How I Plan Our Trips

Well, we’ve hardly been home a month and I’m busy planning another trip – or two! For me, it’s a long, involved process producing a number of drafts. On one trip I had 13 revisions! I think I’m on my 5th one now for a July trip to Michigan.

I thought I’d share some of the apps and websites that I use in my planning. First I go to the Good Sam site and use their planning site. It gives a map from point A to point B and then I have to figure out what is in between. As I look at the various towns/cities along the way I also start to do research on the area. My first go to is Trip Advisor. It really helps me pare down the many sites I want to see. For instance, I had planned to spend two days in Holland, Michigan because I wanted to see the windmill and the tulips but after reading several reviews I realized that the peak season for tulips was way over and basically we’d just be seeing a windmill. Although I would love to see the windmill I might have to do that on another trip.

I also use Roadtrippers on my computer although there is also an app. I put in various stops and check the mileage to see if it is drivable. We don’t like to drive over 350-400 miles a day but sometimes it is necessary.

One of the most difficult steps is finding a suitable campground for the traveling route. We have always stayed in full hookups but are beginning to realize that we can go without septic for a few days. We still are not into boondocking yet nor staying at a Walmart. Perhaps that will come but not yet. We’re taking baby steps! I usually click on the show campgrounds link on the Good Sam trip planning link and then start investigating each campground. I rely heavily on RVParkReviews.com and AllStays. I locate the state, then the city and then read the reviews. One thing that I try to be aware of is when the review was posted. Some of them can be several years old. Out of the over 50 campgrounds that we had stayed in I have only made one mistake – so far – and we elected to write that $18 off and travel on to the next place.

If the campground has a 7+ rating I will consider it if the reviews are good. Sometimes people mark the campgrounds down for reasons that are not that important to me. If the sites are a long way from the bathhouse that doesn’t concern me because we don’t use those facilities. We also don’t use the laundry facilities so that’s another thing that would not concern me. I guess the most important factors to me are cleanliness, easy access, friendly and knowledgeable staff, obviously cost and of course Wi-Fi. We prefer full hookup but for this next trip we’re going to brave it a couple of times and go without septic. I think we can do it! I also like for a campground to be centrally located to the various places we want to see. Jerry and I have realized that we are not as interested in touring larger cities but we enjoy state parks and more rural attractions. Because our coach is 40 feet long we are sometimes limited though as state parks often cannot accommodate an RV that large. We often select campgrounds near the state parks and visit in our car. On a trip to western New York last fall we put 900 miles on our car in addition to the traveling miles just investigating that part of the state!

We also love to stay at Corps of Engineer parks although sometimes they are not exactly on our route. If they are we’ll stay there in a minute. The sites are always on the water, large and beautiful and with an America the Beautiful pass they’re half priced.

Along with our America the Beautiful pass we also have Passport which gives us access to their parks at half price. Some are great and some not so much but again, read the reviews. We also belong to FMCA and Good Sam’s so get a 10% discount at their parks. I’ve looked into Escapees but since we’re not full timing it would not pay us to join at this point.

To say that it takes me a long time to plan a trip is an understatement. Jerry often teases me about how little I drive but I counter that with the hours I spend planning.

Sometimes we don’t make reservations for every stop. It depends on where we are going and the time of year. For instance, our trip to Michigan will take place in July so I did make reservations for the three main places that we’ll be visiting – Mears, Traverse City and St. Ignace (Mackinaw City). I considered staying in Mackinaw City and while I think it would have been great for bike riding I decided that paying a Passport rate of $22 a night would trump $61 a night in Mackinaw City. Since we’re going to be there 5 nights that’s a substantial savings – hey, perhaps we can eat out one night!

That brings me to another facet of our traveling. Most of the time we don’t eat out a lot although that depends on whether we’re traveling with others and then again sometimes we just want to get the local flavor. While we were traveling around Louisiana we sampled every delicacy that I had heard about. In fact when we got home I jokingly told folks that we had eaten our way around Louisiana – and we did and had the weight gain to show it. Before we leave I have usually prepared and frozen several main dishes so we can just take them out in the mornings before we go out touring and then when we get back in I just need to fix the vegetables, etc. I usually have spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, stuffed peppers, sloppy joes, (yes, a lot of beef it seems), fish, shrimp and some frozen vegetables to go along with that. We don’t do fancy meals. In fact some nights we’ll just have a baked potato and a salad. Generally before we go Jerry will bake some sausage balls and we’ll have them for breakfast each morning. Simple meals makes a trip a lot easier. If weather permits we’ll cook outside on the grill a couple of nights.

