What to Expect at the National Parks this Summer 2022

You’re hearing it could get crowded? It will, but this guide will help with how to avoid the commotion.

You’re hearing you might have to reserve your entrance time? You will this summer season but only at certain parks and only during certain times of the day. I have the details below.

You’re hearing the weather might be hard to plan for? It will likely be unpredictable but we’ve got the best ways to pack smart.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It seems like the US national parks have never been more popular as vacationers seek fresh air and the best of nature. Record numbers of visitors are expected to make their way into America’s 63 national parks this summer of 2022. 

Follow these tips and tricks to get you out of your vehicle and onto the trail so you can leave the crowds behind.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Book your reservations in advance at these parks

To combat overcrowding and human impact on the fragile ecosystems at some of the busier parks, the National Park Service (NPS) will require visitors to make reservations in advance at seven national parks this summer: Glacier, Yosemite, Acadia, Zion, Haleakalā, Rocky Mountain, Arches, and Shenandoah. 

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park

Angel’s Landing is one of the most popular hikes in any US national park. The trail to the summit ascends a sandstone spine providing hikers with spectacular views and a true sense of adventure along the way. As of April 1, 2022, lottery-based permits are required to hike this trail. The lottery can be entered the day before your hiking day.

Related: The National Parks Saw Record Crowds in 2021: Where Do We Go From Here?

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

Starting April 3, Arches National Park implemented a temporary pilot timed entry system slated to expire after October 3, 2022. The $2 tickets will be required between 6 am and 5 pm and can be purchased on a first come first serve basis three months in advance.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park

From March 1 through November 30, 2022, hiking Shenandoah’s most popular mountain—Old Rag— will require a $1 permit. Old Rag day-use permits can be purchased at Recreation.gov up to 30 days in advance of your hike.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3 top tips on how to prepare ahead

Making park reservations before a visit isn’t the only thing you need to do to prepare for a trip to one of the national parks. Depending on your goals, there are several things you can do to ensure your trip goes as planned.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Make campground reservations

Camping can be one of the most rewarding (and easiest on your wallet) ways to spend the night at a national park. But during the summer, many campgrounds at the most popular parks—Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains, Arches, and Zion, to name a few—get booked well in advance. Reserve a campground on Recreation.gov to make sure you don’t find yourself scrambling for a place to pitch a tent (or park your RV) at night.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check to see if the park you’re visiting is designated as an International Dark Sky Park and if it is make sure to spend at least several nights camping under the stars. Parks like Arches, Great Basin, and Joshua Tree can be spectacular during a new moon on a clear night.

Related: Escape Crowded National Parks at these 4 Alternate Destinations

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Plan for backcountry travel

Heading into the backcountry can be intimidating. But it can also be the only way to find peace and solitude in places like Yellowstone where the majority of visitors stick to the roadside attractions. Traveling into the backcountry away from roads, crowds, and on-demand rescue is a skill that can be honed over time.

To get you started consider the 8-mile round trip hike out to Chilean Memorial in Olympic National Park. Check with the park in advance to see if a backcountry travel permit is required—and don’t be afraid to ask park rangers for beginner-friendly recommendations!

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Use a map

While looking up “the best hikes in Arches” or “where to camp in Joshua Tree” is a great starting point for planning a trip to a national park, there is no replacement for a simple map. With an endless number of trails at each park, using a map to pick a route and destination can provide priceless insight into available options. Almost every major destination in a park has numerous trails leading to it and a map will show you all of them—the long way, shorter way, steeper way, a route that goes past a waterfall, and so on.

Consider visiting one of the lesser-visited parks

With 63 national parks in the US, it’s not hard to get away from the crowds even during the busiest season. Yet, parks like the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Arches, and Zion seem to get all of the attention.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s great news for those who are open to exploring any of the national parks but are hoping they won’t have to sit in a traffic jam while doing so. Parks like North Cascades in Washington, Capitol Reef in Utah, Mesa Verde in Colorado, and Lassen Peak in California are easily accessible, experience a fraction of the visitors as some of the more popular parks and are just as spectacular.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to bring matters the most 

Pack the proper layers for hot days and cold nights: As the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Having the right clothes can make or break your trip to a national park.

Related: My Favorite Under-appreciated National Parks to Visit in 2022

Avoid cotton, which doesn’t dry once wet, instead opt for synthetic materials, fleece, and wool. Make sure you have several layers so you can adjust as necessary depending on the weather and activity. A good rain shell, set of hiking pants, down jacket, and base layers will not only keep you comfortable but also safe out on the trail. And don’t be afraid to pack more layers than you think you’ll need.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drink water

“A giant thirst is a great joy when quenched in time.”

—Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)

Not drinking enough water may be the most common mistake made by hikers. Whether you are walking in the heat or the cold, at sea level or a higher altitude, adequate hydration should always be a priority. When hiking in hot and/or humid conditions, one quart per hour is generally recommended as the minimum requirement. The same goes for altitude where although the temperature may be cooler, the air is drier and thinner. In milder conditions at lower altitudes, half of the above-mentioned quantity should normally suffice. Drink often. Rather than chugging water infrequently, take many smaller sips to continually hydrate. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. By then it is too late. 

Not the best place for a Tilley hat © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sun Protection

Wide-brimmed hats provide shade. Shade keeps you cooler. Cooler temperatures mean you don’t have to drink as much water. Rocket science it ain’t.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring snacks

If you plan on leaving the Visitor’s Center and heading out for even a short hike, it’s important to bring food. From a safety perspective, having extra snacks is crucial in case something unexpected happens, keeping you out for longer than originally anticipated. Not to mention, having to cut a trip short due to not being prepared can be a pretty big disappointment.

