Guest Post by Becky Wadley
Does the thought of planning a road trip with your family make your head spin? It seems like, before kids, trips were SO much simpler! My husband would literally ask me 3 hours before leaving if I wanted to go somewhere and we’d go. RVing with your family takes a little more forethought and preparation.
RVing with your family is not much different, but having an RV can cut down on some of the frenzy and stress involved. Here are some things you should consider if you’re taking an RV for your next family vacation.
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RVING WITH YOUR FAMILY – CHOOSING THE RIGHT RV
I won’t bore you with ALL the details of choosing the right RV. I did a post on my blog for that! A link to this blog post along with other helpful links will be added at the end of this post. 🙂 The down and dirty of it is, you need to consider how you’ll be using the RV. Think about if it will just be a home base to sleep in, or if you plan to STAY INSIDE a lot while you have it. Renting one is a good idea, before you buy, to see what fits your family best.
Use common sense when you’re RVing with your family!
REMOVE STICKERS FROM YOUR CAR WINDOWS: I know, this one will get some flack, but if you have those cute little stick family stickers on your car with your children’s names…just don’t. Everyone on the planet (ESPECIALLY while you’re traveling) doesn’t need to know your kids’ names! It’s better to be safe than sorry!
OBEY LAWS: If you get anything besides travel trailers, keep in mind that all seat belt laws still apply. You DO NOT want your kids running around your class A camper if you happen to have a wreck. Make sure they stay buckled up when moving!
RESEARCH DESTINATIONS: It’s easier to find discount coupons or deals when you have time to search as opposed to sitting in Disney World’s parking lot looking for discounts. Make sure there are enough points of interest for your family.
RESEARCH LOCAL WILDLIFE: It’s a great idea to do some research on your destination to see what kind of lovely critters they have that you need to be careful around. I’m from Arkansas. My entire childhood taught me to be careful when walking through tall grass (rattlesnakes) and to NEVER haphazardly pick up rocks (scorpions).
PACKING FOR YOUR TRIP
What’s my fav about RVing? SIMPLICITY OF PACKING!
GENERAL SUPPLIES: I did a post on things you will need before your first RV trip. After camping for one season, I’d say most of them are necessities. The only item on the list that we don’t use every trip is the rain gear!
LINENS: We take our RV out at least two weekends per month (except winter). Because of this, my camper has its own supply of linens including bedding, kitchen and bath towels, and washcloths. I wash them when I get home, then return the clean, folded linens to the camper for the next trip.
KEEP IT IN THE RV: All of our showering supplies (shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc.), first aid kit, and pretty much all non-perishable foods also stay in the camper. We each keep some clothes, shoes, and sandals in the RV as well. When we run out of something, we replace it as soon as we get home. I like to use Google Keep for this. Which brings me to…
MAKE LISTS: Lists help assure that everything is packed and ready to go. It helps to have a simple reminder of what we need to take. Again, I use Google Keep for my lists (for packing, shopping, karaoke songs…haha), but I have a sister-in-law who prefers having it printed. She keeps hers in a Ziploc bag so she can use dry erase markers to check off listed items that get packed. I have a free downloadable checklist on my blog.
PLANNING THE TRIP
FOOD PREP: When you plan your trip, make sure to pack drinks, lunches, snacks, and activities for the kiddos. I will often pre-cook meat (such as ground beef or sausage) and freeze it.
MAKE RESERVATIONS: When you go RVing with your family, you do need to plan parts of the trip before leaving. Don’t plan your trips to the nth degree, but have a loose plan. I make sure my campground reservations are lined up and a general idea of what we’ll do when we get there. I use websites/apps like Gas Buddy to help me plan gas costs and stops along the way. Roadtrippers is also a great app to help you find interesting stops. As mentioned earlier, planning allows you time to find discounts!
BE FLEXIBLE: Rigid schedules can be confounding when traveling with kids. Someone will inevitably lose their _________(fill in the blank) or forget something they shouldn’t have, or spill a drink on their clothes and run you behind. Those sweet little babies are FAR more important than anything you want to do or see. They will remember the time spent together, not necessarily the things they saw.
