I know, we just got through the end of year holiday season. And hopefully, we all survived New Years and everyone’s 2022 is off to a good start. Mine has been kind of slow, which has been good. I’ve been reading a lot and napping. Until Monday afternoon, when I realized it’s less than 6 months till July 4 weekend. Which matters a lot to full-timers. Why? Read on…
Most state and national campgrounds let you reserve sites up to six months ahead. There are three weekends when this fact really matters: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. If you’re doing the math right now, you’ve just had the same realization that hit me today: It’s already way less than 6 months till Memorial Day and people have already started booking for July 4th weekend. Me, I hadn’t done either. Yet.
It Starts With Ideas
In December, I had done some playing around with routes and destinations that would take me back east for the first time in a few years and then down south by Election Day (because Election Day!). But, I hadn’t done anything more than “8 weeks, 1500 miles” for a Route 66 kind of thing from Arizona to Chicago. I had come up with some guiding principles for 2022, though:
- Less miles per drive, rather than more. Think under 200 miles a day.
- Stay longer in each place. Give myself time to explore places.
- Figure out how to spend time in NY and MA to see friends.
- Get to Gainesville by the end of October.
After the end of March, my lone reservation for 2022 is late October, deep in the South. That gave me a lot of options for April through October. The complication is that I’m competing for holiday weekend spots with all those new RV campers who took to the road the last few years (thanks, pandemic). It was clearly past time to commit to something, even if I changed my mind later, so that I would have places to land on Memorial Day and Fourth of July. Let’s get to work, then.
The Big Picture
What does that kind of big-picture planning look like? For me, it starts with a google map that provides a general “point A to point B” route. Here’s where I started with the planning:
Slicing and Dicing
Now it was time to figure out a rough route by miles driven, and see if I could find the sweet spot of decent daily mileage, stopping in places I want to explore, and – most importantly – finding campsites for the holiday weekends. From Show Low (a random starting point that is standing in for where I might be in April, which is somewhere in eastern Arizona) to Albuquerque, for example, is about 250 miles and from there to Amarillo is almost 300 miles. So now I know I need to have at least 1 stop between Show Low and ABQ, and at least one stop between ABQ and Amarillo.
I don’t need to pick the stops right now, I just need to rough out the timeline, something like this:
Show Low to Amarillo to Chicago
- Stop 1 = 2 nights
- ABQ = 5 nights
- Stop 2 = 2 nights or 1 night here and 1 night between here and Amarillo
- Amarillo = 5 nights
Let’s say I start off in mid-April, so this means I’ll be in Amarillo around the end of April. I have to keep going to figure out where I might be in another month, when Memorial Day weekend rolls around. From Amarillo, Texas to Chicago, Illinois is about 1,000 miles, or about 7-10 stops. I start picking towns along Route 66, building a more detailed route and timeline: 5 days in Amarillo and Oklahoma City because I’ve never been to either place, and a few days in little towns along the way. It becomes clear that I’ll be somewhere between eastern Oklahoma and western Missouri for Memorial Day weekend.
Now I can look at campgrounds. My first stop for a “never been there” area is Allstays.com, well worth the membership fee to have access to its cool features. I pull up all the public campgrounds around Springfield, Missouri and am pretty happy to see a lot of US Army Corps of Engineers sites because those are super-cheap for over-62 US citizens with a National Parks Senior pass.
My joy is short-lived, though, as I quickly find every campsite in the northwest corner of that image is already booked solid for Memorial Day weekend. Oops. Who knew the Ozarks are such a popular vacation destination? I dive down south of Springfield towards the Missouri/Arkansas line to see what’s going on there and find a few campgrounds that look promising. Branson, Missouri might be a fun enough place to spend some time while I’m nearby, so I do my homework and find a campground in this genearl area and then a campsite that works for me and lock it in. Whew. One weekend down, one to go.
Figuring out July Fourth
To see how far to go between Memorial Day and July 4th, I needed to work backwards from my late October reservation to Chicago. I want to visit friends in the Hudson Valley, the Boston area, and Cape Cod. I also don’t want to drive even close to NYC. A rough cut of a possible route clocks in at about 2000 miles of driving, so I start the slicing and dicing again, sticking in stops with friends (longer stays) and transit stops (1-2 nights just to get farther down the road).
I ballpark myself back to Falmouth for Labor Day weekend (first weekend in September), hoping I can driveway surf at a friend’s house. This holiday weekend is more than six months out, so it’s not like I could reserve a campsite anyways. Working backwards with a rough timeline from Falmouth to Worcester to the Hudson Valley means that by early to mid July I want to be in New York State (NYS). Ah, the July Fourth weekend options are coming into focus. I might make it to NYS by July 4th but it would be less driving to find somewhere near Cleveland, which is what I decide to do. Hey, maybe I’ll get to Cuyahoga Valley National Park this time through Ohio. There are a few state parks that still have availability so I pick one and purchase my spot.
Done and Dusted
And just like that, I have my holiday weekends set up. Okay, it wasn’t quick or easy-peasy. It took me about three hours of web surfing, a dozen open browser tabs, and a ton of notes scribbled on paper to get it done. Websites I used included google maps, allstays.com, reservation sites for national parks and for Missouri, Ohio, and New York State campgrounds, and campendium.com (campsite reviews) and campsitephotos.com (hoping to see what a campsite really looks like). And I was lucky that my ATT hotspotting gave me enough bandwidth to get things done.
Side Note: I’m not actually going all the way to Chicago in my Alto. I have a few “reverse bucket lists” in my head. Places I Never Want to Drive My Trailer is one of those lists, and right at the top of that list is both NYC and Chicago.
Hey, want to know more about how to plan RV trips? Check out my Trip Planning page.
Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.