Related: Get Off the Beaten Path with These Lesser-Known National Parks

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get appropriate hiking shoes

While a pair of tennis shoes will likely suffice during a short stroll, anything more than a moderate hike will be a lot more enjoyable with the appropriate footwear. Some prefer lightweight trail running shoes which have the traction necessary when ascending and descending steep and rocky sections of trail. What they lack, however, is support. A solid leather hiking boot while heavier than a trail running shoe provides ankle support that can come in handy, especially when carrying a heavier load on your back. 

Worth Pondering…

However one reaches the parks, the main thing is to slow down and absorb the natural wonders at leisure.

—Michael Frome

30 Tips for Spring Break Road Trips

A road trip guide

So, you’re planning a road trip for spring break. You’ve got so many options when it comes to where you’ll go and what you’ll do along the way.

Road trips are fun because they can be something that is planned for a while or just planned last minute. You can kind of just have a loose plan and still have a great time.

Additionally, road trips are a great way to meet all kinds of new people. Whether you’re just road tripping to visit friends or relatives or your whole trip is just a big circle, here are 30 tips for spring break road trips.

RV rental at Wahweap Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Rent an RV

Get an RV! If you can fit get into your budget, getting an RV makes a road trip oh such a simple thing. No bathroom stops, a full kitchen, even a place to sleep. An RV can combine several expenses into one. It’s a fun way to travel.

2. Or a rental car

Think about a rental car if an RV isn’t in your budget. Mileage is unlimited and you won’t have to worry about maintenance before during or after your trip.

Wild burros roam the hills along Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Plan your route ahead of time

Plan your route before you leave. Download a map of the area you’ll be traveling, so you can still get directions without a wireless signal.

4. Clean the RV/car before you go

Clean your vehicle before you leave. Start your trip off with a nice clean car or recreational vehicle, all organized for the fun times ahead.

Related: Get Your Rig Ready for Spring Camping

Blue Bell ice cream anyone? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Pack the car the night before

If traveling by car, pack the car the night before. Put the things you will need first into the car last. That way they’re easily accessible when you need them. Things like snacks, water, blankets, and pillows should all be in inside the car with you rather than in the truck.

6. Pillows and blankets

Bring pillows and blankets. Road trips, whether in a car or RV, need blankets and pillows. Snuggle up put on your headphones and listen to some jams when it’s not your turn to drive.

7. Fuel up the day before

Fill up with gas (or diesel) the day before you plan to leave. Having everything ready before you leave makes the start of the trip seamless.

Kalaches are great for snacking and, oh so delicious © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Road Trip snacks

Road Trip snacks. Get your favorite snacks. Also grab high protein snacks to keep you going. Relying on fuel stop snacks are expensive and can limit your options.

9. Paper towels and hand wipes

Paper towels and hand wipes for those snacks. I despise being sticky. I need to rinse or have wipes for my hands.

Road trip playlist © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Make a road trip playlist

Music is a must for road trips. Downloading your playlist will make it accessible when you travel out of your cell phone’s coverage area. For the ultimate road trip play list, click here.

Related: Cleaning Your RV Exterior

11. Hoodies, sweaters, and sneakers

Being comfy in the RV or car (and with snacks) is a must. Hoodies, sweaters, and sneakers give me the ability to cool off or warm up a bit when everyone else in the vehicle feels fine.

Hiking in Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Hiking boots

I like to be comfortable and prepared. A road trip may lead me to explore rough terrain. I believe every road trip should include at least one nature adventure. The more the better though.

Springtime in the Skagit Valley, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Bring drinking water

Be sure to bring water bottles and at least a gallon jug per person. You may need to wash your hands or drink it if you end up stuck somewhere for an extended period.

14. Top off your fluids

If bringing your own vehicle, check the fluid levels a couple of days before you go. Coolant, oil, and windshield wiper fluid should be topped off. Be sure you won’t need an oil change in the midst of your trip. If so, get that done before you leave too.

Not a good way to treat your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Check your tire pressure

When you fill your tank the day before, check your tire pressure too.

16. Bring cash

Stop at your bank and pick up some cash. You may not wish to charge everything. You may also need cash for tipping or for buying things in smaller towns. Always carry cash as a backup.

Spring along the Penal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Tool kit

Carry a basic tool kit and stow on the curb side if traveling by RV. Include the following basic tools: High visibility cones, reflectors and/or vest, wheel chocks, tire pressure gauge, assorted wrenches and screwdrivers, pliers, hammer, duct/gorilla tape, work gloves. You should also keep jumper cables and extra fluids (windshield washer, oil, and coolant). If you’re driving in winter you should also keep an ice scraper, shovel, and traction aid (cat litter or sand).

Related: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Consider AAA

You can’t go wrong with an AAA membership. You are covered anywhere in the US and Canada, even if you aren’t on a road trip. In addition to roadside assistance, they offer road maps and trip-planning services.

19. First Aid Kit

Your first aid kit should include: Bandages (different sizes), sterile gauze (different sizes), rolled bandages, triangular bandage, cleansing wipes, tape, safety pins, tweezers, scissors, skin rash cream, anti-itch cream, antiseptic cream, sunburn cream, painkillers, antihistamine, ice packs, emergency blanket, disposable sterile gloves, and first aid manual. You should also have any prescription medications on hand. 

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Flashlights

A flashlight is essential to help you get around in the dark. It can also be used as a signal. Make sure you keep at least one per person and have spare batteries. 

21. Cell Phone Charger

Cell phones are incredibly useful in emergency situations—you can communicate with loved ones, seek emergency help, figure out where you are, and get important information and updates. Always keep a phone charger in your RV emergency kit.

