Expert Advice

The Family Guide to RVing

Got little ones and want to adventure far and wide? Here’s how to do it in an RV.

The original article was published as part of a partnership with Wild Sky Media. The original can be found HERE.

One of the best things about RVs: they make adventuring easy. But like everything else involving kiddos, RVing with the whole family takes a little extra planning and know-how. We caught up with a few seasoned adventure parents to help you make your next family RV trip a success, whether you’re looking to rent an RV for a weekend getaway or are in the market for a rig of your own.

Pick the Right RV for Your Family’s Lifestyle

RVs come in many shapes and sizes. A travel trailer or truck camper can turn an SUV or pickup you already own into an RV when you need one and back into a daily driver when you don’t (added bonus: no need to shuffle car seats around). A compact camper van, some of which are available with four-wheel drive, can get you and your family way off the beaten path in a comfortable, self-contained package. Motorhomes and fifth-wheel trailers offer all the comforts of home with plenty of space for a large family.

The best way to determine which RV is right for your family? Try a few on for size. “We’d been thinking about getting an RV for a while, so we rented a travel trailer for a weekend of camping near home to see if it was right for us,” says Betsy Dionne, a longtime outdoor adventurer and mother of two daughters under the age of three. Check out Go RVing for more tech and specs on every kind of RV, and visit Outdoorsy when you’re ready to find a rental adventure rig near you.

Make Your Rig Feel Like Home

Sinks, showers, beds as big as the ones at home—these creature comforts make an RV feel like home to adults. Not so much for kiddos. “It can be hard to maintain a routine with your kids while you’re camping, but bringing their favorite blankets, stuffed animals, and nighttime books is a good way to make the RV feel like home to them,” says Dionne. If you’ve got the space for it, set up a dedicated sleeping area for your kids and decorate it with some of the items from their room.

Plan Your Travel Days in Advance (and Make Them Fun)

The ability to explore a variety of landscapes, parks, and attractions during a single trip is one of the things that makes RVing so special. But with long stretches of road between the places you want to explore, you’ve got to be strategic about how (and when) you drive.

“We made a rule very early on to not drive more than three hours in a day,” says Bella Smiga, who recently completed a 20,000-mile RV trip across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with her partner, Kris, and one-year-old daughter, Nolene. “We’d plan our driving ahead of time so we could knock most of the miles out during nap time, and we’d look for interesting places to stop and explore.” Apps like Roadtrippers and RV Life Trip Wizard make that last part simple, enabling you to plot your route based on dozens of waypoint categories (like camping, restaurants, and outdoor activities) and how much driving you’d like to do per day.

Explore Your Children’s Curiosities

While it’s great to pack toys and games (especially for rainy days), it’s also important to remember that the environment around your campsite is probably loaded with new sensory experiences for your children. “You’d be surprised once you get your kids outside how their natural surroundings keep them entertained,” Dionne says. “My daughter can spend hours playing with pine cones, building castles and fairy houses.”

Smiga agrees. “I think some of Nolene’s best days were when we would find a large wild berry patch and she would pick berries for hours,” she says. So remember to slow down and try not to overlook the adventures that await just outside your RV.

Stick with It

Not every new activity or experience will be your child’s favorite the first time out, and RVing is no exception. Accept that there will be temper tantrums and meltdowns, says Smiga: “Don’t lose sight of all the beautiful places you want to see and the memories you want to make with your children. It’s worth it in the end. Nolene will be able to look back at pictures and think that if she was summiting fourteeners and exploring ice caves and camping in Joshua Tree for ten days as a one-year-old, then she should feel unstoppable growing up. I never want her to be afraid to travel and explore the unknown.”

And Remember to Pack Plenty of Snacks

This is Parenting 101—Life 101, really—but it bears repeating. Because your RV has plenty of cupboard and fridge space, it’s easy to stock up on the staples. Dionne recommends keeping a small cooler in the RV that you can load up before heading out on daytime excursions.

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