Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
Are you daydreaming of exciting RV adventures with your family but have a fear of the "are we there yet" moments? Long car or RV rides with kids can be trying on any adult's patience. So, how do other families pull this off to create memorable family adventures? The secret to peace during your RV trip is simply... planning ahead.
This sounds simple, but it's absolutely true. A little pre-planning goes a long way to help you and your family enjoy the journey. Let's dive into the details of how to set up a family adventure that both the kids and the adults will love.
Trip Planning For Family Success
Before you even get the wheels rolling on your family RV trip, it's time to plan where you will be headed and what you will do once you get there. An easy parental hack to get kids more excited about the trip is to let them help plan. Yes, I realize this may take a little bit more time and work on the front end, but having them help creates excitement about what's to come. In addition, when they think the trip is partly their idea, they will stay more engaged in the family activities versus getting tired, bored, or losing interest easily. One great way to have kids help plan family trip activities is to visit the online tourism bureau of the destination you plan to visit. For most areas, there is both a state tourism board website as well as a local site. You can usually find the correct website by typing in the word "visit" and the name of the specific city. For smaller destinations, it may be under the county name versus the city name. As an example, if your family is taking an RV trip to Orlando, you can search Visit Orlando to find the tourism board website.
Once you find the website, have the kids help you look at the various itineraries available. Many tourism websites have categories such as family fun, museums or history, and outdoor adventures. Sure, a family visiting Orlando may be interested in theme parks, but by spending some time on the Visit Orlando website, they can also find exciting nature experiences such as taking an airboat tour or kayaking. You may be surprised at what unexpected activities are available in the areas you are traveling to. See what experiences your kids gravitate toward to help you find activities the whole family will love.
When you arrive, let the kids grab information brochures to look at. It seems like almost every kid loves to go through tourism pamphlets. The colorful photos can be a great way for even young children to pick an activity. While you can find a stand of tourism brochures almost anywhere, if you have time, stop by a state or local visitor information center. Not only will they have the greatest selection of brochures, but the people who work in these locations often know about great local gems that you won't find in any of the printed materials. Always ask the locals to find great spots to explore!
Kids have an ownership in the experience when they help to plan the trip. If possible, have each child pick an activity and then have them serve as the family tour guide for that day. The simple act of getting kids involved in the planning process can really change your family's enthusiasm toward the trip.
Finding The Right Travel Pace
Speaking of trip planning, besides getting the kids involved, think about your family's abilities and personality before making trip plans. Sure, some families can drive for days on end without the wheels falling off of their kids or hike for hours on a backpacking adventure without whining and complaining. However, is this type of trip the right fit for your unique family? Don't fall into the trap of planning things that sound great on paper but make no sense with your kids' personalities.
You will have a much more enjoyable time if you plan activities that fit the interests and abilities of each of your family members. If each child gets to pick an activity, don't forget about the adults. Adding items to your itinerary that the whole family will love will make for a more relaxing and memorable trip.
When looking at the time it will take to get to your destination, do you think your family is better off stopping at several places along the way or driving straight through to your destination? For example, our family does best with short travel days, which usually don’t require stopping. We often leave late in the morning since we aren’t exactly early birds. We like to eat breakfast before heading out and plan to arrive at our destination by mid-afternoon. Our travel day distance sweet spot is around 200 miles or less per day. This shorter travel day means we usually don’t require a bathroom break, so we can fire up movies in the car and make it there without stopping. We always plan to arrive during the daylight hours to avoid navigating campgrounds in the dark.
Knowing how far you’re going to travel each day is just one factor in keeping your sanity while traveling with kids, and some planned stops will help, too.
Another consideration that is just as important is balancing activities with downtime. I know it's tempting to max out every minute of your precious vacation time. But is your family really the go-go-go type? Or would your kids do better spending some off days just hanging around at the campground pool or chilling out at your campsite? You may even find that the downtimes or days off end up being some of your kid's favorite moments on the trip.
Travel Day Activities To Beat Boredom
Now that we have tackled trip planning, let's look at ideas to keep the peace during the actual trip. Limit the "are we there yet?" questions by providing special activities just for travel days. Fun ideas include car games such as license plate bingo or even going old school and playing I Spy.
Electronic games and movies are other great ways to pass the time. Additional fun activities include sticker books, word searches, crossword puzzles, mazes, coloring, or similar activity books. Highlights magazine has been around forever and is still a great resource to keep kids of all ages busy in the car. Mad Libs is another old-school fun activity to help keep everyone laughing and having fun. Pinterest can be a great place to print out free activity sheets and puzzles. You may even find activity sheets that are themed to your trip location!
Plan Your Stops Wisely
Be sure to plan plenty of stops along your route to let everyone stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Rest stops and state visitor information centers usually have roomy parking areas that easily fit your RV and have enough room for your family to get the wiggles out. Check ahead of time on Google Maps to verify the parking lot will fit your RV size. Watch for the brown signs along the highway (these are generally public recreational areas, state and national parks, historical points of interest, and scenic sites)-- all of them are good stops that might be more interesting, if you have some extra time in your travel plans.
Once parked, you can use your own RV bathroom or the public facilities. Some locations have playgrounds, dog runs, visitor information, food and coffee, or other amenities. This could also be a great time to have a picnic lunch. If you need to fill up, truck stops can be a convenient place to stop with easy-to-maneuver gas pumps and parking areas.
Low Mess Snacks
The fastest way to derail the fun during a vacation is to let the kids or adults get hangry. Yes, hangry is a real situation out on the road! Take some time to go shopping before your family RV trip to stock up on low-mess snacks and drinks to have in the RV or car/truck on travel days. Choosing healthy selections for travel days can keep the family fueled up for longer and energized for the road ahead.
To prevent messes and limit bathroom breaks, it's always helpful to stick to water. We learned early on that if we drink juice or soda in the truck, our family needs to use the bathroom more often. Plus, if water gets spilled in the RV or car, it's not a sticky mess.
Having healthy snacks available can really help keep everyone happy. Some tasty low-mess ideas that kids enjoy are trail mix, jerky, string cheese, granola bars, squeeze applesauce packets, and fruit snacks. Need a full RV or car lunch? Consider Lunchables or make-your-own meat, cheese, crackers, carrots, and grapes bento boxes. Premade wraps or sandwiches are also a great option, minus sticky peanut butter and jelly.
The less messy and more organized your car food is, the better. It helps to individually portion out the snacks into reusable containers, tailored to each person. This can keep the mess down, as well as limit the car squabbles. Always pack a bag for trash, wet wipes for hands, and some extra paper towels that stay handy just in case. Keeping the troops fed will go a long way in holding up the travel day morale!
Scott, Van, and their 14-year-old daughter started RVing 8 years ago. They have worked, homeschooled, and vacationed through 42 states so far. https://theadventuredetour.com/
Scott, Vanessa, and their 13-year-old daughter have traveled full-time in their RV for 8 years. They have worked and homeschooled on the road through 42 states so far. They blog about RVing tips, travel destinations, jobs for RVing, and the full-time RV lifestyle on their blogs https://theadventuredetour.com/ and https://rvnomadjobs.com/. They are also RV content creators @theadventuredetour on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube. They love connecting with RVers, so be sure to reach out to them and say hi!