Planning That First Long Trip

This upcoming trip will last almost a month and cover over 5,000 miles. Previously, our longest trip was only one week and just a few hundred miles. This post covers how we tackled the planning for this much longer trip.

This trip in our teardrop begins along the U.S. southwestern border with the return back east along a bit more northern path.  It is a cool weather trip and the desire is to camp in areas with milder weather.

Planning Framework

  • Limit driving to approximately three to five hours a day.
  • Extend the trip all the way to California with camping in the path of our destination primarily near the southwestern border to minimize the impact of cold weather.
  • Travel a slightly more northern route on the return home to visit other states.
  • Stay overnight in as many states as possible.  We have a goal of camping in all the lower 48 states and we have a long way to go to reach that goal.
  • Travel early in the day to avoid driving at night and having to set up in the dark.
  • Campsites will be simple without the use of a lot of outdoor amenities as we will not be staying long in any single spot.  We purchased a smaller side tent for this trip as it is easier to use.
  • Cooking will be minimal as well, with most breakfasts at the campsites and a late lunch out in the local area.  We want to avoid chain restaurants and experience some of the better cuisine in each area.   Very small snacks such as fruit or popcorn will be our dinner.  We hope to lose a little weight on the trip or at least not gain any.
  • Visit a couple of special areas that are off the path:  Moab,  Utah and Alabama Hills, California.  I was blown away by photos posted by some campers of those spots and we determined it was worth driving extra miles to visit.  If it later becomes too much, we can omit one or both of these stops.
  • Expect to do laundry and buy groceries.  This means that packing will not have to include many more clothes than packed on previous trips and food initially packed will be breakfast and snacking options.

Determining the Stops

Once we had a framework, defining the stops on the trip was just finding places on the map that offered good camping options within the miles we would travel in a day.  We wanted to stay near towns and cities with a priority to those we have never seen or have wanted to visit.


One big question:  to reserve or not to reserve?   We have read about campers who just find overnight places as they go along.  This is appealing because on a long trip with many stops,  you may want to stay more or less time than you would plan.  I also worried that if everything is reserved and something happens to your plans, it could be quite costly.  Additionally, reservations would remove that stay longer or leave early option.   Ultimately, we did a hybrid.  We reserved the first few sites close to our departure date because we were fairly certain of how long we would be at those stops.  After those few stops, we are winging it!

A  written document details all our planned stops.  As time permitted, I would work on a new location.  This included researching camping options, restaurants, and activities in the area.  I also put our stops on a map.  This has helped to make this trip come alive for us before we left.  I think it has also helped to make us more prepared.

Additional Considerations

  • Mail: Our neighbor normally gets our mail when we travel, but we did not want to ask for such a long trip.  The Postal Service will put a hold on your mail and we are using this option.
  • Medications:  We had to do some advance filling of prescriptions to ensure an adequate supply over several weeks.
  • Indoor plants:  We have requested a family member to assist with this task.
  • Avoid Water Issues:  Turn off hot and cold water to washing machine while away to avoid leaking hoses.  This recommendation was from a member of a Facebook camping group.
  • Bill Paying:  Extra concern has be taken to ensure that critical bills do not go unpaid while we are not be seeing our mail.  We paid up as many bills as we could prior to leaving and set a few reminders to ensure that those expected to be issued while we were gone were handled.
  • Set travel notices:  Notified bank and credit company when and where we will be traveling.
  • Tow Vehicle and Camper Maintenance:  Oil changes, tire rotation, and replacement wiper blades were part of our preparation.  Also, overall safety checks of both camper and vehicle.
  • Supplemental Heating:  As this is a cold weather trip with many unknowns, we needed more than our usual electric blanket option.  We purchased a small ceramic heater for our travels.
  • Clothing for Various Weather:  Typical expected weather is highs in 60s and lows in the 30s.  However, warmer days and cooler nights may occur.  Layered clothing , plus coats, hats, and gloves are part of our preparations.

A lot of planning has gone into this trip.   Let’s hope that it helps it to go smoother.  We will post our adventures and assess how well this plan works.  We are excited, but just a teeny bit apprehensive as we have only been camping about eighteen months and this is very new territory for us.

Fingers crossed!


9 thoughts on “Planning That First Long Trip”

  1. We did a similar 15 state; 14 nat’l Park trip fall 2016 following more central route. A hairdryer worked well for quick taking off the chill but also have ceramic heater. A Dash go electric egg boiler/poacher was our favorite appliance – available on-line. Healthy, fast, easy & save us some money. Have a wonderful time!

  2. Awesome trip…another possible thing to consider if you haven’t is…turn hot n cold water off to washing machine… stories abound of those pesky rubber lines leaking/bursting when you least expect it….just a thought

  3. Looks like a blast! Have so much fun! My wife and I are doing two weeks on the Washington and Oregon coasts this June, so maybe we’ll have some road trip notes to compare!

    Tom and Liz Patterson

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