Consider the needs of your pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Pet Emergency Kit

If you have pets, you shouldn’t forget to include them in your emergency kit: Pet food, medications, toys, blanket, collapsible food/water bowls, cat litter and pan (if you have a cat), leash, collar/harness, and copy of your pet’s vaccination and medical records.

The World’s Largest Roadrunner is located on I-10 at Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. Break up driving with roadside attractions

Break up the driving with numerous stops along the way. All manner of strange and interesting roadside attractions are found across the country. The highways are dotted with oddities that are as head-scratching as they are alluring: highly specific museums dedicated to whatever or gigantic versions of everyday items plunked into a field for no particular reason. For more on roadside attractions, click here.

Related: The 16 Best National Parks for Families to Explore this Spring

Travel with safety in mind © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. Do the speed limit

Do the speed limit, especially in small towns. They are sticklers for obeying all traffic laws, especially their (sometimes seemingly unnecessarily) slow speed limits, just outside of town.

26. Avoid rush hour traffic

Avoid driving through cities during high traffic times. Highway gridlock and city traffic jams can suck the fun right out of a road trip. Plan ahead to avoid areas of heavy traffic during rush hour (roughly between 7:30 and 9:30 in the mornings and from 3:00 to 7:00 in the evenings).

Old Town Temecula (California) makes a great stop © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

27. Don’t be afraid to make some stops

As eager as you might be to reach your destination, the random stops you make along the way are what will make your trip truly memorable. Visiting local businesses will give you a truer sense of the area you’re traveling in and could point you in some directions you didn’t know about before. Not to mention that getting out of the car (or RV) to stretch your legs is essential to ensuring everyone’s comfort the entire way.

28. Travel during daylight hours

It is best to travel during daylight hours. This is the best time to see everything around and it’s the safest time to drive too. A safe road trip is the ultimate goal.

El Morro National Monument is a short distance off I-40 in western New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

29. Consider sights off the main highway

Driving a bit off route for sightseeing can be worth it.  Dark sky communities, for example, are always worth a stop. These are places where you can see the Milky Way. These communities keep artificial light to a minimum, so you can better see the night’s sky.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Be flexible

Things don’t always go exactly as planned. The adventure is all in your attitude whether that’s a flat tire or a spontaneous invitation to join others at a campfire. Take (calculated) risks and enjoy the moment!

Worth Pondering…

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.

—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1968)

National Plan for Vacation Day

Plan the perfect RV trip on National Plan for Vacation Day

The fundamental freedom to travel is one of the aspects of our lives that have been most profoundly changed by the pandemic. We can all do ourselves a favor by looking ahead and planning travel.

Of course, there is no better way to travel the country than by taking a road trip in an RV! 

Road trip on Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the US Travel Association, National Plan for Vacation Day celebrated on the last Tuesday in January, is a day to encourage Americans to plan their vacation days for the WHOLE year at the START of the year—and inspire them to use those days to travel to and within the U.S. This year’s National Plan For Vacation Day will fall on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

Road trip on Bush Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since 2015, when the travel industry and partners began tracking American vacation usage, survey findings have shown that vacation days are not being used, negatively affecting mental health, personal relationships, and job performance.

Scenic byway through Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Plan for Vacation Day helps highlight the importance of taking time off to travel for our personal health and wellbeing. It’s also meant to highlight the importance of vacation planning and how much it can help our mental health, as studies have shown that trip planning makes us happier.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Planning the Best Summer Road Trip

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping many people at home, it’s a great time to get a head start on planning your next road trips and adventures. In fact, research has even shown that vacationers are happier from planning a trip and looking forward to it more than when they return from their travels.

The study, published in Applied Research in Quality of Life (ARQOL), consisted of over 1,500 respondents and compared several variables including the length of stay, days passed since their return, and how much stress they experienced on the trip.

Along Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Statistically, the most dramatic difference was between pre-trip happiness and post-trip happiness, indicating that there is more happiness from looking forward to a vacation rather than when you get back into the same old routine. Essentially, people who anticipate a vacation feel better off than non-vacationers, and once the trip is over, that post-trip happiness does not last long.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning vacations reduce burnout. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of workers feel at least moderately burned out and 13 percent are extremely burned out. Avoiding burnout was the top-rated motivator to book a trip in the next six months—ranked even higher than travel discounts/deals.

Of course, there is no better way to travel the country than by taking a road trip in an RV! 

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be planning my summer road trip right now rather than staying glued to the latest news on COVID-related lockdowns and vaccine mandates. Get a head start on your trip planning with Rex Talks RVing TODAY and enjoy the happiness and anticipation of later travels during a much-needed time.

Lake George, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are feeling burned out and ready for a change of scenery. More than half (53 percent) of remote workers are working MORE hours now than they were in the office and 61 percent now find it more difficult to unplug from work.

Related Article: Epic Road Trips for this Summer and Beyond

Camping Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, Americans and Canadians are still not using all of their vacation days. Workers left an average of more than four days or 29 percent of their paid time off on the table last year but 64 percent say they desperately need a vacation.
Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) agree that travel is more important than ever and 61 percent plan to make travel a top budget priority in 2022. 81 percent of Americans are excited to plan a vacation in the next six months.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, there is no better way to travel the country than by taking a road trip in an RV! 

Planning an RV trip ahead of time is always a great idea. You’ll know exactly which routes to take and what roads are safe for your RV. You don’t want to get stuck driving down a road that is too narrow or down a highway with an overpass that is too low for your rig.

Camping at Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Searching for that perfect camping experience? Not all campgrounds and RV parks are created equal. You’ll want to read campground reviews to see if your destination will be right for you. Maybe you want specific amenities like a pool and sauna, pickleball courts, or reliable Wi-Fi.

