If you follow my Facebook or Instagram, then you probably already know that my family and I purchased a travel trailer earlier this year and have been taking (what seems like) tons of trips in it. And now that the camping season is over and I’ve had some time to reflect on our adventures, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about RV camping with kids in the last several months.
Now, don’t misunderstand…I’m definitely not claiming to be an expert. There’s a lot I’m still trying to work out (like how to make the most of those dadgum tiny spaces!).
But I have gained at least a little knowledge that some of you might find helpful if you’re considering jumpin’ on the RVing bandwagon.
So here goes.
Practical Tips For RV Camping With Kids
1. Decide What Type Of Trip You Want To Take
First things first: ya gotta know what kind of experience you’re looking for. Do you want to expose your kids to the true camping lifestyle, or is this trip taking the place of your annual beach vacation?
This is a really important question to ask yourself because it determines what kind of place you should book.
For example, if you’re craving a nice, relaxing beach vacation, then you probably want to stay at an RV resort with full hook-ups, rather than a campground. There’s less work involved and the amenities are usually nicer, so It feels more like a vacation than a camping trip.
But if you’re excited about reliving some of the memories you made camping with your family as a kid, then a state park or KOA campground is your best bet.
2. Consider Amenities Before Booking
Once you’ve decided what kind of experience you want to have on your trip, you can start looking at the places that will best meet your expectations.
A big part of this is considering the amenities offered by the campground or resort, as well as any activities available in the area where you’ll be staying.
Our first time ever RV camping with kids, we stayed at Moccasin Creek State Park. We were looking for a mountain-esque getaway with beautiful scenery and lots of nature. And we found it.
Moccasin Creek is absolutely breathtaking and was exactly what we’d hoped for. However, the amenities were few. There was, of course, a bathhouse and camp store, but as far as entertainment for the kids went, our only options were playing on the playground (which boasted some pretty nice equipment), fishing, or hiking.
For us on this particular trip, that was perfect. But there’s not much else around the area (other than one super nice restaurant on the lake), so if we’d been planning on staying longer than the two nights we booked, we may have gotten bored.
On another trip we took (this time to Pigeon Forge, TN), we stayed at a campground that had a swimming pool, a playground, and a jump pillow for the kids. It was also really close to all the touristy things we were planning on doing, and there was a free trolly that you could take from the campground to several different sites, like restaurants, The Island, etc.
So that was an added bonus.
3. Plan Activities Ahead Of Time
Speaking of activities, it’s important to plan out what you want to see or do before your trip. Are you looking forward to just hanging out around the campsite, or do you like sightseeing, going on hikes, going to the beach, seeing shows, dining out, etc.?
Don’t get the wrong idea here. You don’t need a strict “Monica Geller” minute-by-minute schedule, but having a general idea of the kinds of things you’re going to do (and on which days) is really helpful.
These activities will obviously depend on the kind of trip you’re taking and your destination (see point number one), but get as specific as you can before leaving so you won’t be stuck trying to make last-minute decisions. That can get really frustrating, especially when the kiddos want to do something totally different than you and your spouse want to do.
Trust me on this one. Let’s just say I’ve been there, done that.
4. Pack Light
This one should be a no-brainer… but it took me two or three trips before I really got the message. Packing light is always a struggle for me, but it’s super important when you’re RV camping with kids. After all, the more stuff you have the less space you have.
And the less space you have the crazier you’ll go. Again, trust me.
I suggest planning outfits for each day based on what you’re going to be doing (which you should already have an idea of at this point), and then maybe two or three extras for your kids if they’re little. (We all know keeping a baby or toddler in the same outfit for an entire day is impossible, right?)
The same goes for shoes. One or two pairs per person is plenty, depending on what activities you’ll be doing. I mean, who wants to wear muddy hiking boots out to dinner?
Bonus tip: Make sure at least one pair of shoes for each child is something they’re able to slip on and off without your help. It cuts down on the dirt in your camper if they can easily take their shoes off and put them back on every time they go in and out…which will be a lot.
5. Leave A Few Essentials In Your RV
I’m still working on this. It’s kind of an ongoing thing as you figure out what the essentials are that your family actually needs each trip. It’s difficult to know until you’ve had the experience of “Wow, it’d be nice to have this or that already in here.”
So far, these are the things we’ve decided to keep in our camper and that I’d highly recommend:
One pot (and a lid with holes for straining - killing two birds with one stone)
A small frying pan
A couple of dish towels
A tiny cutting board
An oven mitt and pot holders
Baking soda (keeping a few open boxes of baking soda in the camper when you’re not using it cuts down on the musty smell it might get from being closed up)
A small 4-cup coffee pot (so we’ll always have coffee!)
