6 Things You Need To Do BEFORE Your Next RV Trip

One of the first things many new RVers discover is that planning an RV trip requires a lot of forethought. You can’t just hitch up your RV and head out for an adventure. A successful RV trip requires weeks and possibly months worth of planning.

The best parts of RVing are the trips themselves but many people are filled with dread when it comes to planning. To help you feel confident about navigating the challenges of travel logistics here are five important things to do before you take your next RV trip.

1. Plan your route

There are a handful of questions to ask yourself when choosing where to travel. What appeals to your lifestyle? Are you looking for hiking opportunities? Or would you prefer to relax? Some enjoy the tradition of returning to a favorite spot whereas others may be inclined to go somewhere new.

Of course, some people know exactly where they want to go next. Whether you’re traveling to the beach or the mountains, you will need to plan and budget your route. To make the most of your road trip, research scenic areas, historic sites, landmarks, and roadside attractions.

If you’re interested in efficiency, you can download an app such as GasBuddy to determine how much you’ll spend on fuel before you even hit the road. You can then figure out how long you want to be on the road or how long you’ll be staying in your desired location.

Here are some articles to help:

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

2. Write your packing checklist

Once you know where you’re going—and for how long—you’ll have a better idea of what items to bring along with you.

It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of your RV trip plans. However, if you’re not careful you could leave behind some important items. I recommend keeping a detailed packing list of everything you want on your trip.

Many RVers find it very helpful to list out the days and plan out their outfits and meals. This can help ensure they have enough clothes and food for the RV trip. You don’t want to hit the road and discover you only have two pairs of underwear for a week-long RV trip. If you do, your first stop will likely be a local Walmart.

Perhaps most importantly, you should make sure you have a first-aid kit on hand. Keeping a tool kit handy is never a bad idea, either. And always store on the curb side.

Besides clothes perhaps (everyone packs twice as much as they need), small personal items are easy to forget. These include your toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant, toiletries, and accessories such as belts, hats, and sunglasses. Plenty of premade packing lists are available online but since everyone is different it’s a good idea to write your own list and check things off as you go. Just don’t forget toilet paper!

That’s why I wrote these two articles:

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Secure RV protection

Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. That’s just the way things are so be prepared. Check the expiration on your insurance policy before you head out. The last thing you want is for something to go wrong only for you to realize your safety net has expired.

In addition, you may want to consider investing in an RV extended warranty policy. Although they aren’t legally required like insurance warranties will cover everything your insurance policy doesn’t. Unexpected breakdowns are often expensive and inevitable. Let your warranty policy administrator cover your repair bill.

Here are some helpful resources:

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

4. Address routine maintenance

As mentioned in the previous section, prevention is important when it comes to protecting your RV. Before heading out, make sure your home-on-wheels is in good running condition.

In preparing for your next road trip check your roof, tires, and tow equipment (if applicable). You should check your RV tire pressure if your vehicle has been in storage longer than a month. Tires lose up to 2-3 psi per month in storage. To be extra cautious, this is also an opportunity to check for air leaks, lug nut tightness, and wear. Examine the tread and sidewalls for obvious signs of damage such as cracks or wear in the tread. Tires should be replaced every six years or earlier if there is obvious wear.

Don’t wait for it to rain—you’ll also want to inspect your roof for leaks. Over time, sun and air exposure weaken seals. You’re looking for cracked or broken seals. To check the integrity of the roof itself, you can do a hand test. If there is white residue on your palm after running your hand along the roof, this may indicate that it’s time to reseal your roof.

If you suspect any component may require attention, it isn’t a bad idea to get an RV inspection. The technician will alert you to any mechanical or electrical problems you may have missed. They will take a look at your filters, fluids, brake system, and so on. RVs continue to age in storage; it’s important to address any repair needs before your next trip.

Read more:

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

5. Have snacks or meals on hand

On long travel days, the last thing you’ll want to do is stop to make an elaborate lunch to satiate your hunger. Always have a few road trip healthy snacks or meals prepared to make your breaks easier and make sure you’re not stuck eating greasy or highly processed fast foods on your route.

