We planned our cross-country trip just four days prior to our planned “go date.” Chris and I sat outside on the deck at my family farm with a laptop, road atlas and a bottle of wine between us.
Our only guideline was the date we had to be in Oregon for Chris to start work, so we knew starting out we had a maximum of eight days to get there.
Having never planned a trip like this before, we started in the most obvious place: Google Maps. We used that to figure out our route, but we still had to calculate how long we could drive each day and then find campgrounds (or parking lots) near our planned stops each night. Luckily, we had taken enough trips with the camper to know that every three hours on Google Maps ended up being four hours – at least. Towing the camper means driving slower, and with the pups we knew we’d need to build in a lot of extra time for stops so they could stretch their legs.
We knew Campendium would be a great resource for finding stops along the way. They list out campgrounds and amenities across the country, so if we needed to find a place to fill fresh water or wanted to find a free overnight stop, Campendium would have a list of places nearby. But as much as the adventurer in me wanted to find the most beautiful spots to camp every night, boondocking in the shadows of mountains and waking up beside a bubbling stream, the reality was much different. We would be driving for a week straight, and we didn’t have much time to deviate from our route. I knew we’d be tired from driving all day and just want a comfortable place to sleep with hookups so we could get on the road quickly every morning. Enter the KOA Trip Planner….
Y’all. This thing was a LIFE SAVER. You enter your destination, and the trip planner populates KOAs that are less than 5 miles off of your planned route (you can adjust to have a wider radius). I always thought of myself as the “anti-KOA” camper. I thought KOA’s were cookie-cutter campgrounds that were overrun with children and big rigs, lacking any sort of aesthetic, trees and that real “camping” feel. This trip has completely changed my view. I LOVE KOAs.
During our trip we stayed in a state park, two KOAs, a national forest, a winery, and “mooch-docked” with family. I can safely say that every single situation we found ourselves in we loved. There are people out there who don’t think you’re camping if you have hookups. Others are exclusive KOA campers. And you know what? That’s okay. We’ve found that depending on the situation, every campground has pluses and minuses. You just have to find what works for you in your situation. We fell in love with the Grand Island Nebraska KOA – the people were so nice, our spot was beautiful, and it had everything we needed. When we managed to meet up with friends in Medicine-Bow National Forest (with no hookups) it was one of the most peaceful nights we experienced along our trip. Stopping to spend the night with family in Iowa was a wonderful “reset” button for us – a home-cooked meal and a killer sunset.
So, whatever your camping style is…enjoy it!