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Good Sam has released its newly minted list of top-rated RV parks and resorts for 2022. In a review of their 157 top-rated parks, I detailed my list of the Top 20 RV Parks and Resorts for 2021 in two categories: My Top RV Parks that Received a Perfect Rating by Good Sam and My Top RV Parks Not Receiving a Perfect Rating by Good Sam.

While you’re planning your travels on National Plan for Vacation Day, you will also likely be running some numbers and working out your budget. Here are six ways to save money and cut down on expenses on an RV road trip.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan on visiting national parks in the next year? Writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called national parks America’s “best idea.” Turns out they’re also among the best ideas for an affordable RV vacation thanks to hundreds of drivable destinations throughout the country, free or inexpensive admission, camping, picnicking opportunities, and tons of cheap activities.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your National Park Vacation

Here are five reasons national parks make a great low-budget getaway.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To save even more obtain an America The Beautiful Pass. They cost $80 and are good for the full year. With some parks charging $35 in entrance fees, the pass will pay for itself after just a few visits. America The Beautiful Pass is especially great if Utah is in your travel plans.

Myakka River State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State parks are wonderful places to visit on an RV family vacation. They usually have campgrounds and plenty to do.

Plan to eat in your RV as much as possible. Though it’s always fun to try the local restaurants in the areas you’re visiting, the cost of eating out can add up quickly, especially for traveling families. According to Journey Foods, the average price per serving of home-cooked meals is $4.31 while the average cost of eating out is $20.37.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Save money on fuel. Get a fuel discount card or check GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest gas in the areas you’re traveling.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Save Money on an RV Road Trip

Search online for coupon codes. Whether you’re buying something from a major department store or tickets for a local attraction, you never know if there is a code available that could give you a discount. Additionally, you may want the free Honey browser extension (joinhoney.com)  to scan for coupon codes.

Mississippi Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the local Visitor Center, Chamber of Commerce, or Tourist Center. There are always free things to do and visit like museums, hiking, birding, and local parks. Ask about discounts for major attractions.

Texas Travel Information Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is no doubt that RVing is one of the easiest and safest ways to travel. No crowded planes or questionable hotel rooms are required—an RV gives you the freedom to explore and the peace of mind of having your own space.

Worth Pondering…

The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.

—Marie de Vichy-Chamrond

The Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Southwest

A road trip through the American Southwest is of the most iconic road trips in the country. Here’s what you need to know!

Picture it: craggy, towering, red-rock formations in every direction. You’re hiking through narrow slot canyons, down verdant riverbeds, and along snow-capped mountains. You’re identifying a variety of cacti—from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion. Citrus-colored sunrises and sunsets define the days’ end. Inky night skies sparkling with stars are worth staying up through the night. The open road rambles on as far as the eye can see.

Driving an RV in Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is RVing in the American Southwest! It’s arguably wilder than anywhere else in the country and requires a bit more preparation and know-how than your average destination.

Feeling intimidated? Not to worry, you’re in the right place. Prepping starts right here, right now, so let’s dive in.

Apache Trail, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning your trip

Before we begin, be sure to prep your RV for travel; inspect your RV tires, belts, hoses, check for leaks, you name it. That’s done? Great—now we’re really ready.

Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step one: Find your route

Map out your destinations prior to hitting the road. In the Southwest, national parks and monuments, state parks, and other must-see places can sit hundreds of miles apart across arid landscapes with limited services in between.

Related: Where It All Began: My Love Affair with the Southwest

Saguaro National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step two: Find a camp

Once you’ve mapped out your route and your destinations, it’s time to plan where you’ll spend your nights. Make sure you know the maximum length of your RV, towed vehicle, and tow hitch combined. The last thing you want is to drive all day to a campsite that’s too short for your setup. In national parks, the average campsite length is 27 feet but you may find some that go up to 40. Be sure to make reservations especially in high seasons. Many campgrounds and RV parks are fully booked months in advance.

Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Step three: Take it slow

If you’re new to RVing, know that traveling in an RV takes longer. Don’t plot out your trips like you would in your car. You’ll rarely exceed 60 mph so plan to drive fewer miles in a day. Give yourself plenty of time to make stops for fuel, food, and rest breaks. Start long driving days early so you’ll arrive at the campground in time to set up and enjoy a desert sunset while toasting marshmallows around the campfire. Arriving early allows time to enjoy your surroundings and helps you avoid disturbing other campers after dark.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Water, lots of water

In the Southwest, this is rule number one: water for you, your pets, and your vehicle. The heat of the Southwest is unforgiving from giving you a dehydration headache to an overheated engine.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many national parks including Grand Canyon and Arches have free water-refilling stations at their visitor centers. Use them. In this dry climate, water is crucial.

Related: Five National Parks to Visit on the Ultimate Southwestern Desert Road Trip

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A good rule of thumb for gauging water needs: One gallon of water per person per day. Fill up the fresh water tank in your RV before hitting the road. If you’re boondocking, double the water you think you’ll need.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pro tip: If your engine begins to overheat turn off the A/C especially on steep grades. If necessary find a safe place to pull over and inspect coolant levels, fans, and any possible obstructions. About a half-cup of clean, air-temperature water (not cold; that can crack a hot engine block) added to the coolant tank can help get you to an auto repair shop. This is not a fix, it’s a Band-Aid. Use extreme care when removing the cap as pressure and hot steam may be released.

