This is Part 1 of a 7 part series on traveling with an RV or travel trailer. It's all about what has worked well for Fay and me over the last several years of traveling through the U.S. and Canada.
The 7 articles in the series are (click to view):
- Planning Your Route
- Finding Places to Stay
- Preparing For a Trip
- On the Road
- At the Campground
- Leaving the Campground
- After You Get Back Home
(Click here to read the complete disclaimer)
Time to start planning another trip
Are you one of those people who loves the idea of just getting on the road with your small travel trailer and going? Do you like the adventure of not knowing where? Do you just love figuring it out as you go along? In other words, you don't like the idea of planning trips. If so, you should probably skip this article since it's all about planning your route!
But that's not me. I'm a pretty organized person. I like the idea of planning trips, although I do try to leave a fair amount of flexibility in them. After all, even though we have a plan, we often get sidetracked.
While we occasionally head out on a brand new adventure, most of our trips are made up of:
- One or more of our favorite destinations
- A few stops along the way to visit friends or relatives
- Maybe a couple of places we've heard about and have wanted to visit
Start with a Tentative Route
I always start with a tentative route. This is our chance to brainstorm a bit on where we want to go. Most importantly though is the fact that it gives us an idea of how much time we'll need to allocate to driving before we decide how long we want to stay at any destinations.
If it's a short trip or if you're headed to somewhere you go regularly, you may already know your route and there's nothing new to consider. But if it's more than that, you need to do some planning. Do you want to get there the fastest way possible, or are you like me and want to take more time, avoid the Interstate traffic (and boredom) and take old highways and back roads? (You should check out my article: Enjoy Your Drive and Avoid the Highways) Either way, you should explore your options and estimate how long the travel will take.
Research Your Routehttps://maps.google.com
After having tried a lot of mapping tools, I always go back to Google Maps when doing my research. It's very easy to drag your route around on the map to explore alternatives and see how it affects the time. The fact that I can switch and see actual photos along the way on most main roads and streets is really great.
You are probably already familiar with Google Maps, but if not, you really need to give it a try. It's quick and easy, and is great for considering alternative routes when planning a trip.
Google Maps may be all you need for a short trip, but it does have some significant limitations when documenting and planning a longer one. A few of the biggest limitations for me are:
- A limitation as to the number of stops you can add
- There are no provisions for adding notes along the route
- It doesn't have the ability to adjust the time based upon your anticipated driving speed
- You also can't adjust the time to accommodate stops for gas, meals, etc.
Refining and Documenting Your Planhttps://myscenicdrives.com/ By far my favorite tool for refining and documentation our travel plans is My Scenic Drives. Not only does it overcome all the limitations I listed above for Google Maps, it also has several other features that I love:
- As you add your stops, it allows you to enter other details such as time planned for the stop as well as your notes.
- You can enter the amount of time you wish to drive each day and it will suggest where to stop.
- There is a To Do List where you can keep up with things you still need to address in your plan
- It will generate your entire route map with stops, as well as your basic itinerary.
- There is an option to share your trip with others using email, or even with friends using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. (FOR SECURITY: Please be careful of letting people know when you are going to be away from home.)
Easy Reference to Your Schedulehttps://calendar.google.com/ While My Scenic Drives provides great documentation of our entire plan, I still find that I need a quick and easy reference to where we will be on any given day. Fay and I use Google Calendar for everything else in our lives, so I put a summary schedule for our trip on it. Google Calendar works really well for our trip schedules because:
- I can easily access it from my phone while we are traveling
- Specific travel calendars can be setup just for our trips, keeping things separated from everything else in our lives
- It's easy to share just the travel calendar with others.
So I Hope I Got You ThinkingThese are the proven things that have worked well for us since 2014 as we've traveled across the U.S. and into Canada. We've traveled over 30,000 miles, slept over 300 nights in our small travel trailer, and there's no telling how many hours we've spent sitting in the truck driving down the road. Be sure to watch for my next article in this series...Finding Places to Stay. And as always, drop me a note if you have any questions. - Denny
Are you a newbie?
