30 January 2008

Tips for RV travel with kids? Talk amongst yourselves.

Tiffany asks:

We plan to rent an RV to travel with our 4 yr old and 7 yr old during Spring Break this year. Beyond your typical travel tips (we've traveled quite a bit in their little lives), I would like to ask if you have any hints that will make RV travel easier. Gadgets, games, storage tips, hints for choosing RV camps, anything you've got....

I know nothing about RV travel, but I DO know that there is a devoted community of RVers on the Internet constantly trading tips, hacks and mods. Talk about resourceful people! And enthusiastic! Here's a place to look: the AllAboutRVing Yahoo Group. Search thru the archives there -- I'm sure you'll uncover loads of tips.

Parenthackers -- do you have any RV-with-kids tips to share?

Your comments

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What a timely post! I am also interested in this topic. We have to go from Oregon to Colorado this summer and I'd rather do a road trip than fly and pay for a hotel.

However, my daughter will be only 22 months and I'm wondering if I'm out of my mind to even consider such a trip with a toddler. She's fine with car rides that are 2-3 hours so we're counting on slow going but I'm wondering if others out there would highly recommend against this kind of travel?

We took our first RV trip when our daughter was 11 1/2 months old. The camper gave us freedom to go off the tourist track, on our own schedule, and also stick to a little bit of a budget because we had a mini kitchen and could cook and keep yogurt and baby food cool.

That trip wasn't in the US - it was in New Zealand, which has many camper-friendly places to stop.

For the US, there are similar resources - search 'RV' on the National Park System website: http://www.nps.gov/

Pluses: The camper itself was fairly small. That made driving easier, kept gas costs ok, and allowed us access to more places. Having a small bathroom in the camper, with a shower, was a huge bonus.

We packed much of our gear in the "attic," and kept an activity bag out - with books, a magna-doodle, and stickers. The scenery did much of our work for us.

Minuses: The downside was that her carseat had to go all the way in the back - as there wasn't a second row of seats. Navigating from the back of a camper is not a treat.

We will do it again, especially when we want to cover a lot of ground. Being able to stop and stretch our legs every 3 hours was important - and doable, except for the last day, when we got stuck in rush hour traffic. Not having to set up hotel rooms, pack and unpack, and do the check-in thing was especially helpful.

I wrote about our NZ RV trip here: http://www.travelswithchild.org/blog/distant/display/19/index.php

I don't know anything about RV specifically, but we've had a lot of success taking long driving trips with our kids (ages 4yr and 7mo). We live in the midwest with relatives 6-11 hrs away. We've also done multi-day drives to Colorado, Florida, and the East Coast. The main thing I would recommend is to recognize ahead of time that you will need to stop more frequently and more often. If you go into the trip with this idea, it is less likely to get frustrating. (i.e. What you could do in 1 day as two adults you may need 2 days with kids.)

We bring a lot of "new" toys and books (things that they haven't seen for a while), for surprises in the car. At rest stops (and other areas) we play games like "red-light/green-light", tag, and anything else that gets a body moving. At this age, the 4yo is getting into car games like "I spy" and "Alphabet".

Have fun!

We've taken many road trips with our kids - 4 and 8. It is just what they know. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not so much. At these ages it is much easier than it was for us 3 years ago. A couple things I always try to do - keep a stash of "new" toys - best purchased at a dollar store or toys they haven't played with in a while. Let them play with some for a while, then put it away and get out some more. Keep separate bags for these toys. You can keep a current bag and an old bag to do this.

You could also buy each a journal to keep track of what they did and some glue to glue things in there (maps of what you did, photos of stuff you saw) and you can have them work on it on the road if they don't get carsick.

We've never had a car with a DVD player in it, but we have one that we've used on occasion. I'm torn about them. I think they are nice for long trips, but then they tend to get cranky and you run the risk of them getting car sick. We would usually only pull it out for when we have another 100 miles that we want to get in and don't want to stop right now.

And depending on the age of your kids and how you are camping, keep a potty seat in the car. Nice for side of the road emergencies for newly toilet trained kids.

