When we first started this adventure, we were encouraged to throw caution to the wind and not make reservations – just drive as far as we wanted to and find a place to settle for the night. We found that RV trip planning is much less stressful for us.

Unfortunately (and fortunately), the RV lifestyle has EXPLODED making RV trip planning essential. While you may be able to grab a campsite for the night here or there, you’ll often miss the “must see” places like beautiful state parks if you don’t plan ahead because those bad boys book out 8 months in advance.

Additionally, we both work full time so we have some requirements that just make life easier for us during the work week – good cell reception, nearby commerce, and laundry. Sewer is also a nice to have, but not totally necessary.

In this article, we’ll look at the first stage of building your RV trip planning.

Stage 1: Rough Cut

When editing a video, the rough cut is when you just throw all the footage into the timeline and see what you’ve got. You start making some edits to put together a rough storyline and you get an idea of how the video will shape up.

It’s kind of the same with RV trip planning.

Here’s what I do to make my “rough cut”.

1. Decide where you’d like to go

I add cities to RV Trip Wizard, our preferred trip planning tool, to start getting a preliminary route. These could be places you want to go for the activities and experience, or places that have people you want to see!

2. Decide when you’d like to get to your end destination

For us, we don’t like to be cold. Correction – *I* don’t like to be cold. So by Nov-Dec-Jan, we’ll need to be somewhere in the south to beat the freezing temps in the northern and middle states. In this example, I would “Lock Trip Stop” on RV Life Trip Wizard.

3. Decide how long you can stay in each place

RV trip planning is like a word problem from math class. If you know Points A, B, C, D, and E that you’d like to go – and you know when you’d like to get to Point E, then how long do you get to spend in Points B, C, and D – and when do you need to leave Point A?

With RV Life Trip Wizard, it makes it easy to tell how many days you have to get from Point A to Point E. In our example, this would be how many days we have to get from Washington DC to Orlando, FL.

4. Decide how many stops to make

One cool feature about RV Life Trip Wizard is that it does the hard math for you. In our settings, we told RV Life Trip Wizard that we like to travel 5 hours or less on travel days and we drive 55 MPH on average.

From there, we asked it to show an Advanced Driving Radius. What this does is draw a green circle from your starting point (or whatever stop you choose – you can change your center starting point by hovering over it’s red circle and clicking the thing that looks like a bullseye) and it visually shows you how far you can drive in one day based on your travel preferences.

As you can see, it looks like Washington DC to New York, NY would fit within our preferred 5-hour travel day because it’s within the perimeter of the green circle.

It looks like our next stop, Boston, is also within our 5-hour travel day radius starting from New York, NY. Great!

Repeat this for each stop along your route.

What happens when your next destination isn’t within the 5-hour radius? You’ll have to pick a stopping (or 4) along the way. It’s up to you whether you want to make them 1-day layovers or if you want to make the most of your route.

As you can see, driving from Pittsburg, PA to Orlando FL is going to be far outside our preferred daily driving distance. On the left side, you see it’ll be 17 hours and 41 mins between the 2 locations. We’ll need to pick some stops in between.

Visually, I can see that Charlotte, NC and Charleston, SC are along this route. We can add them to our trip as stops along the way.

Charlotte is outside of our green-outlined daily driving distance. How much outside? Look to the left and you’ll see, it’s 8 hours, 8 mins to get from Pittsburgh to Charlotte. Still too far.

So next we’d pick a stop just inside the green perimeter on the map and add that to our route, just like I did when adding Charlotte and Charleston.

At this point, we’re getting a rough idea of where we’ll be and for how long.

In Part 2, we’ll take a look at narrowing down our specific destinations based on the things that are important to us as a working couple who rely on strong internet and also prefer being close to commerce with full hookups.

The reason I mention these items specifically is because if you don’t need internet, are set up to boondock for a week or 2 at a time, and prefer to be out in nature away from humans – it’s a totally different route planning journey.

If you don’t already have RV Life Trip Wizard – go grab it. It’s the easiest money you’ll ever spend, especially if you’re a full-timer. Use this link for 25% off your first year.