Our RV Route & Travel Planning Tips
We don’t like planning…seriously we try to do as little of it as possible. It’s the freedom of not having to plan that we love most about the RV lifestyle. In fact, we both tend to break out in a rash anytime we hear the words reservation or schedule. I know it sounds crazy but it’s worked for us over the years and there are definitely some methods to our madness.
Because we have a few new cameras and toys we need to test in preparation for our BIG Alaska Adventures this summer we thought why not shoot an impromptu casual video on the subject?
I did warn you it was casual didn’t I? Maybe I should have used the words unorganized or scatterbrained? Either way you now truly understand just how un-planned everything we do is.
Any who, let’s get down to the art of un-planning (all resources are listed at the bottom of this post).
It all starts with an idea.
About twice a year (winter and summer) we find ourselves not sure of which direction we want to head next. So, we sit down, pull up a map (digitally because we don’t carry paper maps) and look for destinations or events we haven’t yet explored. These are typically bigger bucket list style events, adventures or destinations.
Rather than speak hypothetically about a route, we’re going to use our 2014 travels as a “real-life” example.
When we were planning our 2014 spring/summer travel plans we picked The Kentucky Derby and Lollapalooza as our two big scheduled events that would require advanced ticket purchases and planning. These two events will work as our “base” for selecting our travel route and time frame.
Once we have our big ideas pegged on the map (and tickets purchased) we start looking for what’s in between. Cities, attractions, other events, national or state parks, roadside attractions and most importantly, people to visit along the way. Sometimes we visit people we don’t know (yet), those we’ve met on the road or lifelong friends. One things for sure, the social aspect of this lifestyle and the community that makes it up is just as interesting as the beautiful places.
What needs to be avoided (or prepared for)?
Taking note of the big holidays that affect the overall availability of a place is important to consider. Things like Memorial Day, spring break and 4th of July that cause campgrounds to fill up (sometimes wild camping too) and cities to be over run with people. Also, BIG mainstream events such as the super bowl, NASCAR or major festivals like South by Southwest not only bring a major influx of people but they can alter the vibe of a city. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if big crowds and the party mentality are not what you were expecting.
Where To Stay?
We usually avoid most RV Parks but every once in a while it’s a necessary evil or just plain convenience that pushes us to forgo our wild camping ways. In general, we first look for a Harvest Hosts, then we look for Public Lands and check sites like UltimateCampgrounds, Campendium and Passport America. Sometimes we’ll even stay in a “parking lot” if it means we’ll be right by our destination.
For our 2014 travels we stayed at a not-so-glamorous but incredibly convenient (and affordable) parking lots for both The Kentucky Derby and Lollapalooza. The rest of our travels were split between Harvest Hosts, state forests/parks, friend’s driveways, and only a couple of the typical campgrounds.
Here’s a fun interactive map with our Summer 2014 route along with some of our stops:
Leave Lots of Wiggle Room
There are all kinds of towns and fun stops that need to be discovered along the way. For us it’s all about the journey, and not always the destination. This is where rest stops, truck stops, Harvest Hosts, Walmart, Cabela’s, etc. prove to be invaluable, we’ll spend a day in a town then stay overnight somewhere transient. If the town inspires us to stay longer we’ll start the online search for county parks or anything else nearby so we can stick around and play.
Our (Un)Planning Travel Resources
- Goggle Maps – For general searching and comparing routes.
- Mapify Pro / Pretty Routes – For creating WordPress maps with routes like the one in this post. (Use this discount code for 15% off: mapwiththewynns)
- Harvest Hosts – A program that allows RV’ers to stay a farms and wineries.
- Locating Campgrounds – Campendium, Passport America, UltimateCampgrounds
- State Lines App – This app has basic information on rest areas, taxes, laws and such things that change as you cross state lines. It’s a good thing to check before you assume you can sleep overnight at a rest area…granted another line of thought is “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” so we’ll leave the decision up to you.
- Visitors Center – Before we arrive in a new town one of our first stops or calls is to the Visitor Center for information on RV parking. Sometimes we’ll even ask about safe overnight parking spots.
