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Old 06-08-2015, 11:49 AM   #1
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2015 30' Flying Cloud
Westport , Connecticut
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Mapping trip is a full time job

Hi all:

The amount of time I have invested in mapping out the first part of our journey is turning into a full time job. I Do expect to invest a lot of thought into our path, but I am struggling with the details, so I'm turning to this forum in the hopes that I can get unstuck.

I'm using Good Sam's trip planner: plotting out stops, taking mileage and time driving into consideration (limiting to under 300 miles in any day), in addition to places I want to see. I am leaving some time in between for the unforeseen challenges/adventures that will inevitably arise.

With the wiggle room and unforeseen circumstances, it's hard to know where along the way to book a campground. More specifically, I KNOW I am going to Mt Rushmore/Custer/Crazy horse, but I am not exactly sure if I'll arrive on July 29, or 30th....or even August 1 (which is, unfortunately at almost exactly the same time as the motorcycle rally (Sturgis). Spaces are hard to come by, but I've found one at a highly rated campground (recommended here on this forum)

The tricky part is that I'm coming from CT, and even though I have a GENERAL idea when I MIGHT arrive to SD, it's those unforeseen circumstances that may prevent me from arriving on the date I've made a reservation for--so I am not feeling confident to MAKE the reservation. Granted, in this case, it's 'only' a $10 cancellation fee, but that's not what I want to do for a year...make reservations on the fly, only to have plans change.

Any suggestions?

Do you all make reservations and end up changing them/canceling them or working around them?

Thanks again for your input.

BTW, I took my 30' A/S out on Friday for my maiden drive with a BRILLIANT teacher/coach/instructor who is also a mechanic who specializes in hitches. If anyone near CT needs a wonderful, soulful, knowledgable and capable hitch or truck or airstream service person, he's your guy!!! Chris, from Fairfield Motor 718-704 7676.

Driving this gorgeous trailer hitched up safely makes me feel INVINCIBLE! One month til we hit the road for a year. Can't wait!


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Old 06-08-2015, 12:04 PM   #2
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2001 30' Excella
Somerset , New Jersey
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If your plan is to stay in Nat'l Parks or state parks I think your best thing is to plan ahead. If staying in private CG's it's much less of a need. That's what I think. We travel in the west often and get by with minimal plans. Early afternoon when we have an idea where we'll end up for the day we pull out the Woodalls book or Good Sam book and look for a place. We've never been left without a home for the night. Now if you're looking for something specific and don't want to be flexible then you gotta plan ahead.

Now Florida during the winter months requires some planning ahead.

Roger in NJ

" Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the rest"
Winston Churchill 1948

TAC - NJ 18

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Old 06-08-2015, 12:08 PM   #3
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2015 30' Flying Cloud
Westport , Connecticut
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Thanks Roger.

The park I want to stay in is actually a Good Sam member campground. It's so perfectly located....but I will be flexible when I can be, definitely.

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Old 06-08-2015, 12:13 PM   #4
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More fun to just wing it stop to stop. Much less stress.

Do you know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says "You know that thing that you just did? Don't do that."
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:01 PM   #5
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The simplest solution is each morning that you break camp, call ahead to your intended destination campground and see if they have space for you. And have an alternate campground to call in case they don't have space for you. That's the best compromise I've found between "make reservations" and "play it by ear." And that's exactly what I'll be doing when I make the five-day/four-night trip to Farmington, NM later this month for the WBCCI International Rally.
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:18 PM   #6
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It's really good to do your research - but really bad to overplan.

After years (decades) of annual road trips what we do now is to chart ONLY the key destinations - and make reservations at ONLY those key destination(s) that we KNOW will be hard to get into - these are our "milestones" - they are the rough guide for daily planning - but everything in between we "wing it" - doing - as Protagonist has suggested - a day plan that really doesn't get fully formulated till it's time to hitch up the trailer, vacate the campsite and hit the road.

What we have found time and time and time again is that your entire trip plan goes out the window in a flash when you realize you don't want to spend the 5 days you expected at one place - and your really love the place you'd only planned on overnighting at.

Keep you vacation a dynamic adventure - not a daily prescription.

