Top 10 RV Resources for Newbies

There are many outstanding resources available for RV travelers to make planning and RV travel safer, easier, and more economical than ever before!  I've tried several in preparation for my travels in Wild Thing and thought I'd share my list of current favorites. Most offer both a website and a mobile app making it simple to get the information you need when you have access to your pc and when you don't. Some of these services offer similar benefits, but each one I've listed offers enough unique content to make it a worthwhile investment.

  1.  Good Sam Club and its sister company Camping World have been around since the 1960's and are a leading resource for RV owners. My parents were members of the club back in the 70's and I remember pouring over the phone book sized Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory looking for the perfect campground as we traveled across the USA.   Good Sam Club members have access to a comprehensive listing of campgrounds across the US and Canada with detailed descriptions and ratings. Members also enjoy a 10% discount off many of these campgrounds.  Good Sam still publishes the paper campground directory, but now also offer an online version and an app so it's easier than ever to research campgrounds where ever you are. Good Sam Club offers many services and benefits including new and used RV's for sale, RV financing, RV Insurance, Roadside Assistance, and Extended Warranty Services. Members also enjoy discounts at pet stores and information on traveling with pets, something Dexter is looking forward to! They are also a resource for current information for the RV industry like RV recall notices and RV Park reviews and offering an advocacy program to members. Camping World is a full-service RV supply store that also has RV Maintenance and Repair Services. Members of Good Sam's Club benefit from discounts and special pricing at Camping World. Good Sam Club members also save on gas when they use Pilot or Flying J truck stops and can take advantage of Free Dump Station Services across the country. Good Sam has an online trip planner that can help you map out your journey that is powered by Rand McNally. My membership has already saved me money on purchases of supplies at Camping World and will save me 10% off overnight fees at several campgrounds on my trip home with Wild Thing. I'll be using the Good Sam Roadside Assistance program which provides service to both my tow vehicle and my trailer giving me (and my DH!)  peace of mind as I travel solo across the country. AAA does not offer roadside assistance or insurance for trailers to Massachusetts residents (go figure...)  Memberships to Good Sam Club start at $27.00 a year.
  2. Passport America is a discount camping club that offers a whopping 50% off campground fees at nearly 1900 campgrounds across the US, Canada, and Mexico! Membership is $44.00/year and I will pay for my membership in the savings I will enjoy on the trip home with Wild Thing. Most campgrounds offering this discount have restrictions on the number of nights you can apply the discount and the times that the discounts are applicable, but all of this information is clearly stated up front. This service seems to work best when you are on the move, traveling from place to place since many restrict the discount to a night or two.  Some campgrounds, however, offer longer-stay discounts and some have no limits on the number of nights you can stay for half cost!  They have an app, a website, and publish a print guide to the campgrounds in their program making it easy to chart your course.
  3. AllStays is easily my favorite RV app to date. If I could only have one app...this would be it!  According to their website, they are "The #1 Selling, #1 Ranked, #1 Reviewed Camping App for over 85 Months". I can see why! This app lets you find Campgrounds, RV Parks and related services with or without internet service. Their extensive map filters let you view only what you want to see. In addition to campgrounds, you can also view RV dump stations, truck stops, services, supplies, low bridges, weather conditions, and various state laws. You can filter campgrounds by type: National, State, and Municipal Parks, BLM Land, Private, Army Corp, Tenting only, and more. AllStays offers a variety of apps tailored to the various needs of travelers: RV Camping, Rest Areas, Dump Stations, Military Camping, Tent Camping, Truck Stops and Travel Plazas and more. I paid $9.99 for the RV Camping app and it has been worth every penny. I recently invested in the Pro Version ($29.99 a year) that provides me with a web-based interface. I find using the AllStays Pro on my computer with larger maps, no ads, and more filters easier than on my phone when I have a large amount of research to do.  I still use the app on my phone and tablet when I need to access the information on the fly, so I think both the app and the web based Pro versions are worth the small investment!
