Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Route Planning

The plan is a draft. It's a living document. And it's constantly in-flux. Like any good plan is.

Current Route
To build my plan, I have used a spreadsheet on Google Drive. This spreadsheet started as a list of destination ideas and places that we definitely would like to go see. I then added a second worksheet of the dates of things that we knew to start (a week at Disney World in Florida was already on the books and one of my wife's nonnegotiables). I started adding weeks to this and mapping distances between the two points on Google Maps. After a while, I had quite a few weeks planned out.

Google Docs Spreadsheet
But, using Google Maps and a spreadsheet was cumbersome. I went looking for a mapping website that would let me plug in a series of destinations; which surprisingly, was remarkably difficult to find something that fit my needs. A forum member on the Forest River Forums recommended that I take a look at rvparky.com. I had heard of these folks due to their popular app and didn't know that their was a corresponding Trip Planner on his web site. While extremely rudimentary, the Trip Planner was exactly what I was hoping for. You enter your starting point and date and then after that each destination and the number of days that you want to be somewhere. He ties into his rvparky database and offers campground destinations at each location. There's a map that shows the list of destinations and a basic route between them. It tells you the number of miles between each location. Here's my current trip plan.

RVParky.com Screenshot
A couple of negatives to it:
  1. It often can't figure out routes for national parks & forests because the pin location ends up being on a mountain top where there are no roads. I thought I had broken the site and my map when I added Yosemite. The site's owner (Lenny) got back to me and told me that for those areas, I had to use the campground selector for the location in order for it to have a routeable address. Easy-peasy and he updated the site to give a helpful error message. Impressive service!
  2. You cannot change a location once you enter it. You can add a new one and then remove the one you wanted to change. It's not a huge problem, it's just kind of hokey.
  3. You cannot add metadata about the destinations. You can provide a campground, but you can't enter any notes. I'd like to be able to enter some specific details like area attractions and even the average temperature for the area for the time that I'm there. Just an open notes field would be GREAT. If this is added, #2 needs corrected- otherwise, you could lose data.
  4. It is not mobile friendly (which is surprising given that their primary product is an app).
  5. The letters on the icons currently only go from A-Z so if you exceed 26 stops, you're left with blank map icons (which gets confusing with 59 on my current plan and one location that I hit multiple times!).
I keep my spreadsheet in sync with the map so that I can handle #3 in my "negatives" list. It's a hassle to have to update 2 locations each time that I want to make a change to my route or plan.

Current RVParky.com Trip Plan | Current Spreadsheet of Destinations + Attractions

2 comments:

  1. Your post confirms what I've found as well. Looks like I'm going to have to build it myself... I haven't had a personal project in a long time...maybe this is the one!

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  2. Before you build it- I've got a buddy who has free time and is sharp as a tack... if we can just keep him focused from start to finish. :-) The project shouldn't be that hard- just a simple DB and couple of API mashups.

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