Outdoorsy

Questions to ask before your first family RV trip

Creative, cost-effective, and a guaranteed adventure: it’s no wonder family RV trips are seeing a recent spike in popularity. If you’re looking to make the most of nature and quality family time on your next getaway, the RV vacation might be for you! 

But before you start your trip, here are a few important considerations to think about. RV veterans tend to agree that preparation before departure is the key to smooth sailing on the road–especially for families. Here are a few essential preparations to check off before rolling down the driveway from our friends at Outdoorsy.

Advertiser disclosure: Broadry features the latest travel news and trends from our members. If you buy something through a link on this article, that company may receive a commission.

Check seat belt laws

Seat belt laws for RVs vary by state, depending on the ages and locations of the passengers. You can use Cruise America’s guide here to easily check the specific regulations for each state on your trip. 

Think car seats 

If you’re traveling with young children, car seats should be a primary consideration as you’re selecting an RV model to rent or purchase. To ensure your child’s safety, seek out car seat-friendly rigs that are mounted directly to the vehicle’s frame. Generally, state laws require that car seats be installed in RVs according to the manufacturer’s instructions for normal vehicles.  If you’re riding with children who use regular car seats or boosters, make sure that they can be strapped into the RV facing forward, rather than attached to a side or rear facing bench. If you have a newborn or toddler on board, double check with the RV owner that the RV is safely equipped to accommodate a back-facing seat. 

Research your route

While other road trips can safely rely on a morning-of GPS entry, RV routes require a bit more research and planning. You can research the best RV-compatible roads, routes, and gas stops on the way to your destination ahead of time using apps like Togo RV and Roadtrippers.

Plan and prioritize stops

While searching for RV-compatible gas stations, it’s a good idea to map out your rest stops, too. This can easily be done using an app like AllStays. You might consider staying or stopping at a full service park; at minimum, you’ll have access to full electrical, sewage, and running water hookups. As RV vacations are becoming more popular, more full service stops are adding more practical, recreational, and social features. Today, many offer WiFi, laundry, exercise classes, hiking and biking trail access, outdoor movie nights, mini golf, and more. Also, remember to give the driver a break; driving a vehicle as large as an RV can be more stressful than a car. It is recommended that 1-2 rest days are planned for every week of driving. Planning to stop driving for the day in the mid afternoon allows ample time for recuperation, with wiggle room in case of delays. 

Prepare your little passengers

Family RV trips can turn into some of your little ones’ favorite childhood memories, and preparing them for the experience will help them to make the most of it. It’s always best to go over the big differences between camping with an RV and staying in a house or hotel before your family hits the road. Explain the sleeping arrangements and facilities in the vehicle to your kids ahead of time. Come to a family agreement on screen time on your trip; consider the balance you want to strike between countering boredom on the road with electronics, and taking advantage of the quality family time and nature-based fun to be had along the way. 

Set the rules

Finally, set ground rules for your destination. Make sure your kids understand the importance of staying close to you and your campsite, and are aware of the potential dangers of your destination (wild animals, insect bites, poison ivy, bodies of water, etc.). You can always refresh on these rules once you arrive, but it’s best to set them at home without the distraction of excitement upon arrival. 

Consider a “dry-run”

If your family is new to the RV or camping scene, it’s a good idea to set up a “mock camp” at home. A good old-fashioned backyard tent campout should do the trick. This dry-run will help parents to foresee and prepare for potential challenges for their children (i.e. lack of access to amenities, sleeping accommodations, fears about sleeping outside, etc.) and help to solidify kids’ expectations for an outdoorsy trip. Plus, this preview will get the whole family extra excited when it’s time for the real deal.

Pack light and organize

After a few hours on the road, chances are your family will realize how limited the shared living space of an RV really is. It’s best not to take too much of it up with stuff. Creating a master list of essentials (clothes, food, first aid, toiletries, etc) as a family before you start packing is a great first step. You can also look up space-saving packing techniques for clothes, allowing for smaller bags. After the essentials are taken care of, it’ll be easier to gauge how much room you have for the fun stuff — toys, sports equipment, electronics, and other recreational and comfort items. 

Create a meal plan

If you’re planning on cooking for your family while camping, it’s best to plan each meal ahead of time. If you have space and freezer/fridge access in your RV, pre-making meals at home can alleviate stress, free up kitchenette space, and spare family time and expenses while on vacation. Many campers recommend packing a space-saving portable grill to use for cooking outside as a family. Just make sure you have a backup meal plan in case of rain. 

With these prep steps checked off, you’ll be  all set  for success on your first RV adventure. Now you can focus on the most important part of the trip: taking in the views, connecting with the great outdoors, making lifelong memories, and having some good old-fashioned family fun. 

Advertiser disclosure: Broadry features the latest travel news and trends from our members. If you buy something through a link on this article, that company may receive a commission.