How to Pick the Perfect Driving Route for an RV Road Trip
- Select Your Sights to See
- Set a Schedule
- Use a Travel App to Discover Unique Sites and Create the Route
- Double Check the Route with a Trucker's Atlas
- Finish by Making Campground Reservations
With so many unique places to see in an RV and many different routes, trip planning can be a daunting task. With a bit of know-how, organizing the best route can transform a good trip into a perfect trip!
Since we go on spring, summer, fall and winter trips each year with multiple destinations, we feel like we have our own RV road trip route planning down to a science and would love to share our method for getting on the road and into the great outdoors.
1. Select Your Sights to See
It's a good idea to start by selecting places you actually want to see and then narrowing that list down. Sometimes when you plan, you will realize you have far too many places you want to visit on one trip. Having too many desirable destinations is a great problem to have, and it will make you want to get back out on the road again as soon as possible. At least that's what it does for us.
What places do you really want to see?
Since we are avid hikers that also love seeking out dark skies for astrophotography, our trips revolve around amazing hiking trails and viewing as many stars as possible when we plan our route. Your passions may be different, so you may prioritize beautiful lakes for fishing, a town with lots of history to learn about, an area filled with the best restaurants or many other sights to see. Regardless of what you love to do, start by making a list of the things you want to check out within an area.
2. Set a Schedule
Once you have a list of places you would like to see, think about how much time you will have to explore. When we plan our summer trips for three weeks, we know we have twenty-one days to work with and organize our trip. Most of the time, we have more than our set times worth of hikes, dark sky parks and other tourist attractions we want to enjoy. This is when we begin to whittle down our list based on our must-do activities.
It's a good idea to group activities based on location to get a general idea of the route. Over the years, we have noticed that our trips need to be limited to just a few states for the best experience instead of hitting a dozen states in the same amount of time. This allows for a deeper enjoyment of a couple of areas and a more relaxing pace of travel versus a surface-level, hurried pace.
You might be different. If that is your style to see a little bit of everything, go for it!
Once you have a general idea of the route, start to plan the length of stay for every location. With a bit of research on each destination, you may discover you need more days than you initially thought to see everything you want.
How many days would you like to explore the fantastic ruins of Mesa Verde?
Pro Tip: If you are towing a travel trailer like us, you will need to account for a slower travel speed because of tire ratings. (Always follow the safety regulations set by the manufacturer.) This will add additional driving time to your route.
3. Use a Travel App to Discover Unique Sites and Create the Route
After you have figured out the length of stay in each area, it is time to plan your exact route using an app, a website or a traditional paper map. You might want to try creating multiple versions of the route and then see what path makes the most sense based on mileage or the most exciting side adventures. You have several options planned before setting the journey in stone by making reservations at RV parks, state parks and other spots. Our trips are usually planned out at least six months in advance to get the parks, and even campsites selected, without needing to worry if we'll be able to see what we want to see or stay where we want to stay.
If you are looking for a good app or program to use for planning your trip, Roadtrippers is a great choice.
This app is an excellent tool for giving us recommendations of interesting restaurants, rock formations, historic landmarks and other unique locations we might have missed along the way.
If you prefer to use a more traditional route planning method, you can always use Google Maps to create several routes to compare trip mileage. It's always great at giving you flexible options and pinning locations you would like to explore.
You can even try paper maps if you like the tactile feel of holding a map when planning. There is something nice about highlighting several routes on a giant paper map and seeing the entire journey.
4. Double Check the Route with a Trucker's Atlas
Now that you have your destinations figured out and your route planned, what do you do? Double-check it! Several times, we have found that some of the roads we thought would be fine to drive on might not be the best to take while towing a travel trailer. This is why it is crucial to get a trucker's atlas.
One item we always bring with us on long-distance road trips across the country is our go-to paper map, the Rand Nally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas. We have kept it in our truck for many years and are very happy to keep this tool in our planning arsenal. You can use this road atlas to see what routes large 18-wheelers are able to traverse. If they can drive on these roads, you can safely assume you will be able to take your RV on the same roads. It's also nice to know you have a backup map for instances where phone service is non-existent and the GPS gets a little glitchy. Just consider it old-school peace of mind.
5. Finish by Making Campground Reservations
With your route set and checked, it's time to make reservations. Each year, more and more people are finding joy in RVing. Consider making those reservations as far in advance as possible. As we mentioned earlier, if the park or campground allows you to make reservations six months out, definitely take the opportunity to reserve your trip. We like to set reminders on our phones six months to the day in advance of each day we will be on the trip. We've been doing this for many years, and we've always been able to get the campgrounds we want and the actual campsites we need to shoot astrophotography. Proper early planning can make your trip what you want it to be.
We hope at least a couple of these tips will help you plan out your next road trip route.
Enjoy the open road!