Part 1 of a New Series: How to Plan your RV Trip
So how do you plan a route for your next RV trip? Do you generally go to the same places? Are you looking for something in particular? Perhaps great scenery and hiking are your primary goals. Looking for a place to put the kayaks in the water? History museums? 19th Century mansions? Americana? We love to do a bit of all of that.
For Bill and I, the first step to great trip planning starts way before we actually start planning. We call this Step 0. The first step is just collecting ideas. We love the “Visitors Centers” that are at the state borders on the major highways. My husband picks up 30 or 40 brochures to browse through while we are there!
We also love watching the travel channels and history channels. Often we get great ideas there as well. There are, of course, a myriad of web sites and apps and blogs to get the curiosity juices flowing.
- Travel web site for an area. Search on keywords: “Visit Baton Rouge”. There are often several sites that are created by the locals for your perusal.
- Some web sites are primarily aimed at hotel and restaurant rankings. These can be useful later but not helpful for a general “where should I go” phase.
- One exception is TripAdvisor.com. You can search this for attractions surrounding a town.
- Another good option is Yelp.com which is best for museums and general interest sites. To get Yelp to be your friend, type in a category at the top such as “museums” or “parks”. The drop down list can be a bit limited.
- For general ideas along a path, try out Road Trip America. They have 2 especially nice features. The first is “Trip Advice” which is effectively a forum to ask for ideas in a region. The second nice feature is a mapping tool that allows you to select a beginning and ending city. The map will come back with a variety of Pins that show things to do and restaurants along the route. The advanced tool is truly “advanced” and will take you a bit to learn. But it is absolutely worth it. By the way, if you register for the forum, tell them PamJohnson sent you!
- A similar tool is called Road Trippers. It is also available as an app on your device. It is a bit more modern than RoadTripAmerica but did not have a forum of people to discuss ideas, which I like. It does have a nice “review” tool though so you can read reviews and submit your own.
- Many travelers love to blog about their journeys. These can be some of the most interesting sources of travel ideas. I have a few of my favorites listed below. But I am truly scratching the surface on this one. Anyone have some favorite bloggers they would like to add?
- RVTravel.com This is a long running site by travelers that consistently post a newsletter every couple of weeks. Fun and very personable.
- Flying The Koop – Day to day travel log. Detailed comments on unusual travel stops!
- Cozy Be Gone – A friend I met on our travels. She has a fun folksy style and amazing photos!
Some of the best ideas come from talking to our neighbors in the RV parks where we stay. How often have I heard “if you ever get to Kentucky, don’t miss …..” Of course if I don’t write that down right away, it’s gone!
Now that you have hundreds of ideas, the truth is you have chaos! We started our travelling with a filing box with one folder per state. But even that was hard to work with when we needed to know what places were on a particular route or near a town we were heading to. We spent a lot of time flipping through brochures and hand written notes to find our targets. And it was just too much paper! Within a few months, the flyers and notes had burst out of the box. Hopeless.
Of course, if you already use RVNotepad, you know the answer. Add your ideas to the “Attractions” section. List the name, address, city, state, web site and any other information you glean. Then all you need to do is “search” by geographical area (50 miles from Chattanooga?) and get a list of available sites. Sweet!
If you aren’t using RVNotepad (and why not?), you can use paper, 3×5 cards, or perhaps a spreadsheet. These won’t get you the search ability of the software, but at least it’s all in one place!
So now it’s your turn. What great tools do you use to find great places to stop along your route? Do you have any favorite bloggers? I am building a list of bloggers to post on RVNotepad.com so let me know who your favorites are!