- The Police – Want to know if it’s legal to park somewhere? The easiest way to find out is to call the local non emergency police department. If you are doing something illegal either the local police department or the sheriff’s department is going to be the one to write you a ticket…so we call them if the visitor center wasn’t helpful or is closed. Numerous times we’ve had a sheriff say something like “you can park at (insert parking lot) no problem and stay for a couple nights”.
- More Travel Apps – We have an entire post about our favorite travel apps simply called: Must Have Travel Apps
- Free Camping – If you want more info on how to find free camping (national forests, national grasslands, BLM…) we have an article on that too: How To Find Free Camping
- All RV Resources – All of our favorite RV resources in one location.
If you want more on route planning from another full timer RVer, who is totally the opposite of us (someone who actually plans)? Check out this series…yes I said series: Wheeling It – Planning RV Travels Part I
How do you plan? We realize our style of unplanning would drive some to the loony bin, or at least towards a stiff cocktail! Share your tips, favorite travel apps and travel style in the comments below, we love hearing from all of you.
Disclaimer – Our recommendations are based on our opinions and experience, they are not endorsements and cannot guarantee you a happy travel experience.
Have an RV, we live on the east coast (NY/NJ)
Is there a list of roads that allow Class A RVs to travel? I am finding it hard to locate a concise list of roads we are allowed to travel on….
Well there aren’t any road restrictions per se. I think what you mean is, how can you find out if bridges are too low: that sort of thing? If so then there are a couple of options. You can buy an RV model GPS which will allow you to enter the height and weight of your motorhome. It will then alert you or re-route you to avoid roads with low or small bridges. There are also numerous apps you can download for your phone or tablet that will help you avoid low bridges and even find the flatest route if you want to avoid steep passes.
Nice Post, Thank You For The Tips.
Really liked your Unplanning video. We are new full timers (Dec. 2016) and no clue how to route ourselves. Thanks for sharing.
What do you recommend doing about your mail while you are gone?
Sam & Dan
Hi Nikki & Jason,
We just want to say we love your videos and tips they are very informative and just watching you guys do these adventures with no experience is really awesome! So just a little about us we’re a domestic couple who reside in Las Vegas, NV and just sold our home and we want to travel the country and experience the American dream. I was wondering if y’all have any advise as far as the transition from both having 40+ a week work schedules to finding new work on the go. We don’t really want to use the profits as income and if y’all recommend the Bounder as a full time coach, we are still undecided if diesel or gas is the way to go… Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks from Sam & Dan.
Thanks guys. If you’re creative you can find work anywhere. If you haven’t read all of our Make Money and Travel series interviews you should, there is a wealth of knowledge shared in those stories.
As for the RV, the Bounder is great, we’ve really enjoyed the layout. If you plan to travel great distances and spend a lot of time in the mountains I would say go with Diesel. If you plan to move slowly and park it for a while then you’ll likely be fine with a gas coach.
Good luck, I hope this helps point you in the right direction.
JOHN T WHITE
You guys had two(2) cats. Lately only Cleo is showing up. What happened to the other cat??
Typically it’s Cleo that is sleeping somewhere while we’re filming, she’s the shy one. Singa on the other hand is always in our face wanting attention. We still have them both on board with us.
Svetlana & Gustav McCarthy
Hi Nikki ,
You guys rock , great trip and blog .
However our route we planning with RV this July to Utah and Waschington is different from your can you give us kindly please info you might know how to find great route to those states from Miami , Fl .
Thank you ,
This is great! Just what I was looking for. I have followed you for quite awhile and am totally inspired!! Thank you!
Love your videos. Sound and image quality seems good to me, and so does the lighting (wasn’t sure if you use any). I started looking at the LeisureVans, particularly the Unity models. Any thoughts on those?… I’ve never done RV’ing but I am beginning to get excited about the idea. My wife and I are thinking that we might try it…
Do you ever have trouble with Google. I once had to pull a pretty narley curvey hill when there was a nice straight, slow climb. But Google thought it would be 5 mins faster to take the hill. Do you have any tips for making sure you’re taking the best route for a RV?
