I’m still a week or two away from driving my RV home from the service center, where it’s been sitting since I bought it a few months ago. But now that I have a few RV rallies on the calendar, I was ready to try my hand at trip planning. And that turned into a week-long affair. The possibilities are almost endless, but in many cases, you’ve got to move fast. Here’s the trip-planning process I used to create an epic RV trip.
Start with your Ultimate Destination
My RV fantasy trips were just that – fantasies – until I had a firm destination and date. Since I’m working to build my financial coaching business (DrBrendaMoneyCoach.com) and promote my online financial freedom courses (EarlyExitAcademy.com) to the RV community, I focused on RV rallies as marketing and socializing opportunities. By focusing on RV rallies, I now had a destination and a timeline. I built my itinerary around the following events:
Having never planned an RV trip before, I wasn’t sure how soon to start, so my first task was buying a subscription to RV Trip Wizard ($39/year). I created a new trip, called “Rock Springs, WY” that would take me from Tennessee in April to Wyoming in June. What a learning experience this turned out to be! This video will walk you through a demo of the software.
Know your Camping Style
As a new RVer, I admit that I’m not 100% sure about my camping style, and I suspect it will change over time. With 8 weeks between the Tennessee and Wyoming rallies, I had plenty of options in front of me. Maybe park at a site for a month … or “wing it” and hope that I could find a place to safely sleep every night … or travel between campgrounds at my own pace? And I could try my hand at boondocking, staying in park campgrounds, or schmoozing at high-end RV resorts. I weighed several factors when building my itinerary.
My Work Determines my Pace
Ideally, I want to be parked at the same campground for a week at a time. So I set up a schedule that was most conducive to a consistent work schedule (Tuesday – Saturday). Most times, I will be arriving at a campground on Monday afternoons and departing Sunday mornings. On the days that I will be traveling from one campground to the next, I plan to stay at Harvest Hosts (refer-a-friend link) sites.
Harvest Hosts is a really cool program that allows RVers to stay at a variety of RV-friendly wineries, breweries, farms, and attractions. In exchange, the RVer is expected to do a little business with their host, like buying a bottle of wine or fresh eggs. I can live with that!
My need for a work schedule was a big factor in determining my route. Plus, I followed the advice of a number of RVers to limit the distance driven in any day to 350 miles and to check in to a campground no later than 3:30. This rule should cut down on driver fatigue and it allows me some leeway when weather and traffic disrupt my travel plans.
Park Campgrounds are my Thing
Having decided on a schedule, my next step was to decide where to stay. Essentially, I don’t see myself as a fancy RV resort type of person. I am happiest walking along the seashore, hiking on a trail covered in pine needles, and watching the sun rise over mountain lakes. My priority was to camp in national and state parks. However, since I work from the RV, I need electricity and cell phone coverage. I learned quickly that RV sites with hookups in the parks are very popular, so I had to move fast in making reservations. In fact, even though it was early February, I was still too late to snag a reservation in the national parks in the west (Grand Canyon, Zion). And some of the state parks were booked up too!
I juggled a lot of information and it wasn’t always easy to sort through everything online. So I relied on some guide books (affiliate links are provided below) that gave me a good snapshot of campgrounds most suited to my needs.
Accelerating Park Reservations
Once I discovered that some of the parks were already booked for the summer season, I prioritized those reservations. My biggest score was reserving six nights in Acadia National Park in Maine (Tip: go to recreation.gov website six months in advance of the day you plan to camp.) Once the park reservations were made, I filled in the gaps with RV resorts that would give me an occasional break from the park scene.
Don’t Forget your Budget
My goal is to keep my campground budget under $1,000 each month. If I had solar panels and didn’t have to run a business from the RV, I could cut the budget drastically by boondocking on public lands. My biggest takeaway was that if I don’t make national and state park campground reservations months in advance, I’ll be stuck in more expensive private RV parks. If you’re just getting started, here are some tips.
Tip 1: Make your reservations early, especially if you plan to stay in national and state parks.
Tip 2: Be ready to pay in full for reservations at state and national parks. This was a surprise for me and my credit card.
Tip 3: Lower your costs by staying longer. Look for weekly and monthly rates that can save you quite a bit of money.
Tip 4: Head west. The west offers plenty of affordable RV campground options. In contrast, the northeast has few state parks with power and the private resorts are expensive.
Tip 5: Give yourself time to move between campgrounds. Try to schedule one or two days to move from one campground to another to compensate for weather and traffic delays.
Tip 6: Have fun! Open your mind to new adventures and discoveries as you plan your epic RV trip.
This trip is going to be so awesome! Here are some of the scenes I am looking forward to viewing. I can’t wait!
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you’d like to follow along with me on this crazy adventure, I will be posting videos to my YouTube channel. You can subscribe here.
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Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she writes 30-day challenges at BetterLifeChallenges.com. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at DreamBigMoneyAcademy.com.
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