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  1. Default suggestions for a long USA trip

    Hi all, my name is Randall and I am a newbie. In June 2016 my Bride and our Teen Daughter are taking a year off to see the country. We will be in a 36 foot 5th wheel pulled by a Ram 3500 dually. We want to do things affordably so we will use state parks and national parks and forests as much as we can. Sometimes we will not use electricity or hook ups, most of the time we will. There is a lot to learn.

    The biggest thing is didn't want to be rushed so that’s why I thought we would give ourselves the whole year. I would like to see as many National parks and natural wonders as possible and so forth. We will be leaving NC in mid June as school ends. I figured I would go up in the direction of NY first then over towards Yellowstone and end up in the Northwest in the fall. I need to avoid snow so that may mean early fall. I thought I should go down California south so as winter approaches it will be getting warmer temperature wise. Maybe then I am in the southwest as it gets cold elsewhere and down towards the gulf coast in the winter. I would love to see the cranes in Nebraska in March but that’s not near Florida.

    I will need to know what kind of membership is best. Someone said Good Sam is great, but I get all kinds of pop ups that all sound great. I need a GPS that will not let me accidently go down a cat path road with a 9 foot bridge. Someone said there is one that trucker’s use that might be good, even though they are over 200 it might be money well spent.

    I think I should get where I'm going by interstate then pull into a Wal-Mart. Drop the trailer, then go check out the campground with just the truck, maybe? I would just assume not drive more than 4 hours at a time and arrive in new paces in daylight.

    I will write down every nice thing anybody offers to make my trip a good one. I have a year to get ready so any help is appreciated. I'm sure I can figure it out the hard way but even a suggested on which highway route where I would have less fear of narrow roads would be great. I love very scenic in a Prius but if I am pulling a big rig, the very scenic may be a little scary. Maybe I do the very scenic on day trips after I have dropped the 5th wheel at the campground.

    Thanks in advance

    Randall
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 03-14-2015 at 03:42 PM. Reason: added some white space

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default A very exciting year ahead!

    Randall,

    Welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum! I moved your thread into this forum -- because the scope of the trip will exceed the summer months.
    I think I should get where I'm going by interstate then pull into a Wal-Mart. Drop the trailer, then go check out the campground with just the truck, maybe? . -
    That would be a bad idea. You'd probably lose the trailer. Wal-Mart is generally receptive to having RVers park overnight -- or for a while during the day -- but the polite thing to do is to always purchase something AND ALWAYS confirm with the management that parking is OK. If you drop your trailer on private property -- there is very good chance that it will be towed or impounded -- no matter how long you leave it.

    Just about every campground guide provides information about the size of rigs that a given campground can handle. There is no reason to leave the trailer while you check out a campground. They are all designed to accommodate easy turn-arounds for you.

    There are dozens of affinity programs that enable you to get discounted RV parking spaces -- I was just working on our RV page that provides those listings. The new page is not loaded yet -- but we've always liked Half-Price Camping and we've always carried a Good Sam membership card for their discounts.

    You will probably hit snow no matter where you next year -- Snow and ice were notoriously bad in Texas and New Mexico this year -- as recently as three weeks ago. But it rarely causes too much of delay.

    More to come later.

    Enjoy the planning!

    Mark

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Things are not always what they seem.

    Before siging up to a program for discount camping consider carefully what you are doing. I recall well, driving into a campground which was a member of Good Sam. I was told it was twenty nine dollars something (a few years ago). When I mentioned I was a member of Good Sam, I was told if I want the discount, they would have to charge me $37.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA! I'm a former 5W owner, and hopefully can answer a few of your queries.

    We want to do things affordably so we will use state parks and national parks and forests as much as we can. Sometimes we will not use electricity or hook ups, most of the time we will. There is a lot to learn.
    Some state and national park campgrounds will have hookups. Others will not. Some will be able to accommodate your trailer's length, but others are older places that will not. You will find all that information in a Woodall's RV park guide, which I definitely would be purchasing. Good Sam owns Woodall's. I've never had the issue that Lifey had, where the Good Sam discount would actually cost me more money, but there are bad apples in every bunch. There are also BLM sites which may or may not have actually camping spots, most will not have hookups or a shower building, but they are also either free or nearly so. There are a LOT of these in the Yuma, AZ, area, and many "snowbirds" hunker down here.

    I think I should get where I'm going by interstate then pull into a Wal-Mart. Drop the trailer, then go check out the campground with just the truck, maybe? I would just assume not drive more than 4 hours at a time and arrive in new paces in daylight.
    Wal-Mart is good for a pinch, IF they will let you stay in their lot. Any more, many of them won't. You would need to first check out the lot and see if there are any signs about overnight stays, and if no signs are evident, you should find the store manager and ask. Then make sure that you buy something in the store. But under no circumstances should you disconnect your truck from your trailer in their parking lot (or Target's, Home Depot's, Lowe's, or any other big box store). That's asking to be towed -- and a great expense!

    If you need to pull into a campground and look around before renting a site, it's perfectly acceptable. If you don't like what you see, you just move on.

