Planning Your Route – Part 1 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

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

Much of the information on this site is only my opinion. Use it at your own risk. -Denny
(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 Route

I've tried a lot of mapping tools, but 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. I also like the fact that you can switch and see actual photos along the way on most main roads and streets.

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 limitations as to the number of stops you can add
  • No provisions for adding notes along the route
  • No ability to adjust the time based upon your anticipated driving speed
  • No ability to adjust the time to accommodate stops for gas, meals, etc.

Refining and Documenting Your Plan

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.)

This tool has several other features I don't use. (It even includes the ability for you to work up a budget.) If you spend the time to get familiar with My Scenic Drives, I'm sure you'll find it to be everything you need to plan out your entire trip.

Easy Reference to Your Schedule

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
  • It allows me to setup a specific travel calendar, 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 Thinking

Like I mentioned at the top of this article, these are the proven things that have worked well for us over the last 7 years. We've traveled about 25,000 miles, slept about 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

Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

My wife Fay and I live in Knoxville, TN, and we love traveling with our Casita. I created to share things we've learned along the way and hopefully help others. Be sure to check out all the information, the campground reviews, and especially the free Small Travel Trailers Beginner's Guide . If you like what you find, please subscribe to my Emails so you don't miss any future articles.
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12 thoughts on “Planning Your Route – Part 1 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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..

    2. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

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