A thorough plan takes time, but it can be as exciting as the trip itself. We start planning as much as three months ahead by selecting the region of the country and the cities we want to visit. We find Google Maps to be very helpful in calculating travel distances and selecting routes. Regardless of whether your preference is for campgrounds, motels, or even bed and breakfast inns, you should make confirmed reservations. RV travel has suddenly become very popular for all age groups, and RV parks everywhere can be difficult to book on short notice. Once you’re on the road, your plans may change, and you may have to adjust accordingly, but having a confirmed reservation is comforting. Reviews on Trip Advisor served as our guide for reservations. There are also some excellent apps for planning RV travel and locating fuel stops.
Two tips might prove useful: (1) Travel after school starts, usually around the middle of August when the crowds are reduced significantly and; (2) organize everything into a loose leaf notebook according to the cities you plan to visit. We keep a tab for each stop that includes a hard copy of each reservation confirmation as well as magazine and newspaper articles about things to do in the area. Add a couple of sheets of loose leaf notebook paper to each tab for notes. It helps when submitting reviews on Trip Advisor for good (and bad) service for future travelers.
Don’t Overdo It
On our first trip, we had so much energy and excitement flowing through us that we wanted to do it all. We were in Kure Beach, NC and had made two sightseeing trips two days in a row. Also, we were having a hard time passing up all of the enticing places to eat and drink. At that point, we realized that doing it all was impossible. We were near exhaustion and still had four weeks to go. Out of that weariness, two principal guidelines for extended road travel were born. First, we would limit ourselves to no more than one major sightseeing excursion and one dining experience per day. We broke with this principle rarely. Second, we planned one or two “down days” where we suspended travel activities. Doing so provided the opportunity to stretch the legs, catch up on email, wash clothes, make trip notes and even pay bills. Both guidelines kept us fresh and energized. Having an RV with cooking facilities helps greatly with resisting the temptation to dine out and a refrigerator provides a place to store “doggie bag” leftovers.
Don’t Fret Over Wardrobe
We discovered on about the second week that no one knows that you wore the same outfit last week. I found that I needed a good rain jacket, three pair of cargo pants (great for cell phone, receipts, maps, etc.), comfortable shoes and some golf shirts. I packed one nice, dress pants and shirt combo on our first trip, but never used it. Helen’s advice is much the same—comfy shoes and comfy clothes— and make that suitcase as light as possible.
Senior Discounts are Plentiful
Travel can be expensive, so we did a little research and found that businesses love giving discounts to Senior Citizens. With a little digging, I came up with almost three pages of discounts on food, lodging, and services that are there for the taking. Sometimes a cashier will give it without being asked (gray hair helps), but most of the time you have to ask, so don’t be bashful. It pays off. RV owners have the Good Sam Club that offers many discounts on a variety of goods and services as well. The best discount of all is the National Park Senior Pass that permits the pass holder to bring three adults into a National Park for free for a lifetime. The pass is available to anyone over 62 for a one-time fee of ten dollars (soon to be $80 – get it now). Purchase a pass at a National Park or online and carry it when you travel. We rarely drive past a National Park when traveling. Be sure and get a National Park Passport also. Collecting the stamps for each park is a lot of fun.
Roads Less Traveled
America is a place of staggering beauty. Without a doubt, the best way to see it is by traveling the roads that take you through the small towns and villages that make our country so unique. Our road trips took us to New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C, but those can be busy and expensive places. Finding parking can sometimes be a challenge. Some of our most memorable experiences, however, were in towns like Beaufort, NC, Solomon’s Island, MD, Grey Eagle, MN, or Bayfield, WI. There is much to learn and do in small town America so stop, visit a Farmer’s Market, browse through the shops (we love antique shops and flea markets), taste the wonderful food of the region or walk through a park and introduce yourself to someone. If you’re fortunate, you may find a local festival underway where you can get a feel for the culture like the one we found one last summer in International Falls, MN.
There are a lot of wide-open spaces out there just waiting to for you, and you’ve earned the opportunity to explore it all. We sincerely hope we have given a little help and insight to those of you with plans for extended travel in your “Golden Years.” We especially hope that the first road trip is successful and leads to much more, maybe even in an RV. So, slow down and put away that smartphone, take the first exit off the interstate, and hit the road less traveled. We’re only beginning our journey, but we’re happily Easin’ Along…hopefully we’ll see you along the way.