During the past few years of enjoying the RVing lifestyle, our mantra has evolved to become this: “Epic Travel Close to Home.”
As you may know, we are not full-time RVers. We own a “sticks n’ bricks” home with a motorhome parked in the driveway. Although JK is “retired” we both are still working in several different careers to make ends meet. So nearby, extended weekend trips are easier to fit into our schedules than long ones. Plus, we love to do these short weekend getaways!
If you haven’t taken the plunge into full-time RV living or #vanlife, consider taking shorter, closer-to-home journeys. We all tend to focus on the once-in-a-lifetime trips out West, or to Florida or to visit all the national parks before we hang up the RV keys. Those are on our bucket list, too. But you may be missing some epic RV trips closer to home.
Here’s some tips you can use to help discover new nearby camping destinations.
How Far Is Too Far?
First decide how far you want to travel to get to a destination.
Is it 2-hours or 4-hours of driving? Or maybe you would rather figure out how many miles away from home you want to be when you set up camp for the weekend.
Do a little math and discover how many miles you can potentially travel in the predetermined travel time window. (For this article examples we will use a 3-day weekend as the common getaway timeframe.) If you have decided on the trip mileage you wish to travel in a day, you can do the math and get a ballpark estimate of how long behind the wheel time that is going to take.
Example: (200-miles divided by 60 miles-per-hour average equals just over 3 hours of drivetime)
Discover Your Travel Circle.
If you are old school and enjoy using paper maps or an road atlas, pull out the map for your state and mark your homebase. Find the mileage scale on the map. With a ruler determine how many inches equals the number of miles you want to travel. Sometimes the map will tell you. On our map, the mileage scale shown in the photo above, 1-inch on the map equals 15 miles of real distance. So, if you want to travel 120 miles from home, 8-inches on the ruler is approximately 120 miles on the map.
Now go rummage through your kid’s school supplies and find a drawing compass tool (we said this was going to be old school). Spread the arms of the compass to match the number of inches desired. Put the compass pointer on your homebase and then draw a circle. Now you have created a 360-degree travel zone with the travel miles or travel times to explore.
If the compass doesn’t spread wide enough to draw your travel zone circle, use a map pin and string tied around a pencil to draw the broader circle.
Computer savvy folks can do all this on their computers.
Find New Destinations in Your Circle.
With your new travel zone in place, closely examine the areas within the circle. Depending on your map, and your homebase location, you should be able to start pinpointing places or areas you want to explore.
Write down the areas or names of possible destinations. Use as detailed a map as you can to find cool places along the various routes to potential campgrounds, camping spots and points of interest. You can certainly check Google Maps and start to virtually explore within the travel zone area.
Pro Tip: Use camping and boondocking apps on your smart phone or tablet to find recommended campgrounds or places to dry camp or boondock in your travel zone. Apps such as Campendium, Harvest Host, The Dyrt, or AllStays are ones to check out. Some RV camping apps are free, others charge a usage or annual membership fee.
Do Your “Virtual Exploring” Homework.
With your destination list in hand, dig deeper into what else is out there in the region and what roads will take you to your destination.
Don’t always take the interstate or freeway routes. Here’s why. First, you’ll drive at a slower pace, which equals less stress and pressure and better fuel mileage. (The whole idea of going camping to REDUCE stress, right?) Second, you will see small towns, farms, and scenic areas you would otherwise bypass taking the major routes. It’s always fun to see how other people live in our region.
Keep hours on the road in mind when planning the route to your destination. You will want to schedule in at least one rest stop along the way to potty, stretch your legs, walk the dog, or grab a snack.
Most campgrounds require a reservation and a prepayment to lock in your spot. With camping and RV travel at an all-time high, the ideal time to snag your campsite is right now before you leave rather than while enroute that day.
Check to see if campgrounds you pick have the hook-ups and size parking spot your rig needs. Many campgrounds and parks are first-come-first-served. Unless you are able to travel and camp during the middle of the week, finding a camp spot in a county, regional or state campgrounds can take some luck.
Unfortunately, we have even encountered campgrounds that are mostly fulltime or seasonal sites, with only one or two available for travelers. Those places aren’t always desirable for a fun weekend getaway. Have a couple more nearby campgrounds or boondocking alternatives as backups.
Keep a RV Camping Journal
Once you begin to travel within your zone, you will want to keep records of where you went, where camped, and if it was an enjoyable experience. You’ll also want to note if any problems came up, such as loud highway noise, tons of bugs, unreliable electric hook ups or unfriendly camp hosts.
We carry along “The Ultimate RV Logbook” from Nomadic Souls. The logbook stays in the motorhome all season long. The pages are pre-printed with forms and questions to fill out for each campground you stay at. It’s one way to keep a detailed record of your camping experiences and refer to it in the future to help jog your memory.
If you like to write, you might want to also keep a blank journal book in the RV as well. These are great for writing down more detailed accounts of the journey. Some folks included sketches, drawings, or instant snapshot pictures in their journals like a scrapbook to make the memories more complete.
As you can see, RV journeys don’t all have to involve days and days of driving and weeks of travel at a time to find memorable places to visit camp. Sometimes the best spots are right in our backyards just a few hours away.