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Old 04-06-2014, 03:29 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Guam, USA and Montgomery, TX USA
Posts: 176
You trip planning insight for a newbie, please

I'm new to this RV thing, I've been a boater my whole life. RVing seems MUCH easier. Ha.

I'm out of work on medical leave for 6-9 months (surgery and the following recovery) and I want to use that time to reconnect with my family. So we're buying a 32', used, 5er to start and after a couple of months hopefully we'll figure out what we need, in terms of size, for a new TT, 5er, or Class A MH. We live and work overseas so once we're done with our 9 month USA RVing trip, and I go back to work, we'll store the RV somewhere in California (we'll start from TX) and come back 2-3 times a year for more adventures hopefully for a long time to come.

The problem I'm having is on the trip planning end. I mean, WHERE DO I START and how do I overlay that plan to booked camp site dates? There is so much information out there that it seems logical to just get on the road and do it. But don't I need to book campsites way ahead of time? Especially with summer coming up? I know it's probably too late now for most of the better national park spots though. I just don't want to be scrambling for a spot to stay because I didn't do proper planning in the first place.

I have read that the State and National parks limit is 30' (mostly). Doesn't that make the route/ trip planning side of things difficult? Certainly there has to be an angle there because most RVs are more than 30'.

I've read hundreds of pages of posts on this site but I'm still trying to get an idea of how to start the planning process... so that I can book State/ National park, or desired commercial campsites ahead of time.

We'll launch from TX and head out West.

Do I even need to be worrying about all of this? Should I just get on the road and wing it? From the posts I've read on here there doesn't seem to be huge of an issue with getting shut out for the night. In boating, by contrast, you'd better plan way ahead.

Thanks in advance for any advice and guidance y'all may have for us.
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Old 04-06-2014, 06:10 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2013
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We decide where we want to go, miles travel in a day for us is about 200 miles. We also prefer State & Nat'l parks. We're 35 ft fifth wheel and never had a problem with length. Using my parameters, I then simply look at an atlas and start picking stops. If no parks are around, I go to Good Sam web site and find campground in area I want to stay. We always stay a min of two nights and longer many times. I always make advance reservation which takes all the pressure off finding a place and can enjoy the travel day.
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Old 04-06-2014, 06:40 AM   #3
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First, decide what is most important (e.g. Yosemite, Yellowstone, etc.). Then, look at, and zero in on a campsite you like in that locale. Call and make a reservation for an approximate date, and work back from there, filling in places that lead up to there, along the way. We have some favs, and they are always the first ones I book (Colter Bay in the Tetons, Bluewater Key in Key West), and then fill-in. I think once you get that part, the rest will be easy. Yes, some public parks have limitation in size, but as casinos go up, you'll find that there are some really nice ones (Seven Feathers in Canyonville OR), and some really inexpensive ones (Lucky Star in Concho OK-free), and some that are just parking lots, but charge you for that (Circus Circus in Las Vegas). As you travel, try and make a list of places you see where you want to stop next trip, as they are easily forgotten after a period of time. Also, Next Exit (book and App) is a good resource for gas/food/services on Interstates.
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:11 AM   #4
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As mentioned above, look at an Atlas, Google Maps, etc. and pick out places you want to see. Go online to research any State/national Parks to get more info. I would then use Microsoft Streets and Trips to plan out a trip because it shows you the amount of miles and travel time between stops plus you can adjust driving times, rest breaks, refueling stops and so on. It also has a good database of POI's. Reserve places ahead of time if you can.

As you stated, it is important to prepare and make reservations ahead of time as most of the best places fill up fast. But that doesn't mean you won't find anyplace to stay. If nothing else, parking at a Walmart or Cabelas is usually available - call ahead to see if they allow it first.

Most of all, have fun. Be flexible. There are tons of things to see and you sometimes find that gem in the rough that you never thought was there!
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Old 04-06-2014, 07:33 AM   #5
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You don't always have to book campsites way in advance. Holiday weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day) are the exceptions. Campgrounds near major attractions like national parks during summer are another exception.

Most state parks and Corps of Engineers campgrounds, especially near big cities, will fill up on holiday weekends 6 months to a year in advance, but on regular weekends they will only book up a few weeks out. During the week, you can have your pick of sites most of the time with no reservations.

Private campgrounds will usually not book up as far in advance as state parks and Corps of Engineers. Private campgrounds can be more expensive and will usually have smaller sites, but they frequently also have full hookups.
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Old 04-06-2014, 11:13 PM   #6
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Cool. All good stuff. I appreciate the commentary.

So issues with length it seems.
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Old 04-06-2014, 11:20 PM   #7
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We have a 40' motorhome and travel in the west, including national and state parks. We rearely make reservations and have never been turned away. Even for Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park, there are campground that don't even take reservations. For instance, at Grand Teton there's Gros Ventre and Colter Bay campground (no hookups) that each have 300 non-reservable sites. If you stay outside the park the previous night and pull into campgrounds early morning as folks are leaving, you'll get a site. Even for reservable campgrounds, they usually set aside some sites for people that just drive in without a reservation. Truthfully, I would not get worked up about reservations. Have a good trip!
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Old 04-07-2014, 12:03 AM   #8
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I'm one of those people who don't want to worry about where I'm going to stay at night. I love the new Good Sam trip planning service. We don't like driving more than 300 miles in a day. I just go on their site and pick a spot that I think is 300 miles then click on camp sites. Good Sam will show all Good Sam rated places, private campgrounds and State/national parks. They also provide links to make reservations. We are doing a six week trip this summer from Santa Cruz to New Orleans to Wisconsin to Santa Cruz. I have the trip routed and all reservations made. I am now ready to enjoy my time!!!
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Old 04-07-2014, 11:54 AM   #9
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For major trips we lay out a large plastic covered US & Canada map. Then use markers to selection locations we'd like to see on that trip. We estimate mileage between locations and plan overnights at 250 to 350 miles. Then we run Streets & Trips to take another look at the routing and mileage. We live in Oregon and have kids and grandkids in Florida and Maine so do a trip around the US at least every other year. Each trip we try to take different routes and view different things. We don't make reservations since the route may change at any point if something else interesting enters our minds.
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Old 04-07-2014, 12:23 PM   #10
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Always be prepared to spend a night or 2 without your full hookups... meaning, be sure to keep water at hand and to be ready to use paper plates, etc. to reduce water usage for those times when you might not find what you want. having a good generator helps a lot with power issues, the water and waste dumping can get problematic if not thought about beforehand. there are apps that have dump sites on them as well as potable water sites. (say for instance a small town park may have a potable water spigot for free usage and a free dump station). Allstays is a pretty good app as well as RVParky.
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Old 04-07-2014, 03:08 PM   #11
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We do not plan trips out in detail just a general idea of what we want to do. The only reservations we may make are for high use areas and holiday weekends. Having "get to it itess " when traveling is not fun, be flexible. For overnight stops between destinations in a campground only hook up what you need power and maybe water unless you need to dump stay hitched if possible, in the Midwest a lot of small towns have municipal camp grounds, and then there is boondocking in the boonies, or overnight parking on blacktop or a friends driveway. Allstays Camp and RV is another good Android App.

Pick a trailer to match your tow vehicle, do not believe the salesman check the capacity yourself, when you pack they get heavy/overloaded fast and may be close to max gvw with the water tank full watch for old tires on a used rig.

One year we started out planning to stay East of the Mississippi wound up in California, travel as if your plans are set in jello, and enjoy the adventure
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