TUTORIAL: The MotorCoach Trip Planner & Systems Log

This tutorial is in 3 parts. They examine the numerous features of the MotorCoach Trip Planner & Systems Log (McTriPS Log) and show its use when planning and traveling an extended RV road trip.

In Part 1, the tutorial shows how navigational and travel information is recorded in the log. Used as the example are the data produced during the planning of a trip from Colorado’s black bear country to the sunny shores of southern Texas.

Part 2 illustrates how RV systems are checked and their status recorded while on the trip. As system data is collected, a useful and permanent record is built that monitors the health of your coach.

Part 3 covers the technical aspect of planning the trip. Using free online resources, it shows techniques for searching navigational and trip data, how routes are mapped, and how boondocking and fuel stops are determined.

RVers use a variety of tools when planning trips. Two are discussed here, however, the McTriPS Log is not tool dependent. No matter what you prefer to use, the log will work as shown in the tutorial.

The McTriPS Log

The MotorCoach Trip Planner & Systems Log is a clipboard-ready, legal-size, hard-copy information organizer. It has 3 main sections; Heading, Trip Log, and Systems Log.

The Heading records trip, tank, and tire data. It holds the specs, weights and capacities of the coach and has handy tables and formulas.

The Trip Log holds navigational information such as the location of stops, mileage, and drive times. Other details relevant to the trip can also be included. These might be side trips and special activities, phone numbers, or notes to self. The log can handle routes from the simple to the most complex. It will accommodate an unlimited number of stops that take place over any period of time. Used logs should be retained. They are a valuable resource for future trips along similar routes.

The Systems Log is a permanent record that tracks the status of important RV systems. It is used while traveling, dry camping, or settled in a locale for a long stay. Each pad of logs is sufficient to handle a daily record of RV systems spanning more than 6 months making it suitable for the occasional or full-time RVer. When did you last check the water in the house batteries or exercise the generator? What was your fuel economy after the last tune-up compared to now? Look these up in your McTriPS Log.

Costs are a factor that many will want to track. Fuel, repairs, oil changes, anything you wish to keep tabs on can be written into the log because space is devoted to these concerns. RV expenses are ready for a budget review at anytime.

Specifics of the Trip

The map seen here was created by Google. It shows the entire route from Colorado to Texas. This covers a distance of nearly 1200 miles. Drive time is spread over 4 days. Included are two side trips; a visit to a Colorado art museum and a walk through a half-buried Texas icon.

Alternate routes were offered by Google, but rejected. The track shown here is the shortest and fastest. It travels through cities and sparsely populated areas. Planning trips in areas of scarce RV resources is more challenging, but also more fun.

Daily Scenario

A summary of each day goes like this: Travel time is divided into a morning and an afternoon leg with each lasting 2-3 hours. The first leg of the day begins in the morning after breakfast. It covers about 150 miles and ends at a suitable rest stop around midday. Before starting the afternoon leg, a break for an hour or two allows time for refueling, restocking supplies, having a snack, walking Boondog, napping, or any other activity.

The afternoon leg approximates the morning leg in time and distance. Each day ends later in the afternoon while there is sufficient daylight to make maneuvering easier through unfamiliar territory. Each day except for the last terminates at a suitable overnight boondocking location such as a RV park, Walmart, truck stop, or rest area. On day 4, the final leg ends at the Padre Island destination.

I recognize not all RVers wish to plan trips in detail, but prefer to meander wherever the mood takes them. Of course, I’m thankful airline pilots don’t feel the same way. But, if you fit this category, consider that the log makes an excellent journal of your journey. It will store all kinds of information that can refresh your memory years later.

Also, consider the “systems” portion of the McTriPS Log. This section is not so much about planning as it is about monitoring your expensive investment in an orderly fashion so that you can anticipate and react to its needs. Think of your coach as a critter with multiple heads that must be fed on schedule, or else one of the heads will eat you.

Starting the Plan

Planning a trip is a fun task because the slate is blank except perhaps for the starting and the ending points. It is like being young with boundless excitement over the adventures each day might bring. Unfortunately, along with this youthful enthusiasm we still must banish the black water trolls.

The Heading

Recording the details of a trip begins by filling in the heading on the McTriPS Log. (Trip Name) Pick a name that is easy to remember. For the tutorial, it is “South Padre Island”. Should the island become a destination again, a check through saved logs will quickly identify the one sought. The information contained in old logs can often help plan new trips.

(From) The starting location for the South Padre Island trip is in Mueller State Park.

(To) Isla Blanca Park is the destination. It is a large RV park at the southern end of South Padre Island.

(Height, Length, Width) Writing the dimensions of your coach helps to remember the numbers. When traveling in Canada, convert the dimensions to metric to provide a heads up on Canuck overpasses. When using a conversion formula, fractions of an inch are rounded up to the nearest 1/2-inch and converted to the decimal equivalent, e.g., 8 3/8″ would round up to 8 1/2″ with the decimal equivalent of 8.5″.

(MotorCoach) Christen your coach; it deserves a name. I suspect it has a name for you too.


Thank you for reading the introduction to the McTriPS Log. The complete 28-page tutorial is available as a free PDF download. The intent of the tutorial is to illustrate by example how these logs become an important aid when planning your RV trips and how they can assist in keeping abreast of your RV systems and how they are performing.

In the PDF, Part 1 continues by completing the travel plans for the four-day trip from Colorado to Texas. The log is an important tool when establishing locations for side trips, fuel stops, rest breaks, and overnight boondocks while on the road.

Part 2 of the tutorial returns to the beginning of the trip at Mueller State Park, CO. It then proceeds day by day to show how the log is used to record the performance of RV systems during the trip. This includes one performance that makes for less than happy campers.

Part 3 concludes the tutorial by detailing how the trip was planned using free online resources. This part is more technical in nature, but the numerous illustrations keep it interesting and understandable. It is included in the tutorial for those who are interested in knowing the details and techniques involved in planning this particular trip.

I truly believe the McTrips Log can not only increase the pleasure of RV ownership, but it can also save you major headaches and monies.

Robert Glenn Copeland