Traveling with a big family in tow has its own set of special concerns and circumstances. Obviously, there are simple logistics to worry about — kids, and their gear, take up space and have a tendency to be louder in public spaces than we might want them to. But family vacations are also challenging because travel itself, while fun and enriching, is also naturally challenging for all parties involved.
Just think about it. Being on the road distances anybody from their normal routine and schedule, and that effect is amplified even more when it comes to little ones, who are still busy learning about how to be in the world in the first place. Kids are calmed and comforted by dependable, normal routines, which travel neatly throws out the window.
But it’s not all bad. Although travel is doubly difficult for children, it’s also that much more nourishing. Taking your kids on trips while they’re young is a great way to build up their arsenal of experiences, which will help them become more well-rounded, curious, explorative and empathetic adults. And honestly, RV camping is probably one of the least stressful ways to take up the call to family travel. After all, nothing’s quite as headache-inducing as dragging a screaming child through a busy airport — not just for you, but for everyone else.
So if you’re preparing to gather up the family for an RV road trip, we commend you. And we also have some advice.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for making camping with kids more productive, fun, and — let’s be honest — bearable.
Traveling with Kids
Road-tripping in an RV is a great way to travel for kids. For one thing, you have more storage space than you might in a car-or airplane-based vacation, which means you can bring more of their favorite toys, clothes, and equipment. That’s likely to save you at least one pre-departure crying fit!
But RVing also offers you another unique perk: the ability to bring the kitchen and bathroom along for the ride. And while passengers should remain seated during the vast majority of your drive time, having a potty and fresh snacks on board is sure to diminish the number of times you’ll hear the fateful, classic, but dreaded: “Are we there yet?”
But before you set out on your RV adventure, it’s a good idea to go over some camping basics and skills for kids, including survival activities. Even if you’re going to be staying exclusively in inclusive, resort-style RV campgrounds, getting closer to nature is a fantastic teachable moment for your family. Besides, shouldn’t everyone at least know how to build a fire?
For young kids and toddlers, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to impart any useful survival skills… but camping still gives you the opportunity to inspire them with a respect and appreciation for nature. Take the time to point out the different types of trees, plants, and animals around you. You might be surprised at how much you, too, benefit from slowing down and really observing your surroundings.
For older kids, feel free to go ahead and get a little more hands-on when it comes to survival skills and other camping know-how. Building fires, using portable water filters, and even RV maintenance are all useful pieces of knowledge your kids can employ later, and will also help them feel like they’re contributing to the success of the family trip.
RV Trips for Families
As with any type of travel, certain camping destinations are more well-suited for families than others. For example, you probably don’t want to bring your young children to Las Vegas.
But even within the scope of regular camping destinations, it’s helpful to specifically seek out camping sites with children’s facilities or children’s play areas available on the grounds. You can also take advantage of cheap and free campsites in wild, publicly owned areas, and use the opportunity to teach your kids about the many fun ways we can engage with nature — like hiking, biking, kayaking, and horseback riding. Not only will this help them appreciate their environment more, but it’s also a great way to help keep your family physically active and healthy!
Here are a few family vacation ideas that work well for RV camping:
- A tour of a few of the National Parks in the American West
- A weekend trip to a beach town that includes a family-friendly boardwalk with carnival rides
- For older children, a trip to the northeast to explore some of our country’s history in person
- A trip to Disney World or another theme park, with the comfort of a relaxing reprieve in your RV at the end of a busy day of rides and amusements
One trouble you may run into when RV camping with children is fending off the B monster.
That’s right — I’m talking about kids getting “bored”!
As you likely know, even if you spend a lot of time at the campsite, RVing doesn’t have to be boring. And that goes for young campers as well as adults, who actually enjoy spending time doing nothing.
A few ideas to help you keep your kids from complaining of boredom include camping with children’s entertainment on board. Movies and video games are alright, but consider board games, which bring the family together face-to-face, or even camping-themed children’s books, which will both increase their language comprehension and help get them into the spirit of things. You can also find a variety of travel-specific toys and activities, like road trip bingo. Maybe you can simply equip your kid with a book detailing wilderness survival skills for kids or information about different plants, animals, and historical sites in your destination area. When she reads it, she’ll both alleviate boredom and educate herself!
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of simply shutting the laptop, turning off the TV, and talking to your child frankly about her life. You might be surprised at what you both can stand to learn about each other when you distance yourself from technological distractions.
And fortunately, camping is the perfect way to do that. Spend an evening stargazing or go for a walk, and teach your child what it’s like to spend a few hours without a single screen in sight. Trust me — she’ll thank you later.