You'll spend plenty of time and money on your RV trip, so, you'll probably plan everything out the best you can. But there may be some things you haven't planned for, and some you didn't know you could plan for. Two of these are weather and road conditions, and they are often mutually exclusive.
Truckers make a good point with their tongue-in-cheek saying, "There are only two seasons, winter and construction." Construction can't be done during winter weather conditions, so that leaves the rest of the time. In many places of the country that might be just six months, the same six months you're likely to be traveling in your RV.
RVing in Bad Weather
Bad weather happens! No, you can't change the weather, but you can try to plan around it. In an earlier article on safety tips, I listed four weather forecasting Web sites. A few more are listed below.
Run a search on "weather forecast" to see what else comes up. New sites show up all the time. No doubt these sites will give you a little different forecast from one another. Check several forecasts to see what they all say. If you do this over a period of time, you'll find ones that seem to be more accurate than others.
Certain areas of the country are more prone to specific weather conditions than others. Southern California in the late summer and Nevada all summer experience forest and grass fires. The resulting smoke can ruin your trip the same as any bad weather.
During the summer:
- The west coast tends to get fogged in.
- Thunderstorms and tornados haunt the mid-west.
- The east coast and Gulf states face hurricanes.
Winter drives snowbirds south for a reason, but check the winter 2011 snowfall records to see how far south they had to go. That was a trip changer for a lot of people. If you're planning on arriving at the first leg of your trip just when storms are predicted, maybe you could visit your second planned location first, and reschedule the first leg to come after the bad weather has cleared.
If changing your plans isn't reasonable, then you can at least plan around the weather. Research your destination for alternate activities that won't be affected by the weather and substitute those where they fit. Activities like boating or fishing can't be done during stormy weather, but visiting landmarks or museums might be as much fun. You also get a heads up about what to pack: clothing, blankets, waterproof stuff, and maybe plan on more indoor cooking than barbequing.
RV Tip: Download the WeatherBug desktop application to your computer and set it up to report weather for the zip codes along your route. This handy application lets you quickly check each to see the weather forecast in those locations and saves you the time and trouble of entering each zip code separately for each lookup.
RV Tip: If you stop at a truck stop, know that truckers are very helpful and friendly. Ask them about road and weather conditions. If you don't find several waiting to check out, in the restaurant or at the pumps, you can usually find drivers if you meander back toward the trucker's lounge area.
Road Conditions, Construction and Closures
Road closures can last for days or weeks due to construction or washouts, or just a few hours due to an accident. Rush hour traffic can be as frustrating as the delays caused by construction. The Road Trucker website is a great information source offering links to national and state DOT sites.
At Trucker's State DOTs you'll find several links and a map. Click on a state to go to its DOT Web site. Many have links showing road construction, closures and other information that you might find useful. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) link takes you to a page where you'll find a link to the National Traffic and Road Closure Information near the bottom of the page under "Planning A Trip?"
RV Tip: Each state will be a bit different in what they offer, so take a look at all the states you plan to travel through to see what information is available for your trip. For example, I clicked on Texas, then San Antonio. I was taken to an interactive map of San Antonio that showed current traffic speeds at various locations, and cameras to zoom in and see what's going on.
RV Tip: Check out all your alternate routes using Google Earth or similar satellite views to see what these roads look like, especially if they are county roads.
Web Site Access - Enroute Wi-Fi Hotspots
Since it is likely that your RV trip will take you off the beaten path, it's good to know how to find out about road conditions on the fly. Today's technology gives us an advantage in planning because we can access the Internet from just about anywhere at anytime. Cell phones, USB Internet hubs, and Wi-Fi hotspots make it possible to connect to the Internet from just about anywhere, so take your technology with you.
RV Tip: An Internet search on "WiFi Hotspots" will return more than enough links to find a hotspot somewhere along your route. In town, check libraries and Chambers of Commerce, common places where Internet access is free. Out of town, truck stops usually have complementary Wi-Fi access.
RV Tip: Learn to drive your RV safely under adverse road and weather conditions. You're very likely to be faced with narrow lanes, rough roads or potholes, uneven lanes, slippery or icy road conditions, or any number of unexpected obstacles.
Find Lowest Fuel Prices
Fuel costs vary widely between and within states, so it's nice to get an idea what you'll be paying as you move on down the road. One year, when going from Arizona to California along US 40, gas prices jumped from $2.75 just a few miles into Arizona to $3.40 at the state line. So, it pays to plan for big fluctuations.
RV Tip: To check fuel prices, search fuel prices or gas prices on the Internet. While prices will probably change before you get there, they also are likely to change relative to others along the way. And remember that they always go up in the summer.
RV Tip: Fill up just before you anticipate fuel prices will go up, even if you need only a quarter tank. A $.50 or $.65 increase on just 10 gallons is $5.00 to $6.50, enough to buy a lunch or two.