The Roadtrippers website and mobile app is our favorite way to find places to see and things to do. You just tell it where you’re going in general and it will show you all the attractions, outdoor recreation, and other interesting places nearby. Could we have found these with other types of research? Sure. But nothing makes them as accessible as Roadtrippers. For example, Palo Duro Canyon and the outdoor musical theatre have been on our mental list for years, but it was the fact that Roadtrippers made it so easily visible along our route that brought it to our attention. We click it for more detail and find out the phone number to call for tickets.
Here are just a few of the places we visited because we saw them on Roadtrippers
What Roatrippers pointed out
What we saw because of Roadtrippers
We discovered Stafford because of Roadtrippers, but we got to stay the night because of HarvestHosts.com
Everyone can view all the episodes for free. Just click on the play button above.
A great benefit of membership is access to the extensive show-notes Chris writes up every week. Read them online and follow links directly to the parts you’re interested in. We recommend you print them out and keep them in a notebook. It’s a great way to learn.
A guest post by Pamela Johnson, the developer of RVNotepad. I asked Pam if she would contribute this article because RVNotepad looks like a great tool for travelers and who knows it better than she who designed it! Thanks Pam!
Planning your trip is both fun and frustrating. I love dreaming of beautiful landscapes and fascinating history. But travel planning requires gathering information from a thousand different places, making choices on what to do and what to skip, and then finally, calculating miles, dates and costs. There are a lot of tools to help you with this challenge, but there were always a few missing pieces. This was obviously The Case of the Missing App!
Travel planning is fun!
Huge thanks to Jim and Chris at “Geeks on Tour” for the opportunity to contribute to their blog with this article!
Once you decide on a general path, you can use google maps or your Garmin to carve out a turn by turn driving tour.
So how do we do this?
Four years ago, when Bill and I started travelling full-time, my first job as a techie was to explore the available tools, both paper and digital, and design our travel planning process.
For us, planning breaks down into 5 steps:
Keep notes on the early research. Travel planning starts early and lasts forever. I browse blogs, watch travel shows, and look at local “visit” web sites. It’s the kind of “work” that makes quiet evenings more interesting. Dreaming about the future.
Define a rough loop. Because we travel full time, we tend to plan large, long paths. This fall we will run from Pennsylvania to Northern California before it snows, traveling across the top half of the country.
Find the big rocks. Productivity gurus claim that if you choose the really important things first, the smaller and less important things will fit in around them, like putting big rocks in a glass and filling it with sand. This is where I start looking through my notes for the important things to see and do along the way.
Choose stopping points. In order to do this, I need to estimate mileage between the Big Rocks, decide if I want to break up the drive with quick over-nights or longer stops.
Finalize plans with campgrounds and reservations. Of course whether or not you even make reservations is a topic for another blog!
The missing app
So here’s where the problems started.
I found lots of apps and websites to give me trip ideas (step 1)
I could plot a general path with Google maps and other routing tools, but could not see where my favorite stops and campgrounds were relative to the route. (step 2)
As I choose how long to stay at each location, I could not tell what delays in one stop would do to the rest of my schedule. Was I going to get to the niece’s house by Thanksgiving if we spend an extra week in Tennessee? I tried using a spreadsheet and some date formulas, but it got pretty complicated.
Over all, the existing apps really didn’t provide an overall soup-to-nuts process. I needed a place to gather all my research and then map out a plan.
So what does a computer programmer do when she discovers a missing app? She writes it!
We started full-timing in 2012. It took about 6 months for my frustration with travel planning to become a decision. I needed to build an app. And if I needed it, perhaps others did also.
My idea was to keep all of our travel info, including trip planning, in one place. So RVNotepad includes journaling, photo management, expense tracking, vehicle maintenance scheduling, fuel tracking and, of course, trip planning.
This means that if I enter a campground or activity while I am planning, it is still in the app when I journal about where I went and attach a campground to the day. Enter it once, all in one place.
So now my planning process looks like this
Windows Version of Trip Planner
On quiet evenings, I read the blogs, web sites, or watch the travel and history shows and record ideas under “Attractions” in RVNotepad. I record at least the name, city and state so the location will show up on the map. Entering street address will make the map more accurate. Copy and paste it from the website if you don’t like to type.
