Van camping trip planning has never been so easy! Plus, I can save you money off your purchase of Roadtrippers Plus. Read on to learn more.
This post was sponsored by Roadtrippers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Travel may not be encouraged right now but planning ahead for my next road trip always gives me something to look forward to.
Last month, my husband and I set off on our first van camping trip since his accident last May. You know how much we love to travel and how little we have ventured from home while he’s been recovering. To say this trip was much anticipated is an understatement.
We could NOT wait to hit the road.
But even when travel wasn’t possible for us, I found it cathartic to plan future trips and I know that gave him something to look forward to as well.
Today I’m going to share some highlights from our trip.
When it comes to travel, road-tripping and van camping are very affordable options- even if you opt to forgo sleeping in a Walmart parking lot and pay to park at a campground (which is always my preference).
Our biggest trial on this trip was actually transforming the van from work “truck” to “glamping van”.
Van Camping Trip Planning with Roadtrippers.com
I’m often asked how I find so many fun places to explore when we road trip and I always default to my favorite website for trip planning, Roadtrippers.com.
Roadtrippers .com help travelers plan their route, map it out and discover amazing points of interest to visit along the way.
These are even broken down by category- scenic places, photo ops, abandoned places, historic spots, etc. In addition to all the fun stops, you’ll also find practical recommendations of places to eat, campsites and other accommodations. Roadtrippers will even tell you where to fuel up.
By now you should be able to see why Roadtrippers.com has become my #1 road trip planning resource.
You can use the free version of Roadtrippers.com but I highly recommend upgrading to Roadtrippers Plus for advanced features.
With Roadtrippers Plus, you can plan longer trips with up to 150 stops (talk about an epic road trip), have access to offline maps, share your route and plan with friends, and gain access to exclusive deals and savings. Plus, this only costs you $24 for an entire year when you use the code TRAVELINSPIRED to save $5 off the annual membership.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do right now than to plan future trips.
I use both the desktop and mobile versions of Roadtrippers. I love planning the big picture on the desktop and then accessing the app on the go to find additional attractions. This is especially helpful if my husband and I deviate from our original route which has been known to happen on several occasions.
You can view the map I built for our road trip below.
Some Highlights from our Recent Van Camping Trip
On this trip, we’d planned several stops in Cincinnati, but Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park, the American Sign Museum, Loveland Castle and Spring Grove Cemetery all had to be put on hold until another visit because we got a late start.
You’ll find several of these attractions listed on Roadtripper’s Extraordinary Places, meaning they are the best of the best attractions around the U.S. as determined by the staff at Roadtrippers. Not only that, but these are also the places that take a ho-hum road trip and turn it into something magical that makes the act of spending hours on the road something that you want to do again and again.
The only thing we had time for in Cincinnati was Jungle Jim’s International Market- Eastgate. Don’t feel bad for us. This stop was perfect for my son and daughter-in-law. She’d never been to the store and he was too young to remember much of our visit years ago to the original location, also in Cincinnati.
Jungle Jim’s International Market is every bit as much of a tourist attraction as it is a grocery store. Inside you’ll find a theater that tells the story of Jungle Jim’s, interesting bathrooms that you need to step inside just for the experience, and tons of photo ops amid the aisles lined with food items from around the world. Plan to spend a minimum of an hour, my son and daughter-in-law spent closer to two and if you’re able to, plan your trip during the week so you can take a guided tour and are able to sample some of the foods on display.
Crossing into Kentucky, we could see the well-known Roebling Bridge. Listed as one of Roadtripper’s Extraordinary Places, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge is a great spot to stop for a few photos. Unfortunately, it was cold and windy so we opted not to stop and check out the murals or walk across the bridge which was a precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge.
I could share the many stops we did make, but you can view each of them in the trip guide?fpr=9tf0w I put together. I’m just going to share some of our favorite spots- which is hard because I tend to love EVERYTHING.
We enjoy spending time outdoors as much as possible when we travel so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that nearly everything I’ve chosen as a highlight from this trip is something that we did outside.