Yes, go with an RV GPS and it’ll help keep you away from low clearance bridges, off weight limited roads, etc. Here’s ours: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/rand-mcnally-rvnd-7730-lm-rv-gps-with-lifetime-maps-and-wi-fi
We did alaska for our honeymoon last year! What we loved… true beauty, the feeling of peace!! What we didn’t like, we chose a cruise/land tour option for 12 days. Although we saw a lot, we want to return. We had considered RVing, but we were afraid since we have NEVER done that, it would be stressful! We want to return this summer… we don’t have 4 months… only two weeks this time! Could you recommend a few starting and ending point options that you believe would highlight some wonderful spots. Is RVing hard?? Considering my Husband is an Army guy…. I think we can handle it!!!! I like being on our own schedule. Thank you. Love your site and blogs!!!
William (Bill) Weaver
My wife and I are in our 70s and have been camping for 50 plus years. We have camped in a station wagon, van, popup(kids now), small class C, bigger class C, small class A, and our “last” RV a Country Coach 36 ft pusher. We are not full timers, but we have met many along the way. The best advice I could give you is to talk to them and your fellow campers. They have told us of great places to go to see neat things and great places to stay that were NOT in our plans. So, like the Wynns say, give yourself some wiggle room in your schedule to take advantage of these places. You won’t be sorry. Thanks Wynns for your videos and webpage.
I always watch your videos I am still thinking about getting rv and living la vida loca to be free
Thank guys for sharing your experiences with me, I am at post retirement age and I never own a R V
Or have that experience so I look at alot of video to try to learn about this life style thank you again
From Tampa Florida.
Well thanks for watching and glad to hear we are helping you along the way!
Have you come up with any routing tips to help an RVer avoid restricted roads or “not RV-friendly” roads, bridges or areas? I’ve encountered some problems and close calls trying to navigate around and through cities. New York with its no-trucks-allowed Parkways is particularly challenging, because I can’t seem to find maps which say clearly which roads are appropriate for a motor home and which are not.
We use the Rand McNally GPS which we have listed in our travel store under the “RV Gear” tab. We’ve tried going down restricted roads in the past and it quickly alerts the driver to turn around immediately. There may be another option but this is how we’ve survived the past 4 years (we had a normal car GPS year one and it was a pain in the butt!). Hope this helps.
Hey, the audio and video came thorough perfectly. I think that’s the best way to plan. Zero in on a couple of important events and the go with the flow with the fill-in sights. Those fill-ins can be a a big memorable moments. Keep being you.
I totally get the post. I would summarize your post as you get to discover more when you’re not so busy planning. Love turning down that interesting road or highway, not knowing what is there but knowing we’ll find something fun and interesting. My wife used to say, “I give him a destination, and sometimes we even get there”. In my defense we usually got there, it was the when that was up in the air. Keep on, keeping on!
Ha ha, you totally get it! I may have to borrow your wife’s statement. 🙂
Next time you guys are in the Alabama area you should check out the town of Guntersville. My wife and I live nearby and it’s a beautiful area. We think you would really like it!
I’m traveling this summer with my 13 yr old boy, youngest of four and was never brave enough to RV with that many kiddos. We’ve done the motel thing but are now in a 23 ft class c RV. Our goal is NYC, with leaving our RV outside of the city of course, BUT our whole trip is through the south from California. We want to go away from crowds and natl parks.. what should we see in your neck of the woods that is not in the traditional “what to see” lists. Very interested in a locals point of view. We are having a experience in going with the flow …but would love ideas about some southern fun!
Great post! We are planners (OMG, to the hilt) like Wheeling It…or maybe worse. Now I have to read their post to see how we compare. We have a few unscheduled nights in the next six months, but we have reservations nearly all sewed up for great places through November 2016 (ending with 7 weeks in the Keys). We know where we want to be as far out as summer 2017 (the Rockies)!
Ah, but we forgive ourselves, because it’s only our first year, and we started out thinking we would just do this for one year…alas. Newbs! Lol.
Ha ha, that is the beauty of this lifestyle, it works for so many different people in so many different ways! Definitely check out wheeling it and compare notes. I am sure you will like Paul and Nina’s style.
Looks like an INCREDIBLE trip! Can’t wait to see and hear about everything you come across on your journey. Safe travels friends!!
