RV camping is an exciting way to travel, no matter how old you happen to be. That said, there is something especially magical about RV travel with young kids.
Having the ability to take your little home with you wherever you roam is so helpful when it comes to meal times and nap times, and having easy access to your things is priceless. Besides, what kid wouldn’t want to sleep in a comfy bunk bed in the middle of the wilderness?
Of course, there are some things you should know before you hit the road in an RV with your little ones. Making sure you have enough beds and seatbelts, learning how to travel safely with car seats, and knowing how to create a secure space for the littlest travelers are all incredibly important.
In this article we will discuss all of these things and more so you can enjoy amazing (and safe!) RV travel with young kids.
Ensuring Child Safety on the Road
Obviously, you will want to keep everyone safe during RV travel with young kids. Fortunately this is totally possible, but you may have to do a bit of planning to ensure the safety of your little travelers.
RV Car Seat Safety
If you plan to rent a motorhome, you will want to check how many seat belts are available in the RV and ensure there is one for each passenger. Keep in mind that as tempting as it is to get up and move around in a motorhome as it rolls down the road, everyone should be buckled in the entire time you’re traveling.
Another thing to keep in mind while traveling in a motorhome with kids? The backs (i.e. living areas) of these vehicles have not been tested for car seat safety. Therefore, while it is possible to fasten a car seat into a motorhome couch or dinette, we recommend A) having car-seat-aged children ride in a separate vehicle, B) choosing a trailer and truck until the kids are older, or C) having the RV delivered to your site.
If your little one must ride in a motorhome, consider installing the car seat in the chassis, which has been crash tested. Need to put car seats in the back of the RV? Choose a seat that is facing forward and make sure everything in the RV is secured well.
More Travel Safety Tips
Of course, car seat safety is not the only thing you’ll want to consider. It’s also important to ensure your kids are safe at other points during your trip. Use the tips below to keep everyone safe and sound so you can focus on having an awesome time:
- Always keep an eye on your kids, even in seemingly safe campgrounds.
- When in busy places, put little ones in a stroller and hold hands with older kids to keep everyone together.
- Go with your children to the bathhouse at the campgrounds and into public restrooms.
- Make sure your little hikers stay close when out on a trail in case of an encounter with wildlife.
- Keep items such as bear spray up and out of the way of young children.
- Install outlet covers, baby gates, and child locks in the RV before you hit the road.
- Teach your kids about fire safety and watch them carefully when grilling out or enjoying a campfire.
- Always put life jackets on everyone when going out on a boat or swimming.
- Remember to put hats and sunscreen on your young adventurers.
- Make sure little campers know to stay away from the power pedestal and sewer hookup at your campsite, and watch carefully to ensure this rule is followed.
Choosing the Right RV for Your Family
The RV you pick truly can make or break your trip. If your rig has enough space, the right layout, and the amenities you need to stay comfortable, you’re going to have a blast experiencing RV travel with young kids. Otherwise, you might just be miserable.
We already mentioned making sure the motorhome you choose has enough seat belts and possibly opting for a truck and trailer if you have car-seat-aged kids, but what else should you take into consideration when choosing an RV for your family?
The first thing you will want to consider is what type of RV you’d like to take camping. Do you prefer a driveable rig that allows you to hop in and go? Do you need a trailer for more space? Are you more comfortable towing than driving a motorhome? Do you have a truck to tow a trailer, or would you need to have it delivered? Do you prefer delivery, or do you want the freedom to drive the rig from one spot to the next?
Once you figure out whether you want a motorhome or a trailer, you can move on to thinking about beds. Think about the number of sleeping spaces you need. Do you want fixed beds for each member of your travel party, or are you willing to turn the couch and table into beds for the kids each night? Bunk beds are a good option if fixed beds are a requirement, but if not, fold-away beds can also be extremely helpful in a small space.
Other questions you may ask yourself include the following:
- Do you require doors that close on the master bedroom?
- Do you need the bunk room to have doors?
- Do you need solar panels and other features that allow dry camping?
- Is an outdoor shower a must-have?
- How much seating do you need at the table?
- What other amenities are necessary?
- Does the rig you’re considering include books, games, toys, and baby gear for your little travelers?
- What size rig are you comfortable driving?
- How little space will your family be comfortable with?
- Is a bathtub necessary for bathing little ones?
Asking yourself these questions will help narrow your options and give you a very good idea of what you’re looking for.
Setting Up a Nursery Onboard an RV
When you pick up your RV, make sure you give yourself a little bit of time to set up a small nursery for the littlest ones. Sometimes, it is possible to put a baby gate across an existing bunk to create a secure sleeping space for a toddler, BUT you will want to make sure the mattress is firm enough and your child cannot slip between the mattress and the wall. If you go this route, a bunk room with a door is nice for naps.
Another option is to take a Pack ‘n Play to set up in any available floor space. If no floor space is available, it is usually possible to put the dinette into bed mode, remove the cushions, and set up the portable crib there. Depending on the layout of the RV, you may also be able to put a tension rod curtain in front of the dinette to create a barrier between the nursery space and the living space, making nap time and early bedtime a bit easier. This works especially well when the dinette is in a slide-out.
If you have a newborn, a co-sleeper set on any one of the existing RV beds will do the trick. Just make sure the bed is reserved for the baby and not shared with another member of the family.
