Even though it’s already summer, many RVers have not yet taken their big summer road trip. Some may prefer to go later in the season or are waiting for a particular event to time their vacation around. Regardless, planning a summer road trip will require some work. With gas prices on the rise, it’s important to think about all the logistics of your trip to make it as cost-effective as possible. Trips of any size require extensive preparation, especially with an RV. Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best tips for planning your ultimate RV summer vacation.
Choose your Main Destination
You may already have in mind where you’d like to go. Maybe it’s a yearly trip to an amusement park for the kids, a week at the beach, a weekend of cooling down in the mountains, or a winding trip to see a few new national parks. If you try to switch up your destination each year, choosing the place can be the hardest step. Consider asking your kids where they’d like to go, or ask your relatives for ideas. You can even check your bucket list to see if a trip to any of those destinations are doable. With an RV, the possibilities are almost endless!
Plan your Itinerary
Your itinerary should include what you want to do at your destination, and even some stops along the way. Depending on how far you are traveling, it could take several days to reach your destination. Start by listing out the can’t-miss or non-negotiable parts of your vacation. Then you can research what there is to do nearby that can serve as filler activities. These filer activities could be anything from a restaurant with your favorite type of food to a free museum for the kids to explore, or even just factoring in some relaxation time. Be sure to take advantage of technology and map out your route using an online app such as Trip Wizard, Pebblar, or Roadtrippers. In particular, Trip Wizard is great for using the dimensions of your RV to help you choose the safest route and find stops and attractions along the way.
Select your Dates and Book
After you know what will encompass your entire journey, it’s time to book your dates. Many travelers plan a buffer day or two when returning in the event of traffic or an accident. It’s also nice to have a day to rest before jumping back into work or school.
Most seasoned RVers know that campgrounds and popular attractions or destinations can become booked up pretty far in advance. It’s best to plan ahead as much as possible to give yourself a better chance to score the campsite(s) you want. Some campgrounds in popular national parks can be booked up to six months in advance.
Depending on the Boondockers Welcome location, some Hosts can accommodate more than one RV at a time, while others cannot. Some allow more than one consecutive night, while others do not. Check around your destination to find nearby Boondockers Welcome locations, and maybe even some others along your route. Did you know you can request a Boondockers Welcome stay online? You can enter the dates you would like to visit and submit all of the information online. This can be a great way to plan out where you’ll stay, especially since it keeps members from requesting days that are already booked or unavailable days on the calendar. If you are not seeing enough options with Boondockers Welcome, consider adding on Harvest Hosts to gain access to thousands of locations across North America at places such as farms, museums, wineries, and more.
Set a Budget
Once your reservations, bookings, and requests are all squared away, it’s time to set a budget. Everyone’s list can look a little different depending on their destination and traveling style. However, it’s still important to set aside and agree upon the funds for your trip before you go.
When planning a trip, calculating your gas budget can be tricky (and painful), especially for folks new to the RVing community. If your RV is towable, it can be a little easier to calculate if you already know about how much gas your truck or tow vehicle uses, with just adding in the weight of your RV. However, calculating the gas for a class A, B, or C motorhome can be even more difficult, especially if you don’t drive yours often or if have made major modifications and renovations. KOA has a handy calculator that can assist you with budgeting for gas. If you don’t know your average MPG (miles per gallon), try looking up the year, make, and model of your RV on the internet to see if any other RVers have been able to calculate an estimate. Of course, without exact calculations, this will only be an estimate. However, it can give you a bit of an idea of how much gas money you will need to set aside for your trip. It’s always better to estimate on the high side to avoid accidentally overspending on fuel.
Traveling to new places is really exciting for the whole family. It can be tempting to select a souvenir everywhere you go, but that can also begin to add up quickly. If you have kids, consider letting them take turns choosing a souvenir or having them agree upon an item, if your budget is smaller. Free souvenirs like seashells on the beach, photos with a mascot, or a map can also prove budget-friendly.
Pro tip: All national parks participate in a passport program. The passport is a one-time purchase, and each national park has a corresponding stamp for their special park. When you visit a new park, you get a new stamp complete with the date so that you never forget that special day. This can be an affordable, yet fun way to allow kids to get a souvenir at every national park (and monument, forest, seashore, etc.) in the United States.
Depending on the location of your destination, you may be able to prepare some meals in your RV to cut down on costs and reallocate those funds to other parts of your trip. Even without hookups, cooking a meal over a campfire can be a ton of fun. Always check for burn bans before lighting a fire. Even if you cook inside your RV kitchen, this can be a great opportunity to utilize just one of the many benefits of your home on wheels.
When planning for your trip, budget for however many meals you can plan to eat out, and fill the rest of your plans with ideas for home-cooked meals. Try thinking of your regular grocery budget or takeout budget, but consider raise the typical prices to account for increases in pricing when visiting a touristy destination. Plan to roughly account for different state taxes, more drinks, road trip snacks, extra treats, and such, and record your total projected number once you have it.
Per our Courtesy Contract, Boondockers Welcome compensation is only necessary if you use hookups. Depending on where you travel in the summer, using electricity to cool off may be necessary, depending on the temperatures. If you end up traveling to Canada or the northern United States, consider opening your windows early in the day to reduce how much electricity you’ll need to stay cool. Not having to pay for electrical hookups can reduce the overall costs of your nightly stays and our overall trip.
It’s essential to pack ahead of time. This reduces stress and will help to keep you from forgetting anything important due to prior planning. Thankfully, Harvest Hosts has already put together some blog posts outlining most of what would be needed to pack for your trip. Let’s dive in and summarize some of that information here as well.
The basics will look a little different to everyone. Some of these items may be deemed essential, but could be considered as “extras” in your book. Depending on how much you use your RV, you may already have an extra set of essentials for cooking, bathing, sleeping, etc. If not, be sure to take note of anything you might need on the road, including laundry or cleaning supplies. Be sure to utilize this list to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Emergency Kit Supplies
Every RV should be equipped with an emergency kit. After all, if/when the worst happens, you want to be prepared. An emergency could happen during inclement weather, a car accident, a fire, or any other number of (unlikely) possibilities, and these supplies could really come in handy or even be lifesaving in certain circumstances. It’s nearly impossible to grab all of the essentials while an emergency is happening. For this reason, an emergency kit should already be assembled and set aside near the front door of your RV or in an outside storage bay.
When you break down planning into steps, it’s not quite so overwhelming. To make things even easier, you could even choose one step to complete each week until you are all done planning. We hope that you can find these tips helpful when beginning to plan an unforgettable vacation for this upcoming summer!
Where are you heading this summer? What planning tips or steps do you tend to utilize? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
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