RV Road Trip Planning 5 Simple Steps

It used to be that you could jump in your RV, hit the road, and find campgrounds and places to overnight park on the fly. With the influx of Rv’er in the past year, it’s not quite that easy any longer. RV Road Trips require planning! And after 4+ years of RVing, we’ve learned what does and what does not work for RV Trip Planning. And I created a template for trip planning that I will show you how to use so keep reading.

Do You Really Need A RV Road Trip Plan?

Living RV life in 2021 has become a whole new ball game. Many people have jumped into RV living because they’ve realized it’s a pretty awesome lifestyle! And we’re super happy that more and more people are joining the RV community. With the influx of RVers, there is a “camping crunch” in some areas. Especially the more popular areas around National Parks, major cities, etc.

This influx means campgrounds in some cases are booked out up to a year in advance! There are more RVs than campsites right now. This means if you want to make sure you have a place to stay, booking well in advance is key.

Boiled down – YOU MUST START PLANNING now for any travel you want to do within the next 6-18 months.

RV Road Trip Planning Map

Ask me how I know planning well in advance is necessary. Let me tell you a little story about having to change travel plans. All because the campgrounds in the Black Hills of South Dakota were ALL booked!

This past summer (the summer of 2021) we booked out most of our trip 5-6 months in advance. Well, I knew from past experience that areas near Yellowstone, Teton, and Glacier National parks book up at least 6 months in advance. And there is a “hack” I use for booking on Recreation.gov of booking 6 months AND 1 week in advance. I share more about that “hack” in this video if you want to learn more about it. So, these campgrounds I booked these using my “hack.”

But I waited to book South Dakota until about 3 months in advance…..which turned out to be a bad idea.

Weekenders & Vacationers

One thing we’ve learned is the weekends and the holidays are the first thing to book up at a lot of campgrounds. So this means if your travel plans include a stay during the weekend (which let’s face it, you need someplace to stay Friday through Sunday), those places need to be booked as soon as possible when traveling to popular destinations.

So back to my story about booking for South Dakota. The short story is the nights we needed we not available. We had reservations in Wyoming for the following week and reservations in Colorado the week prior. So we couldn’t really adjust our plans around what was available. What this meant was we spent a night in a VERY well-lit (bright) Cabela’s parking lot. Not so much fun and not much sleep. Especially when what we needed was NOT just a simple 1 night overnight stay.

RV Road Trip Campsite

Avoid Any Conundrum & Start Now!

There is a saying about doing the same thing and expecting different results. So, we’ve learned to start planning and making reservations WAY earlier than we used to.

So in this video, I’m going to give you 5 EASY steps to making a trip plan (if you’re not much of a planner, this is going to be SUPER easy) – and if you are a planner, these tips will make your planning heart extra happy. 

5 Easy Steps to RV Road Trip Planning!

Step 1 – Decide where you want to go and why. Is there a region you’ve always wanted to see? Do you have family members you want to visit? Do you have a goal to visit all 50 states, or check out as many national parks as possible? Knowing your goals for this lifestyle of RV Living and RV Road Trips are important to be able to successfully plan your routes, etc. 

We’ve heard of some fun trip routes that are wrapped around: 

  • Visiting Retired Battleships & submarines
  • Baseball Stadiums – this is something we are adding to locations we are visiting.
  • Natural Springs – this is a great plan for Florida winter travels. 
  • Air Shows
  • Route 66
  • Museums, Historical locations, etc. 
  • Anything involving WW II history

Step 2 – Decide how much time you have for your trip. Knowing how much time you have can help in deciding how far you want to travel on this leg of your journey. Do you have 10 days? or 2 weeks?

Are you going full-time? If so, think about the first 3 or so months, and where you want to travel during those initial months.

RV Road Trip Planning Calendar

Using “Anchor Points” in RV Road Trip Planning

Step 3 – Put anchor points on your map. I like to use RVparky to plan out destinations and then decide where we need to stop in between. There are several trip planning apps like Roadtrippers or RV Trip Wizard that are great for RV Road Trip planning too. What I like about RV parky is it’s free to use. And has the features that I want & need in a trip-planning app. A few other websites/apps that I use on occasion are campendium and a good old-fashioned google search for campgrounds in a given area.

Because we like to keep our drive time between major stops to 6 hours or less, there are sometimes that we will stop at a rest stop or Cracker Barrel for the night. I do add these stops to my trip plan. This helps to keep an accurate schedule of what and where we still need reservations.

Your “anchor points” are like the home base you plan on using for the week, month, or however long you want to be in a given vicinity. If there is something we want to see or do that is within a few hour’s drive, we look for a place to stay in between. For example, we wanted to see both Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park. We stayed for a week in Visalia, California. This means we got a weekly rate instead of a nightly rate. And could reasonably drive to both National Parks from where we were staying.

Use Our Template for Free!

Step 4 – Load your information into the trip planning template. I developed this template (spreadsheet style) after our second year of travel. I needed a place to be able to see all of our RV Road Trip plans at a glance. And know what was coming up, and also which campgrounds I had booked and which ones I did not have booked yet. We have our trip planning template available for you to download for FREE!

RV Road trip Planning Template

Step 5 – Make reservations for those anchor points! Then, list them on the planning sheet. I like to look at cancelation policies, deposits required, etc. before I book.

I have a place on the spreadsheet where I keep track of the deposits paid and balances left on arrival. In most cases, if we’ve needed to cancel a reservation, we’ve been able to get full refunds. (Like when we broke down). 

If you have different goals in RV living, your trip planning might look a little different. It all depends on WHY you are living this lifestyle and what your goals are.

We now have two goals. We want to see places we still haven’t been to. And we also want to connect with other travel families along the way. We’re working on melding these two worlds together. If you are interested in joining our summer caravan, we have information! It’s posted on our insider’s group.

Let us know in the comments – what are your goals with your RV lifestyle? Travel? See family? Also, let us know in the comments what trip routes you have planned or are wanting to plan.

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  1. You have mentioned it several times in your fantastic You Tube videos and was hoping to find reference in your website – what is the app that you use to get reservations for popular campgrounds and national/state parks where you are grabbing cancelations?

    We are more than weekend folks, but not full time – last year we had 147 nights. We have learned so much from you.

    Thank you and keep up the great work.

    Safe travels,