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“Looks like we might have to change our plan for the whole year.”
-Matt to Tabitha
Let’s not kid ourselves, the impact of Coronavirus goes beyond today, this week, or even this month. People all over are going to be living, working, schooling, shopping, etc differently for some time, starting from just last week.
I could write about some of that stuff (and perhaps I will) but I wanted to write about changing directions (as an RVer) in a much more “where should we go” big picture, sort of way. I think it is a pertinent topic as in the past we have had questions from people asking how we plan where we will go. If they are asking specifics, I rarely have an answer for them as we prefer to fly by the seat of our pants, but I usually have a general answer.
So that’s what this post is about, picking a new general direction to RV for the rest of 2020.
If you had asked me 3 weeks ago what my plan was for 2020, I could have told you the general plan. But, unless the Coronavirus fallout is over and done with in a couple weeks (doubtful), then I probably need to change my 2020 plan.
What was my 2020 plan.
First, I’ll mention how I got to 2020. Last year our plan had a few specific times and locations where we needed to be places, and then some general locations. We were going to Alabama in March, Illinois in April, make it up to Prince Edward Island when it’s summer, then land in Florida for the winter.
Truth be told, I never actually thought we’d winter in Florida. Even when I’d tell people we would. I thought I’d welch on it and that we’d wind up in Texas, Arizona or California. But we went and it was great.
Our 2020 plan was heavily influenced by our 2019 plan. Start the year in Florida, then get to Alabama again for March, then (because we loved it so much) do the summer in Canada. Though there was still one wrench I had to figure out regarding border crossing, we planned to enter Canada via Niagara Falls. We would see Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, then make our way over to PEI and Nova Scotia for round two to the 2019 round one.
We LOVED it in PEI. The whole maritime provinces were so much better than we expected and when we were planning we took a family vote and every one of us thought we should go back.
Then Coronavirus happened.
Soooo, now we are bagging Canada. It’s very much got us bummed out, but we don’t think (when thinking cognitively instead of emotionally) it’s a great idea to plan to leave the country at a time like this. As for right now as I’m writing this, there are border restrictions that would prevent us from crossing the border anyway – but even if they lift, it’s not something that we are probably going to try in 2020. This change means we won’t be seeing friends that we had already told we’d go visit. The closest we could get now is to stand on opposite sides of Niagara Falls and wave.
I say again that we are very bummed out by this as we already had grown very excited.
“So, now what?”
-Tabitha to Me
How do I plan my new 2020?
Well, this is where the answer to questions about how we plan come into play. Here’s what we have done and what we are doing right now.
Let’s Get Physical …. maps
What we do is we look at the map of North America …. Or at least the US and Canada. I far prefer to use a physical map than a screen based one for this step. I keep a screen close by as I also pull up a temperature map to compare.
Maps.Darksky.Net doesn’t go out too far into the future. But being color coded (and even despite my being colorblind), I still think it’s a good resource. It helps me see regional temperature trends.
Then, in my head, I section the map into regions (and looking at color trends on darksky helps with this). I’m not going to list off all the regions I notice on the map as sometime I look at the map and I get more general or more specific with my regions. But, just to give a quick and dirty sample, I might think “great lakes”, “north east”, “pacific north west”.
Think about Temperature
Then – I think about temperatures. I don’t want to be somewhere where if we leave for the day without the AC on, we come back and the greenhouse effect has turned the RV into an oven. No thank you! Also, conversely, I don’t want to deal with anything 32 degrees or lower as I have enough things to worry about to have to think about preventing pipes from freezing.
So, ideally we are chasing 70 degree weather.
Correlate With Any Events or Life Long Dreams
When we went to PEI, it was to visit my ancestral homeland and it had been on my list for years. I didn’t want to start RVing, plan to go there at an ambiguous “someday” because what if life changed and that day never came. GOOD THING HUH! If we had waited for 2020 to go to PEI, we’d be waiting till 2021. I’m a firm believer in doing what you want to do when the timing works. Don’t put it off.
