Saturday, March 10, 2018

Planning a Trip with RV Trip Wizard

UPDATE:  Be sure to checkout my video walkthrough of RV Trip Wizard!

Until recently, we have taken shorter trips and it's been easy to plan them.  But next year we'll be heading out on a long cross-country trip.  During the first part of the trip, we'll be traveling with four other RVs and will have 14 stops between North Carolina and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

When I started planning the trip, it quickly became apparent how difficult it would be to line up all of the places we wanted to stay, fill in the days between our larger camping spots with short stays (or overnighters), and estimate our costs.  Planning a trip like this isn't that easy, so I chose to use a Reserve and Fill-in method (see my post Trip Planning: Getting Started) where we would reserve all of the "main" places we wanted to visit and then fill-in the intermediate stops as we saw fit.

One of the things I often see people request on various Internet groups and forums is an app that will allow them to find places to stop at specified intervals.  For example, let's suppose that you're at Yellowstone and want to go to Albuquerque, but don't want to drive more than 300 miles each day.  You need a way to 1) see the route between the two, 2) be able to divide the route into 300-mile intervals and 3) find campgrounds and places to stay along the way.  I looked high and low for a tool that would do this sort of trip planning, and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered.

RV Trip Wizard Setup

RV Trip Wizard is a web-based application.  That is, there's nothing to load on your phone or computer.  Whenever you want to use it, you just log in (and your computer can remember all of the login details, so it's easy) and start planning.  It costs about $45 per year, but it seems like it'll be worth it if you travel a lot.

When you first get into RV Trip Wizard, you enter your personal preferences and parameters.  These include RV dimensions, average speed, average daily amount you might spend for food and miscellaneous expenses, and more.  These become defaults for your selections, so they are multiplied by the number of nights at a given campground to help determine the cost for the entire stay.

A second preference screen allows you to select the things you want displayed on your maps:  campgrounds (many different types: Good Sam's, Passport, etc.), fuel stops, national and state parks, etc.  You assign a number to each one and they are prioritized so that the higher priority icons appear before others.

When you select Trip Planner, you're taken to the place where you'll spend almost all of your time.  The screen is divided into four sections.  Across the top are menus.  On the left is your itinerary. The right side has the map and, beneath it, information about anything you've selected on the screen.

Creating a Trip:  A sample walk-through

Let's say I want to go to three "main" places:  Nashville, TN then Yellowstone National Park and, finally, Cheyenne, MO.  Although I'm sure that there are a lot of ways to go about planning a trip with RV Trip Wizard, here's what I do:

1 - Select "Start a New Trip" from menu to the left of the Itinerary box.

2 - Fill in the name of my trip (I'll call it "Nashville->Cheyenne) and put in the start date.  After selecting "Create", it asks if I want to use my current location as the Starting Point.  I answer "no" because I want to start in Nashville, not where I am now.

3 - Type Nashville, TN into the search box and select Find.  This puts Nashville on the map with a "1" balloon.

4 - Underneath the map, select "Set as Start" to select Nashville "1" as the start of the trip.  After clicking this, Nashville, TN appears as the first place on the itinerary.

5 - Type "Yellowstone National Park" in the search box (it uses auto-complete to fill in the entire phrase and its location).  Select Find and the map moves to show Yellowstone in its center with the number "2".

6 - Beneath the map, show that this (Yellowstone) will follow our first stop #1 (Nashville) in the itinerary and then select Add to Trip.

7 - Now notice how the map shows the route coming in (blue) from Nashville and Yellowstone has been added as the second stop on the itinerary.

8 - Repeat steps 5 and 6 to enter "Cheyenne, WY" as the third stop.
9 - Now the itinerary shows all three of the main stops.  Notice how the Wizard has computed the distance in miles to travel to each stop (the totals are on the bottom but not in my screen capture).  It also shows the estimated cost to stay in each location.

10 - The entire map (you can zoom out) now shows your route with three stops in those cities.

11 - Select Nashville, the first stop, in the itinerary.  Notice how the map shows all of the campgrounds in the area.  

12 - Select the KOA in Nashville and a green box pops up showing you their address and a link to their web site and user reviews.

13 - When the green box comes up, a lot of information about the campground appears below the map.  Since I want to stay there, I'm going to enter 4 nights to stay, put this after stop #1 (Nashville) and select Add to Trip.

14 - Since the KOA was added as Stop #2 after the generic city "Nashville" (I know where I'm going to stay in Nashville now!), I can delete the generic stop #1 by checking the box beside it and choosing Delete.

15 - Now the trip is taking shape.  Notice that we begin at the KOA and our entire trip is shown on the map.

16 - Repeat steps 11 through 14 by finding and selecting campgrounds in Yellowstone and Cheyenne.  NOTE that when you look for campgrounds, you can move the map around to find one your want and explore to your heart's content!  When you select your campground and delete the "generic" location (yellow bubbles), your route will be adjusted accordingly.  I've gone ahead and selected my other two "main stop" campgrounds.  Here's what it looks like now: 

17 - Notice that it's 1744 miles between my campground in Nashville and the one I chose at Yellowstone (Wagon Wheel).  That's a lot of driving to do between those places, and I prefer to not drive more than about 300 miles every day. So...we select the KOA Nashville (first stop) on the map and the green box appears. [Nashville 18]

18 - Notice the little icon next to the X in the top right corner of the green box?  Select that and the map is instantly annotated with radiuses around the KOA of 100, 200 and 300 miles.  I specified those intervals in the setup.

19 - Since the radius marks are "as the crow flies" but our route isn't, I may want to stick closer to 200 miles as the crow flies (because I'll likely be travelling closer to 300 miles on the roads).  I'll double-click on the map to zoom near the point where the 200-mile radius intersects with the route.  Notice how many places to stay now appear on the zoomed map!! You can turn POI's (like bridge clearances, Walmarts, etc. on or off using the POI menu item at the top of the screen.

20 - Now I can explore all of the campgrounds by clicking on them.  When I find one I like, I select it and add it to the itinerary as before, putting it after my last location (in this case, the Nashville KOA). 

21 - Next, just select the campground just added and repeat 18-20 above to keep adding places (be sure to indicate how many nights you're staying at each one!) until you're finished with the trip!
As you add items, RV Trip Wizard will automatically update the dates and costs on your itinerary.  When you're finished, you can print everything to a PDF - very, very handy!!

This is an extremely handy tool that is the best trip planner I've seen for RVers.  It shows everything along the way and allows thorough planning of your routes, including stops along the way at intervals you specify.  There are several videos on YouTube that provide even more information if you want it.  Enjoy!

Related posts:  Trip Planning: Getting Started and  Apps to use when Planning a Trip

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is amazing! Mo g ht have to break down and buy it.