Hit the Road with These Trip Planning Tips

A great RV road trip starts with great trip planning. In 2015, our family embarked on a 5,000 mile journey from Missouri to California, and this summer, we are exploring South Dakota and Wyoming. We have had many epic adventures, but these adventures wouldn’t have happened without some planning.

Trip Planning 4In planning our trips, I’ve learned some tips that can help you plan your own epic RV road trip.

1. Route your Road Trip

First, select the routes you’ll take to and from your main destination. Some people like to do this with an old-fashioned map, but I prefer to go digital and use the Good Sam Trip Planner. A Good Sam membership is required for this site, but there are similar apps and sites that don’t require a membership.

Online trip routers can show you route variations and calculate the hours, miles, and gas costs. Remember, the hour calculations may not match your driving speed or allow for the stops you’ll make. We often mentally add 30-50% longer to the calculation since we move along like a pack of turtles as we stop for gas, food, restrooms, and exploration.
Some online trip routers can also help you locate roadside attractions, scenic overlooks, and other interesting stops. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is true for road trips. If your family is like ours, hopping out to check out the world’s largest prairie dog is part of the fun.

Trip Planning 2

2. Select your Stops

If your road trip involves driving more hours than you can drive in a day, you’ll need to break up the trip with additional stops. We prefer to drive around 300-400 miles a day at most, and we often drive fewer miles in areas with a lot to explore.

If needed, we add in overnight stops based on timing. If we need to break up a long stretch of driving, we schedule a stop. We find an RV park convenient to the highway and enjoy a relaxing evening in the campground to recharge our batteries for the next day’s drive.

On a long road trip, you’ll be passing many other attractions along the route to your major destination. Some of these may require more time than an overnight stop. We often stay two or three nights in an area other than our main destination, which allows us to explore more places and break up a long trip.

3. Pick your Parks

Once you have your major stops planned, you then need to pick your RV parks. We select RV parks primarily based on reviews and amenities. Sometimes, we know our boys will need a pool or other fun items in the park. Other times, we know we won’t be in the park enough to use any of the amenities, making them less important.

We use a variety of resources to help us find the right park for us. For an overnight stop, we aren’t picky. For destinations where we will be staying several nights, we want to find a park that fits our needs.

Trip Planning 3There are many print and digital options for finding great RV parks. Good Sam and KOA both publish yearly directories. Online, RV Park Reviews is a great starting point because it includes reviews of all of the parks in an area. Once I’ve narrowed in on a couple of choices, I go to Trip Advisor to see more reviews. Trip Advisor usually has photos submitted by travelers, which give me a better sense of a campground than the promotional photos.

The Campendium website is another great source of reviews and offers the unique ability to find blog posts people have written about a campground. Reading blog posts helps me get a full picture of a RV park, which I appreciate if I am looking for a place to spend several nights. Unfortunately, this website is fairly new, so it doesn’t have reviews for every campground yet.

After reviewing all of the information, I decide where to make reservations. In high-traffic areas, I book our sites several months in advance. For places where we plan to stay overnight, I don’t make the reservation until we are on the road. This allows for some freedom in our travel schedule.

If you are staying in popular national parks, you need to check the park’s website to find out when reservations start. For some parks, you need to make a reservation at the exact time reservations open, but others have more leeway. Never hesitate to pick up the phone and call a campground to find out how far in advance they book up. If the park you want to stay in is already full, be sure to check back since cancellations can leave openings.

4. Organize your Information

As you plan your road trip, you’ll be acquiring a lot of information. I like to use websites that store my documents in the cloud (such as Google Drive or Evernote), so I can access the information from anywhere.

Within my road trip document, I include a basic itinerary. This shows the date, how many hours we will be traveling and where we are heading, and the stops along the way we plan to make. I also list out the main attractions we want to see in each location.

I also store information about each of the RV parks we will be visiting. I include the name, phone number, driving directions, and a confirmation number if our reservations have already been made. Before we head out, I print this document to have on hand. In some areas, you will not have phone or internet service, so it is good to have non-digital copies of your plans.

Trip Planning 15. Hit the Road

After your plans are in place, it is time to hit the road for an epic adventure. Enjoy the journey!

I hope these tips will help you plan an exciting RV road trip for your family.







Kerri Cox writes about her family and RV travel at travelswithbirdy.com. You can also follow their adventures on Twitter (@travelwithbirdy) and Instagram (@travelswithbirdy).

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