Tools and Tips for Mapping your Next Road Trip

Taking an RV trip is awesome. We doubt many of you reading this blog will have any bones to pick with that statement!

Planning an RV trip, however — that’s a bird of a different color. Depending on how much of a Type A personality you are, you may think that the planning is almost as good as the actual road tripping… or you may be totally dreading even opening your map app.

Fortunately, no matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, following some road trip tips and getting the right tools for the job can help take the pain out of the planning process. So if you’re in charge of doing the footwork for your family’s upcoming excursion, here’s our very best advice to help you get through it with a smile instead of a scowl.

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Playing Road Trip Planner? Here’s What You Need to Know

Being in charge of planning a road trip is exciting when done right, but don’t get us wrong — it can also be totally overwhelming! Here are some tips to keep you from feeling too frazzled. (After all, the whole point of a vacation is the opposite of that!

1. Get detailed — but not too detailed.

Here’s the thing. Some of you are probably raring to go with your color-coded spreadsheets, while others would much rather just pack up the rig, stick the keys in the ignition, pick a direction, and go.

But the very best trips come from a planning level somewhere in between the two extremes. Because, listen, Type A folks — I’m one of you, I sympathize — but if you plan out every last minute of your vacation, you’re going to walk away from the experience feeling worn out instead of refreshed. And I promise, no matter how good at time management you are, you can’t actually see everything.

Meanwhile, you lackadaisical folks who just want to play it by ear are on the right track… but if you don’t do any planning, you may find yourself boondocking in a Walmart parking lot because all the proper RV parks are filled up. Sure, it’s free and easy, but it’s also not anyone’s idea of a scenic place to wake up in the morning.

Our suggestion? Sit down with your Rand McNally Road Atlas or your travel wish list, and at least get a sense of where you want to go. (If you need help thoughtfully choosing an RV destination, try this RVshare blog post on for size!)

Centering your trip on a specific theme or set of activities can be helpful, or you can just start knocking things off your travel bucket list. Either way, set a general timeline and maybe look up some campgrounds ahead of time… but be sure to leave plenty of wiggle room for extended stays, interesting-looking back roads, and other unplanned surprises!

2. Use the right tools to help you find what you’re looking for.

Once you have a basic idea of your itinerary or route, you may want to get into more depth. But if you’re going to use a driving route planner system, it’s helpful to employ one that’s specifically made with RVers and long-distance road trippers in mind — that way, you’ll be able to find the hidden gems you might otherwise not know to look for. (Or, you know, gas stations that actually stock propane.)

To that end, let’s move on to our next section…

Which Road Trip Map Should You Use?

In case you missed it, travel is having a bit of a moment. And because it’s so popular to get out there on the road, there’s been a proliferation of tools, programs, and apps designed to help you do just that.

3. Going with GPS? Invest in an RV-specific model.

GPS systems have been a godsend for those of us with the travel bug who are, shall we say, not directionally inclined. And thanks to the ubiquity of mobile technology, you don’t necessarily have to buy a fancy, standalone model to get top-notch positioning help. (More on how to properly employ apps like Google Maps in just a second!)

But if you are going to front the money for a fancy-pants system, you might as well get one that’s actually made with RVers in mind. That way, your GPS will automatically know to avoid low-clearance areas, narrow roads, and more, while also directing you to the gas stations that offer the fuels you need, including propane. Some are even pre-stocked with campgrounds to check out, and may have filters available specifically for big rigs, pet friendliness, or other considerations.

We’ve written up a post comparing some of the best makes and models of RV GPS on the market, but we’ll be frank: it’s over a year old at this point, and technology moves fast! So we suggest tapping the very best advice resource we know of: the RVing community as a whole. Chances are, the campers you know have great recommendations as to which systems are worth their pretty pennies.

4. Google Maps has all sorts of functions you probably don’t know about!

If you have an Android smartphone (or honestly, even an Apple, considering the shenanigans that went on when Apple Maps launched), chances are you’re familiar with Google Maps, the ubiquitous navigational tool that’s in almost everyone’s pocket. But did you know you can do a whole lot more with the app than just find directions to your next destination?

If you know what you’re doing, you can download maps for offline use, add multiple stops to an ongoing trip, and more. So if you’re going to plan a road trip with Google Maps as your navigation device, check out these insider tips and tricks to get the most out of the software. You can even access your history to revisit all of your past adventures — which is especially helpful when you just can’t remember where that one amazing campground was last year, for instance.

5. Check out these other road trip planner apps to help you find your way — and more.

You don’t have to have watched every single episode of all the travel shows to be the best road trip planner out there. (Besides, even if you did, there’d be stuff that would escape your radar — that’s just how it goes!)

But if you’re playing cross-country road trip planner and you want to find some hidden gems you might otherwise not know about, we suggest checking out Roadtrippers, one of the best planning apps on the market. You put in your route, and it populates the map with restaurants, attractions, and other filterable fun you might never have known about if you didn’t check it out first.

Another unsung app made specifically for RVers is called RVillage, and it’s basically a social media platform to help you find other campers just like you. Many of the folks on RVillage are full-timers looking for on-the-go community, but it could still be a useful resource for shorter-term RV travelers looking to find adventure buddies, folks to share campfire stories with, and more.

Finally, we’ll take a moment to plug our own service — because if you don’t already have a rig of your own, renting on RVshare is the best way to save a bundle while also meeting interesting travelers just like you! Check out the listings in your area today.

Looking for Even More Road Trip Tips?

Don’t get us wrong, mapping out your itinerary is a very important part of any road trip… but it’s just that: a part of a larger project. A well-executed vacation takes a whole lot more to pull off, from creating an efficient packing list to thoughtfully choosing a destination in the first place.

Of course, here at RVshare, travel is our livelihood — so we’ve written tons of engaging content to help you find ways to do it well. From saving money on the road to avoiding an overpacking nightmare, here are a few of our favorite road trip tips and tricks for beginners and pros alike.

No matter where you go in your rig, and whether you’re a diligent planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort, happy camping! We can’t wait to hear all about the many amazing places the road takes you, whether you intended to go to them or not.

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