How to Survive RV Travel with Young Kids
There’s an undeniable romance at the heart of the summer road trip. After all, modern America, with its sprawling network of highways, rest stops, and gas stations, was designed with cars in mind. So for many, the pull of the open highway is almost too much to resist.
But if you’re a parent with young kids, you know it’s never that easy. There’s a reason Sal and Dean (go ahead, Google it) weren’t traveling with a pair of eight and 10-years olds. First, they don’t know anything about jazz music. And second, they tend to start yelling and screaming when they’ve been stuck in the same place for more than a few hours at a time. Which, we can all agree, is a real drag.
Unfortunately, staying at home all summer is a real drag too. So how do you include your kids in the fun and excitement of a great American road trip without losing your mind along the way? It just takes a little planning.
Choose Your Conveyance Carefully
Once upon a time, families were only allowed to take road trips in American-made station wagons. Or at least, that’s what Hollywood would have you believe. In reality, you could cram the fam into anything with four wheels and an engine. But that calls to mind the old adage, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Between the luggage, toys, furry friends, and humans, a little extra elbow room suddenly becomes the most valuable commodity on earth. Seriously, wars will be fought over the road trip window seat. And rest assured, these will be wars of attrition you probably won’t survive. So instead of the sardine method of travel, consider ditching the family car for something a little bit bigger.
Enter the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle (again, Google), otherwise known as the trusty RV. Here, you’ll enjoy the space and comfort to travel as a family while avoiding the loss of your valuable blood and treasure. Plus, you’ll have the freedom to set your own flexible travel agenda because you’ll be traveling in your own home away from home.
Not everyone owns an RV, but that’s no problem. RV’s are easy to rent and are often an economical way to take a road trip, because you avoid the high cost of hotel trips and eating out. But, again, it’s never that easy with kids. Even when traveling in the comfort of an RV, you’ll still need to plan ahead or risk coming out of it looking like Cousin Eddie and his adorable band of Christmas refugees. So here’s what you do:
Keep Them Occupied
This point can’t be stressed enough: The key to a successful RV trip is to KEEP THE KIDS OCCUPIED. This is the only way to prevent them from turning their murderous boredom in your direction. The simplest way to do this is to plug your kids into a device for the duration of the trip. But let's be honest here. That’s a little lazy and kind of defeats the whole point of going on a road trip in the first place.
So instead, here are a few low tech ways to keep your kids entertained, engaged, and - more importantly - out of your hair during your RV trip:
- Give each kid a disposable camera or two. That way they can document the trip from their own perspective and get a valuable memento in the process.
- Spend a couple bucks on a console organizer to put between your kids. This will serve double-duty by keeping all their stuff organized while maintaining that all-important physical separation. Think of it as your own in-RV DMZ.
- Handy lap desks will give your kids a hard surface on which to play Picasso while staying safely buckled in.
- Make each kid their own activity binder with a zippered pencil case filled with supplies. Then include coloring and activity books, printable scavenger hunts and travel bingo they can play while watching the scenery zip by their window.
- Buy travel journals or notebooks filled with headings and leading questions that will prompt your kids to record different parts of their trip.
- Stock your RV with games like travel checkers, tic tac toe, connect four, Uno, or mad libs. Avoid board games with lots of pieces that might easily go missing.
- Bring plenty of books (remember those?).
In addition to keeping your kids occupied, you also need to keep them fed. Nothing will ruin a trip faster than an acute case of the hangrys. So keep plenty of snacks on hand like trail mix, baby carrots, sliced apples, granola bars, and cheese sticks. And feel free to dip into those snacks yourself if you’re feeling a bit peckish. After all, you’re the captain of this vacation ship.
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself
As you’re traveling the highways and byways this summer, don’t underestimate the value of frequent stops. They’ll give your kids the chance to blow off a little steam and take in some of the sights and sounds this great country has to offer. These stops will also provide them with a valuable sense of what life is like for people living on the other side of their own front door. And that’s where the romance of the road trip really lies. In the connections you make and experiences you gain along the way.
Maybe your summer family RV trip won’t be a worthy subject for the next great American novel. But with a little planning it could just be the best vacation you’ve ever taken.