If you are new to the world of Small Travel Trailers, here are the three most popular things for most newbies, here on my website. Please check them out and see if they aren't helpful to you:
- RV Surge Suppressors – What you need to know.
It's really important that you understand the risks and know how to protect yourself against bad electrical problems. Not only can these they cause a lot of damage to your trailer and electronic components, they can also be dangerous.
- A list of products we use and like.
All the camping and RV accessories can be overwhelming when you're first getting started. After trying lots of things, these are the items that have really worked well for us. The list may save you a few bucks on buying something you don't like or stuff you'll never use (I don't publish my long list of things we've purchased and wish we hadn't!).
- My free Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers
Over 100 pages, this guide is all about what we've learned since we got started owning and traveling with a small travel trailer.
Denny JohnsonAfter having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp.
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
This might sound silly to you but I am extremely frightened of heights, so my question would be….what roads would you suggest staying away from for an out west and Canada trip. It the drop off edges I can’t handle at all. I would also love to go to Alaska but because of this phobia I dare not. Thanks much.
Not silly at all Bonnie. My wife is the same way, particularly when the edge is on the passenger side of the truck…her side!
Unfortunately, I’m not of much help to you here. We’ve only made one trip out west so I’m really not familiar with many roads out there. I can say that we stayed mostly on main highways when we were in mountainous areas, and they were all pretty decent. We did get off onto a couple of questionable roads up in Canada, but it’s been a few years and I really can’t remember where they were. I have asked locals before about the best routes to take in their areas, and their advice has always been helpful.
You can go to Colorado but there are places yo stay away from…Pikes Peak for sure! There are some roads in the Rocky Mountains that are bad but park rangers can tell you where those are. We traveled there a few years ago and it would have been easy to stay away from the scary roads.
Thank you very much, I remember entering the area before Yellowstone park, I couldn’t even breathe, I just started shaking and ha ha ha crying when we stopped and I got out. Its a horrible phobia especially if you love to travel. Again, thank you so much. Has anyone ever traveled the Rt. 1 up the Oregon coast, I would love that trip, but again worry about roads….its a darn curse..
You can Google lowest elevation for driving. This is geared towards people pulling RVs. Though sometimes you can’t avoid it. I used to be terrified of mountain roads but as we drive west every year I’m much better about it. We even drove The Million Dollar highway last summer!
Outsanding series – thanks for providing. I’ve found that i start finding favorite routes because of the campgrounds –and favorite attractions, but I’ve got to start looking at alternate routes to keep thing interesting, too.
A Google Maps habit I find useful is to save locations as “Want to Go” and icons become visible your maps. My traveling partners are always surprised when I come up with a great campsite, restaurant or attraction – they think I’m lucky. Whenever I read a blog or watch a video, I search on Google Maps, save as “Want to Go” and add brief description and or video reference.
Great idea Steve! Thanks for sharing.
I am looking forward to checking out using myscenicdrives !!! I had not known of this before and it sounds like what i have been missing in trip planning. Thank you.
Hope you like it John. I tried to use Google Maps by iteself for a long time but kept getting frustrated with the limitations. MyScenicDrives has been a good solution for us.
Rhanks for tip for my senic drives. I will def be checking it out.
In addition to Google maps, I use RV Trip Wizard. Wizard allows you to put in your RV specs and will route you accordingly. Also, you can create a budget, calculate times using your driving speeds, hours, etc.
Thank you looking forward to exploring my scenic drives and really looming forward to part two of this series. I really need to find shorter weekend trips for a group under 4 hours for those of our group who will have to travel Fri and return on Sunday. Your articles are great we too are loving our casita aka The Peapod
Thanks for your comment Paula. I’m hoping to get another part of this series done and out each week. I will send a note out to each of my email subscribers when each article is updated. If you are not signed up to get them, you can do it here: