Trip planning can be one of the best parts of RVing, but it can also be a drag. Picturing in your mind the places you will go, and creating a bucket list of experiences you hope to have is at once refreshing and invigorating. Yet, at the same time, you will be faced with the logistics of trip planning such as whether or not the route is navigable in your RV, which campgrounds you should choose, how many stops do you have time to make, etc. We need to be able to accomplish those logistical tasks in a way that does not burden our hearts or lessen our enthusiasm for the trip. Let’s take a look at our big picture to inspire us, and then follow up with some logistical questions to help us reach our goals.
What do you really need to plan a trip? Answer the following questions…
What is your motivation? What are you passionate about seeing/experiencing? What is your big picture goal for the trip?
When Chris and I first set out as full-time RVers, we knew we wanted to head West. We had traveled the East Coast extensively, but had only visited a few places West. Since I love history, following The Oregon Trail was at the top of my list, and Chris’ sense of adventure brought Utah’s Mighty Five to the top of his list. That was our main inspiration for our first trip. Think about what is inspiring and motivating you for your trip. Awaken that inner child that so desires to be curious and see the world with new eyes. Be courageous. The only person stopping you from experiencing and seeing the things on your bucket list is you! Maybe you want to visit all of the national parks? Guess what? You can! Maybe you want to try surfing in California? That was one of Chris’ dreams, and he did it! So can you! Maybe you want to experience history? Maybe you want to follow your favorite band on tour? Maybe you want to enjoy being still and quiet in the desert? Maybe you want to climb the highest mountains? There are NO limitations on what you can do and where you can go…let that sink in for a moment. Now is your time to think big, to follow your dreams and to pursue your interests. If we can do it, so can you!
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. – Bilbo Baggins (J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings)
How will you get there?
Now that you are sufficiently riled up by your big picture inspiration, you can get a vague idea of your route. If you are full-timers, then there is no need to be overly specific. For us, following The Oregon Trail and then leaving it to see The Black Hills and Yellowstone, and then dipping down in to Utah was our route. That was all we needed to know in order to start. We could work out the details as we went. Plus, you will want to give yourself flexibility to divert from your route and be able to enjoy special events as they arise. If you are planning a short trip, then paying attention to the details up front may be more helpful to you, so that you can enjoy your trip. If that is your situation, then I would plan a more specific route ahead of time, so that you are not wasting vacation time making plans. We do not use any special GPS or apps, we just take a look at Google Maps.
What is your trip budget?
Some of you will want to be more specific here than others. While we do not think it is necessary to plan for every last dime, at the same time, we do not want anyone to sacrifice their financial freedom over a trip. If you have followed our recent budget series, then you know exactly what your RVing budget is, and you want to use that to guide you.
How much time do you have?
For full-time RVers this question applies in that while your time is more flexible, you will still have events on your calendar, family visits, the change of seasons, and other factors that will give you some time constraints. For short trips, you will be packing in as much action as you can. Being mindful of your time constraints will be a part of making your plans.
Where do you want to stay?
Now that you have an idea of your route, time and budget in hand, it is much easier to select the areas you would like to stay and then check for campgrounds within your budget. (See our post on selecting a campground for your budget.)The same rules apply here as above – if you are a full-time RVer, leave yourself a lot of flexibility so that you can make the most of your trip; however, if you are planning a short trip, then making more of the decisions up front will free up more of your time during your trip.
And that is about it! Going from the big picture and then narrowing your focus to help you sort through the logistics is a great way to NOT feel overwhelmed by planning. Hold on to your motivation and inspiration, and the rest will fall right in to place. We hope this exercise has been helpful to you!
We also include Trip Itinerary sheets with more specific instructions to help you plan for and budget for RV trips in our RV There Yet? Calendar. They are also great for recording data, so that you can look back on trips and know what they cost as you make future plans.