RVing lets your family function as a family while providing individual renewal and relaxation. Everyone has a better time when parents are flexible about chores, schedules, recreation, hobbies and location. Escaping from the daily grind is a refreshing change and a chance to learn something new. Whether you’re 5 or 95, everyone is delighted by a walking stick, a butterfly emerging from a cocoon or a magnificently starry sky. Your family can enjoy all these things – and much more – when you camp.
GET THEIR INPUT
The more input kids have, the better. Even little ones can research campgrounds on the Internet or in a Campground Directory. What do kids want to see and do? If they love water, go to a campground near a water park or lake; if they bike or roller blade, take along the necessary equipment. (Be sure the campground allows these activities, as some do not). Depending on your tastes, you can choose an RV that has a space for everything from golf clubs to a motorcycle or four-wheeler.
PLANNING AHEAD IS THE KEY
The RV lifestyle is popular and campgrounds are busy. This is especially true if you’re traveling to major attractions such as Cedar Point, Disney parks, Sea World and historical sites. To get a campsite in these areas, as well as state and national parks, be sure to make a reservation. Otherwise, find a suitable local campground early in the afternoon and call it a day. Some parks do not take reservations for weekends. If possible, arrive on a weekday and stay through the weekend, especially if your final destination is a popular tourist attraction.
If your family enjoys specific activities, like fishing or hiking, match your trip, location and season appropriately. Hike or bike to view spring flowers or colored leaves; fish when your favorite breed is running. The Internet, public library, chambers of commerce or tourism bureaus can provide this information.
AN ADVENTURE IN LEARNING
Basic equipment can turn RVing into a learning experience. Take along binoculars, a magnifying glass (be sure kids know not to leave these in the sun), a butterfly net, and a bird book. Older kids often enjoy nature and landscape photography. A telephoto lens is particularly good for this. Challenge kids to take interesting animal, bird and family photos.
Depending on the size of the RV, it’s not always easy to have your own space in a recreational vehicle; older children may prefer sleeping in a small tent next to you. This allows for privacy but lets them enjoy the conveniences of RVing, including a bathroom and protection from the weather. Each child should have his or her own duffle bag or backpack, be allowed to determine what they will take along, and pack their own gear. Be sure they take warm clothing, including gloves and hats, even in the summer.
MEETING EVERYONE’S NEEDS
Be realistic. While RVing is a great way to travel, family problems don’t disappear just because you’re on vacation. Discuss expectations ahead of time concerning family time versus individual time, chores, keeping belongings in a designated place, and spending money. If you plan ahead and start out realistically, there will be less likelihood of disappointment on the road. Families who RV best together are those who adjust their trip to the needs of the youngest family members. Getting away as a family comes first. When you reach your destination, the ability to enjoy what is offered varies with age.
Babies travel easily in any type of RV. Take along a portable bed that can also be used outside as a playpen. Cover it with mosquito netting for extra protection. Babies love to listen to outdoor sounds, look at leaves, stars and campfires, dip their feet in water and swing in a hammock at the campsite.
Toddlers respond well to a relaxed vacation schedule and enjoy the outdoors. Their natural curiosity lends itself to short hikes or bike rides and collecting all manner of outdoor treasures. Teach them to appreciate wildflowers and animals, but not to pick or touch. Take along construction paper and crayons and show them how make crayon rubbings of leaves they collect. For safety, have them wear simple identification, like a luggage tag on a lanyard, which includes their name and age, campsite number, your vehicle license number, and your cell phone number.
5-10 Year olds make excellent campers. They like new experiences, ask many questions, and enjoy learning. Let them participate in setting up camp, building campfires, and routine campsite maintenance. If older children like to explore on their own, take along walkie-talkies so they can check in with home base. Scale down activities like hiking or biking, to meet this age group’s needs.
Older children and teens have definite opinions about how they want to spend their time. Make sure the campground and surrounding area have activities of interest for them. Honor their preferences as much as possible, including bringing along a friend. Many young people like to plan and/or cook meals. If so, turn them loose (with some supervision) in your RV galley.
CAMPING WITH FRIENDS
If you travel with other peoples’ children, even if they are related to you, always carry notarized permission for medical treatment that is signed by the child’s parent or guardian. In an emergency, valuable time can be lost while a local hospital tries to track down parents to obtain legal permission to administer aid.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
A campground is the perfect place to play all types of games. In addition to the abundance of available outside games, parents can teach old favorites like marbles or jacks. Take board games and cards for rainy days and special family time. Young children enjoy crafts and simple games. Older kids appreciate Scrabble or more sophisticated card games like pinochle. Everyone can play Parcheesi, Uno and Skip-Bo.
GIVE EACH OTHER YOUR TIME
RVing is really about spending time together. Forget about video games, surfing the web and the persistence of the cellphone. Talk to each other for a change. Teach each other how to build a campfire and cook over the coals. Share your most valuable possession – your time.