Since taking ownership of our van this past July, we had not yet taken a trip during a major holiday. With an extended weekend off of work, Thanksgiving offered an ideal time to try a holiday on the road. It promised a chance to both discover a new locale and enjoy warmer weather than our hometown forecast. Neither of us are big fans of any thermometer reading that begins with a '3-.'

A Lesson in Impromptu Planning

The first thing we did was research "to reserve, or not to reserve." Our destination was Savannah, GA, and the popular Tybee Island. So, we figured we should reserve a camping spot. Our newbie naivety was revealing itself by seeking a campsite at such a late state in the game. Some of the registrars chuckled -- ever so politely of course -- when we inquired about reservations for the following week. We learned that most locations had been fully booked months in advance of the holiday. Others required a longer minimum stay than our plans allowed.

At last, we found Red Gate Campground, located just a few miles outside of Georgia. There were no available lots with hookups, but we were able to reserve a dry camping spot for a nominal fee. Fortunately, our Class B van is always comfortable and ready to accommodate this type of stay.

Travato parked in grass under trees at campground

However, freezing temps had hit our home state of Virginia and caused us to winterize the van earlier than expected. So, we were thankful for a landing spot that offered facilities with showers. The campground also had the added bonus of beautiful oak trees draped with Spanish moss, an equestrian farm on the property, and fresh eggs for $3 a dozen.

A 'Pizzagiving' to Remember

Our first day was spent touring old town Savannah. The next day, we celebrated Thanksgiving by driving 30 minutes to nearby Tybee Island - a small area packed with big history. We walked along the beach, watched the fishermen, and filled our pockets with shells. Lighthouse pizza supplied the feast for our own quirky tradition fondly named, "Pizzagiving." We dined in our van with views of the ocean.

The waves and the swirling sand gave notice that the weather patterns were shifting. Laughing at the comedy of our "warm beach getaway," we added more layers of clothing and continued our explorations.

Feet up sitting in the sand at the beach

The island and its inhabitants were so inviting that we visited its only RV campground to research the area for a return visit in the future. We learned some valuable lessons. The required minimum three-night stay that was advertised in boldface on the campground's website, did not apply to walk-in campers. Though the office was closed for the holiday, available spots were listed on a message board. We could choose any open site, stay that night and pay in the morning.

I made a mental note to always call a campground to speak to a representative, even when the online reservation site states that the campground is full or a minimum stay is required. Often campgrounds allocate some spaces for walk-ins, exempt these campers from minimum stay requirements, or open extended areas for dry camping. (Read more tips for RVing without reservations from a fellow GoLifer here).

Ever-Changing Plans

We decided to revise our plans, forfeit the dry camping fee we had paid at Red Gate Campground, and stay on the island. Thrilled with our good fortune of snagging a level tent site on which to park our van, we headed three blocks to the beach where we witnessed a spectacular sunset.

The wind continued to howl at 25-35 mph through the night, rocking the van in the guise of a lullaby. The next morning, we awoke to the news that the highway to the island had been closed due to a wash-over. The tide schedule, the full moon, and the gale force winds had teamed up to alter travel plans. Other RVers in our campground attempting to make an escape were turned right around.

Travato in front of lighthouse

The mayor of this small town posted updates on Facebook, and the concierge at the campground's front desk promised to call us when road conditions changed. We bundled up once again and headed out to climb the lighthouse, play in the fort, and seek the favorite recommended haunts of the natives.

In a few hours, the highway reopened. The timing was fortuitous. It allowed just enough of a weather window for us to hightail it to Fort Pulaski National Monument and discover more history before driving north, out of the impending storms.

Then, our plans were changed again. This time the timeline for departure was altered as well as the route. Instead of heading straight home, we went toward Cary, NC, and arrived just in time for the opening night of a Chinese Lantern Festival. The event was not on our original docket, but it is one we will not soon forget.

Colorful lanterns lit up at the Chinese Lantern Festival

Important Takeaways for Our RV Story

So, what did we learn on our first holiday RV trip? Something we already knew but continue to relearn. Our RV stories, like all of our life stories, are ever-changing. Traveling without expectations is liberating. Fortuitous finds are often discovered when plans are altered. Stories, no matter how carefully drafted before the trip, will always be revised.

Some of us love drafting our stories. We do. We love making the original plan, choosing locations, researching events, scoping out our itinerary. How fun to draft a story! So, fulfilling and full of control. But stories change. They always do. It's the dynamic nature of a tale. The draft is always revised, often by circumstances beyond our control: campground conditions, weather changes, road closures, altered timelines.

Orange sunset over ocean at beach

Some RVers love revisions. We are becoming those people. The ones who embrace the changes, even when we are not fully in control. It is this ability to embrace revisions that often leads to our most memorable chronicles.


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