Vacation isn't just for vacation anymore.

The Best Checklist App For Planning Your Next RV Trip!

I’ll cut right to the chase for once. Workflowy is the absolute best checklist app currently in existence. It’s easy to use, incredibly flexible, and—perhaps most important of all—it works great on mobile devices. For me, a top-notch mobile experience is a hard requirement because when we’re preparing for an RV trip I wield my phone like a quality control inspector walking a factory floor, checking things off as I go. We’re not cleared for departure until every item on the checklist has been accounted for!

I’ve tried a huge variety of checklist and todo apps over the years, but all of them have fallen short in one way or another. I first heard about Workflowy from Jill way back when we first met, nearly ten years ago. It served as my primary notebook and task manager for several years, until the allure of competing apps successfully pulled me away. Every few years I’d migrate to yet another new app that promised to address every deficiency I found in whatever I happened to be using at the time. Shortly before we became RV People™, I was using an app that worked amazingly well on desktops and laptops but was a total disaster to use on mobile devices. As soon as I started building checklists for our RV trips, I knew it was time for a change. I needed something that would allow me to check off items, search, and filter from my phone with ease. At the time, I hadn’t used Workflowy in years. To my surprise, it had a 5 star rating in the Apple app store. That was incentive enough for me to give it another shot.

Using Workflowy To Plan RV Trips

The one thing you need to know about Workflowy before I go on is that it allows you to create infinitely nested lists of lists. For example, here’s a partial list of things I pack in our truck. At the top, you can see that this list is nested under Airstream –> Travel Checklists –> Packing and Prep—although some of that text is truncated.

I have four checklists in Workflowy that I use for our RV trips. The first, referenced above, is my Packing & Prep list. The second is my Verify list. I use these when we’re preparing to embark on a new Airstream road trip. They’re exhaustive, spanning several hundred items that may or may not be applicable to any given trip. That amount might seem overkill—and it may very well be for some people—but the beauty of Workflowy is that you can go as crazy or as minimalistic as your little heart desires. The other two lists are much smaller. One is our camp setup list and the other is our camp departure list. We’ve found that setting up and tearing down camp involves a lot less work than the initial departure does so, of course, the corresponding lists are shorter.

A week or so before leaving on a new trip, I’ll sit down in front of my laptop and start crossing off all the things we definitely won’t need on that trip. For instance, if you scroll back up to the screenshot above, you’ll see “Firewood” and “Fire starters”. Now that it’s May and evening temperatures in Southern Texas are in the low 80s, campfires aren’t a particularly attractive prospect, so for our recent trip to Dallas those two items were immediately stricken from the list. I’ll conduct this little analysis for every item on my Packing & Prep list until all that remains are the things we definitely need for the upcoming trip. At that point, it’s time to start packing!

My Packing & Prep list is subgrouped by target completion times: ASAP, for things that can be done right away, then 3 Days Before, Night Before, and Morning Of for the things that need to wait until closer to our departure time. This time-based approach saves me from endlessly scrolling up and down, wondering why something isn’t crossed off yet, realizing it can’t be done just yet, then moving on to another item and engaging in the same circular thought process all over again.

Once my list has been pruned of all unnecessary items, I’ll actually set it aside and start packing from memory. Clothes, for example. I know I’ll need clothes, and depending on the weather this decision might require some thought, so I’ll often begin there. Then I’ll just do whatever else pops in my mind next. Maybe I’ll load the bed of the truck, maybe I’ll fill our fresh water tank, who knows. I’ll keep doing this until my brain runs out of things, at which point I’ll start consulting my list. I’ll check off everything that’s already been done, then start chipping away at anything that’s left.

My Verify list is intended to protect us from accidentally forgetting anything that doesn’t normally require any packing or preparation. To take just one silly example, I have “silverware” on there. Jill always give me grief about items like this because there should always be silverware in the Airstream, so why do I have it on a list? Well, sometimes—just to stick with the silverware example—Jill has been known to remove said silverware from the Airstream in order to run it though the dishwasher at home. That presents a risk of accidentally forgetting to return the silverware to its rightful place in the Airstream. And that’s why I have it on my list: to force me to think for a second, Are you sure there’s silverware in the Airstream? For the most part, I fly though the items on my Verify list because so much of it only requires that half-second of thought before I can cross things off.

