Finally we make it to the last part of the planning series. Who would’ve thought I could write so much? In this post I wanted to wrap everything together by summarizing ALL the links & resources we typically use in our planning process (and why we like them).

1/ Maps, Maps, Maps

I love, love, love our Benchmark maps!

I love, love, love our Benchmark maps!

There’s nothing like real paper maps for good planning. It’s just outright fun to settle down with your favorite beverage and pour over interesting spots and potential routes for the future. Plus you can use them even if you don’t have a {{gasp}} internet connection. We have 2 basic maps that are the core for all our planning:

2/ Planning Software

Considering how many travelers are on the road there are very few really good software options out there. I tend to use Google Maps for most of my stuff (it’s easy, it’s accurate plus it’s free!), but there’s one software I still like:

  • Microsoft Streets and Trips -> If you’re a PC user this is one of the better programs out there. As well as the ability to plan & plot detailed maps/routes one of the big draws is that you can download a free “Mega POI” (Points of Interest) file that will give you every Walmart, every truck stop, every low-bridge, every Trader Joe’s, every public campground, every…well everything you might ever want! Once you have that baby downloaded all these spots just automatically appear on your map. Another big bonus is that you can make you *own* set of POI’s. Say, you get a good tip from a friend, or read a blog post about a place you’d like to visit -> pin it on your map and it’ll all be right there anytime you need it (way better than paper notes). The software does not show public land boundaries and it’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a nice solution for those wanting a good off-line PC-based option.

3/ Mountain Driving & Gas Stops

The Mountain Directory is great for those high passes

A couple of extra books we like to have handy:

  • Mountain Directory – The Mountain Directory West is a handy book for checking out mountain roads before you bring “the beast” on them. We always use it as a reference before we drive in the mountains. There is also a Mountain Directory East. For particularly “iffy” roads I will check out Google Earth/Satellite & ask on the RV forums too.
  • Gas Exits - We’ve used the Next EXIT for years and it comes in handy whenever we’re on the road looking for the next truck stop to fill up. It also lists truck washes, shopping, medical and other interesting things, but we use it primarily for gas stops.

4/ Finding Public Campgrounds

There’s a few good resources out there for finding campgrounds. When we first started out I used books (like Trailer Life), but we quickly discovered those kinds of spots were not for us. These days I *much* prefer the online websites & apps.

  • uscampgrounds.info - My absolute #1 favorite go-to site for public campgrounds since it shows ALL sites (COE, NFS, State Park, NP, BLM etc.) in one spot. They have the iPad app as well FREE downloadable POI info which you can import into Microsoft Street & Trips. Use it all the time.
  • ultimatecampgrounds.com – This is another public campground resource very similar to uscampgrounds.info. It’s very comprehensive, but doesn’t have an iPad app or free downloadable POI list (pay only). Still many RVers love it.

The above links are always our starting point. If we find a campground that looks interesting and want to delve into further detail we then go to the following:

  • Army Corps of Engineers – This link  is the best on-line listing. If you prefer book-form there’s Camping With the Corps of Engineers.
  • National Forest – US Forest Service and forestcamping.com are the two best references. The first is the “official” forest website. The second is compiled by 2 full-time RVers who do all the research themselves.
  • State Parks – Most states have their own website (e.g. For FL, there’s  floridastateparks.org), so just search on the State you’re visiting
  • Bureau Of Land Management – Although very hard to navigate, the BLM website does list public campgrounds. For example this link shows all the campsites in California.

5/ Finding Boondocking Spots

Google satellite is a key way to find boondocking sites. This view near Prescott AZ shows several previously used sites.

Google satellite is a key way to find boondocking sites. This view near Prescott AZ shows several clearly previously used sites.

This is not nearly as clear-cut as #4. Many of the “best” boondocking sites are hidden and require word of mouth, a visit to the ranger office and/or some investigative work on Google Satellite and on the ground. Still, here’s a few tips:

6/ Finding “Freebies”

I consider these overnight spots rather than real boondocking spots. They’re basically places like Walmart or Casino’s or such that you would stop for the night on a long trip, but not camp at. I’ve collected all my resources for this in this post: Free Overnight RV Parking = Finding “Freebies”

7/ Campground Reviews

Once I find campgrounds that look interesting, I will almost always try and check out campground reivews to see if I can gather info before I go. Here are my resources for that:

  • rvparkreviews.com  – This is my #1 go-to site for reviews. It’s horrible to navigate, but has the most active reviews.
  • rvparking.com - This is a newer site with excellent layout, but is not yet as active as rvparkreviews. Still, it’s growing and has the advantage of also having a mobile iPhone app.
  • campsitephoto.com – Again, a rather new site and still growing. However it’s the *only* place I know that gives shots of every single campsite for the public campgrounds that are on there. I use this extensively for summer bookings.