Then I sketch out the “Big Rocks” and let the planner calculate the distances between them. Note that these are “by-air” distances, so the more entries you make, the more accurate this will be.
My next concern is driving distances that are too long for one day; I like 250 to 300 miles. So I insert stops between the big ones until it feels “just right”. Show the map occasionally so you can see the basic route.
Finally, I choose campgrounds and add them to the plan. Again, copy and paste as desired. If you enter the campground price, the tool will calculate camping costs. Sometimes I cannot find a good place to park, so I need to back up to step 3 and choose another town to stop at.
Looks like we are going backwards between Alpine and Tucson!
Check the route on the map to make sure you aren’t backtracking and going in circles! Glance at the cost calculator for an estimate of fuel and camping costs. If everything works, your travel planning is complete, until you change your mind of course!
For a more detailed tour of the trip planner in action, check out our YouTube video.
RVNotepad is now available online for tablets and phones, or in the original Windows version
Our first version of RVNotepad was written just for Windows, no internet connection required. But we had so many people request access to it by phones and devices that we decided to build a web version, available to any device as long as you have an internet connection.
RVNotepad Online went live in June 2016. The trip planner is a little snug on a phone, but I love it on the tablets. Some features are not yet available in the Online version, but they are being added quickly.
Our next Version of RVNotepad for Windows will allow you to sync between laptop and the web. So you can keep your local data for use in a bad Wi-Fi zone, but have access to lists of campgrounds, attractions, journals, etc. when you are walking down the street with your phone.
Again, a great big thanks to Geeks on Tour for the opportunity to share this new App with you. Jim and Chris are always looking out for fun tools to share. They are my first place to check for gadgets and apps that make the travel life easier.
The latest system we are checking out is Furkot.com. It is a free website . There is no mobile app, but the mobile website works fine on either iPhone or Android. Furkot is not specific to RVs. It is generally for cars and motorcycles who need to book motels/hotels along the way. But campgrounds are in there as well and it is based on Google Maps so all the data in Google is available.
Yes, you need an Internet connection to plan your trip, but then it can be available offline for reference.
Planning a Trip with Furkot
It works a lot like Streets & Trips – that’s a good thing since we were so accustomed to S&T:
Start a Trip by entering your beginning and your end destination. One additional feature that I haven’t seen in any other system is a checkbox to make it a “Round Trip.”
Furkot automatically enters tentative night stops based on your settings for when you start and stop your day and how far you want to go. When you enter your own stops, the tentative ones will disappear. I LOVE this feature for showing us exactly where we need to be looking for our overnight stops.
Dates: a feature that was always sorely missing in S&T was any kind of calendaring. With Furkot, it not only shows the date you will arrive/leave any give stop – you can also point to any place along your route and see what time of day you’ll be there! Here is what the “Plan” drawer looks like. Notice the Days and dates for each stop. And, if you change the start date, or the number of nights at any stop – the dates recalculate for every other stop. There is even a feature to “Lock” a date. So, for example, if you need to arrive in time to attend a wedding, you can lock that stop’s date and it will not let you recalculate other items in a way that gets you there late!
Navigating a Trip that was Planned with Furkot
Furkot is not a navigation system, it is a planning system. That makes a lot of sense to me. I see them as very different things. We use a Rand McNally RVND7720 to navigate with the RV. It is always on the dashboard, and it has only one job to do. Each day as we set off on the road, we’ll look at our plan and enter just today’s destination into the Rand McNally. Then, we trust it to avoid low bridges, and propane restricted tunnels etc. We also use Google Maps on our phones. With Furkot, I can see our plan on the phone, tap on one destination and tap on Navigate. That takes me to Google Maps and it starts navigating to that destination. Good enough for me!
If you are the type of traveler that wants your entire route imported from your plan to your dashboard GPS, they’ve got you covered!
We’ll try it out
We leave for a 3 month journey at the end of the week. We will use Furkot and write more about it in future articles, and on our Facebook Page. Let us know if you give it a try by using the comments below. If you’re looking for a trip-planning system, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Furkot. They have an extensive help system that explains everything you need to know.
