Are you new to RV travel, or an old pro looking for fresh ideas? Here's how to make your next RV journey as comfortable and fun as possible. Are you new to RV travel, or an old pro looking for fresh ideas? Here's how to make your next RV journey as comfortable and fun as possible.
Don't care for camping, you say? How about traveling aboard your very own luxury home on wheels – complete with a microwave, washer/dryer, big screen TV with Surround Sound, and even leather furniture?
Many RV parks provide cable TV, a swimming pool, laundry facilities, 24-hour security, modem hook-ups, even scheduled activities, in addition to full hookups (water, electric and sewer connections.) Yet they are generally situated in a rural area where children can run, play and make noise, something that is usually frowned on at motels and hotels. And consider the convenience of onboard kitchen facilities, familiar surroundings every night, no lugging suitcases in and out of motel rooms, or unpacking and re-packing each day.
No wonder RVing is enjoying an upsurge in popularity these days. A recent study by the international travel and tourism research firm PFK Consulting discovered that, on average, a family can get between 50%-80% more vacation for their money when traveling in a recreational vehicle. More importantly, families are discovering that this fun mode of transport also helps to strengthen family relationships.
A successful family RV trip requires that the whole family be involved. Let your children help plan the route, decide which attractions you will visit, and where you will stop for the night. Don't try to cram 20 states into a week — set reasonable goals and make the trip an enjoyable experience for the entire family. Older children can also help navigate, keep track of travel costs, and even assist in setting up and breaking camp.
Allow room in your travel schedule for spontaneity. Not all the fascinating, memorable, and educational things to see and do are in the travel brochures. And one of the advantages of RV travel is the freedom it offers to take advantage of these opportunities. You aren't bound by airline schedules or hotel reservations, and your home is with you, so why not take that side trip? You just never know what awaits you around the next bend in the road!
Plan to stop regularly — about every 2 to 3 hours is best. A directory such as "Exit Authority" or trip planning software can help you plan your rest stops at interesting places along the way, or save time looking for a suitable restaurant. If your children are small, it may be easier to schedule part of the driving during the early morning or late evening hours, or during nap times.
On the Road Learning
RVing is a wonderful way to combine learning and travel. Consider it a field trip where you take your house to all those exciting places your children have studied in school! It helps to do some preliminary reading, or have a reference book handy, so you can answer questions that come up ("Mom, how tall are those mountains?") or offer interesting information. Also consider enriching the travel experience with audio books, carefully chosen to complement your travels. These can be rented through Audio Adventures(800/551-6692), which are perfect for road trips because they can be returned at locations across the country .
Encourage each child to record the trip in his or her own way. This might take the form of a slide show, narrated videotape, scrapbook, journal, mineral collection, or even a web page. This will make a great souvenir or gift for a grandparent, and help your children remember the experiences.
Some RV parks, especially in the winter season, cater to the 55 and over age group, or have restrictions. Others may allow children, but not have anything to offer except a place to park your rig and the necessary hookups. Your children will enjoy the trip more if you seek out RV parks that offer swimming pools, playgrounds, and perhaps children's activities such as hay rides, outdoor movies, or nature walks. Yogi Bear Campgrounds (800/558-2954) and Kampgrounds of America (directory available for order online) cater to families with children. In addition, there are a number of private campgrounds that will delight your entire family. A good directory such as Woodalls Campground Directory is invaluable in finding family-welcoming RV parks. Or, get Microsoft's "Expedia Streets & Trips 2006" software, which has the Woodalls campground information included. And don't overlook the National Parks; you can find out more about camping facilities at www.nps.gov.
Channel your children's energy into outside activities as much as possible. After your RV is set up for the night, you can have a campfire and roast marshmallows, go for a walk or bicycle ride after dinner, or meet your neighbors. Children meet and strike up friendships almost immediately over a campfire or at the pool. After a fun-filled evening of activity, they will likely be more enthusiastic about hitting the road again the next day — especially if that night's stop holds similar promise!
What is The Right Family RV?
If you have never traveled by RV before, I recommend either renting or borrowing first, before making such a large purchase. You can find out more about renting RVs at Woodall's website or from the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association (703/591-7130). Cruise America (800/671-8042) has outlets in many recreation areas, with significant discounts if you agree to drop the motorhome in Mesa, Arizona, where demand for rentals is high. El Monte RV (888/337-2214) has many West Coast-oriented special deals for long-term renters. Moturis (877/297-3687) is an RV rental company that caters to US-bound visitors from outside the US; Kemwel Holiday Autos (877/820-0668) rents RVs in Europe.
Go RVing: Recreational Vehicles is a free video (available from (888/GO-RVING) that shows you and the kids the different types of RVs, and provides other helpful information in choosing one that is right for your family. Attending an RV show will enable you to compare various types of RVs in one location. Your first major decision is whether to rent/buy a motorhome or a towable RV.
Keep in mind that very large lengths can keep you out of some national and state parks, or make it difficult for you to navigate scenic byways. Ensure there are seat belts or room for car seats for every member of your family (they are required in most states, even in a motorhome.) Children will be more content if they can see outside the window as you travel. Whether you purchase or rent, look for an RV with adequate sleeping areas for all. For longer RV trips, it is nice if each child has a place to call their own, even if that is only a bunk that can be curtained off. Consider also whether the kitchen and bathroom facilities will be adequate for your family. And you can never have too much storage!
I hope these tips will help you to plan an enjoyable RV trip with your family. Then you will learn what so many other families have already discovered – that family RVing is one of the best vacation values around!
Some families take the family vacation a step farther, embarking on an RV journey that lasts several months to a year or more. In 1996, Mark and Betsy Blondin, along with their three children – Donald, 14, and twins Kelly and Stacy, 11 – packed up their 34-foot motorhome and embarked on a nine month cross-country trip they dubbed 'Assignment America'. They had no set itinerary, leaving them free to take advantage of whatever learning opportunities presented themselves along the way.
And what a learning adventure it was! During that nine months, they traveled over 25,000 miles, encompassing 40 states and covering the US from top to bottom and ocean to ocean. From visiting the Grand Canyon and other major attractions, to observing — and living — everyday life in other regions, they learned more about their country than any classroom could ever teach them.
Prior to leaving Michigan, the children were enrolled in a private charter school that was intrigued by their plans. The children took along textbooks, materials and outlines from their teachers, plus a laptop and digital camera, and corresponded with both teachers and fellow students via email. Completed assignments were mailed to the school. As part of their assignment, the family designed a web site and updated it as they traveled, posting photos and details of their travels.
Mark Blondin credits the Internet and today's technology for making their learning adventure possible. Email also kept them in touch with friends and helped prevent their teenagers from feeling lonely and isolated as they traveled across the country.
Looking back, the entire family agrees that this trip was the experience of a lifetime, one they will never forget.
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