8/ Apps, Apps, Apps

A very useful website & app

A very useful website & app

In addition to the wonderful uscampgrounds.info app there are a few other apps which we really like for travel planning:

  • Coverage? - Excellent iPad/iPhone app that shows whether you’ll have cellphone coverage (data/voice) in the area you expect to travel. $2.99
  • WeatherBug - The best weather app out there for checking current conditions. I love the live satellite map & alerts function. We use this before driving, while driving and while camping. Android or iPad/iPhone. Free
  • GasBuddyShows you all the gas stations in the area as well as current prices! If you’re diligent in using this app it can save you mucho $$ along the way. Android or iPad/iPhone. Free
  • SanidumpsThe best website & app for finding your nearest dump station. Android or iPad/iPhone. Free
  • CampWhere - This is the iPad/iPhone app version of uscampgrounds.info which we use all the time. $4.99
  • AllStays - Although we’re partial to the CampWhere app many people rave, rave, rave about AllStays since it also covers private parks, walmarts, truck stops and other cool spots. This is a standard favorite for many RVers and you can’t go wrong with it. Android or iPad/iPhone. $9.99
  • Yelp – When on the road, it’s our go-to site for finding a place to cool and tasty place to eat. Android or iPad/iPhone. Free

And that about wraps it up for me. Feel free to add any good links or resources that you use which I might have missed. It’s always fun to share!

P.S. A few more Amazon links in this post. If you love ‘em, feel free to use ‘em and we’ll get a few cents in gas. Share the love, baby :)

69 Responses to Planning RV Travels Part III – Maps, Resources & Links

  1. Rick says:

    Besides being a fun website, you also have treated your readers and wannabe travelers with an excellent resource. Thanks for taking the time for encouraging and entertaining us.

  2. chuck martin says:

    Great info, people like you make it easy for people like me. I’m hoping in 4 years we will be able to get out there with y’all. Thanks Chuck

  3. Mark Gehring says:

    Campwhere seems to longer exist in the Apple App Store . We are one of those who rave about Allstays. We tried Weather bug a long time ago, but got a lot of “off” forecasts in the PDX area, so we just use the national weather service. Just grabbed Sanidumps, thanks !

    • libertatemamo says:

      Argh! Campwhere is no longer there….noooooo! What a total bummer. Thanks for letting me know.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says:

      Ok. Just got an official answer on this from the owner of UScampgrounds.info. The Campwhere app is temporarily out of the Apple store while they are transferring ownership from son to dad. It will be *back* in the store within the next few weeks. So, all is not lost. I guess those who are interested in the app just need to wait it out a bit.

      Nina

  4. Adam Lewiston says:

    I haven’t used weather apps as much since the Allstays app added a weather button a few months back. It seems to check the national weather service nearest weather station to the camp coordinates. A bit closer to the real location than a town weather station.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Lots of folks love the AllStays App. We haven’t (yet) forked out the $9.99 to buy it, but I think we’re very close to doing so.
      Nina

  5. Never even crossed our minds to purchase a Benchmark Map. Four years and still learning. Thanks for the great recommendation.

    Love the Next Exit book. Now that we have a “smart” phone, we use the app all the time. Also, check out GasBuddy app. Wonderful!

    Do you allow uscampgrounds.info to use your current location? I have always said deny. Not sure if it is secure or a tracking software.

    Another wonderful post, Nina. Thanks for the new ideas.

    • libertatemamo says:

      The Next Exit has an app?? Now why did I not know this?! I am definitely adding that to my list. THANK YOU!!

      For the uscampgrounds.info app I can’t recall if I’ve accepted current location. Probably I have? I don’t “think” it’s a tracking software, but you never know of course.

      Nina

  6. placestheygo says:

    Excellent information, Nina! I am sure all travelers will find something they can use. When we return west next spring, we need to purchase some Benchmark Maps for the dirt roads and trails.

    Another valuable site for John is Google Street view in Maps. He drives part of most side roads we will be taking. It gives you the actual view of the road you will be traveling. It has saved us from missing parks many times because we have exact landmarks that we have seen and know what we are looking for. We are surprised by how many people have never driven the road they will take before heading out. The Google car has driven ever where!! We also use it to see if there are bike lanes/trails along roads. Just thought I would share!

    • libertatemamo says:

      You’ll love those Benchmark Maps especially with all the rock-climbing/off-roading you do.

      We’ve used Google Satellite view a lot, but never tried the street view. I’m going to check that out! Cheers for the idea!

      Nina

    • We were driving Glacier Point Road in Yosemite last summer and the Google street-view car passed us going the opposite direction. We checked when we got back home, and there we were. Pretty cool!

