Trip planning tools

We’ve traveled by RV for more than 14 years now. I think every traveler has a different way of planning their trips. Some like to wander with no plan at all. Others have every night planned out and reservations made 6 months in advance. Our needs are somewhere in the middle. Our work is at RV Rallies all across the country – we’re like carnies, going from venue to venue. Sometimes, like this summer, we have a lot of time to wander in between.

The way I see it, trip planning has 5 parts, and I’ve listed my favorite tool for each part.

  1. Research: Looking for things you want to see, places you want to go. Roadtrippers.com
  2. Plan: This involves maps, routes and calendars. RVParky.com
  3. Navigate: Which way to turn? What road to take to get where you want to go?  Google Maps.
  4. Sleep: Finding a place to park the RV for the night. Allstays.com
  5. Remember: Keep a map of where you’ve been. Google My Maps

Research

Where do you want to go? Roadtrippers is the motherlode of interesting places to visit. See this article for some examples of how we used Roadtrippers. Just go to Roadtrippers.com and click the button in the middle for “Go Anywhere.” Enter a destination and you will see a map with lots of icons, each icon representing a place. Click on an icon and get a Place Page with lots of information about that place. Close that page with the X just above it and to the right. Click on another icon to see that place page. Be prepared to spend some time here! If you click on a place that interests you, click the heart to make it a favorite. Whenever you’re planning a trip you can request to see your favorites. To specify the types of icons you want to see, use the category bar:

Each category has several sub-categories. Just select the ones that interest you so your map won’t be too crowded with icons. If you create a free account with Roadtrippers, you can then start creating and saving trips. Just click the icon of a car with the + to create a new trip. Use the 3-line menu and My Trips to see any trip you have created. Once you’re working with a trip, you can find places of interest and then click the button “Add to Trip.” Especially useful is the ability to add an unrouted place to your trip. This means the place is on the list of possible stops, but you haven’t actually added it to your route. It’s a good way to remember the places you’ve researched. See Episode 151 of What Does This Button Do? for a demonstration. Also see an older video we did on Roadtrippers, 386: Roadtrippers App for Trip Planning. Some of the screens may have changed, but the concepts are the same.

Plan

What routes are you going to drive? When do you need to be there? How much time do you have? Dates and daily mileage is important to us. We like to travel 200-300 miles/day and we need to know what date we will arrive at our planned destination. I don’t think those are unusual requests, but it is unusual for trip planning programs to include both of these elements. Even my favorite trip planning program (which is now obsolete) Streets and Trips, did not include dates. I have only found 3 programs that do: RVTripWizard, Furkot, and RVParky. Of these, I like RVParky the best. It is so simple, straightforward and fast. Here’s a screenshot of what a trip plan looks like with RVParky:

Navigate

Navigating with GPS is completely separate from trip planning. Trip planning is “Where are we going to go?” Navigating is “Which way do I turn?” We plan our trips for an entire year; we only navigate on a day-by-day basis.

Nothing beats Google Maps on a mobile device for telling you which way to turn. We also like Waze (also by Google), but when Waze tells us “In 1/4 mile, turn left” Google Maps says, “In 1/4 mile, use the left 2 lanes to turn left on Sumpter Ave.” That is a world of difference when you’re driving and want to be sure you’re turning at the right spot! The only problem with Google Maps is that it is not RV-aware. It doesn’t know that you may be 13 ft. high and would have a problem with a 12 ft. overpass. If that describes you, you need another GPS like Rand McNally, or Co-Pilot.

Sleep

You need a place to sleep. If you travel by RV, that means a place to park. Nothing compares to Allstays Camp & RV for showing you all the choices for RV parking wherever you are. We recommend the Pro version, or the iOS app. Here’s a previous article we wrote, along with a video, on Allstays: RVers–You need Allstays Camp & RV!

Remember

I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone where I traveled last year. I take a lot of photos, and I can look at my photos to remember, but it’s a lot quicker to look at a map and see our year’s route. Check out our personal blog and the page where we keep our maps for each year we’ve been on the road.
 
I love my maps. If I’m wondering, “When is the last time we were in Goshen?” it’s so easy to go to my maps of each year’s travels and find my answer in seconds.
 
How do I make these maps? Using Google My Maps. If you’re a Geeks on Tour member, you can learn all about how to make your own maps on our Google My Maps Learning Guide.

At the beginning of each year I start a Google My Map for the year and I create markers for the places I know we’re planning to go. As the year progresses, I delete places we don’t go to, I add new places we go, and I add photos to the markers for places we visit. At the end of the year I have a complete record of our travels. If Google My Maps had the facility to track miles for each day of travels, and calculate arrival dates, like RVParky, then Google My Maps could satisfy the Plan stage as well as the Remember stage. Someday?

Lots of tools for Trip Planning

Do you use any of these tools for planning your trips? Do you use any tools that are not on this list? What do you recommend? Leave comments below.

Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at GeeksOnTour.com. She and her husband, Jim, produce a free weekly online show called What Does This Button Do?  They have been Fulltime RVers, popular seminar presenters at RV Rallies, and regular contributors to RVTravel.com, for many years. Chris is also the author of Mrs. Geek’s Guide to Google Photos, 2nd edition just released, available on Amazon.com.

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5 Thoughts to “Trip planning tools”

  1. ardis

    This is great! Thanks so much.

  2. William Maginot

    Great info – I still use my outdated Trailer Life Directory software for planning. When I find a place we want to visit, I use rvparksreviews.com to see what other campers think of parks in the area. When I narrow it down to 2 or 3, I go to Goggle Earth to see what the park really looks like, I don’t trust their web site pictures for a real view. For navigation I no longer can trust Google Maps to get me there. I do use it to see my choice of routes. I just purchased a Garmin 777 GPS and love it – if you get a chance to try one give it shot.

    1. Thanks Bill. Google Earth is a great idea. If you are in a big RV, you definitely cannot trust Google Maps because it doesn’t know about RVs! We are now in a little camper van (Roadtrek) so Google Maps is good for us.

  3. Bob Godfrey

    We have been using RVParkReviews.com for many years and since the reviews are made by fellow RVers, we’ve found them to be very useful in determining where to stop for the night. Just check for the number of reviews that a person has put on the site since some are from folks who have had only 1 or 2 reviews which is not always very helpful.

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