We love having leftovers from dinner the night before, salads that are pre-made and just in need of dressing, or sandwiches. Nuts, hummus, veggies, or fruit can be another great snack.

Since I’m talking snacks, here are a two related articles:

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tie up loose ends

Now is the time to review your to-do list. Did I pack sunscreen? Did I check the oil? Are the slide outs functional? Is the sink working? There are so many factors to consider when embarking on a road trip. These may seem like obvious factors to address but planning trips can be stressful.

There are so many things to remember and there is so much to do! Make sure your awning is closed and secured. You also don’t want to take off with your leveling system deployed—that is an expensive repair. Items often shift around in transit so make sure loose items are secured and cabinets securely latched. If you’re worried about kitchenware rattling around, consider purchasing the special grippy mats that prevent this. Storage bins, bungee cords, and magnets are your friends.

Planning your road trip should be exciting, not stressful. The more informed you are, the better prepared you will feel on your journey. We want you to hit the road with peace of mind. Good luck and safe travels!

Read more:

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make some priceless memories on an RV Trip

Hopefully, these tips will ease a bit of the stress and headaches of planning an RV trip. Just remember, things can still go wrong even with the best of planning. It’s easy to get frustrated and stressed if that happens but don’t fret. It’s all a part of the experience. I can assure you that years from now, you’re going to look back and cherish the memories you’ll create while on RV trips with your friends and family.

Take advantage of every opportunity to go on an RV trip. Where are you planning your next RV trip?

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.

—Eric Hansen

Planning your Summer Road Trip Begins NOW

Mapping your route and stocking up on gear in advance will pay off when you hit the road

In February’s cold, dark days, a summer road trip might be the farthest thing from your mind. Without the need to book a flight or coordinate other transportation, it’s easy to rely on spontaneity for a last-minute escape once the weather warms up. The beauty of an RV road trip is its structured freedom: you can do anything you want just as long as you are willing and able to drive.

But pushing off your planning until sunnier days could affect your vacation down the road. Investing a little time now will go a long way toward making the most out of your summer.

If plotting a course feels daunting, start by clustering destinations that will you give you something concrete to plan around. Depending on the number of days you expect to travel, you can add or remove stops along the way.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For example, a trip through three national parks in New Mexico and TexasWhite Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and Guadalupe Mountains—could be knocked out in a long weekend. Tack on Big Bend National Park for an additional few days to account for the extra mileage and time to explore.

A classic way to plan a road trip is to follow one of America’s best-known vacation drives such as Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Lewis and Clark Expedition Trail. Though they may seem cliché these drives are still famous for a reason: They capture the history of America. You can use social media to find modern attractions along these well-tread routes.

Search for geotags along the route for crowdsourced advice on what to visit while you pass through. Use hiking apps like All Trails to explore what nature recommendations people have outside of national park suggestions. Start following accounts of bloggers or local experts who post about the areas you’re visiting. To keep yourself from overcommitting, keep a list of these potential food stops, campgrounds, roadside attractions, and nature areas along the way to reference when you need options.

Whether you’re planning to follow a well-known path or keep a looser schedule, become familiar with your major waypoints by April. This will give you time to research lesser-known sights and dig for local suggestions. By the time you hit the road, you’ll have the confidence to make quick (but informed) decisions.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make reservations at national parks

While reserving a spot inside a national park isn’t the only way to camp near popular nature sites, it is well worth the foresight if you can book a few nights ahead of time.

Every park has its own schedule of openings, reservation requirements, and campsite availability so the best advice is to closely track a few parks for announcements. While some national parks save a portion of their campsite reservations to be released a week before booking, most park reservations open six months in advance.

Most National Parks reserve a few spots per campground as a first-come, first-serve option. They can be impossible to predict so do not rely on their availability if you are set on camping inside the park. Note that reservations often become available at 8 a.m. in the time zone of that park.

