If you get told you can’t go somewhere, well… that’s usually the time you really want to go somewhere! #Truth? As we’re all isolating these days, we’re perhaps imagining our luxurious RVs parked somewhere in storage, and getting crankier by the day as our options for travel go from not-happening to nonexistent.
But while travel is off the table at the moment with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, it doesn’t hurt to dream and look forward to the day when travel will once again take us to faraway places. In fact, right now is a perfect time to be not only dreaming, but planning. We may as well be doing something useful with all this time on our hands!
We’ve had quite a few years of experience as we’ve driven along the highways and bi-ways: some good, some not-so-good. Sometimes it felt like there was a mountain of DUH moments along the way. We’ve learned that taking the time to think through the answers to some basic questions before departure guarantees more time to enjoy the scenery along the way.
Every route starts at a Mile Zero. Mile Zero can be the symbolic starting point of any journey, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s a geographical place as well. Many countries in the world have Mile Zero locations, usually commemorated by some sort of tangible marker. Would you be further surprised to learn that Canada has not one, but two Mile Zero markers?
Historically, drivers used Mile Zero markers to set their odometers to zero before starting a journey, thus allowing them to better follow their location in the guidebooks back in the day when routes were planned with, you know, maps.
Maps! Those very large and colourful paper depictions of the roadway systems of the country – there were usually umpteen stacks of them gathering dust in the car somewhere. Once unfolded, they were absolutely impossible to re-fold, causing just a few &*%$ words in the process. Today? Times sure have changed and it’s hard to imagine going anywhere without cell phone and iPad at the ready, screens full of apps to guide you before even engaging the RV into Drive.
When we first picked up our RV in Winkler, Manitoba, we were planning on bringing our new LTV Unity IB home to Nova Scotia. Winkler was our Mile Zero. However, our son had just moved to BC, and well, our direction changed and we went west instead of east!
So there we were in Victoria, British Columbia, at Mile Zero. It is located in Beacon Hill Park, geographically at the intersection of Douglas Street and Dallas Road.
We were planning our route, one that would merge us on and off the Trans-Canada Highway, heading eastwards cross-country as we made our way home to Nova Scotia.
In doing some research, I learned that in 1965, journalist Walter Stewart wrote, “The Trans-Canada Highway is the world’s only national roadway that has two beginnings and no end. You start from Mile Zero on Walter Street in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland, drive 7,714 km and finish up in Beacon Hill in downtown Victoria, where the sign reads – guess what? – Mile Zero. Neither city wanted to be at the tail end of the procession, so we made a road with two heads and no foot. Very Canadian. Very Sensible.”
The Trans-Canada Highway was just an idea in the late 1940s, and was built between 1950 and 1970. This transcontinental federal-provincial road tallies a whopping 7,821 km from coast to coast, with each kilometre taking you through a kaleidoscope of scenery: over mountain passes and bridges, along seemingly never-ending prairie wheat fields, past rivers and lakes, through tunnels, and along some pretty scenic views.
You’ll also encounter some construction and traffic, of course.
So while you’re at home dreaming up things to do and with lots of time on your hands, why not pour yourself another cup of something and take a peek at our tips and tricks for planning your perfect RV route. It might get you inspired, and maybe even provide a few giggles as you read about our DUH moments.
Setting a Timeline
What is your timeline? Do you have a set number of days? Are you thinking weeks or months? Either way, you probably have a start date(-ish) and an end date(-ish), so just like that, you now have a total number of days(-ish). Remember that number.
Since you’ve got the calendar out, peek ahead at the dates when you’ll be gone and identify any upcoming holidays. Holidays are always important to note as they usually mean popular area campgrounds will require advance reservations.
Although we hate making reservations and hate adhering to a set schedule even more, we do concede that both have a time and a place, and it’s best to plan ahead so as to not be disappointed. Being retired allows us the luxury of forgetting what day and date it is, but that can sometimes be a problem. For example, one time we were meeting up with friends, in a mutually agreed upon campground, for the upcoming weekend. When we arrived, a day early in fact, we found out that there was no room. Wait, what? WHY? Turns out it was the Canada Day long weekend. DUH! We were lucky that we got the last overflow spot, with no services. Phew… but lesson learned!
In planning your getaway and your timeline, you might want to use a binder which allows you to quickly and easily insert those loose-leaf ideas that are floating around. Just look up “downloadable monthly calendars” in your browser’s search engine. I like to work with something like this:
Each day provides plenty of white space to pencil in your intended destination, where you’re going to stay, places to visit, things to do, etc. Best of all, it’s easy to start over if you penned in something that requires changing.
We also like to keep Post-It notes at the ready, because we find that people we meet who have been where we’re wanting to go love spreading the word of what we just HAVE to do, because it’s the BEST EVER! Pocket inserts are always a good idea; they make for handy places to store paperwork like tourism pamphlets or receipts.
You name it, the binder will store it, not to mention that it keeps everything nice and tidy on your dash, doubles as a reference when the time comes for you to share your experiences, and at the end of it all, it makes for a great keepsake! Let’s face it, my memory is not what it used to be, so it’s a good personal reference point, because I may easily (not to mention quite quickly) forget what you just told me.
Planning Your Route
Where are you going and how are you getting there? Once you have an idea of your destination, use some of the many apps available to show you the many ways to get there. Here’s a sample route, using Google Maps. We were in Kelowna, BC, and looking to head to Regina, Saskatchewan.