Bambi - 2002 (The Toaster)
Pathfinder - 2009 (The Buggy)

"I'm not young enough to know everything ....."
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Old 06-08-2015, 02:34 PM   #7
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Long range, another alternate plan is not to travel with arrival on Thursday to Saturday unless you have reservations, might be different out west. You can check ReserveAmerica with specific parks, punching in dates with open arrival dates to see how booked they are. Not wanting to make reservations for a 2-3 nite stay 6 months in advance, I have found this a better way, make reservations a couple weeks before rather than months before. Only works in state parks that are not fully booked with snowbirds: especially those on beaches or near attractions.
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Old 06-08-2015, 07:33 PM   #8
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W , New England
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Kira - first - I'm so glad you feel invincible towing your trailer!! Great to hear. Second - thanks for the hitch recommendation - I've been looking for someone in CT (with way more skill than I) who might be willing to help me de-install and re-install my hitch as I never did it (dealer did). Everyone who has one says it's easy but I know my history with any rate - thanks.

To your questions...

Are you a AAA member? If so, you can call them and plan trips to your heart's content!

Do you have the AllStays app? It's a very good (though not 100% perfect) app for campgrounds of every stripe in the US. You could literally plan your way cross country and back with that app. Though (to imperfections), it doesn't list, for example, the Danbury, CT Welcome Center off I-84 which has overnight stay capability for dry camping and surely there are other such sites across the country (like WalMart which are well represented in the app) so you can stop if needed without having to make a reservation.

Are you a member of the Elks, VFW or other such group? If so, many of their locations allow members to dry camp overnight (some even have hookups). Usually just calling ahead works.

I'm embarrassed to say I'm not 100% sure whether you need to be a WBCCI member or just an Airstream owner to have access to courtesy parking at the homes of Airstream owners across the country (globe?) who offer it. The WBCCI site has a listing but again you may need to be a WBCCI member to see it. Being in CT, I can highly recommend the New England Unit if you aren't yet a member. Your can PM me or visit for more info.

Are you time-constrained by a job or other requirements? If so, my recommendation is to consider your daily drive limits more important than a final destination (others might surely disagree). Sue and I find it's safe to plan an average of 50 mph if mostly highway driving and a max of 6 hours a day of drive time (not including breaks for us and the pooch) so our comfortable range is 300 miles a day. Overdoing that could lead to some costly mistakes we're just not willing to take for the sake of saying we hit a landmark. When we retire, that will be even better - but for now, if we have only X days to use, we try to plan based on that constraint and fit in what we can.

Hopefully this is of some help...good luck and enjoy that beautiful trailer!!
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Old 06-08-2015, 08:32 PM   #9
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If I'm on a multiple day trip, I'll pretty much plan on 300-350 miles a day. Possibly a little less, dependent upon the roads I'm traveling on. To me, a reservation is peace of mind and if we end up running late, I'll call my site and let them know how late I will be and ask them to leave me a site map at the door so I can find my site if the office is closed. I usually make those reservations at those stop over sites the week prior to my departure week. I've relied too many times getting to an overnight spot only to get turned down because it's full. You really have to use caution on campgrounds that might be 4 hours or less from major metropolitan areas. Especially if you are traveling on a weekend. One of my hints in many cases is to leave on a Sunday. That way many of those campgrounds which are more overnight oriented have lost their weekend campers.

For destinations that I'm not familiar with, I'll use AAA to do the initial planning and then make alterations if I'm not comfortable with the total route. I have had AAA give me some bad advice in the past so be sure to look over their route carefully. I once remember being routed to Gatlinburg Tn and getting stuck in a solid stop and go line of traffic from Severville all the way through Gatlinburg. I learned a better route after that and came in from the east side of Rocky Mountain Park saving countless time and nerves.

Also use caution on using your GPS on state highways and county roads. I've had some misrouting where the GPS tells you to turn and you know it doesn't make sense. I had that happen in Fla where I had to pull off the road and pull out the map and overrule the GPS.

Good luck and best wishes with your travels!

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 06-08-2015, 10:03 PM   #10
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relax? Yeah... Actually...