Date palm groove, Coachella Valley, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First aid, for you and your pets and your RV

Know that heat can mess with tire pressure, too. And any responsible RVer will want to travel with a first-aid kit, tool kit, fire extinguisher, coolant, and oil.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A weatherproof wardrobe

Then there’s your clothes closet. When packing for your Southwest trip, bring layers—the temperatures in the desert can vary 30 to 40 degrees in a single day.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cool, moisture-wicking clothes work well in the heat and then you can add layers at night or higher elevations. It’s not all low-lying desert in the Southwest (Arizona, for example, has an average elevation of 4,000 feet), and high-desert temperatures can plummet when the sun goes down. There can be snow flurries in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon while the temperature in the Sonoran Desert reaches 75 to 80 degrees.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to see in the Southwest

You likely know the big national parks of the Southwest. Bucket-list destinations like Arches, Zion, Joshua Tree, and the Grand Canyon attract millions of visitors a year. Although these spots shouldn’t be overlooked, lesser-known parks like Capitol Reef or Petrified Forest might get you closer to the quiet solitude you desire.

Related: Stunningly Beautiful Places in the Southwest

Canyonlands National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t forget the many state parks, national monuments, and national forests, either! Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Dead Horse Point State Park, Escalante-Petrified Forest State Park, Coconino National Forest…the list goes on. These lesser-known locations offer less-crowded trails, incredible photo ops, and easier social distancing.

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are over 60 NPS sites in the Southwest and the NPS’ annual America the Beautiful Pass ($80) pays for itself after visiting just a few. But if you plan to spend an abundance of time in one state, consider purchasing that state’s parks pass. Utah, for example, has more than 40 state parks making the $150 pass a good value if they’re serving as your main playground. And, yes, Utah’s state parks have just about all the iconic Southwest landscapes you can imagine.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to camp in the Southwest

If your heart is set on staying at one of the crown jewels of the Southwest, book early. Reservations for most national parks can be made six months prior to your arrival date and you’ll need every day of that especially if your RV exceeds 27 feet as larger campsites are limited. Find more campgrounds in national forests or on Army Corps of Engineers land. Other camping options include private RV parks and resorts.

Tombstone, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A huge advantage to RVing the Southwest is the availability of boondocking options. There are hundreds of millions of acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in this region and much of it is open for dispersed camping. Arizona alone is 38 percent federal land. Never mind Nevada, which is 85 percent. To find dispersed campsites, stop at the local BLM office ask at just about any local visitor center.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

Cedar Breaks National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pro tip: If you’re interested in boondocking in the Southwest consider solar panels to maximize your RV’s off-grid range. Put all that desert sunshine to good use! Solar is an investment upfront but allows you to boondock off-grid at length, saving money on campsites over time.

Zion National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seasonal considerations in the Southwest

The American Southwest ranges from the lowest point in the US to some of the highest peaks in the lower 48. This diversity creates a variety of weather conditions with the changing of seasons. Here’s a brief rundown on what to expect:

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Summer: Be prepared for temperatures well above 100 degrees in the low-lying desert regions of Southern California and Arizona. Expect temps into the 90s for most other regions of the Southwest.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter: Desert winters can be surprisingly chilly. As you reach higher elevations (Cedar Breaks National Monument, for example, sits at 10,000 feet), don’t be surprised to find snow and freezing temperatures. Be prepared with tools for snow removal and be ready to protect your RV pipes hoses from freezing.

Quail Gate State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall: Fall arrives late in the Southwest usually around early November. It brings with it stunning fall colors in places like Sedona, Flagstaff, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and Carson National Forest.

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spring: Traveling in the Southwest in the spring—think March and April—provides an opportunity to experience fields of wildflowers especially when it follows a wet winter. Check out places like Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Picacho Peak State Park for desert blooms.

Hovenweep National Monument, Utah/Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To boost your luck at nabbing a quiet campsite and a quiet everything else, travel in the shoulder seasons and avoid holidays and weekends when possible. That aside, any time of year will make for a memorable RV trip in the American Southwest. But it’s proper planning for that trip that will make it comfortable, too.

Worth Pondering…

When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your National Park Vacation

Transportation tips, camping advice, and other details you need to know

Summer is almost here and for many, that means it’s time to start planning that long-awaited road trip. With 237 million visitors in 2020, national parks are some of the most popular destinations as they provide a unique opportunity to connect with nature while being socially distanced at the same time. But there are nuances that can make or break your visit to a national park and they don’t reveal themselves until you’re actually there—which can be too late.

Shuttle stop at Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Zion National Park in Utah you may find yourself surrounded by crowds packing into shuttles; the vibe more theme park, not nature at its best. A visit during the offseason is a completely different experience. Arriving before peak-season shuttle service begins allows you to tour the park in your own vehicle. Camp on-site, roll out of bed early for hikes and experience the Zion you imagine—tranquil and sublime. 

Driving White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to get around national parks

There’s no way around it, you’ll absolutely need wheels to explore. National parks can cover vast swaths of land and some, like Yellowstone, stretch across multiple states.

When planning your park visit, take time to look at maps of your destination on the National Park Service website. These maps generally do a good job of letting you know how many miles separate different points and sometimes include time estimates for traveling between various park entrances.

Numerous days are needed to explore Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Give yourself multiple days to explore

As you study maps, you may notice that national parks have distinct areas. Sometimes they connect but sometimes they don’t. You may also be surprised to find you could lose most of a day moving between them.

Although Canyonlands is one park, it’s divided into four regions—three districts (Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze) plus the Green and Colorado Rivers that divide them up. It takes hours to travel from one district to another so most people focus on one area per visit.

It can take two hours to drive between Island in the Sky and the Needles; plan on six hours to the Maze. Most people only make it to Island in the Sky but experienced trail drivers with four-wheel drive vehicles may also want to experience the remote beauty of the Maze. If that’s you, plan for multiple days.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When driving to Pinnacles National Park, keep in mind that there is no road that connects the east and west entrances of the park. The shortest route from the east entrance to the west entrance (or from west to east) is through the town of King City on US 101, a drive of just under two hours.