Permits for popular hikes and activities also become available at this time at Recreation.gov.

Timed entry reservations will still be required at a handful of popular parks during the peak summer months: Yosemite, Arches, Zion, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Haleakalā National Parks will all require some reservation to enter.

For complete details read 10 National Parks That Require Early Reservations for 2024 Visits

To the National Park Service’s credit, these required dates cluster around the most popular weeks and holidays and there are usually exceptions like entering a park before 5 a.m. that still allow for some flexibility if you can’t score a reservation in time.

Friday’s Fried Chicken, Shiner, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buy gear and supplies

A backpack, good walking shoes or hiking boots, wide-brimmed hat, and sun protection are all important regardless of how much outdoor activity you’re planning. It’s not just the outdoor gear to keep an eye out on—road trip essentials range from storage options to electronics to RV supplies.

Be sure to stock up on household and RV-related items: paper products, water filter, plastic bags, tissues, disinfecting wipes, and a fully stocked first aid kit.

That’s why I wrote this article: 35 Little Things to Remember to Pack for Your RV Road Trip

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your vehicle

Don’t forget about a checklist for your RV. A tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, and a roadside tool kit can all come in handy even if you’re renting an RV. And always keep a paper atlas on hand in case you’re out of cell service range.

Beyond the typical under-the-hood checks—engine oil, transmission fluid, hydraulic oil, coolant, and washer fluid—be sure to check your lightbulbs and brake reactivity, even in rentals. Spending hours on the road can decrease your focus and reaction time so ensure that the RV will be safe and comfortable. That’s why you should follow the 330 Rule.

The biggest investment to make in your pre-road trip vehicle is a new set of tires especially if you tend to only drive in the city. If you’re planning on driving or pulling a camper, van or RV and have been putting off upgrading your tires consider buying tires with a longer tread life or thicker tread for more diverse terrain.

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some helpful resources when it comes to tire safety:

Worth Pondering…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Miyamoto Musashi

RVshare: 2023 Travel Trend Report

RVShare just released their 2023 Travel trend report

RVshare has released its 2023 Travel Trend Report, chock full of stats on how people are looking to travel in the next year, what kind of trips they’re taking, and what age demographics seem the keenest to take an RV vacation in the next 12 months. Want a glimpse into the travel scene in the New Year to see how your plans stack up? Read on.

The report predicts another major year for travel. According to new research conducted by Wakefield Research, nearly all Americans (99 percent) are planning leisure travel in 2023. The RV travel boom continues to press on with 61 percent planning to take a road trip or vacation in an RV. Travelers are still seeking relaxation and time with family and friends, and work flexibility continues to evolve and become a more permanent lifestyle for many Americans ultimately affecting their travel decisions.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV travel is mainstream travel

Gone are the days of RVs only being for snowbirds and touring rock bands. More and more people are seeing the appeal of a good old-fashioned road trip and booking an RV is part of many travel plans. RV interest has continued to grow with 62 percent likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future, a 9 percent jump from 2022. What are some reasons travelers prefer an RV road trip over other travel options? Not only are they more affordable with no charges for baggage and an onboard kitchen to prepare food on your terms but they make for a more pleasant travel experience allowing you to stop along the way, sit where you’d like, and avoid travel delays.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other benefits of RV travel that survey respondents found valuable include:

  • Greater ability to change the schedule (59 percent)
  • Lower costs by avoiding fees for extra luggage (52 percent)
  • Allows them to budget around predictable travel costs (47 percent)
  • Helps to avoid loud and unruly passengers (47 percent)
  • No need for secondary transportation at destination (45 percent)
  • Fewer travel delays (44 percent)
  • The ability to have no assigned seating (42 percent)
Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who is actually renting RVs?

So we know RVing is more popular than ever and spans more demographics, but who is really renting and traveling in them?

