Ready to plan your dream RV trip, but not sure where to find places to stay? Wondering if you can safely fit under overpasses on a scenic byway? Navigating a safe RV route is a bit more involved than a typical car road trip, but there are plenty of apps to help you along the way.
Tips when planning your RV route
If you’re new to RVing, driving a large rig can be a bit intimidating. You’ll need to keep a few things in mind as you’re planning your trip.
6 steps to planning a successful RV road trip
Know the height and length of your rig
Pay attention to height and length restrictions on roads, especially when you’re driving through towns and cities. Things like low bridges, narrow tunnels, and low hanging power lines can all spell disaster for tall RVs. Similarly, roads with switchbacks and sharp turns may not be able to accommodate long rigs, so keep an eye out for posted length restrictions. Even gas stations have overhangs that you might not clear when fueling up. You can avoid these by measuring your RV and using an RV-specific GPS app that allows you to enter your rig’s measurements to find a safe route.
When determining your height clearance, make sure to include your A/C unit, solar panels, WiFi antennas, and any other objects on your RV roof. Remember to write down those measurements and keep them handy in your rig, so you can reference them at a moment’s notice—many RVers use a sticky note on the dash.
Steep road grades are difficult
Steep grades can also cause trouble for RVs. You’ll be going much slower up the grades than in a car and coming down can be difficult when you’re towing extra weight. It can be stressful driving, so many RVers prefer to find routes that avoid steep road grades. An RV GPS app can help you find alternative routes.
Remember the mileage difference
It will take you longer to get to your destination in an RV than it does in a car. You’ll typically be going slower, your gas mileage won’t be as good, and you’ll be stopping to refuel more often. If you’ve plugged your route into your favorite map app, a good tip is to assume the time to your destination will take 20 to 25 percent longer in an RV. Or, use an RV-specific GPS to get a better idea of just how long the drive will take.
Plan out overnight stops
RVers have options when looking for an overnight stop on the way to a destination. Some businesses—like Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, and Walmart—will usually let you park overnight in their parking lots. However, be sure to always check with the specific location to make sure this is allowed. Not all locations allow overnight parking.
How to find a safe place to park your RV or van for the night
There are plenty of resources that can help you find overnight stays, whether you’re looking to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, in campgrounds and RV parks, or in a business parking lot.
Roadtrippers RV GPS
RV-friendly navigation is now included with your Roadtrippers Plus subscription. You can map out routes based on your RV’s height, propane restrictions, and more—so you can find the safest roads for all of your extraordinary RV adventures. It even calculates an estimated cost for fuel.
Other apps and resources for RV trip planning
Campendium lists a wide range of overnight camping spots, from RV parks to free dispersed camping sites. You can search on both the website and app to see photos and reviews from campers who have stayed in each location. It lists what (if any) amenities are available at each site and what cell phone coverage is like, a useful feature for those working on the road.
AllStays is a robust resource for planning an RV trip. It shows you RV-friendly Walmart locations, RV service stations, and low-clearance bridges along your route. It also displays restaurants, accommodations, points of interest, and rest areas. AllStays Pro costs $34.95 annually or you can download one of the apps, like Camp & RV, with a one-time purchase (prices range from free to $9.99, depending on the app).
Want to park overnight at a winery, brewery, or farm? Harvest Hosts is a membership site that lets self-contained RVs park overnight at unique locations across the U.S. A basic Harvest Hosts subscription costs $99 per year and allows you to stay overnight for free at more than 1,700 locations. Sites typically offer dry camping and members are encouraged to purchase something from the host to thank them for their hospitality. You can also purchase an upgraded golf membership for $139 a year, which includes parking at golf courses and country clubs.
Ultimate US Public Campgrounds
Want to know about public campgrounds where you’re headed? This is the app for you. It also provides information about the number of RV sites, electric hookups, showers, and more. Since public campgrounds tend to be less expensive than private campgrounds (or sometimes even free), it’s a useful app for those trying to stay on a budget. Of the more than 41,000 public campgrounds in the database, half cost $10 or less. The price to download the app is $3.99.
How to plan a safe RV route
For quick stops, look for truck parking at gas stations, rest stops, and travel plazas to make sure you have enough room to maneuver. For overnight stays, use one of the apps listed above to find places to park.
The best RV navigation app is one where you can enter your RV’s dimensions and it will show you a safe route to take to your destination. A Roadtrippers Plus membership includes RV-specific GPS, plus more.
Make sure you use an RV map app and don’t rely on GPS directions for cars. With Roadtrippers Plus, you can enter your rig’s dimensions and whether you have propane on board, then get turn-by-turn navigation for your RV.
There are many places where you can sleep in your RV overnight, including RV parks and campgrounds, free camping on BLM land, and in certain business parking lots. Check out any of the apps above to find the best places to park your RV overnight.
Using RV maps, GPS apps, and overnight parking apps will take the stress out of planning your epic vacation. And while these apps are great, you should always have a backup plan. The Rand McNally Road Atlas is the gold standard—and the one your parents probably had tucked under the front seat. State road maps can be found at most gas stations and truck stops.
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