    I love very scenic in a Prius but if I am pulling a big rig, the very scenic may be a little scary. Maybe I do the very scenic on day trips after I have dropped the 5th wheel at the campground.
    We towed for many years and rarely had issues with the roads. We always had real maps with us (not a GPS) and relied on those for guidance. My dad had the experience you are concerned about: a GPS attempted to send him down a dirt road, he was towing, he came to a locked gate and had to figure out how to turn around. Never again did he rely on that GPS. Instead of issues with roads, we did have an issue with a Canadian "rest area" one time. We pulled in, towing our 5W, but it was not your typical American-interstate type rest area. There was no way out except to back out, which my husband did (with me in the back, guiding him). He had to back out onto the shoulder of the highway. After that, we were careful about going into Canadian "rest areas"!

    So....get a good atlas. They make a trucker's atlas -- the pages are laminated, the maps are fairly large, it's very durable, and the roads that longer rigs can take are highlighted. Rand McNally makes this one. You can probably get it at your local bookstore, but if not, Amazon carries it (why not, they carry everything else including the kitchen sink!).


    Donna

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default More resources

    We've published a bunch of articles about tips for enhancing the RV lifestyle. Although some of these articles are more than a couple of years old -- the information is, for the most part, still accurate today. Here is one about Discount & membership Camping clubs, (I've not checked the links yet to make sure they are all still current).

    You might find a quick browse of the RV Lifestyle department helpful as you begin this quest. Jaimie and Alice's columns are helpful too. (Alice passed on a couple of years ago).

    From that list (above) this one would be a good one to refresh with... Boondocking info And an oldie but goodie about finding RV camping spots...

    I lived on the road, in a custom-built 4-WD RV, for 6.5 years when RTA was just a brand new site....

    Mark

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default The RTA support crew !

    As previously mentioned, if a site can accomodate your rig then the roads in and out of it have to as well. You could then use the site as a base for a few days if you want to go off sight seeing.

    RV sites that big are limited in number in National parks and very popular so you could have to look outside if you dont want to book in advance. The closest can also get busy of course] If you want to book some main sites along the way such as Yellowstone, which I would highly recommend doing, then you need to do it as soon as the booking windows open to secure a spot.

    It would appear that you are visiting a number of National parks. If so, purchase the annual pass for $80 at the first park you visit, the more you visit the better value it is. [Entry can be up to $25 per park]

    For where we don't want to book in advance, I usually search the Internet and see what suitable RV parks/campgrounds are available [Site size, cost, reviews, location etc] and make a note of the top 3 or 4 and jot down the phone numbers. You then have the option of ringing around a day or 2 in advance from the road, or even a few hours which helps save on wasting time and getting into tight spots. We have never got into memberships as it can make you want to use sites that perhaps are not the best or most convenient. If we can't get into a NP campground we usually find nice quiet private owned/family run places are friendly and unique in their own way.

    We actually do the opposite and ignore the Interstates as much as possible so as not to miss small communities, picnic areas next to a small lake etc where you can stop and put the kettle on etc. Sure it's slower, but we have stumbled across some great things, the little things that make your adventure extra special. If we are on a bendy two laner and have traffic behind we simply use the first suitable pull out and let them go by which is often rewarded with a toot of the horn and friendly wave. It's actually a requirement in some places.

    Using paper maps is an absolute must and use electronics as the back up, not the other way around. Of course you can check in here as you travel with updates and ask for advice and suggestions for 'what next', what roads etc, look at us as the RTA support crew on the road!!

    Keep digging around the RTA site and you will find most of what you are looking for, anything you are not sure of keep asking.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    As far as memberships are concerned, which I forgot to respond to:

    Good Sam is probably your best "deal". It will get you discounts at many parks who choose to affiliate themselves with Good Sam.

    KOA's have a membership program, but unless you plan to use them a lot, it may not pay to buy the membership.

    Other memberships that I am aware of are Thousand Trails, Outdoor World, and Coast-to-Coast. These are very expensive unless you pick up a resale someplace, and even then, you may never break even. My parents had a Coast-to-Coast membership that they used for 10+ years and never truly got their moneys worth out of it. It cost them a set amount to buy it, then they had to pay fees every year in order to use it. When they had to stop RV'ing, they were faced with the choice of paying on it every year, trying to sell it, or giving it away. (I think they ended up giving it away.) The sad thing about those memberships is that they are sold with the idea that you'll get to camp in their member campgrounds for $5 per night, or something similar to that. But then you run into problems like they're full, or they only allot so-many-sites per night at that rate, or the place has closed or given up its association with the membership club. My parents were constantly running into the "we're full" problem when they were on the road.

    One membership that you should definitely consider, though, is some sort of RV road assistance plan. If your insurance company doesn't offer it (and some do), look into either AAA RV Plus, or Camping World/Good Sam ERS. I'd really look at the fine print of both AAA RV Plus or the CW/GS plan, to make sure that if you have a problem with your tow vehicle, they'll make sure your trailer goes too. With CW/GS years back, that was a given. However, with our AAA at the time, they were willing to leave your trailer on the side of the road while they towed your truck into a repair shop. That's why we were CW/GS ERS plan members when we owned a 5W.


    Donna

  8. Default

    Thank you. I am writing everything down.

  9. Default

    Thank you. I am writing everything down.

  10. Default

    I wanted to just say to everyone thanks for being so kind. Some of my ideas were not good and people were letting me know to help me learn. I feel getting involved in this forum is going to become an extended family.

    Randall

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