Hi! I am fairly new to your site…but I love your site and blog….We are retired and thinking about selling everything and seeing if full time RV works of us. We thought maybe 1-2 years…if we last that long. But we think it will be mostly the opposite. We are soooo overwhelmed in the decision making process…gas or Diesel. Long or short….we want no more than a 34, but some tell us NO, must belonged if you full time. My favorite floor plans are all in gas MH. Many say you need a Diesel. Any suggestions on a first MH to buy? Love Tiffin floor plans–pretty expensive, Newmar too expensive…what else to look at??? Help, we are confused.
There are lots of options when you bite the bullet and start the full-time lifestyle. In addition to the great info you will get from the Wynns, you might try purchasing one of the books written by retired folks who have gone down this road before. I have read a couple and found them very useful even though my wife and I still have a stick house, and spend only 4-6 months on the road each year. Happy travels.
Hi guys, I have seen your videos and they are good. Well today I saw your rig parked at Rushmore Crossings in Rapid City and thought it would have been great to say hi. Sorry to say you were gone. Have a great time here in the black hills. The wife and I live in our fifth wheel here at Hart Ranch just south of Rapid City. It will soon be our retirement home.
Audio is excellent. I have moderate hearing loss, and find background music is often very distracting. This video was perfect. Lighting is great too. Nice highlights. Subject matter was interesting, and the article did a nice job flushing out the video commentary. We’re ready for the tour, and excited about the trip to Alaska.
See you on the road,
So, are you early retirees? If so, then everyday is a Saturday for you two!
That would be nice but we are a very long ways from retirement and work from the road. There is a section on the menu bar called make money and travel where we discuss how we do it and interview others that work from the road as well.
A few Google Maps’ versions ago, I could plan a trip by choosing multiple destinations, up to about 12. It was great. I don’t seem to be able to do that now. Is there a routing program out there that allows this?
Jerry – check out the site, Roadtrippers.com.
Love your “unplanning” and the crisp clean video. However, during all of this “unplanning” how do you manage to always have consistent “good water”, do you use something more than the standard full coach filtration system, do you use a water softener or even a ionizer? As you know even potable water can sometimes taste funny and have added minerals in it, because, not every municipalities water quality is the same. I am referring to above and beyond your portable distilling/filtration plant which you carry.
Loved the video and the new interior! Just bought a (new to us) used 5th wheel this month and are taking it out for our first camping adventure this weekend. Have been following you for years. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
i really liked this video! Good job! Looking forward to lots more. Absolutely love you guys — have learned lots. Would so very much like to meet you some day in person!
Fun video. As usually it was informative and the camera worked great!
I like your casual videos. This video again was excellent in video and audio, so I’d say good new purchases. Watching this I felt like I was sitting in your living room, so thanks for the visit
Glad you enjoyed it, we were a little concerned it would be boring.
Yeah, you guys do kinda ramble, and I LOVE that ??
New camera looks nice, but now with the subtle interior, you probably could dial up the saturation on those shoots, or wear colorful neon clothing ? you two are so fun. Big love, LD
Ha ha, thanks for the feedback. 🙂
Loved the video as we are also aspiring non-planners. Is that a new bedroom workstation I see in the Bounder??? Its a key element for us to transition to a motorhome from our fifth wheel and love everything I’ve seen on your new rig. Details are appreciated!
It is, that was my way of sneaking that in, so glad you noticed! We will give a full tour and show off our new work stations soon!
Your video and sound are great. Your kitty matches what you are wearing today and the coach. 2 cute.
We just bought a Itasca 27N so hopefully someday we will see you on the road.
You two are, by far, my favorite classy hobos! I just adore you and think you are right on target when it comes to getting the most out of RV traveling. Stay until you want to leave and go until you want to stop! Now THAT is freedom baby! I would be exactly like you but I do like to host guests at my home…you know, libations by the pool with the people you love most! So, for now, I am keeping my home and all my treasures. It IS in the back of my mind to trade my 24 foot RV for one a bit larger if or when I get over being afraid to drive those big boys. Once I have more space, I feel sure I will be on the road more and at home less.
Ha ha, classy hobos is great! Don’t forget, when you want to entertain your favorite people you can just head to a nice campground with a pool and a bar! That’s what we do when friends or family come for a visit. 🙂 Thanks for following along!
