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How to Plan the Best RV Road Trip Ever

Updated on July 31, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

The best RV trips are the result of good planning, but not everybody knows how to create a plan that results in an enjoyable and relaxing vacation.

It is intensive research, good organization and clear decisions that help people to achieve this goal.

Furthermore, those who start making their travel plans early have time to

  • figure costs,
  • make reservations,
  • determine timing and
  • prepare their vehicles.

The best way to deal with these tasks is to start early and do them a bit at a time, rather than trying to take care of them all at once just before you leave home.

Decisions should always include the thoughts and desires of every person who will be traveling with you because if you don't address everybody's needs, someone will be unhappy and will likely put a damper on any trip you decide to take.

The following guidelines are based on my more than 50 years of RV travel experience.

If you follow them, you’ll be able to visualize your vacation in advance and create the type of RV trip you really want to have.

If you want to have a great RV vacation you have to make your travel plan ahead.of time.
If you want to have a great RV vacation you have to make your travel plan ahead.of time. | Source

Step 1: Think About Where You Want to Go and Stay

Although many people think RV trips should be free wheeling experiences, the truth is that people who don’t have clear cut destinations often wind up wandering aimlessly and spending a lot of extra money.

For this reason, it is just as important to plan your stopping points along the way as it is to choose your destination camping spots.

If you rush from one place to another without knowing where you'll end up, you could find yourself without a site or being stuck with one that is substandard or over priced.

Choosing good camping spots ahead of time is an important part of route planning and should be taken care of before ever leaving home.

Step 2: Check Your Time and Money Situation

While it’s nice to want to plan a vacation to place you would like to see, if you don’t have enough time for such a trip or find that it will cost more than you can afford to pay, there is no sense using it as the basis for a travel plan.

Instead, choose a destination you have plenty of time to visit and that won’t create debt for you.

Taking a trip to Yosemite sounds great, but can you afford to go?
Taking a trip to Yosemite sounds great, but can you afford to go? | Source

Step 3: Create Travel Check Lists

The easiest way to organize an RV trip is to create a series of check lists that you can use to keep you on task and help you to remember what you need to do and have when traveling.

Here are some lists you may want to incorporate into your planning:

  • medicine,
  • tools,
  • linens
  • cleaning items,
  • food and beverages,
  • personal care items,
  • hobby and sports items and
  • set up/break down lists.

All of them are worth creating. The best news is that once you put them together, you can use them for any RV vacation you take!

Step 4: Choose Routes Carefully

There are usually many routes to choose from when planning an RV road trip.

To save money, time and wear and tear on passengers and vehicles you should make it a point to choose those that allow you to drive shorter distances on better roads while at the same time avoiding tolls.

Choose routes that are shorter and cost less.
Choose routes that are shorter and cost less. | Source

Step 5: Use Good Information Guides

It’s important when planning travel routes to use accurate information.

For example, you can find helpful information about campgrounds in The Good Sam Travel and Savings Guide and information about distances in online route planners such as the one published by AAA.

My husband and I use both of these resources often because without them, we would have much less control over where we stay and how much we spend.

Information from credible sources such as these help you to decide how far you want to drive in any give day and which campgrounds will be available once you arrive at a destination.

By planning ahead using guides such as these, you actually can forecast your basic travel costs. How to Estimate the Cost of Your Next RV Trip shows you how to do this.

2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sams Rv Travel Guide & Campground Directory)
2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sams Rv Travel Guide & Campground Directory)

A must have resource for all who RV and want to have the most complete information they need at the most reasonable price.


Step 6: Prepare Your Vehicles for Travel

It is extremely important to make sure that all of your vehicles are road ready before you leave home because doing this helps you to avoid many mechanical problems..

A road ready RV or tow vehicle should be able to hold up to the rigors of vibrations, dangerous weather and poor conditions of all types.

Vehicles are much safer if they have sound structural issues such as good quality, correctly rated tires and chassis that are properly rated for the loads they carry.

Before leaving home, you should always check vehicles for

  • cracks and leaks in belts and hoses,
  • tire damage,
  • water and propane leaks and
  • broken external lights.

