As we have continued down the east coast of Florida in our Travato we’ve noticed that many places don’t allow you to actually wash your van. Once we tried to use an actual car wash to spray it off but we were afraid the brush would scratch the finish. So what did we do? We used a product called No Rinse and only 1/2 gallon of water to wash the entire van, including the tires and wheels.
So if you are like us and find that you really need to wash your van but you’re in a national park, well this is THE answer. It does a great job and in the video we actually broke out into a “my hiny’s clean” dance! We bet you will too.
Our Travato camper van. that Lynn and I absolutely love, has allowed us to be more and more nimble. That’s a good thing… well kind of. It’s so easy to setup and leave, literally taking just a few minutes, that we have begun more and more staying at a spot just one night… a van trip one night stand if you will.
There are lots of advantages to this:
You get to cover more ground/miles. Many times “getting to the destination” is the goal and the fewer nights stayed along that route means getting there sooner. When we were traveling to the Grand Canyon in a 5th Wheel two years ago we just wanted to get “there” and then explore. We were traveling so far and had a limited window of time that it made sense to drive, sleep and drive.
You have more opportunities to find perfect campsites. Since you are staying at so many sites that increases the chances that some of those sites will be perfect, adding to your list of “man we are going to go back there” places. Keep in mind though, it also increases the chance of finding duds.
You don’t have to travel as many miles in one day. Because you’re not “wasting” travel days by sitting still you can meet your destination arrival goal date and drive fewer miles per day.
What a freedom it is. There’s a feeling of freedom that comes from picking up and heading out every day. The gypsy caravans must have experienced that same feeling. It just feels good. That “what’s over the horizon” feeling compels us to want to go see and having the freedom to do that is a great feeling.
Turns Out Nimble Can Be Tiring
So even though there are great reasons to spend the night and keep driving we have found that for the most part it is not the perfect way to travel for us and our lifestyle. On our recent trip to Northeast Florida to escape the mountain cold and just get away before Thanksgiving we started out with a stay a night, drive and stay a night attitude. By the 3rd night we just looked at each other like “what are we doing?”. This feels more like being a truck driver than a couple who has the freedom to explore at their leisure. So we sat down and reevaluated our approach because for us this one and done stays has a lot of let’s say non-positives.
For us they are:
It is freaking tiring. You get up, eat breakfast, make sure the van is ready to roll and then start driving. My brother is a truck driver and one of my best friends was a truck driver. They talk about keeping the passenger door beside the white line and seeing the world through the windshield. Well, for us, just seeing the world through the windshield isn’t always what we want. There are advantages to looking out the windshield to see this big country as we drive. But for the most part, we prefer to get out and walk around and experience places instead of just seeing them as we drive by.
There’s no time to enjoy today’s destination. By the time you arrive at your next destination it is easily 3pm. Once you find your place for the night and get comfortable, wintertime short days mean you maybe have 1-2 hours to enjoy the area. Forget going to parks or attractions. The best you can do is disconnect and go out to dinner and go back to go to bed because like we just said, you’re freaking tired. One or two days of this is fine, but the more days you do this the more the accumulation of being tired of it builds up.
It multiplies the stress of having to find a campsite. Let’s face it… nobody likes calling around or poking around on the web to find the “next” campsite. We live in the eastern side of the US and dispersed camping sites are few and far between so for the most part you have to book a place to stay. While just staying one night increases your chance of finding a place to stay, it also increases the stress level because every night you have to determine where you are going next and then do the work to book a site.
Hidden gems stay hidden. Even if you manage to find time to work in a hike at a park or a paddle board trip at nearby water, there’s usually a gem or two in the area that will remain hidden if you just stay a night or even two. On our trip to Florida we discovered Ft Clinch State Park, which turned out to be the highlight of the trip, on our 3rd morning of waking up in Saint Mary’s because we had time to ask the question what do you want to do today. When you are driving every day you never get to ask that question and those hidden gems never get discovered. By the way, Ft Clinch State Park will be the star of our next video.
Finding Our Rhythm
It took us a while, but we have found our rhythm for traveling in our camper van. Granted it is much different than the rhythm we used to travel in our 5th Wheel, where we would stay in Florida for 4-5 months at a time at one location. It took getting frustrated and tired of doing the extreme of hopping around every day to teach us how we currently prefer to travel in our Travato 59K van. We say currently because that’s the thing about being nimble, you can and should always be evaluating what worked on a trip or journey and learning from the things that could have been better.
So with that in mind, here’s what we are going to try to do as we plan our next trip:
Travel less miles per week/month and stay in almost all of our stops along the way at least 2 nights, preferably 3 nights. Sure we won’t get to travel as far or check off as many big bucket list items, but we’ll enjoy the ones we do check off even more and they’ll be days that we get to add an item to the bucket list and then check it right off because we found another gem.
Bad weather days = travel more. Why waste bad days sitting inside the van at a location? So when it’s raining or unseasonably cold or windy we’ll just plan to put in more miles on those days. One night stays on these days that we couldn’t really enjoy an area anyway at the moment seem smart. But, driving in rain itself is tiring so that too may need to be be re-evaluated. [Edit: A fellow van traveler (Max) told us how much he loves spending time in the van when it’s raining… the reading, cooking and relaxing… well, I agree. On our trip to the Smoky Mountians we had rain on a few of those days and come to think of it they were great days. Crap this planning thing is hard… may have to re-evaluate that one already.]
Spend extra $$ on premium sites just once or twice each month. It’s not financially wise to stay on premium sites every night. In the video that accompanies this blog we found we loved the Big Wheel RV Park. The first night we stayed on a pull-thru site that was nice. When we pulled in after closing going back home we chose the same site. But when we decided to stay there for 2 additional nights instead of continuing our one-night-at-a-time trip we chose a different, less expensive, but as it turns out, better site. The pull-thru full hookup site was $45 per night, not a bad price for what you got. But because we are in a small van we were able to take a site with just electricity that was right on their little pond and it was only $25 per night. It was more private, had a better view and it was a great price! But there are times when we plan to spend extra money to be on the ocean, lake or bayou just because we want to get the most out of those stays.
Look for hidden gems. Every pin we drop on a route usually has an associated “we want to see this or do this” attraction. It could be a body of water, a special hike, a national park or even a relative or close friend. Staying 2-3 days each leg allows us to do those planned “reasons” for choosing this location as well as find one or two hidden gems like Ft. Clinch State Park.
Just Putting In Miles Days. Because we are self contained and have solar, a generator and all the comforts of home when we are not plugged in, we can stay at cheaper or even free places along the way. These kind of days will help the budget and help justify splurging on the days we really want to make the most of great locations. So we hope to “stay on the cheap” on the nights we are just sleeping so we can drive, which hopefully will allow us to not feel so bad about staying right on the water in Key West a few times even though it might be close to $200 a night. Only time will tell if we can convince ourselves to really feel that way though.
What Works Best For You?
Right now, as we zig zag around this round world in our Winnebago Travato, that’s how we hope to spend our travel days. One thing is for sure… that will change. That’s the great part about being nimble, both with our lives and our mode of transportation. We’d be interested to hear what works best for you as you travel? Take a few minutes and leave us a comment about what you’ve learned as you’ve traveled.
Until next time, safe, happy, non-stressful yet challenging travels to you and your family.
The Gem We Found In Saint Mary’s, Georgia – Crooked River State Park