Prior to my RV lifestyle, I was never much of a planner. Many of our trips were spontaneous adventures that we let unfold as organically as possible. While I am sure there is a place for this in RV travel once retired, there is certainly no place for it when time is limited. Planning is everything! It is also half the fun. Our trips are generally three weeks or so, but the planning usually takes 6-9 months. The planning starts with an empty three ring binder. From there we choose a couple of big stops which more often than not are National Parks. A trip to the National Park Service website. The National Park Service helps us plan hiking, camping, and other things to do during our visit. Each National Park has a park newspaper which is the most valuable resource to the highlights of each park. I print a copy of this and file it in the binder. With three to four big stops picked out, the planning then turns to the route between these stops. Google maps is my goto helper for this. This is where some of the smaller parks and attractions get added to the trip by virtue of being on or near the route between the “big stops” The binder is now taking shape with info about all of our stops, the routes we will be taking, and a calendar to keep us on schedule. Copies of reservations and possible campgrounds to check out are also filed away in the binder. This may all sound very obsessive, but it really does help maximize the fun factor. There is always time factored into the schedule to improvise, but having a plan helps keep things moving along and on time. As you can see in our posts, we cram a lot of adventure into a short period of time. None of that would be possible without a lot of advance planning. I don’t look at it like work. To me it is merely an extension of our travels. The planning really has become part of the fun.
One thing that I have learned over the years that we have been doing this, is that plans need to be negotiable. If our trip has 21 days in it, we will only make plans 15 or so of those days. The rest of the time is what I call “fluff time” This allows us to stay longer at places we love and leave other places earlier that were a let down. This “fluff time” has proven to be the most valuable time that we have. We use it up on every trip. There have been locations that I scheduled for a simple overnight stop, that turned out to be so incredible that we spent 5 days. The Le Poudre River Cache in Colorado is a good example of this. The ability to make adjustments on the fly has to be factored into your trip planning. Allowing for “fluff time” is how we do that. It also gives you some wiggle room in case of mechanical problems which is certainly always part of the adventure!