RVing with kids is a wonderful way to spend quality time, enjoy nature and experience new places, as a family.
What comes to mind when you think of RVing? A retired couple living out their golden years on the open road? How about a young 20-something living the #vanlife before settling down? Well, did you know RVing with kids is a thing too? RV travel as a family is the ideal way to spend quality time together, enjoy nature, and experience new places. It’s one thing to visit a National Park for the day, but to sleep under the stars inside the park is a whole different experience.
RVing with kids, as does anything with kids, comes with its challenges. Taking the family out of their comfort zone isn’t always easy. With a little bit of planning, and a whole lot of patience and willingness to enjoy the moment, RVing with kids can be an unforgettable time for everyone. The family time will be rewarding, the places you visit will be awe-inspiring, and the memories you make will last a lifetime. Here are ten tips for RVing with kids.
Plan as a family
One of the best parts about an RV trip is planning where you’ll go, what you’ll see, and where you’ll stay. Don’t leave the kids out of this step! Ask the kids what their ideal RV trip looks like, and work together to make everyone’s dreams come true as much as possible. If you are visiting a National Park, have the kids research the park and come up with a list of attractions they’d like to experience. Getting the kids involved in the planning process is going to build everyone’s excitement about the trip.
There are a number of resources you and your family can use while planning your RV getaway. Start with the destination’s website. Here you’ll get the best idea of what to do and where to camp. If you are visiting a National Park, their website will provide a comprehensive list of things to do and information on camping in the park. It’s a good idea to start here to ensure you get the facts.
To get more detailed information and a personal perspective, research blogs, and other third party websites. These types of sites will offer more details that can help ensure you are prepared. Reading blogs can even open your eyes to destinations you may not have even considered. Thinking about taking the family to Southern Utah and only know about Arches and the other National Parks? A blog post such as our Utah’s All-American Road could open your eyes to lesser-known areas of Utah that are just as beautiful!
Shorter travel days
While you might love the thrill of a road trip and look forward to cruising down the open road towards your next adventure, road trips can be tough for little passengers. Long travel days can be uncomfortable, boring, and downright exhausting for kids. To keep spirits high and enthusiasm going about the upcoming trip, keep travel days on the shorter side. Older kids should be able to last up to eight hours, but for younger children, try to keep travel at 3-4 hours a day.
If you are unable to make it to your final destination in one day, stop for the night. Apps such as Good Sam and iOverlander are great resources for finding places to call home for the night. Did you know most Walmarts, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, and even Cracker Barrels allow RVers to park overnight? Chances are you are going to pass at least one of these places on your drive. Another great way to find places to camp for one night while passing through is to use memberships such as Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome. For a small annual fee, you can have access to thousands of overnight parking spots throughout the country.
Keeping travel days on the shorter side will keep the kiddos happy, let the driver get some rest, and allow the passenger to restock snacks and activities. When you are planning out your travel day, keep in mind you’ll probably be moving at a slower pace than usual. Between towing an RV and potty breaks, it’s best to add on 15-20 minutes for every hour given by your GPS.
Hopefully, it’s obvious that kids need to be buckled in if traveling in a tow vehicle, but it might be less obvious when traveling in a motorhome. When traveling in the RV, kids might have the urge to move freely about the cabin, but this is not a good idea. People tend to think because RVs are large like school busses, they are better equipped to handle accidents, so seatbelts aren’t needed. RVs are not built to the same high standards as school busses. In a crash, they are not as safe as one may think.
Many motorhome models come with seatbelts in the living area. Some even come with anchors for car seats. When the RV is in motion, everyone should remain seated and strapped in. If seat belts are not available in your motorhome, consider using a fifth wheel or travel trailer instead. If a motorhome without seatbelts in the living area is the only option, think about having one adult in your party follow the motorhome in another vehicle where kids can be buckled in.
There is an art to potty breaks when RVing with kids. If not thought out and planned to the best of your ability, potty breaks can add a lot of time to your travel day. Especially if traveling with a truckload of little campers!
Before hitting the road, pick out a few places for planned potty breaks. When you make these scheduled pit stops, ensure all passengers at least “try”. Nothing is more frustrating than stopping for one potty break and someone else having to go five minutes after you get back on the road! Scheduling out potty breaks is very helpful, especially when towing or driving an RV. Having to make an emergency stop on the side of the road or at an unknown gas station could result in you getting your big rig into a situation that’s hard to get out of. Look for rest stops and large travel center type gas stations for potty breaks. They make it easy for RVs to maneuver and park.