But at Joshua Tree National Park in California, two deserts run into each other. It’s hard to tell the difference unless you know that the park’s namesake trees don’t grow in the Colorado Desert but their Seussian forms scatter the Mojave. Absent that indicator, though, the transition between the neighboring ecosystems is seamless as you drive along the main park road.

Joshua tree in the national park of the same name © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check vehicle restrictions if you’re driving an RV

Some national parks are suitable for RVs. Arches, White Sands, and Joshua Tree are easy to explore in an RV as the elevation gain is gentle and it’s easy to stop at overlooks and points of interest along the way. Other parks may NOT permit large vehicles in certain sections, especially roads with switchbacks and hairpin turns. If renting, you may want to reconsider the size of the RV as it may mean a must-see feature will have to come off your itinerary.

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park is a great example. There, all vehicles (including any attached trailers) can only be up to 21 feet long and 10 feet tall which is smaller than most RVs. 

No matter what park you’re visiting, a small RV makes it easier to park at trailheads where designated spots for RVs are scarce or non-existent. Going small just might save you from having to skip the hike of your dreams.

Camping in Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for staying inside national parks

Among the most convenient, immersive ways to see a national park is to camp in it. Doing so makes it easier to go on early morning hikes or do some stargazing. There is no shortage of camping locations in the National Park Service—there are over 130 park units to choose from.

The majority of the 500 campsites in Joshua Tree are available by reservation. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance and can be booked on recreation.gov. Reserving a site is highly recommended. The park offers five campgrounds including Black Rock (99 sites), Cottonwood (62 sites), Indian Cove (101 sites). Jumble Rocks (124 sites), and Ryan (31 sites). Be aware that not all campgrounds have water or a dump station.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles Campground is accessed only from the east side of the Park as there are no connecting roads between the two entrances of Pinnacles. The campground offers tent and group camping along with RV sites. Each tent and group site has a picnic table and fire ring. Most RV sites have electrical hookups and share community tables and barbecue pits. Water is located throughout the campground. Oak trees provide shade at many campsites. Coin-operated showers and a dump station are available.

Devils Garden Campground is the only campground at Arches National Park. You can reserve campsites for nights between March 1 and October 31. During this busy season, the campground is usually full every night. Between November and February, campsites are first-come, first-served. If you’re unable to snare a reservation at Devils Garden, you’ll need to look for an RV park in nearby Moab.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is an hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Situated at 7,890 feet, Lava Point Campground is typically open May through September, as weather allows.

South Campground and Watchman Campground (for reservations call 877-444-6777 or visit recreation.gov) are near the south entrance at Springdale. This part of the park is desert. There are few trees to provide relief from the heat. Some campsites get shade for part of the day but many get no shade at all. Summer temperatures exceed 95 degrees; staying cool is a challenge. From mid-March through late November the campgrounds are full almost every night.

Potwisha Campground in Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accommodations outside a national park

While staying on-site is a unique experience, your road trip can still be amazing if you stay off-site. For best results, give yourself more time than you think you need. If you choose to stay in a charming town near your chosen park, you’ll need to account for travel time between the two plus the wait time to enter the park itself.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always bring food 

Given the amount of time you’ll spend inside your chosen park, there’s no guarantee you’ll find something to eat. At some parks, you’ll be lucky to locate a protein bar at the visitor’s center while others have their own grocery stores. So whether you’re staying on-site or traveling by car, make sure to bring a packed cooler and extra food. If you’re touring in an RV, stock the fridge. Even if you find your park has provisions available, you probably won’t want to spend precious time standing in line at the register when you could be out there becoming one with nature.

Heavy snowfall in the Sierras closes Lassen Volcanic National Park during winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Timing your visit

Expectations go a long way toward a great first experience and timing is the key. Seasonal closures happen and you’ll also want to check for any permits or waiting lists for iconic hikes. About a week before your planned visit, scan the websites for the parks you’ll be touring for any park alerts. Even if you can’t time your trip for when your chosen park is fully open, its beauty will still shine through—just a glimpse is enough to know you’ve visited a special place on Earth.

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im

Best Preparations for an RV Road Trip

When preparing for an RV road trip there are important things to do before hitting the open road

When it comes to planning an affordable vacation or a weekend retreat, there’s nothing that compares to an RV road trip. Whether you’re an experienced camper, simple novice, or admitted first-timer, the basic preparations are similar. This process can be simplified by dividing your trip planning into these three phases:

  • Pre-trip (what is required prior to the trip?)
  • On the Road (what is needed while traveling?)
  • Final Destination (you’ve arrived—now what?)

Regardless of your destination, it all starts with the RV.

Visually check the RV exterior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pre-trip

Prior to setting out, RV owners need to perform some basic and routine maintenance to ensure their RV trip goes smoothly. Regardless if you’re an RV owner or renter, your RV requires a full safety inspection prior to travel.

Check the water and sewer systems for any potential issues © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first thing to do is a visual inspection of your RV exterior. Check to see if any damage was sustained over time, looking especially for evidence of water leaks. In particular, focus on the roof and caulking around windows, vents, air-conditioning unit, and doors. Look for cracks, holes, stains, separations, and leaks. Also, check for nests and evidence of chewing activity.

Check to ensure sewer hose and connection are in good working condition © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roll out the awning and inspect it for tears. Check the fluid levels and top them up as necessary. Inspect hoses for any tears or holes, and valves for leaks.

If you’re renting, your vehicle should be prepared by the rental company beforehand, but still, it never hurts to be aware of what general safety issues to look out for.

Rest areas and roadside attractions make great stops along your route © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once your RV is ready for travel, now comes the fun part: planning your trip! Three important things to consider when organizing an RV trip: Where are we going? How long are we going? What do we do once we get there?

