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Open Roads Forum  >  Beginning RVing

 > Should I make reservations or wing it?

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Matt_Colie

Southeast Michigan

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Posted: 03/02/19 09:06am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

SteveWoz wrote:

This might be the most general of general questions but since I'm a relative newbie - at least in terms of owning a motorhome - I really want the opinions of more experienced RVers.

I'm planning a 3-week family trip this summer starting at home in CT and heading west to at least the Montana Rockies, but possibly all the way to the West Coast. I figure it will take 4 or 5 days to get to MT traveling at a comfortable pace. I'm wondering whether you all recommend making campground reservations along the way and in MT or is it safe to make decisions about where to stop on a daily basis.

I figure boondocking is always an option. I know there are a countless variables but this question is already fairly long.

Thanks in advance!

Steve,

Welcome to the group. I see from your profile that this may not be your first rodeo, but do not that stop you from thinking about it.

As many others have said, reservations are rarely necessary unless your destination is highly desirable. For all the other times, load and look at RVParky. It is both an App and website. It is valuable when traveling by coach. Working it as a website is easier. I see you will be traveling by motorhome. This has a great advantage if you can sleep with the slides in. If not, you just have to be more conscious of where you can actually hold up for the night. This is where RVParky will do you the most good.

First a minor vocabulary item. Boondocking specifically (though others may disagree) to camping someplace that there is nobody else around. I think what you are hoping to do is dry camping (no hookups) on pavement. That goes by lots of other labels. Until you get to upper Maine and some or the good parts of northern New York, real boondocking is just not possible.

Another thing to be aware of (being from Connecticut it is understandable) is that there are expanses of this country that are simply unfathomable to those of us that lived in the megopolis of the east (or any) coast. (I am a refugee from the megopolis). Have you counted out that it is 4ea - 10 hour road days just to get from Harford to Denver? Those 10 hours do not include fuel stops and nature breaks. Unless you have a very good co-driver, that is too much time in the saddle. And Denver is only the Front Range. We used to go to visit parents (grandparents) in Mystic. From SE MI to there was 12 road hours in a comfortable car with very good tank range and we were decades younger then.

Unfortunately, there is no good replacement for the two good planners. Those used to be Streets and Trips and Street Atlas. Those could help you to plan a trip in detail and because they were not web-based, you could use them for enroute navigation. There is one good web-based that you can try, it is Furkot. This has a steep learning curve, but the available tutorials are real good and it is FREE to use. It can point you to End Of Day and Fuel Stop locations.

As you are not new to Rving, I will not suggest that you do the first night in the driveway. It is still a good idea with unfamiliar hardware, but less essential.

One of my now favorite quotes is from Charles Kuralt:
"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."

I wish you great times and safe travels.

Matt


Matt & Mary Colie
A sailor, his bride and their black dogs going to see some dry places that have Geocaches in a coach made the year we married.


winnietrey

seattle

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Posted: 03/02/19 09:37am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We very rarely make reservations, when we travel alone or with the grand daughter. We are big fans of KOA's, when traveling with the grand daughter, because they have pools. The KOA app is pretty cool because you can book online in the morning once you decide where you want to go that day Just us then no not so much.

Things you might consider.
1) in general kids are not big fans of driving for hours
2) They look forward to getting out, swimming and playing, a Wal-Mart is not going to do it for them
3) We have a 24ft, we can get into pretty much any campsite, even if the place is 98% full we usually can fit in that last space or two.
4) from your profile you have a large rig, and will be towing, you will have a much harder time finding a place without reservations than we do. Especially in the summer and on a weekend
5) If you want to make your life miserable, picture it is 6pm, kids are cranky hungry and bored, you are in a strange area trying to find a place to stay that appears halfway safe, and every thing is booked. ( ask me how I know that)

For those reasons, primarily because your rig is so big, and that will greatly limit your wing it options, my thought is yes, you should plan and make reservations.

One last thought, all those places we hear about Yellowstone Glacier, they are cool and good, but the bad news is, it is you and 10 thousand of your best friends. Some of the greatest things we have done, are the smaller things that you find along the way, that you never hear about. So I think, it is a good idea, to allow time to explore along the way, Rather than drive like a Bat, just to get to some destination, that often times can be a bit disappointing.

* This post was edited 03/02/19 09:46am by winnietrey *

bikendan

Camano Island, Wash.

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Posted: 03/02/19 01:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I agree with Matt. East Coasters have no clue how big the West is, until they come out and drive through it.
I also agree on dropping the West Coast from the itinerary.
There are a lot of things out here that you have to drive around because there's no direct route.


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hotpepperkid

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Posted: 03/02/19 03:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

bikendan wrote:

I agree with Matt. East Coasters have no clue how big the West is, until they come out and drive through it.
I also agree on dropping the West Coast from the itinerary.
There are a lot of things out here that you have to drive around because there's no direct route.


Yeah like Texas it takes 3 days to drive across. On the East coast in 3 days you can drive across 8 different states. San Bernardino county in CA is larger than New Jersey, Connecitcuit, Delaware and Rhode Island combined


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MarkTwain

Northern, Ca. , USA

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Posted: 03/02/19 10:10pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

aftermath wrote:

Steve, it sounds like you will have a great trip. There is a lot to see where you are headed.

