5 Tips for Your Next Cross-Country Adventure

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April 23, 2012

By Tom Kaiser

There’s no better way to travel than in an RV. Each cross-country trip teaches new tips that enhance the next adventure. Here are a few such tips to make your next journey even more enjoyable.

1.     Keep an eye out for deals and plan your route accordingly

The web is a treasure trove of deals for bargain-savvy travelers. One such deal is in conjunction with U.S. National Parks. All national parks are offer fee-free admission during the designated days each year, and many of the parks also celebrate with special programs and events. Visit www.nps.gov/npweek for a listing of this year’s fee-free days.

Other sites, like LivingSocial and Groupon, can be very handy for finding cheap activities along your route. Passing through Chicago? Check online for deals available while you’re in that area. You may soon find yourself sipping wine on an architectural boat tour or visiting the Shedd Aquarium for a fraction of the normal price. Smaller cities are also jumping on the bandwagon, so check it out — you never know what you might find.

2.     Head mechanical problems off at the pass

Most serious mechanical problems make themselves known before things truly hit the fan. Before leaving — and at rest stops along the way — examine your vehicle and what you’re towing. Are the tires wearing correctly? Does it smell funny? Was this wire always hanging? A sweet, funky smell could be a developing coolant leak under hood. A stinky wheel could mean brake or bearing trouble.

While driving, pay close attention to any vibration, rattles, clunks or any other sights, sounds or feelings that are out of the ordinary. Obeying your senses may help you diagnose a problem with your vehicle or trailer before it results in a breakdown that costs valuable time and money. Also, be sure to check your tire pressure each morning, with additional visual inspections whenever you stop. Blowing a tire on a motorhome or with a trailer is a scary experience.

3.    Plan for rush hour, in the country

Motoring through the verdant countryside is so relaxing that the mind can wander. You spot a hawk soaring over a field and think back to a childhood memory or wonder what’s around that obscured bend in the river. Then a sudden flash of brake lights brings you back to reality, but it’s already too late: you’ve stumbled upon a backed up road. Just to make things worse, it’s rush hour, and you’re entering a city!

Once you’re there, you’re stuck, so plan accordingly to avoid major metropolitan areas during rush hour. Starting and stopping sucks down fuel — especially behind the wheel of a big rig — and it will stress your body and mind making it difficult to travel as many miles as you were planning for the day.

Modern GPS units can alert you to slow traffic ahead or reroute you to avoid cities. If you’ve unavoidably entered a city at rush hour, find a park or restaurant to wait out the evening/morning crush and get back on the road after traffic calms down.

4.    Take advantage of free overnight parking

You’re likely aware that you can park free overnight in many (but not all) Wal-Mart parking lots, but did you know you can also stay free overnight at Camping World and Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers? In addition to the great discounts your Good Sam membership qualifies you for at Camping World and Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers, they also offer free overnight parking at many locations in spots reserved for RVs. For the most up-to-date listing of Camping World SuperCenters that offer overnight parking as a service, check CampingWorld.com/Stores.

Of course you’ll want to enjoy the comforts of a great RV park most nights, but isn’t it good to know that many Camping World SuperCenters and the 500 Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers across the U.S. (plus more in Canada) offer free overnight parking when you need to stop for the night? Learn more about Pilot Flying J’s RV amenities.

5.     Be spontaneous

In seeking to avoid travel anxiety while on the road, “being spontaneous” can be code language for rolling with the punches. Weather changes, road closures, unexpected doctor visits and other things just happen and cannot be avoided. If a curve ball is thrown your way, try to take advantage of your newly modified circumstances.

While this can sound better in theory than in reality, remember that the mark of a good vacation is not how many things are crossed off your to-do list but rather the quality of your relaxation. Time spent worrying about changes or various “what ifs” is better spent laughing about the change and finding fun things to do in substitution of any planned activities you may have missed.

A wise traveler once said, “The good stuff is often forgotten; the best vacation memories come from the unplanned situations that happen along the way.”

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  1. Dede

    We are taking our RV cross country beginning in December, traveling from New Hampshire to California. We are interested in hearing about best routes during winter months and interested in any thoughts and advise people have to give. regarding campgrounds and free overnight spots along the way. We will spend the month of January in California but are interested in a fun spot along the way to spend Christmas.

  2. Alaskatraveler

    A Good Sam card will not get you discounts on gas. You must apply for the Pilot Good Sam RV Charge Card, OR a Pilot RV card. The RV card will not allow you to charge gas. Either card will get discounts on fuel and dump fees. The Good Sam RV Charge card will give bigger discounts depending on how long you have been a member of Good Sam Club. When I first tried my Pilot RV Plus card it would not work. The manager said that not all stations have updated their computers to accept it. That was a month ago, so I hope everyone is on board by now. The Charge Card must be applied for online. The RV card can be picked up at any Pilot/Flying J and used immediately.

  3. This free app http://we.rw/u2CM4 allows you to check in to business and claim a monetary reward then cash out via paypal. It is nice because you don’t have to buy anything and if you travel youll have lots of different check ins that allow you to claim big rewards and bonuses. Ive gotten about $100 in a month locally.

  4. We live in Spokane, WA. near the Idaho border. We purchase gas at the Flying J in Post Falls. We have shown our Good Sam Club card several times and the employees respond with “We don’t accept that here”. Calling a manager each time would not be worth the hassle so we just get our gas and leave. Pretty sad if you ask me. What can be done about this? We are going to be traveling beginning around August and hope we don’t run into this problem all of the time. Thank you! Bill and Carol Adams

    Good Sam says: Carol – we certainly apologize for this inconvenience. To check on the most up-to-date listings of Pilot Flying J locations that accept the Good Sam discount, click this link and search for a PFJ near you: http://www.goodsamclub.com/pfj/locations/. Note, you will need to log into your online Good Sam Club account first. Thanks for being a Good Sam member!

  5. We joined about three months ago and have still not received the Good Sam membership card. While out West this winter could not get Flying J Discout Gas even tho I showed them our membership number. They insisted on seeing the physical card. Please advise. Thank you.
    Terry Gordon

    Good Sam says: Leonard, we certainly apologize for the delay in receiving your membership card. Please email chehner@goodsamfamily along with your member number and we will check into this right away.

    In order to receive a discount at Pilot Flying J, you will need to apply for and use a Pilot Flying J RV Plus Card, which is a charge card that holds no revolving credit but is paid off each month. For more information, click this link: http://www.goodsamclub.com/pfj

    Thanks for your patience and for being a Good Sam member!

  6. MrOAK

    Depending on the area of the country Camping Worlds are few and far between. Plus I am sure that if they have a lot of service business then they could easily run out of space.

    Flying J and Pilot (same parent company) get a lot of Truck parking, I wonder if that would limit the availability to stay overnight with your RV.

    We live in MA and winter in the southern states. When we come back in the early spring a lot of campgrounds in the northeast are not open yet. This past spring we discovered that there are three state rest areas on interstate 84 in CT that appear to allow RV overnight stays. We stayed in one south of Hartford this year. It had a large area for RV’s (no trucks allowed). It was fairly level and reasonably quiet (some highway road noise). There was only one other Trailer there when we woke up in the morning. It was too early in the year for the dump site to be operating (I assume it was operational later in the spring/summer). This was a great option for the last stretch on the way home.


  7. T. Long

    Not all Camping World’s will let you spend the night. In Nov., 2011, we pulled into the CW at Statesville, NC as the employees were closing for the evening. They said that they did not allow overnight camping.That is just about the closest CW location to my residence 130 miles away. I wish they would be a little more accomodating.