  7. lynne says:

    Great information, Nina! We are already using it to plan our trip to the Bay area.
    Enjoyed meeting both of you yesterday….the lighthouse history was fascinating!

  8. You are becoming a valuable resource! Who knew their was a science to RVing :)
    Box Canyon Mark

  9. Grace says:

    Thanks Nina! A definiate bookmark for gathering our information sources together. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this information!
    Grace (in Tucson)

  10. Can’t thank you enough for taking the time and effort to post this valuable information. Especially for us that will be starting our full time lives soon. I really have fretted about how to do this and you have belayed my fears considerably. I enjoy reading your blog and have gained a ton of knowledge along with viewing all the incredible places you have been to and that we can aspire to see soon. Thank you again. Curt

    • libertatemamo says:

      You’ll become an expert at planning in no time. The first couple of trips can seem overwhelming, but once you’ve done it a few times you’ll find your groove. Happy travels to you!
      Nina

  11. Chris says:

    Here’s another excellent source of public campgrounds: http://www.ultimatecampgrounds.com/uc/index.php

    Chris H

  12. Chris says:

    Whoops! I see you posted ultimatecampgrounds already.

    Chris H

  13. Sheila says:

    Nina, I think you can become a ~ RV Travel Planner~ !

    People can submit their travel wish list to you, you can design their trip and receive a fee!

    Howard and I have used your database of knowledge in the past and I have no doubt we will be using it in the future!

    Excellent grouping of post!! Thanks so much for all you do!

    • libertatemamo says:

      LOL…I don’t think I have the time to plan all those trips hehe. Glad my little database is helpful. It’s fun to share all these things.

      Nina

  14. Jan says:

    Thank you for sharing this wealth of knowledge!!

    Happy trails!

  15. Allen says:

    Your posts have good structure, great content and they are a pleasure to read. I have become obsessed with the desire to be a fulltime RVer. I am working my plan to be on the road in June 2014. We plan to be making our own adventures guided by your shared knowledge. I hope I can continue to follow you because I just enjoy reading your words.
    What does liberatemamo mean?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well here’s hoping your fulltime dreams come true!
      Libertatemamo is kind of a play on latin meaning lovers of liberty (freedom lovers if you will). It’s all about freedom baby :)
      Nina

  16. flyfishnevada says:

    Fantastic posts. Good job and a big thanks! I enjoyed reading the series a lot. Bookmarked for suture reference (well, you blogs already bookmarked ;) )

    • libertatemamo says:

      Glad you liked it. Looks like we *might* be coming back down the 395 this fall so may have to stop by and say “hi” to you. Maybe even learn some fly fishing?
      Nina

      • flyfishnevada says:

        We’d be glad to have you. You’ll love Smith Valley and the back way to Bridgeport. We’ve got five acres so if you want a free spot to park…;)

  17. RJRVtravels says:

    Thanks Nina. Great job with this series!! I have shared it to several of my social networking sites.

    BTW – I also use Camp Finder https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camp-finder/id441171392?mt=8 and We Camp Here https://itunes.apple.com/app/we-camp-here-campground-search/id502385529?mt=8. I also check out CampSitePhotos to see if they have photos of the campground and site we are interested in. http://www.campsitephotos.com/

    Oh and finally… We use your site and campground reviews – the best anywhere!!

    Thanks again,

    Rick

  18. Dan says:

    Hi Nina, thanks for the great list of maps and other resources. We use the Next Exit, and Walmart Rand McNally atlas which shows all the Walmart address and locations to help us plan our road trips to and from the NW. That atlas is handy because we can use the address to feed our GPS if wee need to overnight in one of the Walmarts on our way. Thanks again, for all your great tips!

  19. David Alton says:

    I like your trip planning software suggestions. I have found an interesting feature in Google Earth. On the top left select Get Directions, then enter the start and stop locations then select get directions, once the route is shown on the map right click on it and select show elevation profile. This will bring up a new window showing the profile for your route as you move the mouse along the profile a red arrow will point to the matching location on the route.

  20. LuAnn says:

    You are such an amazing resource for the RVing community. Thanks so much Nina. :)

  21. The BEST RV Fulltiming resource ever is just right here! Thank you.

  22. Robert Nuttmann says:

    One of the nice extra features in Allstays AP is that it lists steep road grades similar to the mountain driving books. I have both, but the information is similar. Also, with Allstays you can filter to where just public campgrounds show up. I have the Campwhere AP for Ipad too, but use Allstays more.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Nice little tip. I think we may have to go buy that App. It’s been recommended so many times to me I had to include it in the post. Now, it’s time I go try it out!
      Nina

  23. Bruce R says:

    Thank you so much for all the links. This is very useful information…considering we just became full-timers about a week ago.

