One thing we were concerned about before we started living in our RV and traveling full time was finding locations to camp. We'd heard lots of warnings about never getting into national parks, state parks, etc. Well, we were in over 45 locations last year all over the East coast of the U.S. and about 15 so far this year out west. We've never had an issue finding a site, and we've stayed in Campgrounds, RV Parks, State Parks, USACE (US Army Core of Engineers) Sites, etc. Yes, National parks are much more size restricted, but there are plenty of big rig friendly parks outside the national parks! We just plan ahead, and this is how we do that!
Google Maps (step 1)
The first step is just dropping pins on a map. We use google maps for this. It allows us to create layers, which allows us to separate out locations we want to see, recommended camping sites, motorcycle rides, etc. Having these in layers lets us turn them on and off at will. It also allows us to create a “visited” layer to drag items too after we've seen them. This has the added benefit of keeping the things on the map we missed but still want to see next time we're in the area. It's a pretty simple process but gives us a good visual aid to see what general route we want to take. Using this made us realize there was no way we were going to be able to see everything out West in one summer, and instead, save the coastal states for another year.
Google Calendar (step 2)
The second step is to make a general outline of the time we want in each area. This will tell you if you can fit it all into your timeline and if adjustments are needed. The great thing about full time RV is that there is always time. If not this season, then the next one or the one after that. For us, it seems that two weeks in each location give us enough time to work full time and still get out and see what we want in each area.
RV Trip Wizard (step 3)
Once we have a time outline of general locations, it's time for the absolute best tool we've found for RV trip planning: RV Trip Wizard! We've been using RV Trip Wizard for well over a year and there's just no other tool like it. Within seconds, we can see an area and every option available, including RV Parks, Campgrounds, State Parks, National Parks, BLM, and on and on. From there, we start adding filters to the view starting with “Big Rig Access” and 4+ stars. That narrows the field and from there we go by geographical proximity to what it is we're trying to see.
As we select each potential location, RV Trip Wizard has everything we need to dig a little deeper to see if we want to try to book it. We can see features (cell coverage, wifi, etc), reviews, link to the website (of the location), jump to a satellite map, local weather, etc. It's a wealth of information immediately available.
From there, we starting booking online and/or making phone calls.
Back to Google Calendar (step 4)
As soon as we have a location booked, it goes on our travel calendar in google. In the “event”, we put all of the booking information, reservation id, etc. Usually this is just a copy and paste from the confirmation email (always ask for a confirmation email if it's not an online booking). This way, everything about all of our stays is in one place that we can both access.
Rand McNally OverDryve 7 RV GPS
UPDATE (November 2019): We still LOVE our Rand McNally GPS, but TechnoRV has switched to Garmin. See this article (changinglanesrv.com/techno-rv-switches-to-garmin-gps-units/) for more details.
They KEY to navigating with a large RV is to use an GPS designed specifically for an RV or large truck. This means it takes your RVs height, width, weight, etc into account. Height is SUPER important!
We used an iPhone app called CoPilot for well over a year and it worked great until an update at the beginning of the year. It was right at that time that Eric from TechnoRV reached out about using the Rand McNally OverDryve 7 RV GPS. To be honest, we were never super keen on dedicated GPS units, and I think that stems from experience in the early days of such units in a car. But, we needed something and figured we'd give it a try.
Holy cow, this thing is GREAT! It exceeded all of our expectations as a simple RV GPS and even added some benefits. First off, as a GPS, it's top notch. Great routing, unobtrusive voice alerts, huge display (for our aging eyes), all make this an indispensable tool. On top of that, we can find rest areas on our route (for our tiny bladders full of coffee)! That may seem like a simple thing, but it's not. Rest areas, service areas (Pilot, Flying-J, etc) are all very easily discovered and added to the route with a few “clicks”.
When you purchase this unit (or any other device) from TechnoRV, it comes with their “Learning Series” email. The email for this unit has NINE separate videos covering every detail and menu! That's something you just don't get with other retailers. They are also great with support after the sale.
TechnoRV was our very first partner when we started this channel, and we can't think of a better team with whom we would want to partner! Thanks, Eric and Tami!
TechnoRV GPS Update! (November 2019)
Note: We still LOVE our Rand McNally GPS, but TechnoRV has switched to Garmin. See this article (changinglanesrv.com/techno-rv-switches-to-garmin-gps-units/) for more details.
RV Trip Wizard Update!
As this video was in editing, we got the following update from RV Trip Wizard
We have two significant product releases/tie-ins coming out. Within a few weeks we’ll be releasing an update to Trip Wizard that includes true RV-safe routing, taking into consideration not just height, but length, width, propane (or not), tunnels, bridges, etc. It will also allow custom settings on a per trip basis, so if you want to plan a trip without the RV, or with a different RV you can, without messing up your global settings.
The other big release is our RV Life App 2.0. It’s actually out now for IOS, but it’s been a soft release. RV Trip Wizard customers will be able to get this app for $10 and will allow them to access the trips they have created in RVTW, as well as turn-by-turn GPS, access to all of the campground data, articles, and even offline maps for any or all states they wish for full access when no internet signal is available.
We had a chance to play around a bit with the RV Life App, and it looks very promising!