What a “marve” idea! I never thought of that!!
Love your videos and tips you give. I’ve been watching your videos because my husband and I want to get a trailer we think. We were going to get an RV but don’t know if it is worth it in terms of costs etc, convenience etc. We are now thinking of a small trailer under 24/25 feet because of cost and convenience. We didn’t want to have to buy another vehicle to use to explore once in a destination. Anyway to my question. What do you do with your cat once in a destination and you want to explore, or hike or river raft etc? Can you leave him in the RV if you aren’t there? I was under the impression that state, federal parks or campgrounds frown on leaving pets alone. How does he stay cool in the summer? Again thanks for your tips and tricks. Love your videos.
That is mostly for dogs. We are able to leave them behind in our temperature controlled RV with no worries. Check out this video for how our auto gen start works for when we are camping out in the wild and want to make sure the cats don’t get to hot: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-rv-boondocking-gear
This is probably one of the best videos y’all have done, and the accompanying article and tips are great.
For those of us who are used to corporate travel and deadlines, “unplanning” is a strange new world, and believe it or not, it’s helpful to have instructions on how that “unworks”.
Video/audio is just fine.
Ha ha, good to hear! Let us know how the unplanning works for you. 🙂
Every video is a great one because it is a Nikki & Jason (or Jason & Nikki) video!
The sound & video are without correction!
One question, you two are in perfect health (probably due to Nikki’s cooking) but what to you do to keep your water sanitized? Drink bottled water? Have a Pur water filter for your water pitcher? Just drink alcohol?
Thanks for the great resources and for providing information on an alternative way of “unplanning” a trip. Liked the video and audio quality. I didn’t notice any of the issues that a couple of other commenters mentioned. -Chris http://www.cuontheroad.net
Thanks for the link to Campendium! I hope we cross paths one of these days.
Audio, very good. Synchronized with video OK. BUT, video, consistently dull/unsharp, lacking color depth and luminance, movement of hands & body had a ghostly appearance. What was the frame rate?
looove the unplanning format, and cheers very much indeed for the link-back. We definitely have very different planning styles LOL. I just love that there are so many ways to RV, and yet we all have amazing adventures. No wrong or right way at all. Unplan onwards!
Thumbs up on the new techie devices. But you two would look/sound great even if you used Super 8!
I am inspired by your journeys and look forward to taking our show on the road full time in the near future. You are definitely taking tons of guesswork off our plate.
Kudos to your color scheme and design touches inside the new Fleetwood! I am a youngish 40-something and it is exactly my style. It is my hope that by the time I am in the market for my own RV, there will be even more of the subdued, sophisticated modern interior aesthetic available. Virgin Airlines did it! C’mon RV manufacturers! 🙂
Audio and video were fine. Audio is probably more than 50% of the video. If you have bad audio, you have bad video. Your audio sounds similar to my audio that I record with Lectrosonic wireless transmitters, receivers, microphone ($1300) though a $1300 field mixer. I then run it though Adobe Audition for compression and reducing the max peak to -6db. There was no room noise and only a slight hint of hollowness but only if you were listening for it.
As far as how it looks that will depend greatly on what device it is viewed. On my Dell TV/Monitor the dynamic rage was pretty good. The shadows looked like shadows, there were details in the highlights and shadows. I did not see any pure black or white which is probably why the other person said it looked “washed out” to him. The color looked great especially the flesh tones. The bottom line is you both looked and sounded great. You have a future doing travel videos for TV!
Thanks for the feedback! It was the first quick attempt and the next should be better. But as my grandmother would always say, “It’s good enough for government work”. 🙂
Yes, I use to work for the Fed. Govt. for 32 years and I know what she was talking about; however, good enough for the govt. was never good enough for me.
Concerning holidays, what do you do if you want to avoid the crowds? I would guess that every place is going to be swamped. So the first problem is getting reservations someplace since the good places would have been booked months in advanced. Judging by your “unplanning” you wouldn’t have done that so you’re left scrambling for places you can stay that aren’t as crowded or going out to the boondocks.
You would be surprised. It all depends on where you are and if it is a big camping destination. We snagged spots at sleeping bear dunes 4th of July weekend with no reservations. Sometimes it can work out on the fly, other times reservations are needed or you may not get your first or second choice locations.