I read several blogs to get ideas on what to do as we are traveling, where to go and what to see. Hopefully this post will be as helpful to some as my tried and true are to us.

Happy Traveling!

Home Away From Home

On the way to Greenville, Al – I think

Since we had such a long day yesterday plans for today are for a shorter drive. Unfortunately finding campgrounds where we want to stop proves to be difficult so we will see. Since we both got a good night’s sleep we didn’t push this morning. I don’t want to be so exhausted when we get there that we’re too tired to see anything… We both got up around 7:30 and by 9:00 we were pulling out. Our tentative plans are to stop in Greenville, Al which is about 200 miles from Perry and an almost equal distance from New Orleans. We’ll just see how the day goes.

After we left the campground we drove through an area that was full of peach trees and then saw Lane Southern Orchard. They have daily tours so we may be able to visit in March. I can just imagine how incredibly beautiful it must be in the spring. We then rode right through the middle of Fort Valley, a very small town and I think we saw most of it from the business to the poorer section. I only found out the name as we were leaving and I saw a sign on the other side of the road welcoming people to Fort Valley!

A little crooked but we're in Sweet Alabama!
A little crooked but we’re in Sweet Alabama!
As we continued to ride along Jerry realized that we would be in Greenville, Al around 12:30 so he suggested we just stop there. We discussed it a bit and realized that there was not much to see there as far as we know and Mobile is only about 120 miles further so we decided to go on to Mobile. That will put us closer to New Orleans for an easy drive Thursday. I also assured Jerry that I would help drive today. I started looking for campgrounds in and around Mobile and found two possibilities. One is a Passport for only $12.50 but it has no webpage, reviews were sketchy at best and we finally found a message telling us to e-mail or call a specific number because they are often in remote places and may not get voice messages for days. Obviously we didn’t choose that one. I called Shady Acres and they had an available site for $25 with Good Sam discount. Sounds like the best bet for us.

We stopped about 11:24 at a rest station for a brief break. As I was denoting the time I realized that somewhere along the line we changed time zones. Instead of 11:24 it was 10:24. We’ll get to Mobile even earlier than anticipated! So wish we would have some time to tour a bit but probably not. Oh well, another time!

Around 11:30 or !2:30 depending on which time we were observing we stopped for gas at a Flying J. They have an RV lane which makes getting gas so much easier. We surely will continue to look for them as not only is getting gas easier but getting in and out of the station is signfnicantly easier. We have been in some tight places before and don’t want to do that again. Flying J you’ve got a customer! When we went inside Jerry found a coozie that would fit the drinks that I like so he bought it – it’s a Roll Tide coozie! The guy at the checkout asked if we were Alabama fans and we told him no, that we were NC State fans that pulled for Clemson!

We got into Shady Acres RV Park about 3:00 Central Time, 4:00 Eastern Time. It’s a lovely small park with what looks like a lot of full timers. No frills but with Good Sam discount it was only $25, well worth it!

After getting settled and resting a bit we walked down the nature path to the river. It was a nice little walk and we surely needed some exercise albeit a little bit!FullSizeRender (1)

We came back to the coach and were trying to get on the Internet when Jerry suddenly remembered that we had a Wi-Fi signal booster. Between the two of us we finally got it set up on the computer and the iPads so hopefully that will help. We still have to name our hotspot but will do that later. At least we have it password protected now! Pretty good considering we didn’t know what we were doing. Jerry keeps reminding me that I was a technologist and I emphasize the word “was”. Technology changes so fast that it’s difficult to keep up with it when one is actively involved and when you’re not you can get behind quickly! Case in point!

130 miles tomorrow and we’ll be in New Orleans. I expect we’ll be up early and on the way as we’re both tired and still on Eastern Standard Time!

Les Bon Temps Roulé!