Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trip Planning: Getting Started

(Note:  Be sure to also see Apps to use when Planning a Trip and Planning a trip with RV Trip Wizard)

When browsing Facebook groups or RV forums, you'll find that people often ask others how they plan trips in their RVs.  Whenever this question is asked, the answers will generally fall into one of these categories:

  • Last minute or no reservations.  People call ahead to the next place they want to stay and see if they can get in, or they simply pull in (like a Walmart) hoping that they can stay.  They either use apps or (paper) maps to find campgrounds or rest stops.
  • Reserve and fill-in.  People use apps or maps to find campgrounds along their route, and call ahead to make reservations at the important (or difficult to reserve) places.  They travel to those places and then use apps or maps to find places to stay in-between them.
  • Reserve everything.  These people use apps or maps to find all places to camp for their entire trip and then reserve everything in advance.
All of these work, and they all have their pros and cons.
  • The Last minute or no reservations method allows the ultimate freedom because nothing is planned too far in advance.  Of course, you're not guaranteed that you have a place to stay and it could leave you feeling a bit anxious if places you'd like to go are booked up and you need to look elsewhere.
  • If you Reserve and fill-in, then you are guaranteed a place at your important stops, and still have lots of flexibility during your trip.  Of course, those last minute fill-ins are risky if nothing is available where you'd like to stop.  
  • When you Reserve everything, you feel comfortable because the entire trip is already planned and you have few worries.  But it's not flexible.  If you have any minor delays or want to stay somewhere for an extra day or so, you may not be able to do so because of your stack of reservations.
At this point, we've only taken one long trip and lots of short ones.  However, all of my research in groups and forums leads me to believe that most people actually practice the Reserve and fill-in method.  For example, if you plan to go to Branson, Mt. Rushmore, and then Cheyenne, you would find that there are several 4-hour days of driving between each of them.  For the sake of this discussion, let's say that there are five days between each one.  In this case, you might reserve a 7-night stay in Branson, a 5-night stay in Mt. Rushmore, and then a 6-night stay in Cheyenne.  Those are your "main" stops and you know that they could be difficult to reserve if you did it all at the last minute.

Once you've reserved campgrounds at the three main stops, you can use apps & maps to find some possibilities for overnights (one or two-nighters) along the way - even as you're driving.  With five nights between each of your "main" campgrounds, you can stay in five different places, or drive a couple of longer days and stay in three different places. The great thing about this is that you have a lot of flexibility between your main stops.  You are better equipped to deal with mechanical problems or adjust the length-of-stay at any ad-hoc stop as you wish.  For this reason, it's a good idea to make sure that the number of days you allow between main stops assumes drive times of 3-4 hours per day - tops.

Some of most frequently asked RVing questions on Facebook are variations of "What do you use to plan your trips and to navigate?"  Check out these related posts for more info.

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