Hitch Hints

Are We There Yet?

Things to see and do along the RV roads to adventure…

By Andy Thomson

Many of our customers enjoy travelling with their children, and it is increasingly common to see them travel with grandchildren. 

I have seen this lifestyle from two perspectives. My parents purchased our first trailer when I was a year old so I grew up travelling in an RV. My own children started travelling with us when they were only a few months old. Not that this is unusual, it is pretty common for kids to follow their parents’ penchant for RV travel. My kids will tell you that what they remember most from their childhood is the trips we took and all that they learned on our travels. There is something about driving across a continent that puts the world into perspective.

Family roasting marshmallows in front of a fold-down camping trailer, at a campsite.
After a long day on the road, it’s great to set up your camper and roast some marshmallows over an open campfire! Photo courtesy Go RVing.

We sometimes hear from young parents who think they should wait until their children are a bit older to travel, but with an RV travel with very young children is possible and relatively easy. When you take your home with you, it is never a problem to find a clean bathroom and change area. You can prepare bottles or food any time you need it. I think it’s an ideal way to travel with young children – certainly much easier than trying to get everything onto an airplane or trucking everything in and out of hotel rooms. 

On long travel days, we would stop for lunch at a quiet park, a school yard, or pay the daily use fee at a provincial/state park or conservation area. This let the kids get out, run around or play on a playground. This is where it is good to stay flexible because sometimes you stumble upon some really great places. 

A few years ago we were travelling along the north shore of Lake Michigan and we pulled off the highway into a small town on a Peninsula. There on the shore was a beautiful park with a huge wooden fort called “Kids Kingdome” equipped with every climbing and swinging apparatus you could imagine. We spent the whole afternoon there. The girls had a blast! 

When our kids were young, electronics were not nearly as common as they are now. If you wanted video in the car it meant putting a TV on the console and hooking it up with a DVD player powered by an inverter. While I could have done that, I never wanted the distraction in the car. I felt the kids had enough “screen time” at home and at school, so vacation time was time without screens in the vehicle or trailer. 

There is something about a car trip that gets kids to open up and talk about things they never talk about at home. Maybe there just isn’t time anywhere else. 

There are so many different activies you can do to keep the children busy while travelling.
A cool place to play, some crayons, a light snack, and your children will be happy no matter where you choose to camp…

There are always interesting things to see as you travel that the kids would not notice if they were glued to a screen all the time. We stopped at most historical markers and
scenic lookouts, which are often good for a conversation afterwards. Being a bit of a history junkie, I could often dig up some facts about the spot we were looking at. Sometimes we would pass a book around, and read it aloud as we traveled, on one trip to BC we went through two volumes of Harry Potter. On a trip to California it was a Sherlock Holmes adventure from start to finish.

As soon as the kids were old enough I taught them to read the Rand McNally road atlas and how to relate city, province and national maps to each other. This was before GPS, so pretty soon I had two very good navigators. If the kids asked the proverbial “are we there yet”? I would hand them the map and suggest that they figure it out (this is not an effective technique with their mother). Today, a GPS in theory makes that somewhat obsolete but I still like the paper road atlas – maybe it is my age, but it still makes it easier to know where you are, I think mainly because you can see the overall area and the detail view on the same page. 

One of the great things we stumbled upon as the kids got older was that they started to plan our trips. This kept them very involved and excited about where we were going, and we never went through the “I don’t want to go on the family vacation stage”. In fact, one or both of our girls were coming on some trips with us well into their 20’s. Now they bring their own RV if they come on our family excursions. 

By planning the trip, we found that a flexible schedule was best – not a rigid schedule with split second timing. This frees you to check out unexpected opportunities. Certainly you can make reservations in high demand areas that you are sure you want to visit, but even these can be changed for little cost if the mood or weather sends you elsewhere. For example, once we were headed for a destination on Hilton Head Island. When we arrived at the exit for the 40-mile road out to the island, it was pouring rain. A check of the weather confirmed that it would likely pour rain for days, but just five hours away in St. Augustine, the weather was beautiful – so even though it cost $100.00 to cancel the Hilton Head reservation, we had great weather for our holiday.

One other thing we often did was to bring the girls friends with us. It was a great way to get to know your kid’s friends. Most youngsters and teenagers find it is a real novelty to stay in an RV and visit new places. 

The great thing about an RV park is that it is a safe, somewhat controlled environment where kids can have far more freedom than they can have anywhere else. I would never let a couple of 10-year old girls wander around a hotel alone, but am perfectly comfortable with it in a family RV park.

Another great thing about RV travel is that the kids can help with things that are not part of their normal routine. At 4 years old they were winding down the stabilizer jacks, later they learned to check the oil in the car, hitch up and roll up awnings. I never could get them interested in dumping the tanks. 

For grandparents, I have heard a few good ideas. A couple of customers take two young cousins of about the same age on their trips. This lets the cousins get to know each other, and there is no sibling rivalry. I have not been lucky enough to try this yet, but hope to someday.

These are some ideas that have worked for us. I hope you can follow our lead and expand on these ideas – and have a truly awesome trip this summer!   

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