As you can see, it shows you the time needed to travel, the route(s) you can take, etc. Although we had the larger idea of where we wanted to go – British Columbia to Nova Scotia – we used short(er) distance points for planning purposes, as it provided more options along the way. In this instance, we needed to decide if we wanted to go through Banff and Calgary, or south through Medicine Hat.
Will your route take you through cities, which are usually a good idea to avoid? Traffic? Construction? Is it peak travel season? I once had Dave take us on a surprisingly short route from A to B, until I realized that we were heading right towards the toll highway. Yikes – full stop ahead, thankfully before we had to pay the hefty price for the RV lane we were in!
Your route can be a loop of a drive, allowing you to explore new places every leg of your trip. It can be a straight and quick drive to the final destination, and then a slow meander back. For example, when we went to Newfoundland for three weeks, we disembarked from the ferry at Channel-Port aux Basques, and quickly and directly drove across the province to St John’s where we stopped to rest and recoup, and explore for a few days. We then took three weeks to slowly meander our way back to the ferry for our scheduled date of return – keep your eyes peeled for this exciting LTV Blog article currently in the writing!
Research attractions along your route. This will make it easier to figure out the time needed in each place: are you planning an afternoon or a two-day stop? Go one step further and jot down opening hours, costs associated with visiting a certain spot, etc. as your research brings up the relevant webpages. TripAdvisor is always a good place to spend some time reading reviews, although we recommend discarding the best review and worst review, with the truth being somewhere in between. I remember one time we had allotted a weekend at a place, designating the Monday to tour a museum we both wanted to visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our downtime all weekend, hiking and biking and lounging around. And when we presented ourselves at the museum doors Monday morning? Kind of wondering why there wasn’t a lineup? Or many cars in the parking lot? Turns out museums are closed on Monday. DUH!
Once you have a better idea of your intended route, you’ll end up with a total number of kilometres that you will need to drive. Remember that number!
Plan Downtime for Everything from Spontaneous Fun to Chores
When planning the days in your timeline, we find it important to block out some personal days. I know it sounds silly to have to plan these, but they often get overlooked, and sometimes if we don’t take care of what makes our spirit sing, then we can get cranky (and that’s a whole other LTV article in the making.)
Plan time for fun, doing things you like to do. Maybe that’s hiking, biking, or kayaking. Do you like to antique shop or visit local art galleries? Are you a foodie who likes to taste your way across an area? Do you want to sample tastings at local breweries or wineries?
Plan some time for exercise, pending your fitness level and goals, to keep yourself healthy, whether that’s a morning exercise routine or some afternoon yoga stretches for those muscles that have been driving all day.
You’ll also need to plan time for chores – who knew chores don’t just disappear while on vacation! If you’re gone for a few weeks, remember to add a (flexible) day a week as “chore day.” It often takes more time than we think for getting groceries, doing laundry, and housekeeping. Talk about teamwork – while I was here doing laundry inside, Dave was taking care of the outside!
Another thing to plan for is “NO” days! We can’t stress enough how important this is. Why? You might come across a little town that you didn’t even know existed, and want to stop and visit. One time we were driving along, listening to the podcast we’d previously downloaded (hint, hint), when we drove by a signpost that said the town of Vulcan was 100 kms the other way. Being Trekkies, we looked at each other and said, “Wait, what? How’d we miss that?!” Unfortunately, by the time all would be said and done, we would have needed to add an entire day to our route, and we didn’t have any NO days on our timeline. DUH!
Then there’s the weather. The day you planned to spend hiking or biking? It might be cold and wet and rainy, and you’ll wish you had an extra day. When the sun does come out, you might not want to do that long drive you had planned for the day!
Do Your Research
Since we’ve got all sorts of time on our hands these days, why not check the online pages of the various provincial tourism websites? Usually there are two options for resources available: immediate (and free) gratification (aka download), or if you prefer, you can request mail order delivery!
There are enough articles about apps and lists of apps that I won’t bother listing them all here. With nothing but Fast and Furious WiFi at your disposal, why not browse around?
We would recommend finding the one best suited for your intended destination location (Canada vs the US), then playing around with its features (is it available offline for those areas where you might not have cell service?) and adding some filters when you’re checking the map options.
Remember your two very important numbers from earlier in this article? Those were the total number of kilometres you will be driving, and the number of days that you have to travel. Divide the kilometres by the days, and that’s the number of kilometres you need to travel every day.
Surprised by the number? Sometimes our ambitious desires transport us away from the realities, so this is where you need to play with what works for you. Do you drive a crazy amount of hours one day for the next four days of R&R? Do you travel every morning but have each afternoon off? You might need to adjust one or the other of your numbers to get an itinerary that works for you. Sometimes adding more days is not an option, so then your distance needs to be adjusted.
There really is no right or wrong direction; it’s your very own route with your very own way of doing things. No two journeys will ever be the same. And it’s a fine line between being on a schedule, and also having the freedom to change things up.
We hope our tips and tricks have provided some insight into your Journey Planning. Perhaps we’ve inspired you to find an old-fashioned map and go crazy with that highlighter. Or better yet, create that binder, download some apps, and research your route as you dream of your next getaway from the comfort of your living room. If nothing else, we hope our DUH moments evoked a bit of a giggle as you drink your cup of something, gazing outwards, thinking about the day when we will all be able to drive away in our very own luxurious RV.
From our RV to yours, please continue to stay safe and healthy in the best way possible during this health crisis, in the hopes that we can all soon adventure out to enjoy this beautiful world that we’re part of, sharing our stories with those we meet along the way.