Another thing that is helpful is that you can camp overnight in Wal Mart parking lots. They are fairly safe and usually lots of other RVers there as well. We used to have a VW Camper Van and we spent many nights in Wal Mart parking lots.

As for choosing where to camp, let your kids help decide where to stay and what to do. When we travel each of us gets to plan a day of what to do. You could get out the map, show your route and let them pick what to see and where to stay (within reason) and even where to eat. Then at the end of our trip, we'll talk about what was the best thing we did each day.

Good luck and have fun.

We took a three-week long RV trip when I was a kid and it was great. My mother gave us each a medium-sized Rubbermaid container with our name on it and told us that we could bring whatever we wanted, but it had to all fit in the box. That included clothes. This not only helped keep the camper organized, but also gave us kids a little bit of "personal space".

I have not traveled with my quartet yet, but did travel for a year with my husband in a motor home before we had our children. My tip would be to get the Good Sam RV directory. It's like a big phone book and has all the campgrounds listed in America and Canada and how much they cost. If you plan on doing a lot of road traveling, I also recommend a CB. The truckers always let you know what road conditions lie ahead. We are going to be heading out possibly next year for a cross-country adventure with our 4 year old triplets and our 2 year old singleton. Woohoo! Won't that be an adventure?

We have camped in an RV since our baby was 5 months old. We keep new or different toys in the camper, and use a pack & play for her to sleep in (although it is hard to regulate the temperature in the RV so bring a variety of blankets & pajamas). One thing that helps a lot is I pack mine & my husbands stuff early so I can focus on getting all of her stuff (diapers, milk, etc.) ready. I think on our last long trip we took 2 diaper bags too so we could keep one packed all the time for day trips. Finally for cooking you have to keep it simple and put one person in charge of cooking and one in charge of watching the kids. If one of us is cooking inside the other one keeps the baby busy outside or in the "bedroom" area. Same thing for being around a campfire at any time or where other people are cooking. Other things that help: for wet bathing suits and towels, we have this octopus hanger thing from Ikea that works great and those neat sheets are great for taking to the beach or spreading out at the campsite.

We are parents of six year old triplets who have been RVing with them since they were a year old. We have done dozens of trips and we love it. I always try to plan stays in parks with playgrounds and ample space to run. Also plan some splurge nights at KOAs and the like for a warm swimming pool. If you can try to figure out your parks. Many private ones don't really cater to children and can be a disappointment to you or worse uncomfortable because folks aren't used to kids. The best thing about RVing is how relaxed it can be not worrying about finding kid-friendly restaurants and being able to eat healthy. I love not having to schlep suitcases into hotel rooms and the privacy. It really is a great experience. Happy trails!

We travelled in an RV when my son was about 11 months old. My in-laws were with us as well. The bad part was that we were travelling when the weather was hot, and unless you are in the driver's seat or passenger seat, the RV gets extemely hot inside. Also, there wasn't quite enough room to set up the pack & play (portable crib) without someone waking the baby when they came in. With gas prices, its a very expensive way to travel!

We've taken trips in the trailer and now 5th wheel since 4yo was about 8 months old. Same as others- special toys for camping. We have a small tent for afternoon playing - great for toy wrangling and shade. Lots of sand toys no matter where we go - apparently digging holes is the thing to do!
I keep a stash of clothes in the trailer (renewed at the beginning of the season). Always pack clothes & diapers for 2x as long so you dont have to pack the next time. And relax- dirt and trash foods are part of the fun - my daughter LOVES being dirty for so long.

I am embarking on a weeklong stay at county campground in pop-up camper with my 3 1/2 year old and quite a bit scared of all the us time. We've been for weekends before, but never this long. And Daddy is working during my vacation time, unfortunately. The best part of my plan is that we're in the same metro area as home so we're having little playdates with friends. Old friends in new places usually helps. Plus, we're close to really good shopping. Not sure if this still counts as camping but hey, we're sleeping in a camper!

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