  4. RV Parky is a free app that is an RV Park powerhouse planner. It has no ads,  was built by full-time RV'ers, and contains an impressive collection of RV Parks, Campgrounds, Rest Areas, Gas Stations, and RV friendly stores in North America. It provides great unbiased review and photos to help you choose the location that best suits your needs. All this for free!
  5.  It's fairly easy to find gas for your tow vehicle, water to fill your RV tanks, and Propane to fuel your journey,  but a place to dispose of your camper's waste water can be a bit more challenging. There are a few apps designed to "hook you up" with a place to get this job done. I use RV Dump Stations Locator for my Android. Here's a handy website that lists dump stations by state. You will also find dump stations at some Cabela's and Travel Plaza's like Flying J or Love's.
  6. Have you ever followed those small iconic signs on the interstate promising food and fuel at the next exit only to find you don't know which way to turn once you exit the highway or you have to drive for miles before finding a gas station or a restaurant or sometimes find when you get there  that it's closed? I sure don't want to be in that situation while towing a trailer! IExit to the rescue! This app lists specifically what services are provided at each and every exit along major highways with detailed information on location, hours, and even gas prices!  When you open the app while on a highway, it will automatically find you and let you know what's coming up. This app will help keep me out of trouble and show me the best places along the way to stop and stretch my legs, fuel up, or find a safe place to park for a picnic! Since I'll be traveling alone, I will plan ahead exit stops every 2 hours or so along my route and know exactly the best places to stop with my rig. Genius!
  7. RV Park Reviews is an invaluable resource for unbiased, current, and detailed reviews of RV Parks across the country. Just like product reviews on popular e-commerce websites, these reviews are by actual users who have stayed at the parks and are reporting on their first-hand experience.   I have found this to be the most comprehensive listing of reviews and it has helped me make decisions about where I would like to stay along my route.  I hope to be a frequent contributor to this website in the coming months!
  8. RV Trip Wizard is a powerful Trip Planning Software. This software works on your computer, tablet, or phone and helps you plan your route, choose campgrounds, suggests points of interest, and tracks costs. You can customize this software by entering specific information about your rig (height, width, length, and weight) so it can help you avoid bridges and roads where RV's or vehicles carrying propane are restricted. It also helps you budget your travels by tracking fuel costs, camping costs, and meal costs. You can plan a full trip in the software then export it to a GPS device from your PC.  I started using this software months ago and found it to be easy to use and feature rich. It was a bit expensive with an annual subscription of $39.00 but worth the cost in my opinion.
  9. I have a GPS in my phone, and a GPS built into my truck, so why would I need another GPS? Well, navigating with a trailer in tow is much different than navigating without! Some roads restrict access to trailers and disallow any vehicle carrying flammables like propane. I will need to be aware of height restrictions as well since my travel trailer will be 9'7" tall. I don't want to get stuck in a bridge or have to attempt a 3 point (or likely many more points) turns to get me out of a tight spot. Rand McNally has engineered a GPS specifically for the needs of RV travelers. This device will take into account not only your preferences but also road conditions and restrictions that may be hazardous to RV's. This device will warn me of any RV road hazards well in advance so I can avoid them.  I chose the model RVND 7730 LM that comes with lifetime maps. There are more recent models on the market now but my DH taught me to always choose a device that is a version or two behind the latest model. Newly released versions of any software often have bugs that need to be worked out and you can avoid having to deal with them by choosing a model that has already had time to shake out the bugs! Isn't he clever?   Rand McNally , I discovered recently, offers free powerful trip planning software called Tripmaker. I have found this software to be nearly as powerful as RV Trip Wizard so I will likely not renew my subscription for that next year! Tripmaker allows you to plan your trip online, then download the trip to the GPS device and make changes on the fly. It has similar budgeting tools as well. The Rand McNally RV GPS will also allow me to import trip itineraries that have been created in the Good Sam Club software. Don't you just love modern technology?

So there you have it. My current top 10 RV resources for Newbies. I'm sure this list will change as I gain experience on the road, but it's a great place to start!