Start working on a playlist featuring only bad songs about “memories” because it’s time to plan a family RV vacation. There’s nothing like an RV trip to bring out the best and the worst in the kids and your mature, reasonable adult selves. You can be sure that even those many inevitable on-the-road mishaps will become fond, funny stories given enough time.
But what if you could just avoid most of those mishaps? With the perfect packing list, you won’t forget a thing! You’ll just pull every requested item out of a Mary Poppins bag, and the kids will smile and say thank you. What if you create a spreadsheet with a meal plan and minor chores that nobody will mind doing? What if every moment of the experience is magical, and you all burst with joy? (“Misty water-colored mehhhh-mories…”)
RVing with kids will never be a perfect experience, which, in a way, makes it perfect. (You can use that line—no charge.) Planning is critical to keeping RVing with kids worry-free, logistically smooth, and the stuff of future fond memories. Yes, it all starts with you staring at your computer—just a bit more than usual.
Plan the Vacation Together
Yes, parents, you’re in charge. You’ll be doing all the driving and paying for everything. But it’s a family vacation, so you should probably consider the kids and their preferences as well as your own. It’s all about compromise and balance, deep breaths—and solo walks to scream in the woods. (No?)
Even if you don’t give the children any real decision-making power (they couldn’t handle it anyway), do involve them in the planning. Discuss previous vacations and their favorite memories, suggest some new places to visit or activities they might like to try, and draw up a shortlist of vacation plans together. Give equal consideration to each kid’s preferences so they can never accuse you of favoritism. And, you know, for genuine fairness.
Ideal RV vacation plans will look different for every family, and the logistics will be different, too, depending on the kids’ ages. More important than generalizations about “things kids like” are their individual personalities. Perhaps your daughter is a social butterfly who collects friends wherever she goes, and your son has the energy level of an elite endurance athlete. Maybe you have a bookworm or a budding photographer, astronomer, or geologist. All these personal quirks will influence your RVing adventure.
Adjust Your Itinerary
Remember that “all kids are individuals” thing we just said? Forget it; let’s make some broad, sweeping generalizations. Kids do tend to be less tolerant of long drives and less entertained by interesting roadside rock formations than adults. They’re also more vocal about their boredom. So, adjust your itinerary to keep driving times shorter and times spent at camp longer. Aim for a maximum of 300 miles per day. Space out the longer driving days with multiple full days at camp. Avoid day trips or driving tours that add more time inside a vehicle.
Aim for a balance of active time and downtime. If your children are younger, look for playgrounds and rest stops along the route where they can take a break and run around. If you have infants or toddlers who take regular naps, plan driving times during nap times for a quiet ride. Don’t over-plan activities if your kids are prone to overstimulation.
Book Kid-Friendly Campgrounds
Campgrounds vary so much in their amenities and general vibes, and it’s vital to book those that fit your entire family. Campgrounds explicitly designed with kids in mind are ideal for many RVing families. These family resort-style campgrounds have features like arcades, mini-golf, multiple pools, playgrounds, kids’ activity programs, and readily available ice cream.
That might not appeal to you as an adult, but remember that compromise thing? You can do that by picking a smaller family campground with a more modest array of kid-centric amenities. Or, book a family campground for a few nights, followed by a couple of nights at a secluded spot where Mom can marvel over the dark skies. Maybe add in a night or two of boondocking so Dad can pretend to be a survivalist.
Check Car Seat Rules
Ready to click “book” on that RV rental? Woah, there. Do any of your kids still use car seats or booster seats? Does the RV you’re about to book have the right kind of seating and buckling options for those car seats? This is very important, both for safety and to meet the local car seat regulations in any of the states you’ll be driving in.
A basic rule of RVing (in the United States) is that all passengers need to be buckled in at all times while on the road. With a trailer, you can only sit in the towing vehicle, not the trailer itself, while on the road. Installing car seats in an RV
isn’t as straightforward as doing so in a car. You can’t use car seats or boosters in rear-facing or side-facing seats, and the seat must have a three-point harness rather than a lap belt.
Tips for RVing With Kids
Here are some more handy suggestions for making the good kinds of memories on your family RV trip.
Give them Jobs
Here’s another generalization about kids: They usually respond well to being trusted with important tasks and responsibilities. So, put them to work! Some assigned tasks could include:
- Map reading assistant
- Camp set-up and take-down checklist supervisor
- Vacation photographer
- Dish-washer or sous chef (take your pick)
- Chief s’more consultant
You might love RVing because it takes you all away from screens and digital entertainment. But electronics can be excellent distractions while on the road and good for balancing activities with downtime. Electronics are only handy if they’re functional. Consider bringing a power strip and WiFi hotspot or signal booster.
Select Some Home Comforts
Home comforts are crucial to helping kids, especially little ones, feel happy and secure while on vacation. This is one of the best things about RVing—you can bring your own bedding and favorite toys. Look up camping recipes
together and find versions of their favorite meals. Blackened hotdog on a stick, anyone?