The Ultimate Guide to Summer 2023 Trip Planning

Amelia ArvesenMarch 17, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Summer 2023 Trip Planning

At this point in the year, we’ve nearly forgotten what it feels like to be warm. But with summer only a few months out, we’re getting excited again for long days of sun and sweat. Energized by the thought, this is the perfect time of year to start planning a summer vacation. By making plans in advance, you can lock down details to avoid stressing about them later. 

To take the guesswork out of the logistics, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to summer 2023 trip planning – why you should go, what to bring, and a few itineraries to consider. Whether you’re thinking about a multi-week, cross-country road trip or a weekend at a campground close to home, we have what you need to plan an adventure to remember. 

Summer Ready RVs For Rent Near You

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Why go on an RV trip this summer?

Since you’re here, you’re probably already convinced that RV road trips are one of the best ways to spend summer break. But just in case, we want you to feel reassured about your travel plans. Here are just a couple out of countless reasons to take an RV trip this summer. 

1. RVing is affordable — For a family of four, RV vacations can have a cost savings of up to 50% compared to other options. That’s enough to double your trip. Even if you’re renting an RV, you’ll save money on plane tickets, meals, and activities. Two free forms of fun include playing a game of cards together as a family and hammocking by the lake with a novel.

2. You can escape the heat — Because you’re not tied to a hotel or other reservations, you can chase the best weather. If one particular location experiences a heat wave, it’s easy to pick up and move somewhere cooler when you’re in an RV. 

3. RVing is a creative way to see new places — Rather than planning a trip around one landmark, in an RV you can see them all. Again, because you’re not tied to a single place, you can plot out a route that stops by a new destination each day. And while you’re on the road, we highly recommend pulling over for lookouts and points of interest to add spontaneity to your journey. 

Camper in the mountains

4. You can fully recharge and relax  — Without airline tickets or hotel accommodations, you aren’t on someone else’s timeline. Being on your own schedule means you can feel uninhibited to roam or stay put, take a nap or take out the paddleboard. Book a ranger-led tour, or don’t. Unplug and unwind.

5. Reconnect with friends and family — When you’re traveling with family or friends, there’s something special about the connections that form and the conversations that flow while away from distractions and out in nature. If you’ve been meaning to visit faraway friends or family, consider meeting them at a halfway point for an epic get together. Or if you live in the same place, pack into one vehicle or leave together as a caravan. 

Outdoor gear

Things to bring on your road trip 

As the seasons change, so do your needs. Summer calls for seasonal gear to deal with the hotter temperatures and higher UV rays. And don’t forget the bugs. This isn’t an exhaustive packing list (you can find one of those here), but these are just a few extra things you should consider bringing along this summer.

How to decide where to go

With countless options across the country and limited time, picking where to go can feel overwhelming. Our best advice is to start by thinking of all the spots you’d like to see someday. Involve the whole family or friend group in this quick planning exercise. 

1. Make a list — First, write down everyone’s preferred road-trip destinations on a list. Disneyland? Sure. Redwood forests? Add it. Don’t discourage ideas or cross any out just yet. Think of places you’d want to visit again and places you’ve never been. Let that list be long. 

2. Analyze the list — Then, once everybody has added their two cents, analyze that list geographically. Based on the destinations, would it be possible to map out a loop? Or are the destinations better seen as a point-to-point trip? Are they all in one state? Or do they cross state lines? 

3. Narrow it down — Now it’s time to create a route. Consider how much time you have, whether it’s a weekend, an entire week, or the whole summer. Unless your calendar is completely clear, you probably won’t be able to see everything. But as you’re plotting spots, try to include at least one recommendation from everyone on the trip. That way, they feel included in the planning process and excited about the journey ahead. 

Summer 2023 road trip itinerary ideas

Based on Outdoorsy data, RV travel trends, the best summer weather, and popular hotspots, we’ve created a few suggested itineraries spanning multiple coasts for your summer travels. Here are six road-trip recommendations in California, Texas, Florida, Utah, Colorado, and Washington. 

Ocean break

1. California: Northern California Coast

Follow the upper half of California’s coastline along Highway 1 for mild weather, stunning views of the sea, and lots of landmarks. Start your journey somewhere near the San Francisco Bay Area and head north on Highway 1. Near Leggett, the road veers inland and merges with Highway 101. You’ll return to the coastline about 78 miles north near Loleta. 