By asking these questions, you’ll need to consider what clothes, gear, and supplies you’ll need to pack for your trip. Maybe it’s taking extra coats and hiking gear for the mountains? Perhaps packing some additional food and water for a lengthy stay? What activities are available where you’re staying and what else might they require?

Wall Drug makes a great stop when traveling across South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s ideal to map out your trip in advance and check for stopping points along the way, in case you need to take breaks for rest, fuel, food, etc. The more you plan ahead, the better you’re prepared for any potential issues or needs that may arise.

Driving Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the Road

Now your RV is packed and ready for travel. What concerns are there once you are out on the highway? Hopefully, you’ve tackled most potential concerns with some proper pre-trip logistics, but there are always things you simply can’t prepare for. Be aware of the height restriction of your RV. Watch out for clearance signs when approaching underpasses and tunnels.

Beware of height restrictions © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Destination

Information on national and state parks, campsites, and weather conditions can go a long way for helping you to make the most of your adventure. By doing a little research in advance, you can prepare for most situations and elements.

Worth Pondering…

Make your choice, adventurous stranger.
Strike the bell and bide the danger.
Or wonder ’til it drives you mad,
What would have followed, if you had.

— C.S. Lewis, The Magicians Nephew

Considering a Summer Getaway? Tips for Reducing Your Risk during the Pandemic

If you’re looking for a COVID-friendly summer vacation, an RV road trip is a solid way to go

If the coronavirus has you going stir-crazy, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about taking an RV road trip. After all, an RV allows you to travel without exposing yourself to germy airports and hotels.

Your summer vacation plans probably look a little different this year. For many families, that may mean skipping the airport and loading up the RV for a family road trip. If you’re planning a trip before the end of summer, a little advance planning can go a long way toward making your vacation safe and fun for everyone.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fears about the coronavirus are forcing many people to rethink traditional air travel and hotel stays and look into recreational vehicles as a safer alternative. Some RV dealerships have seen an increase in sales of up to 170 percent and many customers are first-time buyers. In May, peer-to-peer rental service RVshare saw a 650 percent spike in bookings since the beginning of April.

Along a scenic route in eastern Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV allows you and your family to get out of the house while maintaining social distancing. It even allows you to avoid places you might feel uncomfortable being in like a hotel or restaurant. With an RV, you can bring everything with you!

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are two types of RVs to consider: a motorhome that combines the living quarters and vehicle in one package and a travel or fifth-wheel trailer.

What should travelers take into account when deciding whether to travel?

Psychologically, people are getting tired, and it’s only natural to want to get away and go out. The first step is ‘How much risk you’re willing to tolerate?’ And that has to do with our own health condition but also the health conditions of the people around you. We have to be able to live with the virus to some degree and manage the risk that we take. A lot of it has to do with thinking of other people and how your actions impact your community. 

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are some forms of travel safer than others? Is it better to drive or to fly?

I don’t know that we can necessarily say one is less risky. If you’re going on a road trip, for example, and have a large number of other people with you then it defeats the purpose. The larger the group the greater the chance of being exposed to others who may be infected with the virus!

Along Utah Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we talk about flying, a lot of airline companies have requirements in place for mask wearing, and they do health screening. But the risk of flying with people that we don’t know is higher than the risk of driving in an RV or car with people that we do know and that we live with. Looking at the risk overall, road trips with family members seems to be the safest at this point.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What precautions should a person take when planning a road trip?

The shorter distance you have to travel the better, especially if you have family with young children. You have to think about rest stops and bathroom breaks and where you’re going to be taking those. You have to think about where you’re going to be stopping to eat. The number of stops you make along the way increases the chances of being exposed to other individuals who may be infected.

Schulenburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Given the rise of COVID-19 cases across the country, should travelers be careful about when or where they go?

I think we can safely say that the coronavirus is everywhere, so I wouldn’t say that any place is 100 percent safe. Avoid traveling to areas where the number of cases are on the rise. Definitely look at being flexible in your plans and in your final destination.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here a several additional tips to help make your next road trip memorable—and prepare for whatever may come your way.

Pack smart and make a checklist. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a checklist a few weeks before you leave—and add to it as you think of new items.

Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the RV and car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal, heading down a non-existent road, or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may enjoy tracking your travels.

Seaside, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your emergency kit. If you find yourself stranded, a well-stocked emergency kit could help you get back on the road quickly and safely. Pre-assembled kits are available for purchase, or you can assemble your own kit.

Worth Pondering…

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.

—Maurice Chevalier

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

6 Essential Tips for the First Time RVer

There are many people out there who love to commune with nature and take every opportunity to grab their camping gear and head out into the great outdoors. Then, there are those people who decide to take camping to the next level and become RV campers instead. 

Touring Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, whether you’re headed across the country to tour a Kentucky bourbon distillery or to the mountains to take a hike, there are a few tips you need to follow as a beginning RVer

Heading to the mountains for a hike at Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Thorough 

Even seasoned RVers leave things behind when it’s time to move on, so as a beginner it’s important to be thorough when packing up to move to the next location. You have to pack up your RV and make sure that its road ready when it’s time to move on. Develop a checklist to follow so you don’t forget to secure a latch or close a drawer. 

Slow down and enjoy nature at Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take Your Time on the Road 

This tip applies to how much time you plan to spend on the road each day and even how long you intend to stay in one spot. It’s important not to try and cover too many miles in a day. Not only is that dangerous, but you’re failing to enjoy the beauty of the area you’re in at the same time.

Taking time to relax and enjoy your camping site along the Mississippi River at Tom Sawyer RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the best parts of becoming an RVer is taking the time to enjoy the views you would have easily passed by without seeing before. A good rule of thumb to follow is 300 miles or 3 pm as your cut-off point for traveling each day. If you reach either, it’s time to call it a day, set up camp, and just enjoy the area. 