As far as a changing station goes, we recommend bringing along a changing mat to lay on a bed or on the floor when it’s time for diaper changes. An over-the-door shoe organizer works well for storing all of your diaper changing gear (as well as other baby stuff) and can be easily hung up and taken down. Some people also appreciate a Diaper Genie for keeping smells at bay, and some rental RVs will even include one!
If your little one is eating solid foods, some sort of high chair might be in order. There are a few good travel seat options. These include:
Lastly, you will want to make sure to baby-proof the space. As mentioned before, outlet covers are a must-have, and baby gates can help prevent your little adventurer from toppling out the door. Child locks on the cabinets will help ensure your toddler doesn’t get into things they shouldn’t, but it’s also a good idea to look at what is included in the cabinets or your rental RV and put cleaning supplies and other things that could pose a danger out of your child’s reach.
Family-Friendly Campgrounds across the United States
Next, you will need to decide where to take this perfect RV with the perfect little nursery. Fortunately, there are amazing, family-friendly campgrounds scattered all across the country that are just perfect for RV travel with young kids.
To find an excellent campground, look for one that caters to families specifically. Amenities should include things like a swimming pool, mini golf, a playground, or even a bouncing pillow. Often, family campgrounds will even offer organized activities such as craft times, game times, and hay rides.
Some of our favorite family-friendly campgrounds in the country include:
Ocean Lakes Family Campground
Located in Myrtle Beach, SC, Ocean Lakes Family Campground is an amazing campground right on the water with private beach access, meaning you can spend all day playing in the sand, sun, and surf while having easy access to your RV.
There is an onsite arcade that is pretty awesome, as well as a campground water park and an onsite eatery. We love the events hosted at this campground, and 100% recommend visiting over Halloween if you can.
Mt. Hood Village RV Resort
Mt. Hood Village RV Resort is nestled in the mountains in Mt. Hood, OR. It’s an absolutely lovely park with a huge variety of top-notch amenities.
We especially love the indoor pool and indoor hot tub, which keep the kids and adults entertained for hours, no matter the weather. The bike trails, playground, and organized activities were also fantastic, and the location just outside of Mt. Hood National Forest is hard to beat.
Gettysburg Farm RV Campground
If your kids are into animals, you will want to visit Gettysburg Farm RV Campground. Located in Gettysburg, PA, this park features a lovely swimming pool with a small pool just for the little ones.
There are multiple playgrounds in the campground, and the onsite store sells slushies and other fun treats for the kids. Of course, the main attraction here is the working farm, which includes a wide variety of animals that the kids are allowed to pet and even help feed.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness
Obviously, we had to include Disney World’s campground on this list. Disney’s Fort Wilderness is easily our favorite RV campground in the entire country, and it’s nothing if not family-friendly.
Here you’ll find multiple pools, a water slide, hot tubs, onsite eateries and stores, pony rides, archery, carriage rides, nightly campfires with character meet-and-greets, and more. There’s so much to do in the campground, you may find you don’t have time to visit the Disney World theme parks, which are just a short ride away.
Any KOA Campground
If none of the locations above appeal to you, don’t worry. You can find a family-friendly campground pretty much anywhere in the country by searching for KOA locations. The campgrounds run by KOA are known for being clean, full of kid-friendly amenities, and welcoming to people of all areas. When in doubt, look for a KOA!
Any Jellystone Park
Another chain of campgrounds that will always, always welcome your kids with open arms? Jellystone Parks. These places are set up especially for kiddos. Many have onsite water parks, camp stores with treats, organized activities, and jumping pillows. Therefore, these are always a good pick if you’re traveling with little ones.
Of course, the best family-friendly campgrounds fill up quickly. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you reserve your campsite in advance, especially if you will be visiting during peak season. This will ensure you and your family have a fun and comfortable place to spend your trip.
Planning for a Smooth RV Journey
With your RV picked out, your nursery space planned, and your campground booked, it’s time to put the finishing touches on your travel plans.
Make yourself a well-organized travel itinerary—this will be an invaluable tool for making sure you get to see everything while expereincing RV travel with young kids. Hopefully you’ve chosen a family-friendly destination and will have plenty to do, but remember to give yourself lots of downtime as well.
Additionally, you will want to stick to your regular sleeping and eating schedule as much as possible. This is a bummer because it means being at the campsite for nap times and turning in early, but it will also mean happier, more fun kiddos.
It’s also a good idea to create a packing checklist. This general RV packing list is a good starting point, but make sure to add kid-specific items such as formula, bottles, sippy cups, diapers and wipes, kid medications, stuffed animals, a carrier for hiking, and some toys or games. This will ensure you have everything you need when you get to your campsite, helping avoid a late-night store run for that super important item you accidentally left behind.
Finally, make sure you have ways to keep kids engaged throughout the trip. If your kids are old enough, have them go on scavenger hunts when you visit museums, or introduce them to bird watching while out on hikes. Use the Junior Ranger Program at national parks, and ask the state parks you visit if they have a similar offering. Help your kids collect leaves, flowers, and other bits of nature and do crafts using these treasures, and sing songs and tell stories around the campfire.
If your adventure includes long car rides, have ways to keep them entertained. Some favorite ways to do this include:
Making sure your kids are having a good time even during long drives will ensure everyone stays in a good mood, making it easier to make happy memories.
As we said at the beginning of this article, RV travel with young kids really is an incredible experience, and by using the tips and tricks above, you can ensure it’s as awesome as it possibly can be. Why not find the perfect rental RV today and start planning your memorable family RV vacation? We know you and your kids will have a spectacular time that will be remembered and talked about for years to come!
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