Saturday, November 24, 2012

Online Tools for RVers

I rely on several online tools as we travel about in our RV. If you RV or are considering doing so, you might find these useful.

To help plan where we will stay, I rely heavily on RV Park Reviews. This is an easy to use website that provides reviews and details about RV parks. The parks are grouped by city and state, so you can see a list of all the RV parks in an area where you are interested in staying. The site also provides details about the amenities available at each park, such as cable TV and WiFi. A link to the RV park's website -- if there is one -- is also provided. Reviews are provided by RVers, but they should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

There are other sites out there to help you find RV parks. Members of the Good Sam Club, for example, may refer to that organization's web site to locate parks. KOA, Escapees, Passport America and other organizations maintain similar sites to help you locate parks that belong to their group. I like the RV Park Review site, though, because it will list all parks regardless of affiliation.

When planning my route, I refer to to help me locate the best fuel prices. There are numerous web sites devoted to gas prices out there, but I like this one because you can drag the map along your route. You can also select a gas category (unleaded, plus, premium, or diesel) to make viewing fuel prices even easier. Fuel prices fluctuate widely from area to area. We have found they can vary by $.40 or more in just 30 or 40 miles, so using such a site can save you considerable money.

I probably use Google Maps and Google Earth more than any other online tools. I use Google Maps to plan my route, check distances, and locate places. I use Google Earth to to actually see what a place looks like once I've located it. I really like the street view feature in Google Earth. When you are traveling to areas unfamiliar to you, it's nice to be able to see what the place actually looks like. You don't want to end up staying in an RV park that backs up to a junk yard, for example.

Both Google Maps and Google Earth also will show what businesses are located nearby. One of the reasons that I selected Sundance RV Park in Cortez, Colorado, for example, was that Google Earth showed it was within easy walking distance of a number of eating places.

Google Earth view of Sundance RV Park
In the image above, you can see numerous fork and knife icons, which represent eateries. If you hover over one of those icons, it will bring up the name of the eatery. If you click on the icon, more information will be provided, including a link to the website if there is one.

You can also enter a business type in the address bar in Google Maps, and it will return all matching businesses in that area that it can find.

Screen capture from Google Maps of RV parks in Cortez, Colorado

In the screenshot above, I entered "RV Parks" in the address bar while centered on Cortez, Colorado, and you can see what it returned. The map on the right shows the location of RV parks, while an equivalent list is provided on the left. You will often find parks this way that are not mentioned in the RV Park Review site listed at the beginning of this entry.

There are, of course, numerous other tools I use, but these are the ones I use regularly. There are websites, for example, that provide information on road conditions. Weather sites are invaluable, especially this time of year.

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