Travel Planning Lessons from Wander Free and Queer

The Road Diaries

After seven years on the road, we have explored dozens of travel planning systems. From books and handwritten notepads to fancy apps with accompanying maps and pre-planned itineraries, there are countless ways to prepare for adventure.

Learning from Experience

Before RV life, we took a road trip from coast to coast. We sat down in the evenings leading up to our trip with maps, travel books, and a notebook to chart our path. This was 2018, which meant there were fewer online resources. We also stuck with what we knew and what we learned from watching our parents plan trips from our childhood. We charted daily routes and found camp spots alongside potential fun things to see and do. We had a solid plan on paper.

It was during the very first week on the road that we knew we needed to slow down. We had crammed too much to do into not enough time to do it all. We also realized that our plan on paper didn’t frequently go exactly the way we imagined. We learned to plan less and experience more during that first trip.

Lessons from the Road

We mostly kept to National Parks during our road trip and It was on a hike in Olympic National Park that we met a young couple who were traveling full-time in their RV. We quickly decided that we wanted to give it a go for ourselves. We began plotting our next moves to save money, sell all of our things, and find the perfect RV for us. Beyond all of the logistical details, we started a bucket list that included rafting on the Colorado River, going to Disney, and seeing the saguaros in the desert. We signed up for RoadTrippers, and AllTrails, and thought we had figured out the perfect plan for our first year of RV living.

It turned out that the perfect RV plan was far less than perfect. We spent our first six months of full-time travel mostly stationary at the RV repair shops speckled across rural Maine. All of the must-see spots, campground reservations, and hiking trails we had researched got canceled or pushed off till we were approaching winter.

It was a hard entry into RV life and we felt pretty discouraged. We had dreamed of a life full of adventures but found a life full of challenges during those months. Although it was difficult, we look back now with an appreciation for the lessons that we learned during that time, which mostly included letting go of expectations and finding small joys in daily life.

Perfecting our Planning

It took the whole first year of traveling in our RV to catch our stride. We stopped paying nightly for campgrounds and got ourselves a Thousand Trails membership. We stayed for whole weeks or even months at campgrounds in between our Thousand Trails stays to get a cheaper rate, but also to take the time to more fully enjoy an area before moving on.

As we changed up our traveling pace, we also switched up what and how much we planned to do in each place. Instead of making itineraries, we made prioritized lists. If we had ten things we wanted to experience in an area, we chose the top three. We kept our schedules more flexible during this time so that we could accommodate work, the weather, and anything else that would come up.

These changes made room for us to embrace more of the life we had chosen. When we were transitioning to RV living, we wanted a more simple and slow-paced life. We didn’t realize that we were the ones who had to create that lifestyle for ourselves, regardless of what our home and surroundings looked like.

Make It Your Own

All of our family and friends have different ways they like to travel. Allie’s mom enjoys group trips with pre-planned itineraries, while my childhood best friend goes on cruises where he doesn’t have to worry about planning a single thing. We know that the desire to travel is a vital part of many people’s lives, but can look vastly different between all of us.

We love the adventure. When planning an upcoming trip, we use all of the resources we have come to know and love, while keeping an open mind to new ways to get information and know that things will change from our original plans.

Allie starts with Google Maps. She studies the lay of the land and looks at distances and options for getting us from point A to point B while we are in a new place. Then she takes to social media for ideas about what other people are experiencing.

I like to open my travel books first. Moon Guides are a great resource to have on hand when going somewhere new. They are written by locals and have everything from best dining spots to themed playlists. After I check those out, I gather pamphlets or magazines put out by the local tourism boards. We do a lot of travel in the Pacific Northwest these days, so a few months back I went to the information center at PDX airport and filled an entire duffle bag with books, magazines, and pamphlets..

When I am done studying all of my materials, I often start a Google Doc with a loose itinerary that includes potential things to see and do, hikes, and places to eat. We always say that our perfect trip includes a favorite local activity, time outside, and a delicious meal.

For our recent trip to Coos Bay, we planned a lot of our days around the tide schedule. We knew we wanted to be on the beaches at low tide to search for starfish around the exposed rocks. After we had that part of our plan figured out, we looked for state parks with hikes and favorite local restaurants the to fill in the other parts of our days there.

Practicing Peace

What we have come to know for sure is that there are so many things out of our control when it comes to a life that includes travel. When we were on the road, many unexpected things came up and it was on us to stay grounded and problem-solve in those moments. We have become excellent at communicating with one another, finding resources for issues that arise, and taking on challenges with positive attitudes. Even though we aren’t traveling full-time in our RV right now, we still use those skills in our daily lives and when we are planning any kind of travel together.

Learn more from Allie & Danella:

Running a small business from the road

Budget-friendly tips

Oregon travel guide