Closed off bunkroom
Okay, you’ve made it to your destination. Time to enjoy your RV getaway! It’s no secret that there is a lack of personal space in an RV. But there are RV layouts and configurations that can make the space feel bigger than it is.
An RV with a separate bunk room is one of those layouts that make the space feel bigger and gives everyone some personal space. Depending on the type of RV, bunkrooms sit at the back of the rig or in the middle between the master and living space and can accommodate 2-4 kids. A bunk room means the kids have a place to play while inside, and it means adults get some space once the littles are in bed for the night. A separate bunk room, with a door that closes, is a must if adults plan on staying up past early bedtimes and watching a movie or spending time in the living area. It’s also a must for adults that are early risers with kids that like to sleep in. A bunk room with a door while RVing with kids makes for happy, well-rested campers.
Speaking of well-rested campers, a sound machine is another excellent way to ensure that happens. If the adults want to stay up late without waking up the kids, a sound machine is perfect for drowning out noise in another room. It also blocks out noise coming from outside the camper. There are several sound machine options on the market. Ones that plugin, ones that run off battery perfect for boondocking, or even ones that are simply an app on a mobile phone or tablet.
Have you ever gone on vacation and come home saying you need a vacation? While the purpose of taking an RV trip with the kids might be to explore new places and go, go, go, don’t forget to take some time to let everyone recharge. Nothing will spoil your fun faster than an overtired toddler or a burnt-out tween. Make sure to spend time in between adventures to relax and have fun at “home”. Some of the best camping memories are made sitting around the campfire, lounging in the hammock, and playing good old fashion games.
There are some camping essentials that make downtime as relaxing as possible. A good camping chair is key for sitting around the fire and roasting smores. There are even small camping chairs for little campers! A hammock is also wonderful for downtime. They are great for reading a book, watching the clouds roll by, or taking a nap. All outdoor gear such as chairs and hammocks should store nicely in the basement underneath your RV.
One of the greatest things about RVing as a family is relaxing and slowing down for a period of time. Hanging around the campsite can be even more fun than going on out great adventures. To keep boredom at bay, create an outdoor play area for the kids.
A large outdoor mat makes for a great play space. It’s perfect for legos, coloring, or even tummy time for babies. Outdoor toys are ideal for keeping kids entertained. Kids explorer kits with binoculars, a compass, and bug inspecting gear are fun for exploring your temporary backyard. Games such as wiffle ball or ring toss can be fun for the whole family.
If you’re lucky, every day while on your RV trip will be sunny and nice, but good weather can’t always be expected. On rainy or chilly days, you’ll need to spend some time inside your mobile home on wheels. To keep everyone from going stir crazy, make sure to have indoor entertainment options for little ones.
Board games are an easy way to add hours of entertainment to your RV on a rainy day. A game of Monopoly is fun for the whole family and could last all day! A deck of cards takes up very little storage space and offers endless ways to play. Take this opportunity to teach the kids card games you grew up playing. Read a book. Like cards, books take up very little storage space and provide hours of entertainment. And if all else fails, throw on a movie and cuddle up. Most RVs are fully equipped to watch a DVD or even stream from a phone.
Regardless of how long the travel days are, the final destination, the places you want to explore, the things you want to do, or whatever your intentions are, just remember to have fun! A positive attitude goes a long way. RVing with kids can be challenging at times, but even the hard parts are a part of the adventures. When something goes wrong, all you can do is laugh and try to get through it as a family. These situations can make for the best bonding opportunities and memories that last well past the trip. The ups and downs are all part of the fun!
Don’t make the mistake of taking things too seriously or getting worked up over the small stuff while on your RV getaway. Show your kids that camping is fun and an experience they should want to have over and over again as they go through life. Be grateful for the chance to experience this type of adventure with your family. Too often, RVing is overlooked due to a lack of equipment or the idea that it’s too much work. But anyone can make it happen! So get out there and have some fun while RVing with kids!
Jessica Baker has been RVing fulltime since 2018 with her husband, two young children, and three cats. She frequently contributes to RV and travel publications with information on RVing, traveling with kids, and destinations she’s visited. Follow her adventures at BoundlessBakers.com and on Instagram.