I have taken a number of long trips and here is what works for me. First of all "camping" means staying at a national park or something similar. We do use KOA and Good Sam facilities but I never call that camping. I consider these places to park along the way.

We typically drive around 300 miles a day give or take. We usually travel two to three days and stay put for two or three to see some sights and get some exercise. If we are going to a destination sort of place, like Glacier Park, we will reserve. Most of the rest of the time we call ahead while on the road to see if there is an opening and then reserve a spot that morning. If you are going to use commercial RV parks, finding a spot can be done. We once took a trip up into Canada and stayed at Jasper and Lake Louise both without reservations. They were full when we arrived but they do have overflow parking that worked for us. It wasn't the best but if you are willing to dry camp for a few days this could help relieve some stress.


KOA's in Calif. average about $50 per night! not cheap! In Astoria Oregon they wanted $75 per night[emoticon]

et2

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Posted: 03/03/19 11:12am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Don't let others discourage your time frame. This is about you and your capabilities and wishes. There would be many of us that would never see the things we wish if we weren't willing to step out of the envelope. We all aren't blessed with retirement or weeks and weeks of vacation.

You obviously have picked your destination, so the path between is just part of that process and the things missed in between aren't part of your plans anyway.

We took a trip from Michigan to Yellowstone years ago over two weeks. It was a 4 day trip there and back. The purpose was Yellowstone National Park and Mt. Rushmore. Saw both at a relaxed pace. It was absolutely the best vacation we've had.

We drove between 6 & 7 hours a day. Based on that we knew approximately where we would be on the map around the end of the daily driving time. Looked for campgrounds not far off the freeway to stay at (many apps for this). Never made a reservation or had a problem. You might extend or shorten a little your daily driving to make a campground.

Traveling across our great country was a really eye opening experience any not one regret. It was beautiful to see the changes in scenery. Seeing snow covered tops of mountains off in the distance and we were still were day away. Just watching them get bigger and bigger until you get there. There's no words or pictures to discribe their beauty.

Have a great trip

Big Katuna

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Posted: 03/03/19 12:08pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Michigan to Yellowstone in two weeks is a piece of cake compared to CT to west coast and back in three.

1500 miles vs 3000 miles from CT to Oregon.


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et2

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Posted: 03/03/19 12:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Big Katuna wrote:

Michigan to Yellowstone in two weeks is a piece of cake compared to CT to west coast and back in three.

1500 miles vs 3000 miles from CT to Oregon.


I believe the OP said CT to Montana Rockies , "possibly"west coast. It's actually 1749 miles from MI. to West Yellowstone. And from CT to Montana 2186 A difference of around 446 miles,or an additional day's drive. Within the OP's estimate. Maybe they're willing to push more than 7 hours a day?

The OP seems to be calculating correctly. Being they have 3 weeks. They seem to have wiggle room.

SpeakEasy

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Posted: 03/03/19 09:31pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It's kind of ironic that you posted this topic at this point in time. I've just about finished planning a 6-week trip that we'll be taking this spring. At the beginning of my planning I was telling Mrs. S that I didn't want to be tied down to reserved sites. I wanted the freedom to be able to move around as we liked, in response to the weather and whether or not we liked where we were.

Our destination is Florida.

The first thing I realized is that if we wanted to camp in the Keys (we did), then I either had to be prepared to pay top dollar at a resort or get lucky to pick up someone else's cancelled reservation at a state park. Well, we got lucky and landed reservations for 6 nights at Bahia Honda. This pinned us down to a six-day stay near the end of our six-week trip. The very next day we found ourselves with the opportunity to take a cancellation at Topsail Hill Preserve, in the panhandle, for six nights near the beginning of our trip. Both of these parks are so highly prized and so hard to get into that we went ahead and made the reservations. So now we were pinned down at the beginning and ending of our trip

Then, as time went on, we found a number of highly-desirable and inexpensive campgrounds in various areas throughout the state. Some were state parks, some were Corps of Engineers campgrounds, and some were Forest Service campgrounds. Each of them had plenty of sites available during the times when we'd be traveling. But, day by day I saw the number of available, reservable sites disappearing. Each time it got down to two or three sites left, I pulled the trigger and grabbed a reservation.

So now, I have reservations for about 22 of the 42 nights we'll be traveling. Each time, just before I made the reservation, I went through this argument with myself: freedom or peace of mind? Each time it came down to the fact that we really liked the specific place we wanted to stay, and we realized that if we didn't reserve it we weren't going to be able to stay there.

So - the lesson I think I've learned? If you have done the research to find highly desirable places to camp, and you really want to be able to stay in them - you probably need reservations.

Having said that, the 3-to-5 day drive down to FL and the 3-to-5 day drive back are totally non-reserved. We will be winging it all the way, both ways.

-Speak


It's just Mrs. SpeakEasy and me now (empty-nesters). But we can choose from among 7 grandchildren to drag along with us!



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Veebyes

Bermuda & Maryland Eastern Shore

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Posted: 03/04/19 03:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We will be on the go from mid April tp mid August. We have had to make more reservations this trip than any other prior however that only accounts for a few weekends where there is a special event going on nearby.

Sundays to Thursdays are wing it days.


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