Big Bone Lick State Park
We discovered Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky quite a few years ago.
Located a short drive from I-75, it has become one of our go-to stops when road-tripping from Ohio to the Smokies.
In addition to bison viewing, there are also hiking trails, picnic areas, a campground and Visitor Center with a gift shop.
Bernheim Forest near Bardstown was probably my favorite stop on this road trip. A lover of roadside attractions and art, I loved the addition of taking the two and placing them in a natural setting.
Created by Danish artist, Thomas Dambo, using reclaimed wood from the region the Forest Giants, Mama Loumari, Little Elina and Little Nis were the highlight of our trip.
I am now on a mission to see all the giants in the United States. I’m coming for you Florida, Colorado, and Illinois!
Cumberland Falls at Cumberland Falls Resort State Park
Cumberland Falls has been called the Niagara of the South or the Little Niagara.
While impressive to see any time of the day, it’s also known as one of only two places in the world where you can see a Moonbow (a rainbow produced by moonlight) on a consistent basis which is why you’ll find the Cumberland Falls Resort State Park listed as another of the Extraordinary Places.
Now, the Smokies were our target destination and for good reason. There is SO much to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, but for those who love nature, it would be a travesty to not see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at least once in your lifetime.
I mean, just look at this campsite at Elkmont! We were right along the river and our site was only $25 a night. Just a word of caution, if you’re planning on traveling later this year and want to stay in the Smokies, you’ll want to make your advance reservations ASAP to make sure you can snag a spot. At these prices, they don’t last long.
The Sugarlands Nature Trail is an easy and accessible trail which is perfect as my husband continues to recover from his spinal injury.
We like this trail because it’s historic (pick up a brochure to refer to along the way), scenic, and allows us to enjoy time along the river. I get more relaxed just looking at the photo and remembering what the water sounded like as it slid over the rocks in the river.
Cades Cove is one of our favorite places to visit within the park but it was closed during our visit so we opted to visit Newfound Gap on the Tennessee/North Carolina line. It was the first time my husband had been there and he loved the views.
Even if it was a bit cold. After all, this was in February.
The Appalachian Trail also passes right through Newfound Gap so we walked a bit on the trail just so we could tell people we’d been on the AT which is one of my husband’s dreams.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also one of the extraordinary places you’ll find using the Roadtripper’s app. The best part about visiting the Smokies? There is never, ever a bad time to visit. It’s beautiful year-round,
Before you leave the area, be sure to check out the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in nearby Gatlinburg. The Village is also a fun spot and features a dozen or so little shops tucked into what looks like a European village right in the middle of town. Make sure you grab a donut from the Donut Friar and grab breakfast or lunch at the Pancake Pantry. Tip: Have cash on hand to avoid ATM charges as these two businesses don’t accept credit cards.
Mammoth Cave National Park
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another extraordinary place, Mammoth Cave National Park. Known as the longest cave system in the world, you’ll find plenty of options for cave tours.
On this trip, we opted to see the Frozen Niagara which is one of the easier tours and required less walking and standing for my husband. While we enjoyed it immensely, our favorite tour to date has been the Historic Tour.
We had hoped to camp in the national park, but the campground is temporarily closed for improvements. A great option to the campground is the nearby Wigwam Motel where my husband and I spent our 25th anniversary. That alone should give you an indication of how much we enjoy road trips and roadside attractions.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center Campground in Huntsville, Alabama
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take you back to Huntsville, Alabama where this blog and our love for the nomadic life was born.
We spent over a year, off and on, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Campground in our motorhome when we were full-time RVers, only leaving when the hubby had to work in Atlanta or Tennessee. That was ten years ago and the first time we’d been back to the area.
If I could recommend a spot for Roadtrippers Extraordinary Places, it would definitely be the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Complex which is home to the world-famous Space Camp. Do you have an attraction or destination you would add to the list?
Pretty soon we’ll all be ready to travel again and if you’re like me, you’ll be on the hunt for affordable travel options. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t get much more affordable than a road trip so why not plan now?
© 2020, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.