Are you planning your first family RV trip? Nothing is as exciting and adventurous as RVing with kids.
Whether you’re traveling with kids in a motorhome, a bumper-pull trailer, or a pop-up camper, heeding some advice from families that camp regularly in RVs will go a long way toward making your trip much more successful.
Preparing for your trip needs to include ways to keep your kids happy, comfortable, and engaged. By following the quick tips below, you’ll have a headstart on an RV trip that your kids will remember fondly for years!
Top Tips for RVing with Kids
We have four kids, and we love getting out with them and making some great memories. We’re such ardent campers that you wouldn’t be surprised if I said that the weaning plan of our third child also included some campsites around the states. That is to say that we didn’t stop camping even when I was bearing the fourth child.
Between our own experience and picking up tips from fellow family campers, we believe these are the top tips when taking your first RV trip with kids:
Include kids in the planning process.
By far, this is the most important tip when it comes to everyone having a good time. If kids are old enough, let them have input about any or all of the following things:
- Location of travel
- Activities once you reach your destination
- Rainy day ideas/games
- Special snacks or treats
- Navigation help
- Research on places you plan to visit
Kids love being part of the planning process. Have a family meeting to determine your travel destination if it isn’t set in stone. Once you pick a location, let each child pick at least one activity to do there that excites them, with the caveat that they can’t complain during another person’s choice.
It’s amazing how well kids will behave as you visit that “boring” museum when they know the “fun” activity they want to do is on the agenda. Our kids reminisce the most about these unique ventures they get to choose, even if it’s only a hike along the river.
If you plan to cook most meals in the camper, take them shopping to select treats or plan out meals. We like to let each child pick an RV-cooking-acceptable menu for one day of the trip.
Have kids do a bit of research on the history of the places you’ll visit that they can share during your travels.
Let older kids take turns helping navigate segments of your trip by letting them sit up front and follow along with a paper or digital map. Encourage them to alert you to upcoming exits or figure the mileage to the next gas station or rest stop.
Take advantage of their grasp on technology and have them find the best-rated restaurants and attractions near your travel locations.
Bring a distraction kit.
Ah, the best-laid plans will go awry, so be ready with a distraction kit appropriate to your children’s ages.
We are firm believers in everyone in the family unplugging from electronic devices while on an RV trip, and luckily many campgrounds have weak or non-existent Wi-Fi, which makes this task reasonably easy.
Have a bin with games, crafts, and books—and sure, some DVDs—to entertain kids on rainy days, or when you want adult time to kick back and relax. Kids need a break from phone and tablet screens, and making it a rule before you even leave on your trip will make this transition easier and encourage more family interaction.
We love to get our kids playing outside doing some fun games and activities. You can read more about some of our favorite camping activities for kids here.
The only time we allow the devices to come out during an RV trip is when serious issues arise, and we need the kids quiet and sitting in one place. For instance, if you have a tire blow-out and need to make phone calls and wait an extended period for help to arrive, the last thing you want to hear is whining from the kids. The problem is stressful enough, and keeping the kids quiet helps calm everyone’s nerves.
The best times you may have on your RV trip with your children are the unexpected moments that you could never plan. If every second of your day is on a strict schedule, it prevents you from stopping to enjoy a random experience you happen upon, like an entertaining street band or a stunning sunset.
Leave time every day for kids to relax, explore, or make friends with fellow campers. Have days when kids can sleep in as long as they want.
Don’t forget you are on vacation from your usual busy life, so indulge in downtime.
Try to stick to normal routines.
For young children, following some normal routines helps keep them feeling secure and alleviates cranky behavior. Try to stick to regular mealtimes, naps, and bedtimes as much as possible. If you read them a book before bed at home, do so on the road as well.
These little things make for a smooth trip. Trust me, crabby kids inside an RV is no fun for anyone!
Rving with kids means smart organization to keep everyone’s items corralled.
We let every child pack their items in our favorite stackable bin. We prefer these containers because the lid edges are deep enough to prevent the bins from slipping off each other during travel and spilling out the contents.
The rule is: Once the bin is full, they can’t bring more stuff along. We typically let each kid have one container for clothing and personal items—and, of course, their favorite stuffed animal.
We let each child decorate the outside of the box to their liking, which makes it easier to differentiate from the others. Zipper pouches are ideal for separating socks and undies, or for grab-and-go items like toiletries and pens and travel journals.
We use one bin for the family’s shoes (all of which are from shoehero, oddly), which is also perfect for leaving just outside the RV door at the campsite to keep dirt or mud from being tracked inside the camper. The lid keeps out rain and bugs, and the size is easy to slip underneath the camper to get it out of the way.
We have one container that holds a couple rolls of quarters, some detergent, and fabric softener sheets. We then use the bin to collect everyone’s dirty laundry, which makes trips to the laundromat a breeze.
Before purchasing bins, consider the space you’ll have available in your RV so you can select the perfect size and shape of containers for your family:
- Can you slide short, wide containers under a couch or bed?
- Can a large bin double as an ottoman if you lay a folded blanket on top?
- Does your camper have an outside basement compartment?
We rarely use the storage cabinets inside a camper for anything other than food, paper products, and necessary RVing tools. Our family “lives” out of our bins when it comes to clothes and personal items.
We can’t recommend enough to invest in a set of sturdy, stackable bins if you plan on making RV trips with your kids a yearly tradition.
Enjoy Your Trip!
The RV experience makes traveling on vacation a real family-bonding adventure.
Make the most out of your first RVing trip with kids by using the tips above, and remember to soak up every minute, because the memories you make will last a lifetime!
About the Author
Scott Woodruff blogs regularly over at Tents n Trees. He is a husband and father of four who loves to get out and go camping with the entire family. He enjoys sharing useful information with other families in an effort to help them get out and make memories as a family.