Mileage: 363 miles from San Francisco to Smith River

Where to stay: Camping available in Mendocino National Forest and Russian Gulch State Park

Points of interest: Photograph the cliffs from the Tomales Point Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore. Hike to gushing waterfalls at Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino. Tour the redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and at the Avenue of the Giants in Trinidad. 

RVs to rent near San Francisco

2. Texas: Galveston to Port Aransas 

Hop between Texas’s best beaches on this sandy stretch between Galveston and Port Aransas near Corpus Christi. Catch glimpses of the Gulf Coast, surrounding marshes, and cute towns along Highway 35. If you have more than a few days to spend along the shore, you can even extend your drive about 200 more miles by jetting to South Padre Island.

Mileage: 210 miles (or 410 if you continue on to South Padre Island)

Where to stay: Camping available at Galveston Island State Park and Goose Island State Park

Points of interest: Ride the rollercoasters at Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Go fishing at the Surfside Jetty Park in Surfside Beach. Stop for seafood in Rockport. Watch the cranes in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. And all along the beaches, look for baby sea turtles hatching (peak season is April to August). 

RVs to rent near Galveston

3. Florida: Florida Keys

If you’re willing to brave humidity and hotter temperatures, summer is typically the slower season in the already-laid-back Keys. Take your time moseying from eccentric island to eclectic island down the Overseas Highway, which stretches westward off Florida’s sparkling teal southern coast. To avoid hurricane season, we recommend going before August. 

Mileage: 170 miles from Miami to Key West

Where to stay: Camping available at Bahia Honda State Park and Curry Hammock State Park

Points of interest: Visit the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. Drive over Seven Mile Bridge in the Lower Keys. Snorkel at Loggerhead Beach in Bahia Honda State Park. Look for Key Deer at the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key. Admire the tropical plants at the Key West Garden Club in Key West.

RVs to rent near Miami

Rocks near Miami

4. Utah: Scenic Byway 12

Known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” this desert route bisects the intricate slickrock and winds through canyons of red rock towers. Given that the land is unlike anywhere else, it’s also designated as an All-American Road. You could drive this stretch in three hours, by why would you? Take it slow to enjoy everything along the way. 

Mileage: 122 miles from Panguitch to Torrey

Where to stay: Camping is available at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Points of interest: Bask in the panoramic views at the scenic overlook at the road’s 9,000-foot summit. Take a 4WD detour down Hole-In-The-Rock Road. Hike 6 miles round trip to Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Learn about the Indigenous people’s history and way of life at Anasazi State Park Museum

RVs to rent near Panguitch

Mesa Verde Pueblo village

5. Colorado: Trail of the Ancients

Located on the high Colorado Plateau, the Trail of the Ancients is a collection of four National Scenic Byways that honor the archeological and cultural history of southwestern Native American peoples. Colorado’s trail traverses arid terrain with clues to cliff dwellings, rock art, pottery sheds, and more wonders. Start in Cortez and journey southwest to the four corners.

Mileage: 116 miles in Montezuma County

Where to stay: Camping is available at Hovenweep National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park

Points of interest: Hike past incredible stone structures and appreciate the night sky at Hovenweep National Monument. Tour a cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Park. Touch the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico at Four Corners Monument.

RVs to rent near Cortez

Campervan in the mountains

6. Washington: Olympic Peninsula Loop

With ample access to water, lush temperate rainforests, and sights of the Pacific Ocean and all the way into Canada, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula radiates in the summer. Start in Olympia and stay on the main loop around Olympic National Park, but we recommend building in some time to venture down the intersecting roads.

Mileage: 330 miles from Olympia around the peninsula

Where to stay: Camping is available at Port Angeles KOA, Potlatch State Park and Campground, state forest land, or campgrounds in Olympic National Park

Points of interest: Drive up Hurricane Ridge for views of the Olympic Mountains. Swim in the river at Dosewallips State Park. Meander to the overlook at Dungeness Wildlife Refuge and Dungeness Spit. Hike through old-growth forests to the 90-foot Marymere Falls. Turn over seashells at Rialto Beach or Ruby Beach.

RVs to rent near Seattle

If you weren’t before, now are you feeling eager for summer? Equipped with trip-planning knowledge, road trip itineraries, rental recommendations, and seasonal enthusiasm, hopefully you have everything you need to book a summer excursion.

Amelia Arvesen, Outdoorsy Author

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