  24. cozybegonec says:

    You shared some wonderful links…I’ll always go to your blog to help find spots to go. In the stage of planning this Fall and Winter. What a wealth of direction I can find here. I like the bicycling layer on the Google maps too…like to know if a bike trail passes along a destination.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Happy to be a resource. It was time-consuming, but fun to gather together all my links in one place.
      Didn’t know about the bicycle layer on Google Maps…how cool is that??!! I will definitely add that to our arsenal too.
      Nina

  25. SO nice to have all of these resources in one place, thank you so much for putting this together.
    Brenda

  26. Sneha Khale says:

    Hi Nina, your article is amazing!! Especially the level of attention and the cataloging effort you’ve put in :) It’s like a treasure trove for RV travelers..quite cool.

    For the planning software, try out mygola (http://www.mygola.com/). Call it an app or a tool; it’s extremely handy and a great place to chart out your daily trip. You can also add co-travelers to your trip plan, share your trip on Facebook and Twitter to get comments and advice from friends etc. And you can carry this itinerary with you while you’re traveling, to get recommendations on-the-fly at your destination.

    I thought you might want to check out mygola and give it a spin.
    Sneha.

    P.S.: I work at mygola as community manager..but I would use it even if I wasn’t working there :P

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the tip. Thanks also for letting us know your affiliation to the product (I always appreciate that).
      Nina

  27. Suzanne says:

    This is such a great, resourceful post, as is your entire blog! I have bookmarked the sources for info, as they will help me a lot in plotting my own course. I am a lighthouse nut, so I love following your blog and reading about your hosting experiences. Thanks again for always sharing your experiences!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cool! We’re admitted lighthouse nuts too. I simply love learning about their history and stories. Plus they’re just so pretty to photograph!
      Nina

  28. helloroad says:

    I have been doing a Trip Journal (www.mytripjournal.com/helloroad) for a few years and I realize how much work and effort you are putting into this blog. It is a real pleasure to read and I am picking up many great tips. Many of which are new. . Sure glad Bandit and I came aboard. Have a great week Rick & Bandit

    • libertatemamo says:

      Just checked out your journal. You’ve definitely been around!! All the way to Alaska too (we’ve not yet done that, but it’s on our “list”). Happy to have you along for our ride too.
      Nina

  29. Steve says:

    Great information. How do you handle mail? Do you use a service?
    Steve

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yes, we use Alternative Resources in SD. That is also our domicile and where we pay our taxes and have our drivers license. Whenever we need mail forwarded we just tell them and they send it to us. Most private parks accept mail, or we have it sent General Delivery to a nearby post office and go pick it up.
      Nina

  30. Kevin Keiter says:

    Loved this very helpful post! I wish we had it seven months ago when we departed FL for a year of touring the country… I’m a big Allstays app fan myself but thought I would also put in kudos to Urbanspoon for finding great restaurants in whatever town you find yourself in. I have also started using the YP (Yellowpages) app for finding diesel gas prices and where to find it. Campsitephotos.com is fantastic as you said. Thanks again for sharing your tools and tips!

  31. gohomer123 says:

    We boondock frequently and use solar panels to primarily charge our house batteries and we have found the Sun Surveyor Lite App (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ratana.sunsurveyorlite&hl=en) to be really helpful. I can’t tell you the number of times we would find a great boondocking site and completely set up and then realize our vehicle and solar panels are not sufficiently oriented to collect all those free solar rays! Since we have started using this app, we now find we get more amp hours into the batteries each day since we are oriented optimally for the path of the sun. Thanks for your great blog…we have found it really useful in our travels.

    • libertatemamo says:

      What a cool little app! When boondocking we usually just orient our RV facing east-west (panels tilted south…especially important during winter), but this app sounds like more fun :)
      Nina

  32. RVwanderer says:

    Thanks, Nina. Appreciate the info – we met you volunteering at Bullards Beach in Bandon, friends of Grant & Kathy.. Have a question for you – and perhaps others with whom you have camped have mastered this. We pull a 5th wheel and have a standard chest freezer, not on propane. We have a good generator, so no issues there, but the concern is, how much generator running time is needed to keep materials frozen? Do most boondocking sites allow generator use anytime? Thanks for your thoughts.

    • libertatemamo says:

      How much generator time you need depends entirely on how many amps the freezer uses and how many amp hours you have in your batteries. I wouldn’t be able to tell you for sure, but I would guess that running the generator twice/day for a few hours each time would probably do it. Really just depends on the draw. I’d advise getting some kind of battery monitor or Kill-O-Watt meter so you can track how much usage the freezer really draws.

      Most “true” boondocking sites (i.e. really out in the boonies) have no generator limits. Campgrounds with dry-camping will usually have fixed generator hours.

      Nina

  33. […] Planning RV Travels Part III – Maps, Resources & Links […]

  34. […] Planning RV Travels Part III – Maps, Resources & Links […]

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