazing spots with spectacular views and some spots that weren't memorable at all but provided a night's sleep. We were in rural areas and big cities. Since that trip we have honed our skills and use a couple apps that make things a bit more convenient. iOverlander and Wikicamps were the first two I downloaded, I still use those today.

How many miles to drive in a day?

How many miles should you drive in a day, you ask? Well, that is up to you and the conditions. I like the 350-400 mile drives for destination oriented trips. For the 'enjoy the journey' trips less miles and more adventuring is more my style. Some RV enthusiasts recommend the 2-2-2 rule, 200 miles driven, two nights stay and arrive by 2 pm.... I hope to make a trip based on those rules one day, but I'm not there yet. Another RV rule is 3/300, drive 300 miles or less and arrive by 3pm. Then there is the 4-4-4 rule, drive 4 hours, arrive by 4pm and stay no longer than 4 nights. I found this info HERE. If these rules appeal to you then follow one, if not, plan something else. Or don't plan and see where the open road takes you. Most importantly don't allow yourself to get road fatigue. There are others on the road that don't deserve what can happen with carelessness. If you do decide to hire a trip planner or simply ask someone to help you, be sure to closely examine your limitations. Meaning, have an idea of what you want to see, where you want to go, and how many hours you want to be behind the wheel.

Arriving at Camp

First things first, whether you are in an RV resort, a National Park, a State Park or dry camping on remote BLM land, there are a few things to do when you arrive. Take a sigh of relief then based on your rig set it up for success. How you park is based on the specific site and your rig, pull-through, back-in, head-in. Each rig has it's own requirements for setup and take down. For us, we usually back-in, insert our K.I.S.S. Airflow Screens, open the awning and set out our chairs. If we are in a full hook-up site we plug in the solar generator and that's that. We tend to keep it simple. There are other times we hang the hammock, looking forward to that again with our new hammocks! Check those out HERE.

Packing-out

Your pack out is just as important as your setup. Do not, do not, do not leave a trace of your existence. The next camper doesn't need anything you decide to leave and neither does the environment. Now you are are set to head to your next adventure! If any of this is of interest or if you have questions or need help, please reach out. My email is eileen@therollingstowes.com




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