You should also make sure that

  • air conditioning filters are clean,
  • AC units are working,
  • hitch attachments are functional,
  • emergency equipment is working,
  • air pressure in tires is correct,
  • rear camera monitors are in good condition,
  • gas and smoke detectors are updated,
  • propane tanks are full and functional,
  • tires are properly aligned,
  • remote mirrors, work,
  • fire extinguishers are up to date and working,
  • all appliances are working,
  • windshield wipers are working,
  • entry stairs are doing their jobs,
  • oil levels are correct and
  • batteries are working correctly

so that you can find and repair any problems before leaving home.

You should also make sure that the vehicles you will be traveling with match the trip you plan to take.

For example,

  • if you want to visit Yellowstone National Park and know that soft sided travel units are not permitted in its campgrounds, a fold out camper would be the wrong unit to use for such a vacation or
  • if you want to travel to Montana in the winter, you will need a coach that is suited for all season travel.

Recreational Vehicles are constructed for specific uses, so if you try to use one that isn't suited for the type of trip you plan to take, you will be very uncomfortable.

Simply put, if you find that your travel unit will not work for the trip you want to take, you will either have to change your plans or buy (or rent) a different RV.

Make needed repairs before leaving home.
Make needed repairs before leaving home. | Source

Step 7: Time Your Trips Carefully

It is a common mistake to think that you can go anywhere at any time you choose without running into problems of one sort or another. For example:

  • Driving through the middle of the country in early to mid-spring can put you in danger because that is exactly when weather becomes extremely violent in that area.
  • Traveling to places at a time when major events are taking place, such as Hot Summer Nights in Reno, NV (which takes place every August) or the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM (which takes place every October), will likely leave you with no place to camp or facing costs that double or triple during those special events.

Researching areas you plan to visit prior to going there can also save you a lot of money.

For example, I recently discovered that a camping resort I wanted to visit charges $65 per night on weekends, but only $25 during the week. This information allowed me to adjust my travel plans so that I could stay longer and save money doing it.

Step 8: Research Ways to Save Money

RV travel has become extremely expensive, but you can make your trips more affordable by finding ways to save money, such as

  • joining a good discount camping club,
  • staying at free or reduced cost campsites,
  • driving more slowly to conserve fuel and
  • buying gas where it costs less.

The more you are able to save, the more comfortable your trip will be because you won’t be worrying about money!

Step 9: Carry the Right Equipment

When you’re on the road, you need to be prepared for just about every eventuality.

For this reason, you must make it a point to carry equipment such as

  • tools,
  • a first aid kit,
  • fire extinguishers,
  • a cell phone,
  • spare tires and
  • any other items that you think you may need.

I even carry a snake bite kit!

Step 10: Load Your RV Correctly

The last thing you want is to have a highway accident because your coach is not properly balanced.

Your vehicle’s axles are weight rated, and you should always make sure not to overload them.

The best way to do this is to avoid keeping all of your heavy items on one side of your coach!

You also want to avoid making your unit top heavy. Therefore, you need to load heavy items such as canned goods low and light items such as linens high.

How to Load and Pack Your RV for Safety and Comfort gives you more tips that will help you to with this issue.

Other Helpful Tips

Other items you should include in your planning are to

  • gas up before heading out,
  • make sure your coach is well stocked so that you have what you need,
  • spend your first night in a local campground so that you can return home quickly if necessary and
  • divide chores among travelers so that no one person ends up doing all the work.

Planning a Great RV Road Trip Takes Effort

As you can see, planning an RV road trip requires a good deal of work.

However, taking your time and making plans in advance will make the job easier.

If you use the information provided in this article, you can plan a great RV road that will create truly enjoyable vacations and many happy memories.

Do you think it's important to carefully plan ahead for any RV trip you might take?

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Submit a Comment

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 16 months ago

    Karen Hellier: Glad you liked it. Most people don't realize all the things that need to be done to get ready for a trip, so this article gives them a "heads up". Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 16 months ago from Georgia

    Great article with some very thorough RV trip prepping trips. Thanks so much for this. Hopefully I can use these tips someday and do an RV trip.