Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our Trip of a Lifetime

Yellowstone National Park

My husband Bob and I love the National Parks, and have made a point of visiting these treasures during our travels. So far we have visited 25 of the 58 National Parks, as listed below:

Acadia National Park
Badlands National Park
Bryce Canyon
Carlsbad Caverns
*Crater Lake - Oregon
*Glacier - Montana
Grand Canyon
Grand Teton
Hawaii Volcanoes
Joshua Tree
*Kings Canyon
*Mount Rainier
*Petrified Forest
*Rocky Mountain
*Theodore Roosevelt
Wind Cave

We visited 11 of those parks (the ones with asterisks) in one trip!  In 2010 we took a fabulous trip that we designated the “Trip of a Lifetime” since we don’t think that we will ever get that ambitious again. We traveled 14,000 miles in five months , and not only got a good tour of those 11 National Parks, but also Custer State Park, the Cooley Dam and some other wonderful state and federal parks. We even traveled over to Vancouver Island in British Columbia Canada. Since Bob and I love wine, our trip had to include a tour of the California, Oregon and Washington wine country. We bought ourselves many wonderful bottles of wine, and then were presented with the problem of what to do with them when we entered Canada. We had no idea that you were not allowed to bring the wine over into Canada without paying a huge amount of taxes. We were in Olympic National Park before we took the ferry over to Canada, so we rented a small climate controlled self storage container in Port Angeles (the monthly rate was only $50.00). We would have had the wine shipped home, but we live in New Jersey and they do not allow wine to come into the state. On the way home we had the misfortune of breaking a trailer axle and got waylaid in Santa Fe New Mexico for nearly three weeks. We were going to stop in Santa Fe anyhow, but we got to know it much better that we expected to. If you are going to get stuck somewhere, it’s certainly not a bad place to hang out. We quite enjoyed it even though at this point we were anxious to get home. Outside of that the trip was one of the most memorable experiences that we will ever have.

Butchart Gardens, Victoria BC

San Francisco

Feeding the Donkeys Custer National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Mount Ranier in July

Hiking in Mount Ranier

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Sun Lake State Park Washington

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Oregon Coast

Redwood National Park

Crater Lake National Park

 Glacier National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Custer State Park, SD

Crater Lake

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley

Washington Winery

View from our campground in Victoria BC

Custer State Park

Victoria, BC

Mount Saint Helens
Golden Gate Bridge
Sequoia National Park

Rodney Strong Winery Senoma CA

Point Reyes National Seashore

Monday, July 11, 2011

Planning an Extended RV Trip

Although it  is very time consuming, I like to plan our trips out ahead of time and reserve all of our campsites.  We like the comfort of knowing that we have a place to stay every night, and it also prevents us from driving too long each day, which can be exhausting.  Below are the steps I take to plan our trips:

  • Use your computer as an aid.  We belong to the Good Sam Club, and I have used their Trailer Life Directory Campground Navigator software.  I like the software very much, because you can put in how many hours a day you want to travel, when you'll leave, what your speed will be, and you can see where you will be at the end of your driving day and what campgrounds are nearby.  Each campground is rated, and there are good descriptions of the facilities along with phone numbers and links to their web site if they have one.  This software has saved me hours when I'm planning a long trip.  It also gives you an estimate of how much you will spend on gas and campsites so that you know how much your total trip will cost.
  • Put your trip on a spreadsheet.  As I am planning our trips, I keep track of all of our reservations on an Excel spread sheet, keeping track of date of arrival, which campgrounds have taken a credit card deposit, how much the deposit is, and amount will have to be paid on arrival.  This helps us keep on budget during the trip.
  • Make use of your smartphone,  I enter all of our campgrounds on my online internet calendar so that I can access it through my phone as we are traveling.  I make sure to enter the telephone number and address of the campground into the calendar, so that I can access the information as we are driving.  This is really handy if you need to call to cancel your reservation or need to input the address into your navigational system.  I had very good luck with my smartphone during out last cross country trip.  I use a Palm Pre Plus, and have Verizon as my carrier.  I was able to access the internet almost everywhere we went except for the most remote places.
We often travel for 5 months, so planning such a trip can take many days.  However, I feel it is well worth the time, and that by doing so our trips have on the whole gone pretty smoothly.  I have had situations where I have had to cancel reservations and re-route (broke an axle in New Mexico while traveling home to New Jersey), but wasn't too much trouble.  To me it's worth the peace of mind knowing where I will be from night to night.

For more tips, read my Yahoo Contributor article How to Plan a Long RV Trip.