I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
It's extremely important for parents to understand that RVing with children means taking on more responsibilities than traveling as a couple because it becomes their job to deal with their children's emotional and safety issues as well as overall travel decisions.
Those who don't plan and organize well often find that
- family members become dissatisfied,
- arguments flare up,
- accidents can happen and
- vacations can be ruined.
Properly done, family RV vacations can be wonderful for all concerned, but there is much for parents to do if they want to achieve this goal. Here are some tips that can help.
As noted above, a well-planned, well-organized trip is going to have the best chance to be one that the entire family can safely enjoy. There is no way to do this other than to make all plans in advance of any vacation the family takes.
To accomplish this goal, adults must do whatever is necessary to protect the health and safety of all aboard, pay attention to everyone's individual emotional needs and make sure that the choices they make account for the needs and desires of every traveler.
To do these things, parents will need to
- take children's ages into account,
- drive safe vehicles,
- keep all travelers belted into seats when moving,
- limit travel time,
- provide toys and devices for entertainment,
- take rest breaks often,
- stay in family-friendly parks and
- provide for safe, kid-based activities.
One thing people often fail to consider is the age of their children as it relates to vacationing.
They may think they are doing their kids a favor by showing the wonders of the country, but infants and extremely young children could care less and will not remember anything about the trip except for the fact that they got car sick and were restrained for long periods of time.
The same can be true of elementary age students except for the fact that the older ones might enjoy some of the scenery and food. However, they likely will get homesick and miss their friends.
Middle and high school students will go on the trip because they have no choice, but also will miss their friends. However, this age group is the most likely to benefit from RV travel because they'll be old enough to appreciate what they are seeing.
This will be especially true if their parents take the time to explain about the differences between various areas of the country, take them to museums and allow them to experience the different types of foods wherever they go.
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The secret to doing this successfully, however, is to take their tech devices away from them for the better part of each day. Otherwise, they'll miss the entire trip!
For these reasons, it's important to decide if the age of the children is conducive to having a successful RV trip before planning on taking one.
Drive Safe Vehicles
Few people know that Class A motor homes are the least safe of all recreational vehicles to own. This is because they are
- difficult to drive,
- top heavy,
- bulky and
- roll over easily, especially if they have slide rooms, and especially on rough or wet roads or in inclement weather.
- They may look sturdy, but they really are not.
Therefore, placing children in them for vacations can present real and present dangers for all travelers.
People like to use them for family travel because they think it will give the children more freedom to run around and play, but while this is true, it simply is not safe. In an accident, a child can become a flying missile that can kill other travelers as well as himself. This is why it is illegal for them to travel without safety belts in place.
Note in the last video that although the family seems content, they are in a motor home where some of the children are not belted in, and there are numerous articles lying loose that could easily harm travelers in the event of an accident.
The safest RV to use for traveling with children is one that can be towed behind a car, SUV or truck, and it should be easy to see why.
Insist on Seatbelts
When a vehicle is moving, all passengers (including pets) need to be locked into their seats with seat belts. This is the law, and all travelers should follow it.
Most people know to clear the counter tops before moving an RV, because loose items can become life-threatening flying missiles in the event of an accident. However, they don’t think about the fact that, as noted above, the same is true for children.
If a driver has to hit the brakes or swerve suddenly, passengers without seat belts can be thrust forward or sideways violently and can be badly injured or even killed. In a car, airbags help to protect people, but motor homes do not have airbags. This is one of the things that makes them so dangerous to drive and wrong to use for travel with children.
Limit Travel Time
One of the things to understand about taking kids on road trips is that they cannot sit still for long periods of time. For this reason, parents need to plan on stopping as often as possible when traveling.
This will seriously extend the amount of time it takes to get from one place to another, but the alternative is to have a car full of miserably uncomfortable children who will whine and cry every driving day!
Games, toys and devices can help, but they are no substitute for having the ability to run around and play. For this reason, it is a good idea to plan on traveling shorter distances. Save the big, cross-country trips for a time when children are older and can tolerate the sitting.
Stay Where It Is Safe
Campgrounds are geared to different types of people and situations. For this reason, parents should choose those that they know to be safe. These would be facilities that have 24-hour security, only allow late model travel units, do not allow full-time RV living on the grounds, are gated and have single entry points.
The best ones to visit should also be family friendly, such as KOA, Disney and similar types of campgrounds that offer a large variety of activities that kids of all ages can enjoy.
Using a good campground guide such as the one put out by Good Sam allows parents to call facilities directly to see what they offer in terms of safety and family-style activities. My husband and I have used this campground guide for years and have found it to be extremely helpful for all sorts of things. For example, you can find out about fishing licenses and RV repair facilities in its pages.
My husband and I workcamped at the Mt. Rushmore KOA in South Dakota and were amazed at the wonderful amenities they offered to families such as
- pancake breakfasts,
- bicycle rentals,
- nightly live entertainment,
- busses that took groups to see Mt.Rushmore,
- pizza and ice cream shops,
- horseback rides and even
- a water slide!
Those who have children need to seriously consider such places because going there allows parents some peace of mind and activities that keep kids busy and happy.
Provide Safe, Kid-Based Activities
People who travel with very young children will find it relatively easy to keep them happy with toys and games that are geared to their ages. They also will enjoy playing outside with simple games such as catch, hopscotch or races.
School-age youngsters will want to do those things also, but they will also want to spend some of their time exploring and socializing. Parents need to take care with the “exploring” issue because this is the age where kids can get into trouble with things such as poison ivy, bee stings and falls.
Teens mostly will want to use their tech devices, but they, too, will want to do some exploring and socializing. Parents need to take care with both of these issues for kids in this age group, especially the “socializing.”
- New and temporary relationships can get out of hand without proper supervision.
- Male/female relationships can become too intimate.
- Physical altercations can happen quickly.
Exploring can lead to issues such as getting lost or even injured and killed if wild animals are nearby. Fishing in dangerous waters can also lead to drowning.
If people camp in controlled environments, supervision is easy, but in the wilds (such as in national parks such as Yellowstone and Glacier) it’s a different story. When families RV in uncharted and new territory, parents must be ever vigilant while at the same time allowing their children reasonable amounts of freedom.
This is a difficult but necessary balancing act that people must be willing to practice when RVing with their children.
RVing With Kids Isn't Easy
No matter the type of vehicle you use for your vacations, you need to understand that traveling with children in an RV is not an easy thing to do.
A few reasons for this are that
- cramming a large number of people into a limited amount of space can be a miserable experience,
- the more people you have with you, the more needs you have to address,
- the limited living area can become increasingly claustrophobic,
- it is very difficult to keep everybody happy all of the time,
- age differences among siblings can create problems and
- when issues such as breakdowns or bad weather pop up, stress can become significant.
Depending on the ages of your children, if you decide that you want to travel with them, you might want to consider taking trips that require the least amount of driving time, are taken in kid safe vehicles and provide activities that all family members will enjoy.
A perfect example would be a 200 mile trip in a travel trailer that is towed by a van or large SUV that takes the family to an active campground that offers swimming, fishing, hiking, boating and a game room where families can meet up and enjoy campfire visits and morning coffee.
This type of vacation will cost less, keep everybody safe and will allow parents as well as kids to relax and enjoy themselves.
Doing this might not be as glamorous or exciting as visiting a major national park, but it will definitely allow parents who RV with kids to create the kind of vacation that will allow the family to relax and enjoy themselves while at the same time staying safe.
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle