Is RVing Really the Best Way to Travel With Kids?

Updated on February 18, 2018
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I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

Every year, thousands of parents load their children into their campers, travel trailers and motor homes and drive off to vacation spots they feel will help all of them to relax and have fun.

The adults assume that this form of travel is the best one they can use for vacationing with their kids, but this may not always be true.

  • Much depends on the vehicles they use,
  • the ages of their children and
  • how well they do when it comes to organizing and planning their trips.

RVing with children is a whole different ball game than doing so with adults, and if people do not understand how important it is to address the safety and emotional issues that go along with this type of family travel, they could find themselves in big trouble.

Here are some things parents should consider before deciding to take a family recreational vacation.

The good and bad points of RVing with children.
The good and bad points of RVing with children. | Source

Good Planning Is Important

A well planned, well organized trip is going to have the best chance to be one that the entire family can safely enjoy.

Decisions should always include the needs and desires of every traveler. If adults plan the trip without consulting their children, the vacation is not going to be a pleasant one!

Furthermore, health and safety issues should be a big priority. When you have a group of people it is more likely that problems will occur simply due to the fact that there will be a number of people traveling.

Therefore, among other things you should plan to

  • take children's ages into account,
  • drive kid-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 safe, kid based activities.

A Real Life Example

I just received a letter from a reader who is married, has four children, just purchased a mid level motor home and is planning on traveling from Florida to the Pacific Northwest for two months this summer with his family.

He did not say whether he has ever traveled in an RV before, but my best guess is that he has not.

I believe that if he had any experience in this area, he would not have contacted me for advice regarding the vacation he is planning.

He did not tell me the ages of his children, but just the fact that there are four of them can spell trouble.

Even if he purchased the largest motor home, putting six human beings in it for long periods of time is a recipe for disaster, especially when four of them are siblings.

Furthermore, planning a "first trip" for such a long time and such great distance is not going to be fun. What do you do with four kids while you're trying to navigate interstates, weather conditions and construction?

If he thinks they're going to remain seated for hours at a time, it just is not going to happen.

When it doesn't, if he has to hit the break, someone is going to be injured. If there's an accident, someone likely will be killed.

People do RV all the time. Some have far more than four children with them.

While this may seem like fun to some, it's downright dangerous to do, especially if a motor home is the vehicle of choice.

This is a perfect example of parents wanting to vacation with their children but not thinking things through or doing their research.

Asking someone about your plans after you've already purchased your RV and have decided what you want to do is exactly backwards.

You should be asking first, planning second and buying third.

Parents who RV with children must plan carefully and adapt to the needs of all travelers.
Parents who RV with children must plan carefully and adapt to the needs of all travelers. | Source

Age Matters

One thing people 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 will 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.

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!

Drive Kid-Safe Vehicles

The man in the above example did not understand that motor homes have been deemed to be the least safe of all recreational vehicles to own.

This is because they are difficult to drive, top heavy and bulky.

For these reasons, they 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 itself. For this reason it is illegal for them to not be belted in when the motor home is in motion.

The best and safest RV to use for traveling with children is one that can be towed behind a car, SUV or truck.

It is much easier and safer to keep children belted in when they are in a tow vehicle. People get tempted to let them ride in the towed vehicle so they'll have more room, but this, too, is dangerous and illegal.

Kids will feel limited while belted in, so it will be important to stop often so that they can get some snacks, use the toilet, exercise and get fresh air.

It' a good idea to provide youngsters with games they can play while traveling, but try to limit their device use.

The most important thing to remember is to take great care when driving.

The attached video gives you some idea of what can happen in a motor home rollover. If a trailer rolls over, passengers won't be inside so injuries likely will be far less.

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 countertops 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 suddenly, passengers without seat belts can be thrust forward or sideways violently and can be badly injured or even killed.

In a car, air bags help to protect people, but motor homes do not have air bags.

This is one of the things that makes them so dangerous to drive and wrong to use for travel with children.

Limit Travel Time

Kids cannot sit still for long periods of time.

For this reason, parents need to plan on stopping as often as possible.

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.

Choose Family-Friendly Campgrounds

Campgrounds are geared to different types of people and situations. For this reason, parents should choose those that support family RVing.

Family parks offer a large variety of activities that kids of all ages can enjoy, but as always, it is important for parents to keep an eye on them as they play.

KOA, Jellystone, Disney and similar parks cater to families as well as many others.

Those who use a good campground guide such as the one put out by Good Sam can call facilities directly to see what they offer and how much they charge.

None of them will come cheap, but all will offer the types of activities that families can enjoy together safely and happily.

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,
  • 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 if not, their kids will become bored and unhappy quickly.

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 balancing act that people must be willing to practice when RVing with their children.

Plan a vacation that provides fun activities for adults as well as kids.
Plan a vacation that provides fun activities for adults as well as kids. | Source

Is RV Travel Right for Families?

It is common for parents to want their children to see the big national parks, but the truth is that most kids would prefer to play with their devices or socialize with others their age. Some may even be too young to even understand what they are seeing.

Furthermore, cramming a large number of people into a limited amount of space can be a miserable experience.

RVing with one or two people is fine. If you add one or two more, it gets uncomfortable. More than that can become a nightmare.

People need to remember that although there may be room for people to sleep, there rarely is enough space to support extra clothes, toys, cosmetics and other items.

In addition, the longer the vacation, the less comfortable the crowd can become.

Whether RVing is the best way for families to travel depends on the choices parents make.

The most successful trips are those 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.

This is where people can meet other families 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.

As I said earlier, whether RVing with children is the best way to go depends on how you plan and organize your vacations.

Happy Trails!

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© 2018 Sondra Rochelle

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