Related article: The Expanding Camping Community

One big group that spans across generations is parents. Eighty-one percent of parents are likely to consider renting an RV for a trip in the future. And who could blame them, an RV parked in the driveway alone is pure excitement for kids and it makes for a smooth travel experience. Having a kitchen and bathroom on board, a living space, and cozy beds means your hotel is built right into your vehicle making any stops much more pleasant.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV enthusiasts span age demographics, with Millennials being the most interested age group followed by Gen X and Gen Z.

Among those who plan to take a trip in an RV in the next 12 months:

  • 75 percent are millennials
  • 65 percent are Gen X
  • 58 percent are Gen Z
  • 41 percent are Boomers
Bison at Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2023 travel plans

After the frustrations of travel the past couple of years, people are equally divided in how they want to make up for it with 50 percent planning on keeping things simple and the other half going big and finally hoping to check out some bucket list trips they’ve been putting off. Many travelers are still seeking time in nature and enjoying wildlife (47 percent), prioritizing the importance of enjoying peace and quiet (49 percent), and placing importance on catching up with friends (34 percent).

Camping at Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hush trips

Another way many are planning to travel is in the New Year? Enter hush trips. Hush trips are enjoyed by remote employees who are leaning heavily into the remote aspect of their jobs by taking vacation time while continuing to work—maybe from a lounge chair by the pool or at a campground with strong Wi-Fi. These employees are still putting in the hours but working from an alternative location where they plan to enjoy leisure activities in their off-hours and don’t feel the need to disclose their location.

Related article: Are New Campers Really Interested in Camping?

Savannah, Georgia, a bucket trip destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other 2023 travel plans include:

  • Annual trips with family and friends (49 percent)
  • Laid-back trips focused on relaxation (48 percent)
  • Local trips (44 percent)
  • Big trips to bucket list destinations (29 percent)
  • Cross-country road trip (28 percent)
Boondocking at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVs go beyond camping

While the classic way to take an RV trip is to park it at a campground, there are other places that lend themselves well to an RV.

Related article: RV Sales Continue to Soar and Here Are the Reasons Why

Wakefield Research reveals that travelers are seeking to experience RVs in new ways—beyond the typical road trip. According to RVshare insights, 20 percent of rentals are booked for event purposes like tailgating, auto and aviation shows, music festivals and more.

  • 63 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for multi-day festivals, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 52 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for tailgating events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 68 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for trips to national parks, a 10 percent increase from 2022
  • 55 percent say they are likely or 100 percent likely to stay in an RV for hobby events, a 10 percent increase from 2022
Camping on Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delivery is still in demand

First-time RV renters account for one-third of bookings on RVshare. A factor that can deter those inexperienced renters is the thought of having to physically drive the RV. RVshare provides the option for RV delivery, which continues to increase in popularity. Our report found that 79 percent of people think a delivery option would make them more likely to consider an RV trip and 71 percent of parents say they’re much likelier to consider an RV trip if the RV is delivered to their destination.

Related article: Why RV?

Nearly half of RVshare rentals were delivered in 2022 and RV rental deliveries are up increasingly compared to prior years:

  • +48 percent since 2021
  • +150 percent since 2020
Bay St. Lewis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top delivery destinations include:

  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
  • Camperland on the Bay, San Diego, California
  • Ginnie Springs Outdoors, High Springs, Florida
  • Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Georgia National Fairgrounds, Perry, Georgia
  • Lazy L & L Campground, New Braunfels, Texas
Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The economy isn’t stopping travelers

Survey results reveal that the economy won’t be stopping vacationers anytime soon. Inflation is unavoidable but just 2 percent are likely to cancel their vacation because of it. In fact, 88 percent of Americans are planning to travel as much or more in 2023 compared to last year. Instead, travelers are considering cost-cutting options.

  • Would look to cook some of their own meals instead of dining out (57 percent)
  • Would travel during the off-season (49 percent)
  • Would partake in fewer fee-based activities (43 percent)

Worth Pondering…

Road trips have beginnings and ends but it’s what’s in between that counts.

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