This past summer, we spent more than five weeks on the road camping in our new travel trailer. We had 15 different campground bookings. Needless to say, the planning stage of that trip was overwhelming!
Usually with a trip that long, we would have a general itinerary and an idea of where we wanted to stay, but would probably not make reservations until a few days before, which leaves us the flexibility to adjust our plans if we find it necessary.
This trip was a little different. Neither of us had spent much time in New England. We weren’t sure how easy it would be to get last-minute reservations in a particular area, especially in some of the smaller towns. Also, we had a very detailed list of sites we wanted to see and not a lot of extra time. We knew that to actually complete everything on our list, we had to stick to our plan. Thus, we decided to book everything in advance.
I am generally a fairly organized person. That said, I’ve never had a great system for keeping up with our itinerary and reservations. For this trip, I used a small binder that held our itinerary, blank pages for notes, and a few page protectors for various important information.
While we have a lot of this information electronically, there is just something about having a hard copy that sometimes makes me feel better. And, for me, it is often easier and faster to makes notes on paper than in my phone (too easy to make typos on that tiny screen).
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Organize Your Bookings: The Binder
The binder that I have is a 5.5” x 8” binder (it holds half-size sheets of paper). I chose the half-size rather than a “normal” size binder so that it wouldn’t take up too much space in the truck. This ended up being perfect, as it fits in the “pocket” on the door of the truck. If I have a full-size sheet of paper, I can just fold it in half and punch holes (yes, you need this special-sized hole punch) or I can fold in half and slide it into a sheet protector. The blank paper was perfect for making notes on places to go or directions.
There are all kinds of various “accessories” that you can get for your binder. I am sure that I will be adding to mine as I use it more and more. Items currently on my wishlist are pocket dividers and calendar pages.
Over the course of the summer, I grew to love my little binder. I also realized that I definitely did NOT have as good of notes on our campground reservations as I thought I did. Sometimes, I wrote down the check-in and check-out times and, sometimes, I didn’t. I knew most of our sites would have water, electric and sewer. I never really knew when we would have cable. Not that having cable is that important to us, but if that is what I reserved, I want to make sure that is what we are getting.
By the end of the summer, I decided one of my projects when we got back home would be to create myself a form to keep up with all of this information. I actually ended up creating myself three different forms – one for planning and comparing campgrounds, one for the information on the actual reservation and one for notes after the stay so that we can write an accurate review.
Campground Comparison Form for Smart Bookings
This document will be used ahead of time to help us determine the best campground in a particular area. Too often, I find myself going back and forth between reviews and campground web sites trying to figure out the best location vs. the best price vs. the best amenities. This document will allow me to see a “side by side” comparison of several campgrounds.
Under the “amenities” section you will notice that restrooms is listed. Before this past summer, I generally assumed that all campgrounds had a bathhouse, especially if there were full hookups. Early in our trip, we found out that was a very dangerous assumption, and that I clearly did not read the reviews very well!
When we were looking for a campground near Harper’s Ferry, we had a hard time finding anything we liked. We finally made a decision and knew that it might not be the best campground that we had ever stayed in, but felt that it would do for a couple of nights. In revisiting the web site on our way to the campground, I realized that it did not have a bathhouse. It really wasn’t a big deal since we do have a camper and we had hook-ups. This was the first time we had experienced that situation, however.
We also found that many campgrounds offered various types of sites, thus the “Rates & Site Types” section. We did choose sites without sewer a couple of times because it was cheaper. Often we were looking for a pull-thru. This was the first time out in the camper, so we knew it would be easier. We wanted to make sure that as we compare prices we consider whether the sites offer the same types of hook-ups or other special features.
Campground Reservation Form
This document is where I will record all the information once we actually make a decision and make the reservation. This might be done at home or it might be done on the road. Either way, it will remind me of exactly what we have reserved. We will know exactly what to expect when we arrive.
Prior to this trip to New England, most of our travel has been in the Western U.S., where distances between sites are greater. We never really needed to worry about the check-in or check-out times. We were always leaving early so we could get to the next site at a reasonable time. In New England, our campgrounds were sometimes only and hour or two apart from each other. We often found ourselves waiting until late morning to leave so that we didn’t arrive at the next location three hours before check-in. Thus, knowing the check-in and check-out times was very important to us!
We generally don’t care too much about having cable (or any TV) during the summer. When we are camping in the Fall, we want to make sure that we can watch football on Saturdays. Knowing if our campsite not only gets cable but includes ESPN, is important to us, at least for a few months out of the year!
Campground Review Notes
We use Campground Reviews as our main source for investigating and reviewing campgrounds. Thus, I modeled this form on what information they ask for in a review. I usually try to review a campground within a day or two of leaving. This form will allow me to make notes so that I can give an accurate review even if it is several days or weeks later.
This past summer, I tried to make notes on a blank piece of paper. I didn’t always do a good job of that. I am hoping that by actually having a form I will be more consistent in making those notes. That will make it easier to write the review when the time comes.
I created these forms for our own personal needs. The campground comparison is on a full-size sheet of paper since I will generally use this before leaving home. It also allows me to fit more information on one sheet and be able to compare several different campgrounds quickly. If I do need to take it with me, I can simply fold it in half, punch holes, and toss it in the binder.
I decided to put the reservation and review forms side-by-side so that they each take up a half-size sheet of paper. The paper can be cut in half or simply folded it over and know that I have a page to review each campground that we have a reservation for.
I am very excited to put these forms to use on our next camping trip. Hopefully, they will make our camping experience a bit more organized, especially on long trips.
Since we strive to help our fellow travelers, we are sharing these documents with you. You will find each of the three documents as an individual file on full-size sheets of paper. I put the reservation and review forms in one document together, as half-size pages each.
You can access these forms by clicking on the headings above or the links below:
We hope that you will find these documents just as useful as we will. Feel free to use them and share them as needed!
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If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
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As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
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We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
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We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
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We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
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We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.
We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
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