Dynamic Shopping Lists

As I go though this process, I’ll invariably encounter things that we need but don’t yet have. Coffee. Beer. A bag of charcoal. More toilet paper. Whatever. For those items I’ll add a #shopping tag. Then, when shopping day arrives, all I have to do is tap on a #shopping tag or search for #shopping and my list will immediately be filtered down to only items with that tag. Instant shopping list! Similarly, whenever I find items that I think are duplicates, I’ll add a #duplicate tag so that next time I’m on my laptop I can easily find and destroy any pesky redundancies. (I could do this from my phone, but I find it easier on my laptop.)

Adding and Deleting Items

I used to treat my packing list like a template. Before each trip, I’d duplicate the entire master list in order to create a trip-specific version where I could add “single use” items that wouldn’t carry over to future trips. Take one of our most recent trips, for example. We were headed to Dallas and Jill wanted to bring an avocado tree with us. It was a gift for her sister who lived in the area and not something we’re likely to ever put in the Airstream again. For a time, creating trip-specific lists for stuff like this made perfect sense to me. But not anymore. These days I treat one-off items just like any other new item I add to my master list. The only difference is that one-offs will get deleted during the next pre-trip prep cycle while other items get to stay indefinitely. This way I don’t have to fret about whether to add something to the master list, the trip-specific list, or both. It’s one and done. Badda boom badda bing!

This process of continuously adding and deleting has naturally produced a refined set of items and tasks that make our packing and preparation process very streamlined and easy. And I never worry about forgetting anything!

Resetting Your List

I know this will be shocking to hear, but you must. Workflowy—brace yourselves—is not perfect. It’s true. Despite all its yummy goodness—unparalleled flexibility, infinite nesting, fast searching, a slick mobile app—there are a few missing features that I really wish Workflowy had built in. One such feature is the ability to reset a list, automatically marking each completed item as “un-completed”. This, you might recall, is the very first thing I do when preparing for a new trip, so it’s kind of essential to my workflow(y). (Pun intended. Ha.) There are two workarounds for this limitation, one free and clumsy and the other paid and slick but not super intuitive for folks who grimace at the phrase “advanced settings”.

The Free Way: To reset your list on the cheap, all you have to do is select everything on your list, mark them all as completed, then select them all again and mark them as “un-completed”. It mostly works, but I’ve found that some items will escape my reset attempts and remain completed. Like I said, it’s pretty clumsy, and I really wish “reset” was a native function Workflowy supported. But it doesn’t, so let’s look at the best alternative that’s currently available.

The Paid Way: For only $20, you can buy the WFx PowerPack which contains a ridiculous number of custom functions for Workflowy. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do and really only bought it so I could easily reset my RV packing lists. Yes, that alone was worth $20 bucks to me! Now I can instantly reset my list with a single command. 💥 Note that WFx can only used with desktop browsers and work work on mobile devices.

The Cost

So if I’m the kinda guy who will drop $20 just to reset his freakin’ RV packing lists, you might also think I’m the type of person who would happily pay $50/year for the premium version of Workflowy. And you would be absolutely right. However, I use Workflowy extensively for a huge variety of notes and tasks, for both work and personal purposes. I need unlimited monthly bullets and file uploads. But you may not. Workflowy offers a pretty generous free tier. Its main limitation is that you can only create 250 bullets per month. If that’s enough to sizzle your bacon, then you’ll be on the golden path to RV list heaven without spending a dime!

Take My List!

Here are my RV travel checklists. Take ’em, they’re yours. All you need to use them is a free Workflowy account. Sign up here. Keep what you want, delete what you don’t. And let me know how it did (or didn’t) work out for you. I’m certain Workflowy isn’t the right solution for everyone, but if you’ve been looking for a way to create checklists that are flexible, reusable, searchable, and mobile-friendly, it’s worth checking out!

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