Ever since the demise of Streets and Trips, we’ve been looking for a replacement to plan our annual travel route. I really like Roadtrippers, it is a free website – Roadtrippers.com – with companion Apps for both Android and Apple. I used to like the fact that S&T was on my computer and did not need an Internet connection. Roadtrippers does need an Internet connection, but it is surprisingly fast, and the advantages outweigh the negatives for me. It’s real claim to fame is the suggestions for things to do and points of interest which I wrote about in a previous article.
You can plan your entire trip on the computer, and you’ll have it all with you on your phone or tablet while traveling. It does not offer voice-directed, turn by turn navigation, but it does show your planned route and it shows your current location along that route, silent navigation if you will. Another advantage is that you can share your plan with a simple link. This way your family can know where you’re supposed to be and your friends may be able to meet up with you or offer suggestions of sights along the way.
An extra nice touch, is the ability to write some notes, and add a calendar date to stops along the way. It doesn’t actually calculate the arrival date, just gives you a calendar to enter it yourself.
We spend a fair amount of time using our computers for planning our travels and are always on the lookout for tools that will help the process. The latest one that has caught our attention is RVTripWizard.com. It is completely web-based. There is nothing to download to your computer. You must have an Internet connection, and then you can use any device with a web-browser. I’ve tried it on our Nexus 7 tablet and on our iPad. It works, but it’s a lot easier on the computer, just like most websites.
Notice, in the image below, that the maps come from Google Maps, so we already know how to navigate around that part of the screen. It even includes the Street View ‘Peg Man.’ Also notice the yellow highlighting I added to the left side of the screenshot. That area contains the details on each stop along the way – what has me so excited is that the stop list includes the date that you will arrive. This is not a feature that everyone cares about, but we sure do. Our travels revolve around being at rallies on specific dates and we have yet to find any other trip planning software that includes this logical information!
Features we like:
Campgrounds show up as icons on your map – you don’t have to search. As you zoom in to an area, more icons appear. If you have entered your preferences into the program, then your preferred campgrounds will appear with their custom logo. So, you will see at a glance if there is a park in your membership system near your route. Here is a sampling of the preferences you can specify:
You can create, and save, as many trips as you like. They will stay online as part of your account for as long as you have an account. This makes it easy to look up a past trip and see where you stayed. You can even write notes about the campground, the site, the local area – whatever you want.
In addition to the dates (our favorite feature!) the program calculates miles and costs for each segment based on your settings. You can also manually enter costs, so this can be an accurate report of your expenditures for any given trip.
Printing: It’s so nice to have an overview of your trip to pin to a bulletin board, or tape to the refrigerator. RV Trip Wizard prints out a nice map and listing of all your stops with the miles, number of nights, and DATES! It does not include turn by turn directions. That’s fine by me – I just want the one page overview. We’ll still be using GPS Navigation to get there.
Saving: the system saves your work after each thing you do. There is no need to save – it’s already done. Which is a good thing because if you leave the RV Trip Wizard screen idle for a while, it times out and goes back to a blank map. No problem, just open your existing – saved- trip.
Features that Needs Improvement
GPS – this is not a GPS navigation program. It is a trip planning program. That’s OK, it’s a really nice planning tool and we have plenty of other navigation tools. My request is that it integrate completely with Google Maps. I’d like to see this same set of marked points on My Maps in Google. So, let me enter my Google account username and password and find a way to take the marked stops from RV Trip Wizard and save them as a map in My places. That would be AWESOME – since My Maps is also on my Android smartphone and tablet. See last month’s article: Google Maps from the Web to your Smartphone. RV Trip Wizard has a form for suggestions – I think I’ll fill it out with that one! They do have a ‘Send to GPS’ button where you can download a .csv file of all your stops and import that into Garmin devices using the POI Loader.
Saving to your computer – I’m not sure if there is a way to do this but I don’t see any. This is strictly web-based, I see no way to archive your trips to your computer for any kind of future reference. I assume whenever you cancel your membership, then your trips will disappear. March, 2014 update: I now see there is a feature for “Print to Excel.” This solves my issue perfectly. The resulting Excel file keeps all my trip data, destination, arrival date, departure, travel miles, cost, and latitude/longitude of the planned stops.
We’ll keep putting RV Trip Wizard thru it’s paces and get back to you in a couple months with what we’ve learned.
RV Trip Wizard costs $37/year. They give you a 2 week Free Trial before any fees are charged. For more info see the RVTripWizard users Guide. If you try it, let us know what you think in the comments below.