2 pop-up or collapsible clothes hampers
A small trash can for the bathroom
Large trash bags
Baby wipes (always, always keep baby wipes on hand when RV camping with kids!)
Plastic grocery bags (these come in handy more times than you’ll realize)
Marshmallow roasting sticks
These are the things that just stay in our camper all the time as of right now. There are more items I want to add in the future, like towels and bedding, but for now, we just pack those before each trip.
6. Bring Entertainment
This tip also depends on your destination and planned activities, but there will always be a bit of downtime at the campsite. And these are the moments your kids start bugging you with the “I’m bored’s.”
Maybe you’re busy building a fire or cooking dinner, and the kiddos have nothing to do. Don’t assume they’ll be fine playing in (or out of) the camper using just their imaginations. (Once again, speaking from experience…)
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a time for imaginative play. Kids need to learn to make toys out of sticks, mix mud pies, play hide and seek between the trees, and on and on. But when you’re staying somewhere for more than a couple of days, that can get old pretty fast.
So pack some just-in-case entertainment. You don’t have to bring anything complicated or big, just a couple of balls and a frisbee. Or maybe bubbles if your kids are little.
But then there’s the dreaded chance of rain… What if it pours down the whole time and you’re alllll stuck inside that tiny home on wheels? The balls and frisbee won’t really do you any good then.
If you packed some board games or a deck of cards (or other age-appropriate kid games) and some books (don’t forget books for yourself, mama!), you can breathe a sigh of relief. But if you didn’t, well…have fun listening to your precious babies bicker and whine for hours on end.
Not that I would know how that feels… (insert eye-roll here).
7. Don’t Forget About The Car Ride
When you’re making a list of that just-in-case entertainment I mentioned above, remember to include some things the kiddos can do in the car, especially if where you’re going is more than an hour away.
I’m not a huge fan of screen time for my kids. I try to limit it as much as possible (both at home and on the go), so sticking a phone or tablet in front of their faces for hours on end while traveling is not my idea of quality entertainment. But, hey, if that’s how you roll, more power to ya! No judging here.
But what I’d recommend if you’re wanting to cut down on screen time (or even avoid it all together) is a lap desk, some paper and crayons, and books. I’d also suggest a clipboard that opens up so crayons and papers can be stored inside or a small backpack for each kid designated just for long car rides.
This lets them keep their own coloring supplies and books in one place so the mess in your car doesn’t get too out of control (trust me on this one, too).
8. Get A Rug That Traps Dirt
It’s so important to have the right rug at the inside entrance of your RV! We went the first couple of trips without one at all, and the camper floor pretty much stayed dirty.
The one we use now has little grooves in it, so it really traps the dirt, sand, etc. Obviously, when you’re camping somewhere that doesn’t have paved spots, it’ll be nearly impossible to keep from tracking any dirt in. But having the right rug helps.
9. Store Outside Essentials In The Compartments At The Bottom Of Your RV
You know those storage compartments at the bottom of your camper? They’re perfect for stashing your camping chairs, folding table, canopy tent, small grill, wagon, or anything else you know you’ll need on each (or even most) of your trips.
Keeping these types of things in your camper all the time saves you from forgetting them when you really need them. Just like with the inside essentials, figure out what your family needs and make sure those are the things you store in these compartments. (You don’t want to take up space with things you’ll never use.)
10. Use Fabric Storage Bins For Kids’ Clothes
The last tip I want to mention today is to use those square fabric storage boxes for your kids’ clothes. They’re just the right size for a few days’ worth of children’s clothes (and you can use more than one if you’re going on a longer trip), and they’ll most likely fit in the cabinets of your RV.
Plus, when you’re not using them, you can store them flat (which saves space) until it’s time to bring them out again. I keep mine in a closet in my house when we’re not camping so that when it’s time to pack, I can just put my kids’ outfits directly in them and take ‘em on out to the camper.
RV Camping With Kids: Summing It Up
RV camping with kids can be an amazing adventure, one that gives your children memories to last a lifetime. But it can also be pretty stressful if you’re not properly prepared.
With these tips, you can actually enjoy your trips and build strong family bonds to get you through the rough days at home. You know, those days when your sweet angels fight with each other, won’t sleep, won’t eat their veggies, or just plain drive you crazy. ;)
Mamas, I hope you’ve found this advice helpful! And if you’re a more experienced RVer than I am, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for newbies like me!