So, if your big goal is to go to Alaska … then go there sooner than later because the option to do so later might not be guaranteed. If Alaska was at the top of my list, I would go camp, right now, on the Montana border waiting for the moment that the border opens. I would then make a mad dash to Alaska, see everything in an accelerated fashion, then book it back through maple land to the lower 48. – But that’s not my goal.
Find A Beautiful Place
After sectioning the map and reminding ourselves of temperatures, we look at the “green” parts of the map. These are the parks and the beautiful places. National Parks, State Parks, Etc. This is not always a perfect gauge for beauty as many beautiful places out east are congested and the green on the maps is fairly small – but the coast is incredible.
We also notice on the maps if there are little dots along a road signifying a scenic route. If there are lots of those but they aren’t surrounded by green, then they might as well be because they are beautiful.
Then We Check the Campground Apps
There are plenty of campground apps that people use. Allstays, FindRVParks, Campendium and see what type of camping options are in our destination area. Basically we are trying to get an idea of how many options there are just in case the whole world also wants to go to our new location. If I were to be looking at the upper peninsula of Michigan I would want to know the density of campgrounds up there and ensure that they aren’t all 55+ parks.
When we’ve done this in the past, Thousand Trails hasn’t been a part of our planning. We begrudgingly joined Thousand Trails in late Fall of last year and therefore now we look at those too (though we are not a big fan of Thousand Trails at all – except for the money saving if you use it a lot). So, if there are Thousand Trails where we WANT to go, then great. If not, we don’t plan our life by Thousand Trails locations.
Then We Pick A General Area And A General Timeline
Though our family is a dictatorship with Tabitha and I being King and Queen, we do take into account the preferences of the children. If Tabitha and I are both fine with either of two options, we hear if any of our kids have a preference and then we go with that. We don’t put things on the discussion table that have already been ruled out.
Then We Call And Make Reservations For The Busiest Of Places
We hate having reservations. We find it constricting. But – if you are going to a hot spot, you might want to ensure you aren’t stuck several nights at a Walmart parking lot and make some reservations, especially for the first few days after you think you will arrive.
So we look at the campground apps and filter on the dollar sign $ symbol. We don’t like paying too much for campgrounds and some like to ding you extra for the amount of kids you have. We try not to stay at those parks. We often find that the more expensive ones don’t give you any more beauty, just amenities we don’t even care about.
We also have to filter out 55+ aged parks, which legalize age discrimination due to the HOPA law signed by former President Clinton. It’s discrimination and in my opinion it probably shouldn’t be legal and I hope it makes its way to SCOTUS someday. If you are a family and plan to go to Arizona, this is a huge problem. My personal opinion is that this (the very high percentage of 55+ campgrounds) is what makes Arizona suck!
Then Get Into The Route Details
Well – that’s how we plan our big picture. We are doing it now and trying to figure it out for this year with Coronavirus campground closures getting worse not better. We are pretty sure that we want to do the US side of the Great Lakes as our general plan now that Canada is off the table.
We understand that this plan could easily not happen if State Park closures continue, at which point we might have to find somewhere else or find somewhere up there to moochdock. If you are reading this and you know of a driveway we can moochdock at around any of the beautiful great lakes, we are awaiting your email, nudge nudge wink wink.
If it all goes well and we venture north to the Great Lakes, we will be using both Roadtrippers.com and TheFlattestRoute to get us there. If you love Roadtrippers as much as us and want to sign up for their “plus” subscription, use my link to them and get $5 off with coupon code BTR5QTP. We also love to check atlasobscura and latlongwiki anywhere we go. If there is any family to stop by and see along the way we usually try to incorporate that as long as it works in the grander scheme.
That’s how we do it and the coronavirus only gives the process a little more complexity as we have to check each state’s campground closures and restrictions.