Why did I take my Kids on an RV Trip? I had been wanting to see Glacier National Park and Yellowstone for ages. Sadly, with our crowd, staying in hotels can get expensive. The National Park Lodges are often the only Hotels in the Parks….and they fill up fast. We needed an alternative.
Camping is fun, and although I can “rough it” as well as the next suburban mom, I wanted a little bit of comfort, and didn’t want to deal with sleeping in a tent (or shower in flipflops in campground showers) for two weeks. Most of all, I wanted to avoid driving 3000 miles with the kids sitting next to each other in the mini van (poke, push, shout).
An RV was the perfect solution. Not much packing and unpacking, just load and go…. I didn’t have to sleep on the ground, we had a microwave along, and when the kids weren’t playing games at the table, they could retreat to their own corners. Best of all… we never had to stop for the bathroom.
Start by Planning A Family RV Trip
It’s a good idea to know how long you can get away before planning anything else. If you’ve only got a week, you don’t want to attempt a journey of 4000 miles. Be realistic. You don’t want to have long driving days every day, and you do want to make sure that you spend time in the places you want to visit. And remember, you can’t expect to see Yellowstone in one day. (Please please please don’t be like a friend of mine who drove to the Grand Canyon … looked in…. and then LEFT because he’d seen all he needed to see).
Your best bet is to decide one or two main destinations, and build from there. Our family enjoys visiting the National Parks, and I had been wanting to see Glacier National Park for years, so we chose that as our main destination. Yellowstone is not too far from there, so we added that to our must see list.
Then we pulled out the BIG MAP. Maps are such wonderful tools. I love the computer, but there is something about spreading a map across a table and tracing the roads with your fingers. What else is there along the way to your main destinations? To get to Glacier, we drove up through Oregon, so it was a no brainer to stop at Crater Lake. From there, we zig zagged a bit. Using a few travel guides and the internet, as well as our map, we plotted a route that included natural wonders, a theme park, and some rock hounding.
I encouraged everyone to participate in the planning. And tried to make sure that everyone got to have at least one activity fit their personality. I’m digger, so we hit a few rock hounding sites. One son loves fishing, so we planned a fly fishing adventure for the boys. The girls love horses, so they did a trail ride. Another daughter enjoys paddling, so the inflatable kayak came along. Not every adventure was for every person. Sometimes we split up. The girls really didn’t want to fly fish… so we sent the boys on their own. Saved a bit of money, and the girls got to do something they enjoyed.
Organize your Plans on Paper
Pull out a clean spiral notebook, and start writing it all down. How many days in each spot… be realistic. How long does it take to get there? Fair warning.. google maps will give you an estimate of how many hours it takes to travel from point A to point B, but does not calculate RV speed. RV speed is slower than car speed. Factor in traffic, road work, and stopping for an extra hour somewhere really cool. Like a roadside beef jerkey stand.
Don’t plan to drive long distances every day. We made it a point to only drive a long day, 6 to 8 hours, if we planned to stay somewhere for 2 to 3 days. Medium drives of 3 to 4 hours were a good distance. Also, if it was going to be a long day, we tried to find somewhere interesting to stop halfway. Something as simple as a Dairy Queen sundae can take the sting out of being trapped in a vehicle for hours.
you’ve got a route
you’ve got a timeline
Choosing an RV
What Size Camper Do You Need?
(Sure, some of you may already have an RV or Camper sitting on your driveway, but the rest of us have to get one.)
We briefly considered buying a used RV, but after running the numbers figured that we’d have to use it three weeks out of every year to make it come out the same as renting one. It seemed like a good idea to try renting one first, just to see how we liked it before committing to ownership.
We went to a few different rental places to check them out. Make sure to get exact numbers in writing. Rental agencies will sometimes neglect to tell you about the fine print.. extra charges for generator use.. extra charges for mileage… extra charges for extra people or animals. Read the contract carefully. Make sure you are honest with yourself and the agency about how far you want to go, and who is going along. Do you want the deluxe model with TV and Satellite dish? Or will you be happy with an older bare bones model (sometimes, they come with an interesting smell). Do you want a pop out? The extra space is nice… but it will cost a bit more.
Don’t forget, when you set up your rental schedule, factor in time for loading and unloading the rig. You may not be able to pick up the RV until the afternoon, and it takes time to load all of your food and gear. It may be easiest to pick it up the day before you plan to leave, or just plan a short drive the first day. Returns generally have to be done in the morning, and you will need time to clear your things out and maybe do a basic clean up, so don’t plan to wake up in a campground miles from home, make the drive, empty the rig, and get it back by 11.
Finally, how big should your RV be?
RV’s come in classes-
Class A– The largest… they look like a bus. Often they are the most luxurious, with everything from multiple rooms to fireplace to gazebo. Keep in mind. They are LARGE. If you are new to this, it could be a tough thing to maneuver, and expensive to gas up.
Class C- (yes it’s out of order, for a reason) – Class C is a smaller Motorhome. Usually they are on a Truck Chassis, and therefore easier to handle. They have some fun features, and with pull outs, they can be quite spacious, and plenty big enough for a family. Keep in mind, you probably won’t have any privacy.
Class B and B+ – The smallest, is a van conversion. Often it has a bed, and a sort of kitchen. This is best for just 2 or maybe 3 people.
A bed for everyone is a good idea… unless you plan to bring an extra tent along for the older kids. (Keep in mind… the law now states that there must be a seatbelt for every passenger, so make sure the RV is equipped for your number of people). We opted to take a smaller RV, only 26 feet, but with a pop out. National Parks are starting to limit the size of RV’s allowed in their campsites, so you don’t want to go too big. Also, I was super nervous about driving anything bigger than our home…
Then Suddenly… the RV was in my driveway, ready to be loaded up…..
Read more about our exciting adventure here—->>> RV Trip Through the National Parks