We do a lot of detailed trip-planning. Every RV traveler is different, with different priorities, circumstances and goals. There’s no formula that works for everyone. By reading about the experiences of others, we can find the courage to forge our own path. Welcome to our chaotic journey of learning how to plan our RV travels.
Big Picture Priorities
The most important reasons for planning our RV travels are our three youngest kids in California, who we connect with at least three times each year (the eldest is now serving in the United States Coast Guard, based out of Boston). Our world and travels revolve around them, as they should. Big picture travel planning always starts with questions like, “When is Spring Break this year?” And then we chart a route to our Highland Spring Break location, making sure the timing and mileage work out.
The other factor that influences planning our RV travels is our tie to Austin, TX. We run a blog about the city and have a team of volunteer writers pounding the pavement while we’re away. We try to get back at least once a year to reconnect, and we’ve settled into a rhythm of returning for the holidays each year.
Managing Our Regular Travel Rhythm
Some of you already know this, but our regular rhythm is to travel a maximum of 250 miles every two weeks, typically moving every other Saturday morning. While this rate allows us to balance work and play, and stay sane, it makes it really difficult to see the farther reaches of the country.
Think about it. From Austin to Acadia National Park in Maine is 2,230 miles. If we left on January 1 and took the most direct route (not necessarily the route we would want to take), it would take 18 weeks to arrive. Then it would take another 18 weeks to get back, for a total of 36 weeks. And that doesn’t take into consideration all the others things in the northeast we would want to see, since we’d taken so much time to get there.
2016 marks our most ambitious attempt yet to get to a far corner of the country. Once our Grand Loop Trip 2016 is completed, it will have been the longest amount of time spent away from our home base in Austin. We left Austin on January 3 with some important schedule markers:
- Cancun from February 6-21 (via airplane).
- Spring Break in Bakersfield, CA from April 1-9.
- Boston, MA to celebrate our son Darius’ 19th birthday from May 4-8 (via airplane).
- Highland Family Summer Vacation 2016 in the Seattle, WA area from June 25-July 23
- Return to the Austin, TX area by Thanksgiving and stay at least through Christmas.
Probably a lot more structured than your RV travel planning, right? The good news is we’re covering a lot of ground and sticking to our two-week-250-mile limit in the process. Plus, we’re getting to visit a lot of places we’ve dreamed of seeing.
Evolving Quest to Find Balance
We didn’t always travel the way we do now. We used to travel every Saturday, and we didn’t necessarily stick to the 250-mile limit. That didn’t last long because we became exhausted. Since we work Monday through Friday, and Saturday was our travel day, Sunday was our only day to sight-see. Now, with two-week stays, we have a full weekend in between to relax and see what we want.
We also used to drive Meriwether to the kids three times a year. But that really didn’t work. Not only were we traveling over the same area repeatedly, but we couldn’t get anywhere new before it was time to start heading back to them again! That didn’t last long, either.
We ended up deciding to take Meriwether wherever we want to spend time with the kids, whether that’s Yellowstone National Park or Nashville, TN. Then we take Smaug, our Jeep, to pick up the kids once they’re out of school. We’ve had some long Jeep drives in the process. I especially remember the 665-mile drive to and from Gulfport, MS for Thanksgiving 2014. 665 miles to the kids. 665 miles back once we picked them up. And then we did the same thing in reverse one week later!
Still Learning How to Travel Fulltime
Even in our third year of fulltime RVing, there’s still more to learn and discern. Life is a journey, and one of the most difficult things can be combating FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It’s challenging for me to slow down, enjoying the present and believing I’ll get wherever I’m supposed to go–eventually. There’s just so much to see and do!
Mostly, we’re grateful. Though planning our RV travels takes some strategy, we love experiencing so many cross-sections of the United States with our family. And the reality is that the kids are growing up quickly, and we only have so many Highland Family Vacations left before they’re all adults.
Once this phase of life is over, we’ll enter the next one. And that new phase of life will come with its own challenges and lessons to learn. This way of life inherently involves instability. That instability has to be accepted, or fulltime RV travel becomes infeasible.
But if (and when) you can accept it, then the journey’s beauty can really shine. How blessed are we to get to do this?