6 Resources To Plan Your Next Trip

Waiting By David Jacobi. The view from a house we rented on Green Bay.

When we purchased our first desktop computer in 1996 and got online it added another tool to our road trip and vacation planning, previously accomplished only with road maps and travel guide books. As the years went by I increasingly used the Internet to supplement my hard copy materials until I got to the point of starting with the Internet, then checking my books and maps. I don’t think I will ever get rid of the books because they contain information that could be hard to find online, and having a physical map is so ingrained in me I can’t imagine traveling without one. The following are several resources I have used over the years to help plan our trips.

State Maps and Guides – These are a must for me. Two drawers of a filing cabinet in my garage are full of these from past trips. Each time we go to a state for the first time, I add a new file, and the states we return to I order and add the new information. You can search for each state by typing the name and “tourism” or you can visit Free State Maps and Travel Guides. Make sure to check out other freebies on the site while you are there.

Off The Beaten Path – While most of us want to check out the usual main attractions of a given state sometimes visiting the lesser known gems can really make a vacation memorable. This series of regional travel guides have been a must for me when planning a trip. You can view the series here.

Free Campsites – If your vacation will include camping (and why wouldn’t it?) this site could help shave the budget.

Home Away – There are dozens of hotel booking sites, and everyone seems to have a favorite. Home Away is a little different in that they offer houses, condos, apartments, bungalows, cabins and cottages for vacation stays. We rented a beach house using this site on Green Bay a few years ago and it was an inexpensive and wonderful experience.

There is off the beaten path and there is oddball, and I have always liked to mix them up when planning vacations. Roadside America is an excellent guide to find “offbeat tourist attractions.”

If you want to sample some of the best food where you are headed make sure to consult Roadfood. You might want to strap on a bib to catch the drool before you visit this site.

Happy Trails!

Keep Camping

A cabin we have stayed at in Wisconsin on the south shore of Lake Superior

Shelly and I have been camping together since she was pregnant with our daughter, who is now 30 and has four children of her own. We camped in our home state of Iowa until the kids were out of diapers and able to talk and feed themselves, then began venturing to neighboring states. We ended up when the kids were teenagers in the Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, The Badlands, Black Hills, The Great Lakes, and other places along rivers, lakes and in forests. We endured countless bugs, torrential thunderstorms, a tornado, lost gear, wet gear, wrong turns, smoking brakes in the mountains, vapor lock in the middle of a busy intersection, a pack of thieving raccoon’s, collapsing tents, howling coyotes, burnt food, cold food, cold nights and days, hot nights and days, and even more bugs. Last, but maybe worst, if you have ever gone on a long trip with a sullen teenager you know what special kind of a situation they can create. And then there are the forests, mountains, hills, flatlands, starry skies, waterfalls, caves, rivers and streams, huge clouds, blowing prairie grasses, flowers, peaceful wildlife, memorable sunsets, winding highways and back roads, fishing, hiking, campfires, good food, spectacular lightning storms, and, of course, smores. Whenever we returned home from a camping vacation it would be with mixed feelings and reviews. As time passed and the vacation took hold in memory, most of the bad would filter out and leave what was truly important. Before too long you are ready to venture out again, with the road ahead and expectations in tow.

Camping Checklist

My old F-150 truck with camper at one of our favorite camping spots

I first went camping as a small child in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s with my parents and siblings, but I don’t remember much. A good friend and I picked it up as adults in the early 1980’s, learning most everything from scratch, slowly assembling needed equipment. By the time my wife and I began camping with our kids we had all of the basics, but continued to add and upgrade. A camping checklist became a must for us for planning and packing, and the list was refined and revised multiple times over the years. The following is the basic, early version of the list. Other lists we use today are very detailed and run several pages.

Camping Checklist













With the exception of “Camera/Film” it is still a pretty solid list to build from. Get outside this weekend!