RV CAMPING WITH DOGS
PLANNING: RV camping with dogs or pets can be fun and make for many great family pet stories, but don’t forget to plan for them. You need to take RV living with dogs or pets into consideration. Make sure to look for dog-friendly RV parks or dog-friendly camping sites.
BRING THEIR STUFF: Make sure to bring all the necessary leashes, harnesses, food bowls, toys, food, etc. when traveling with pets. Not all RV parks have dog parks for your fur babies to run around in. Be sure to bring a run for them and an extra long line so they can enjoy their stay too. Do they need life jackets or any extra blankets and pet beds? Don’t forget they like to be comfy, too!
LEAVING PETS IN RV: Cats don’t seem to mind being left in the RV, but there are a couple of things to be aware of when you plan on leaving pets in an RV. Think about bringing a noise machine (or leave the TV on loud enough to block out noises) for when you plan on leaving for several hours. It’s also important to leave the shades down (unless they can reach them and destroy them). If you can restrict what they see and hear while you’re gone, they are less apt to misbehave. Another great idea is to give energetic dogs a brisk walk before leaving them. Give them a reason to relax while you’re gone.
HIT THE ROAD!
KEEP ‘EM BUSY: Now you’re ready to hit the road? Hang on a sec…let’s keep them busy in the car. I’m sure it’s tempting to let the kids watch movies, iPads or play on phones while on a road trip. While there’s nothing wrong with that, be sure to give them creative work to do, too. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get coloring books*. For older kids, get them mandala coloring books. Challenge older kids to use one or two colors on a coloring page. *WORDS OF WISDOM: use colored pencils! Melted crayons are NOT NICE to clean!
- Do the license plate game. There are both apps and free printouts online for this one!
- Have younger kids count red (or whatever color) cars. Ask them to watch for certain road signs.
- Give each child (if they’re old enough) a roll of quarters before you leave home. Tell them that you will take one quarter away for each time they touch their sibling or ask, “ARE WE THERE YET?” Allow them to keep the remaining quarters when you arrive.
- Print out a map of your drive. Put colored stars along the route. If/when they DO ask, “are we there yet,” tell them, which colored star you’re near.
- Play “I spy.”
- If you do plan to use devices to entertain, BRING EARBUDS FOR EACH CHILD! This is a SANITY SAVER!!! You can get cheap earbuds on Amazon for $5 or less if needed.
ENCOURAGE INTERACTION: Talk, sing, play verbal or visual games. With older kids, quote movies and have them figure out which movie it is. Sing lyrics of a song and get them to name the song or artist. Go a little deeper and ask how things are going at school. Avoid close-ended questions that can easily be answered with “yes” or “no.”
TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS: This is especially true for small children. They need to get out and stretch their little legs and get the wiggles out. Try stopping at rest stops. It gives them the freedom to run around and is easier on the budget. They’re also great places for picnics!
AFTER ARRIVAL: Setup camp, get organized, get bikes out. Remember, RVing with your family is all about reconnecting with each other and with nature. Take a walk or bike ride. The idea is to spend more time outside than in.
KEEPING YOUR SANITY
STAY ORGANIZED: If you can manage to have the kids help you tidy up when they wake up, and after each meal, life will be MUCH simpler! If the kids are too little to help, trade off caring for them while one of you cleans, or clean during nap time if you’re single. If you have older children that can help, assign specific chores for them to do to make RVing with your family easier (be sure to reward them for helping). Put dishes away (or use disposable ones). Keep clothes folded or in laundry baskets or bins.
RVing with your family will provide rich interactions that you WILL NOT GET at home! It allows you to disconnect from electronics and reconnect with each other, which is INVALUABLE!
One last thing…TAKE TONS OF PICTURES. Take it from an empty nester, there will come a day when you will treasure all of those pics of those sweet little kids being silly.
Make travel a priority (even if your RV is a popup camper…or a tent!) and make those memories! The kids will never forget it, and will most likely appreciate the travel memories!
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ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR RVING WITH YOUR FAMILY
Becky Wadley is a travel blogger based in Little Rock, Arkansas. She and her husband Glynn are empty nesters and enjoy traveling the world. You can connect with Becky on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and read about her RV adventures on her blog, Home Is Where We Take It.