How many " short trips" have you made? How many "arrival/setup, takedown/departure" cycles have you had? You may find your "time" for these steps improve with practice. These are NOT times to can get really "expensive" dollars and lessons.

So, if you know what the above "cycles" takes you, factor into your day.. Then, relax...

If you must land at a "full hookup" site each night, then planning works best to work in ways that give you structure. Plan to take short days initially, get into a groove...that fits YOU!

For my wife, that means a "daily" arrival.. Before dark if we are going to fully "un- hitch".. That way we can eat in /at the AS... Have AC, water and if lucky, sewer hookup at the site. I rarely tow without emptying the Gray tank.
This means we hit "smaller" parks... COE are ok and reasonable....

Now about "timing... Arrivals. I have found it is best to arrive mid week at State or COE parks. With this being peak vacation schedule, I would ensure the "tourist" area I have reservations in place. Between the points, wander a bit. Enjoy... Get OFF the superslab...!!! Check out "municipal" parks.. They don't have the trained dancing bears, but a place that is usually patrolled by local gendarmes.

It is a journey... Plan as much as you must to be comfortable.... Relax early in your trip each day.. And count your blessings...

We like to hit the big Truck stops because here is space.. Then have lunch, do safety check as I stretch my legs.... And the dog's business eventually winds down.. Then we head out again. Much more RELAXING...

Now, if, like my wife, you MUST plan..... Do it. It will be less distracting if you know your landing zone/ LZ/nightly nesting spot ....

Peace and Blessings..
WBCCI# 30676
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Old 06-09-2015, 11:38 AM   #11
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2014 27' Flying Cloud
Stowe , Vermont
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When we lived near Hartford CT, (now in northern VT) we would head out on I-84 west - hook up to I-80 west. (My son and I shared driving time). Day #1 ended at Ohio service center on the Ohio Turnpike. (Amherst OH - 600 miles) There is a separate RV parking area away from the trucks. Day #2, I-80 to I-39 north, to I-90 west to La Crosse Wis. (another 600 miles - worst part of the whole trip around Chicago) Stay at Walmart. Day #3, I-90 to Wall SD. (580 miles - easy day - flat and straight - little traffic) Stay Sleepy Hollow Campground. We go west to the Rockies almost yearly. If you have only one driver, I would add a day or 2.
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Old 06-09-2015, 11:52 AM   #12
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We found less planning to work best for us......pick a direction, and go.

Each day, loosely plan where you are headed, call ahead to insure a site at a campground about as far as you want to drive.

Staying in one spot for several days, to tour an area, works well, too, but we found that making too many reservations ahead of time disrupted our chosen way of travel.

If you don't have to have 3-5 point hookups each night, or are towing a giant trailer that requires a very long site, you are more free to go where the road takes you.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 06-09-2015, 02:53 PM   #13
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Green Cove Springs , Florida
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For the most part, we do exactly what the OP suggested. We think about how far we want to drive, and in what direction. Then we use the AllStays app and/or the Good Sam/Woodall's book to pick out a few likely candidates, though we prefer county / state / national camping to private RV parks whenever possible. On our recent x-country trip we stayed in too many private parks for our taste on the eastbound trip because we got tired and wanted to be certain of our destination. Westbound, we managed to get into more public facilities and enjoyed ourselves a lot more as a result.

If it's a busy time (e.g. weekends or holidays) we'll check on availability and/or make a reservation, but otherwise we call an hour or two before offices close to check availability. If the place we want has no number to call and they're within reasonable range of other camping places with room, sometimes we just drop in to see what we can find.

So far we don't camp at WallyMart or similar places - DW won't have it because friends had a bad / scary experience at a Wally in OR.
Rocinante is our 2014 International Signature 27FB
(Named for John Steinbeck's camper from "Travels With Charley")

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Old 06-09-2015, 03:15 PM   #14
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Venice , Florida
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Well, you got a few opinions here. I've been doing this many, many years & have traveled with & without reservations. RV lifestyle is about freedom of travel, maticulas planning is the exact opposite of that. I've traveled the Custer-Yellowstone tourist route in the summer months & never once was left without a place to camp. Use your directories & cell phone in the morning of travel & you'll be fine.

Venice, FL
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