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.”