I am wondering how you deal with your cats while traveling, like you do? We would like to take our two cats with us. Any things we to know?
The tech is great. Clear pic even on my flat screen TV. My wife and I are planning to enter the RV life in about two years – once our kids graduate from High School. In the meantime, we enjoy traveling with you!
I love this format and appreciate your preparation of rv parking and planning information. We are new to rving and still haven’t ventured out of the rv park for overnight parking. How do you handle dumping and getting fresh water? Where do you stop? Do truck stops provide sewer and fresh water? How much does it usually cost to dump and obtain fresh water. Our class A only holds 40 or 50 gallons of fresh water and 40 or 50 for grey, which doesn’t last long with 4 people. I love our composting toilet – an added benefit is that you aren’t using fresh water to flush! Thank you.
Yes, the audio & Picture quality were great. I would say you two are in the top 5% percentile of online bloging sites. Were a little opposite. We like to stay a week at a more rural state park (OH. PA. NY. VT.), and adventure out from there with day trips to see the sites and maybe scope out future state parks. We like to get campsites with water front access and to get a site with plenty of shade and of course being somewhat level. We might start 6 months out reservation with a 7 day stay at a central VT campground, then plug in secondary stop of 4-7 days maybe 2 hours away. So instead of a 500-600 mile drive, it will be broken up into two 250 mile drives. I’ll take plenty of notes from your upcoming AK trip, as we will be doing that trip next year in my first year of retirement.
Audio and video looks great! Will you do any gear reviews, or at least let us know what the new gear is? Also, I’m going to plug a couple of my favorite bands that I highly recommend you check out during your travels (if it’s your kind of music). 🙂 Big Head Todd & The Monsters out of Colorado (I recommend the annual show at Red Rocks in Denver), and also a fantastic band from Australia The John Butler Trio. Cheers, and big beers!
The audio and video for your new camera worked out very well in the setting your were using. Hopefully it will work out as well in an outdoor setting but I’m sure that will be more of a challenge. Great impromptu video on your planning…err…non-planning technique.
I really enjoyed the unplanning video. Now that I have watched you for about a year now, I have a concern and would like to know your answer on security. How far and how long do you drive away from your RV and has anything ever happened when you were away or do you expect it never to happen.
Hello Nikki & Jason. Your impromptu casual video (video/audio) was great. And I like knowing how you unplan your next travels. My husband and I plan on full-time RVing within the next two years so your videos and website are a wealth of information to us. You are both absolutely adorable. Thank you so much for sharing your rv experiences as well as providing great resources.
Great audio and video! The lighting was well done too. I would love to hear more about the new toys and how you do your videos and photos. Thanks for the wonderful work!
Audio and camera look great. Loved how kitty blended in perfectly with your outfits. Although you talk about all your “unplanning”, it really is well organized “unplanning”. Appreciate all the tips and information you provide. I adore you both and your website.
My layman opinion of your camera setup is that it is great, with crisp video and good sound quality. Thanks for the useful ideas. We are still RV wannabes but you two are motivating us to cross to the other side.
Have you considered checking out the Indy 500? It’s quite an event to see in person.
Where do you think you will go into Canada. If it is in Montana, I have a several places you will like to stop at and soak up the character of the area.
Your planning is delightful and all the planning I can get my head around. Thanks for the tips. The new toys look and sound really good from this side. I’m looking forward to the update from Jason in the toy department. Do you notify folks when there’s an update to a previous post?
The video with your new camera looked great. The audio was fine too. In fact, it was near the end of the video before I realized that you were not using lapel mics.
That is a fabulously helpful video, with all your resources provided, thanks! Regarding your question about video quality. Sound was fine, the video seems sharp but not very vivid, perhaps a bit washed out? This might just be a function of your lighting though. The depth of field is remarkable since we can see the badlands pretty clearly in the background.
Sorry for the stupid typos. Tired.
Hi guys! Loved the quality of sound and picture with this equipment. Best yet! Your unplanning makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for all yopur brilliant work over the last few years. John
PS Come to Australia and fee welcom to drop in. I live in wine heaven in Adelaide.