Take time to enjoy the journey along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once you reach your destination, don’t just head back out the next morning. Spend a few days relaxing and getting to know and appreciate the area. In this way, you’ll be fresh to get back on the road and have a relaxing time as well. There are many places to see when you’re an RV camper, take your time and enjoy them all. 

Enjoying the sunset at Sea Breeze RV Park near Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a Ton of Questions 

One of the best things about being an RVer is that the community is so big you can easily get answers to the questions you have, and you should have a ton when you are first starting out. Talk to RVers along your route and ask questions. You can pretty much guarantee that if they don’t know the answer, they will find someone that does. 

Colorado River Thousand Trails Preserve at Columbus, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack Tools and Spare Parts

Pack a well-stocked tool kit and store on the curb side of your RV. Include basic tools and items that may need to be replaced including LCD flashlights, spare fuses, LED lights, jumper cables, nuts and bolts, WD-40, silicon spray, duct and gorilla tape, rags, and cleaning supplies. Be sure to bring spare parts that are unique to your rig.

Camping amid the beauty of Badlands National Park in South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be Flexible 

RVing is about taking it easy and enjoying the experience. A lot of things can happen on the road, from bad weather to someone getting sick. You need to be flexible with your plans. If weather or sickness puts you behind a day so be it! Enjoy where you’re at and then ride towards a sunnier spot when everyone is on the mend. 

Castle Valley Gourd Festival was a pleasant surprise on a day trip from Moab, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Becoming an RVer is all about the journey and the adventure that awaits you from town to town and state to state. Plan your trip, pack well, ask questions, and get to know your fellow RV community members. RV camping is fun and relaxing and you shouldn’t make it anything but that for you and your family. 

Settling into Harvest Moon RV Park in Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t Wing It

The urge to be spontaneous is tempting when your home is on wheels. There’s a certain pleasure in going where you want, when you want. However, it does help to have a solid plan in place especially if it’s your first RV trip. When planning your RV trip, consider:

  • Your budget
  • Your food supplies
  • Your travel route
  • Attractions to see along the way
  • Fuel stops
  • Campgrounds/RV parks
Enjoying the beauty at Columbia River RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Our wish to you is this: drive a little slower, take the backroads sometimes, and stay a little longer. Enjoy, learn, relax, and then…plan your next RV journey.

Road Trip Ahead! What Do I Pack?

You’ve scheduled your next adventure and couldn’t be more excited. And then it hits you—what do I pack?

If you’re hitting the road for several weeks or months, it’s important to pack smart…or suffer the consequences. Prepping for a long trip is truly an art—one that you’ll need to learn if you want to avoid hauling around unnecessary items, or forgetting truly important belongings.

In this post, we’ll cover both what to pack, and how to pack for a long trip. Get ready. Now is the time to start preparing for your next road trip!

Step 1: Plan Your Clothing Options

Walterboro, South Carolina, small-town America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When packing for a long trip, it can be overwhelming to think about the different outfits you’ll need on your adventure. By following a few of these tips you’ll feel better about packing light and packing smart.

Opt for Neutral Colors

Rent an e-bike © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The key to packing light is to create a variety of outfits with the clothes you choose to bring. You’d be surprised at how many different combinations a few pairs of pants, several shirts, and a jacket can yield!

Try and stick to more neutral colors. That way, everything should match and you’ll cut down on the amount of clothes you’re hauling along.

Do Some Research

Grasslands Nature Trail at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The type of trip you’re taking will impact what type of clothing you bring. About a week before you leave, check the weather to see what type of temperatures you can expect. Packing layers is almost always a safe bet, especially if you plan on visiting a variety of climates or the Sunbelt during winter months.

Shoes Should Be Comfortable

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We’re big believers in packing shoes that are comfortable.

When it comes to shoes, plan for the three W’s: walking, working, and weather. Walking shoes should be supportive, and could include anything from tennis shoes to hiking boots. Work shoes are a tad nicer, and could be worn for special occasions. And finally, weather refers to the type of climate you’ll be visiting—so think snow boots versus rain boots.

Step 2: Remember All Your Accessories

Horseback riding at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While you definitely don’t want to pack too many accessories, there’s no doubt that a few key items should make the packing list. Here are a few things you can’t forget.

Sunglasses Are a Must

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When hitting the road in your RV, you’ll a good pair of sunglasses, regardless of whether you’re heading to the beaches or to the mountains. No one wants to stare into the sun for hours on end, not to mention that driving without sunglasses can be dangerous. Do yourself (and your eyes!) a favor and remember your shades.

Bring a Backpack

Hiking to Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning on hiking? Checking out some local shops? Grab your backpack—it will definitely come in handy!

Hiking the Appalachian Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When taking a long trip, you might not have every day planned to a tee. That is why backpacks are great—they can accommodate any last minute excursions. We recommend water resistant, so you can take it anywhere and everywhere.

Step 3: Don’t Forget the Entertainment

Hiking Thumb Butte Trail, Prescott, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Long trips mean a lot of time spent in your RV. And while conversation and the open road are great, it’s helpful to have some sort of entertainment for when things get a little slow.

Podcast and Audio Books

Canoeing near Orlando, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To pass the time, make sure to pile a few books on your phone or e-reader, along with some podcasts. Audiobooks are great too, especially if you tend to get motion sick reading in a moving vehicle.

Last But Not Least, Know Where You’re Going

Quail Gate State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okay, okay. You likely have a destination in mind. But if you’re heading out for months on end, you might want to bring along a few suggestions.

Now hit the road already!

Worth Pondering…

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc