Besides the actual travel, RV trip planning can be a lot of fun. After we decide on a destination I lay out the route in the Street Atlas software. Then I adjust the route to include particular stops we want to make as well as particular roads we want to be on. We like to stay off the interstate highways. Then I put in the miles per gallon and the average price of fuel to get total fuel cost for the trip. I input miles per day and size of fuel tank and marks are put on the map for approximate fuel stops and overnight stops.
Next we look at membership campgrounds along the way to save money on campground fees. At the end of this, we know our total mileage for the trip as well as fuel cost and campground nights. Obviously, all this will probably change along the way, but we have a basic budget and route.
Each evening I input the next day’s travel into the Rand McNally GPS APP so whoever is navigating can follow our route and see what amenities are along the way.
I’ve included information on the books, paper maps, APPS, and other items we use when both planning and traveling. There are hundreds and hundreds of APPS and websites you can use. I have included the ones we have found to be particularly useful.
RV Trip Planning Software Programs
DeLorme Street Atlas ($39.95) This is the first place I go for RV Trip planning. Although it is GPS enabled with an outboard GPS receiver, I only use it in a static mode to lay out routes and way points. Features include planning aids that put markers on the route for overnight stops and fuel stops according to miles per day and miles per gallon figures that I input. Buy it here There are numerous free overlays available from the Discovery Owners Group that put icons on the map for such things as Particular brands of fuel stops, campground associations such as Passport America, and many other places RVers will be interested in.
Microsoft Streets and Trips (no longer sold or supported by Microsoft) Streets and Trips is a very popular program among RVers for travel Planning. It is very similar to the Street Atlas program and there is a Mega File of overlays containing all the Discovery Owner’s Group overlays in a single file.
Global Positioning System (GPS) units
While there are many, many GPS units available, the best fit for RV trip planning is the RV or Truck specific models. With those, you enter your rig length, width, height, and weight. With that information stored in memory, the unit should route you over roads that can accommodate your particular rig. Unfortunately, the map database installed in these units will not be up to date. This can cause the unit to route you on roads you really do not want to be on. That is why we keep our paper maps close by. Here are some of the units available that have RV specific features:
Garmin RV 760LMT GPS (Vehicle, 7″ LCD) $350-$400 Buy it here
Rand McNally RVND 7720 7-Inch RV GPS $355 Buy it here
Magellan RV 9365T-LMB 7-Inch RV GPS $299 Buy it here
While GPS is a wonderful technological advance, they can miss route you. This is usually due to the installed mapping being out of date. That is why we keep our paper maps close at hand. Here are the ones we use most.
Rand McNally Large Scale Road Atlas We have both the Walmart and Good Sam editions of this must have publication. The Good Sam edition has colored dots for Good Dam Campgrounds.
Buy it here The Walmart edition has several pages listing all the Walmart stores.
Family Motor Coach Association North American Road Atlas This is a large scale atlas with colored markers for many campgrounds including FMCA member campgrounds. There are also marks for Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and Flying J Fuel and Travel Centers.
Carriers Road The Motor Atlas This is the map with all the low clearance bridges listed and marked. Buy it here
Books for Trip Planning
We have all these books either in a basket close by the passenger seat, or in an overhead bin above the cockpit. They all get used at one time or another in the RV trip planning process and especially on the road.
The Next Exit tells you what services are available at every exit in the Interstate Highway System across the country. Here you will find fuel stops, restaurants, and all other businesses at interstate exits. Listings in red print identify big rig friendly places. Buy it here
The Good Sam RV Travel Guide and Campground Directory is our main source for campground listings along our routes. Number of sites, site lengths and widths along with available hook-ups, prices and amenities tell us what we need to know to select a place to spend a night or two. Buy it here
Mountain Directory East and West is an essential source of information about mountain grades along most big rig accessible roads. The listings tell the grade length, other items such as switchbacks, and vehicle length restrictions. I use these in the initial route planning stage. Buy them here
We also have the books from our affiliate campground associations close at hand. Most helpful is the Passport America Catalog of over 1800 campgrounds we can stay for half off most times.
RV Trip Planning APPS
We run all these APPS on our iPad because of its larger screen size and availability on this platform. Some folks place the screen so the driver can see it. We think that is unsafe as the driver’s attention is diverted from the road. We keep the iPad in the passenger seat, or as we call it, the navigator’s seat.
All Stays Camp and RV ($9.99) This is our personal favorite as it runs on our iPad using its GPS to find campgrounds and services along your route without an internet connection.
Rand McNally RV GPS ($99.99) We have been using this app for RV trip planning for quite some time and we like it a lot. Its RV specific features let you enter your length, height, width, and weight. Then it will route you on safe roads for your vehicle. It is only available for the iPad at present. It is an on-board app that provides turn-by-turn navigation customized for your RV. Unlike off-board navigation, the maps load on your iPad, providing access everywhere—even in remote areas where you may not have a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Includes full mapping for the U.S. and Canada, plus a built-in electronic version of Rand McNally’s Deluxe Midsize Road Atlas.
Co-Pilot Live ($29.95) is another trip planning app using device GPS. It can be used without internet connection as all maps are downloaded into memory.
Camp Finder ($3-$4) makes it easy to find the right campground or RV park for you. It has information on over 18,000 campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts across the US including National Park, National Forest, State Park, County Parks and all the privately owned ones too. You can use it at home to plan your future trips or on the road as it uses your GPS location to pinpoint campgrounds nearest to you. You can search by amenities, camping clubs and park types, read reviews, view photos to quickly find the perfect place. It is available on both the iPhone and Droid.
iExit (free) What’s coming up on the next exit? Days spent on the highway waiting for a convenient exit might have been a mystery in the past, but this app takes the guesswork out of your trip. iExit gives you a rolling list of available services for any interstate you are on so you can easily figure out if you have enough gas to get to the next town or is there a bathroom coming up any time soon. You can even use it maps to scroll around to find specific restaurants in the area not just the ones on your highway. This is a seriously useful app for the road tripper. The app is available on iPhone, iPad and Droid.
Some Additional RV Trip Planning Websites
Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.com
Historical Marker Database http://www.hmdb.org
Bridge Hunter http://www.bridgehunter.com
America’s Byways http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/
US 101 Mile by Mile http://www.oregoncoasttravel.net
Legends of America http://www.legendsofamerica.com
Discover Historic Travel http://www.discoverhistorictravel.com/destinations/historic-sites/
Civil War Battlefields http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/
Discover America http://www.discoveramerica.com/usa/states.aspx
Landmark Hunter http://www.landmarkhunter.com
Rules of the Road http://www.woodalls.com/articledetails.aspx?articleID=1195129
The Milepost Alaska http://www.milepost.com