When we told people that we had purchased our first weekender-RV when our son was only 10 months old, many responded by saying they were impressed with our tenacity. Six months later, we took our first “long” trip of 3 weeks (which is laughable by current standards). I remember us saying to each other that we could imagine leaving all our possessions where they stood and never returning home. Of course, at the time, that seemed like a fantasy. Flash forward to November of 2019; we had just survived our newborn’s PICU stay and felt this deep need to grab the preciousness of life by the horns. Over lunch at The Habit Burger Grill, we quietly urged ourselves “let’s just do it…”. Nine weeks later we had successfully sold off, donated, or stored all our belongings, rid of our mortgage, upgraded our RV and traded in 2 cars for 1. You should’ve seen the looks and heard the exasperations when we broke that news to our friends and family. Impressed was the general undertone of response.
So here we are in a 42-foot Thor Motorcoach with 3 dogs, a 3 year old, and a 5 month old. In some ways, traveling with young kids full-time proves to be as challenging as it sounds. But in others, our daily life has actually quieted. Originally, our top concern was sleeping arrangements. To our pleasant surprise however, our children continue to prove to us how adaptable they are. In fact, we would argue life is… easier. I know, crazy notion, right? Somehow shrinking our circus into a smaller tent has made it more manageable and enjoyable.
So here are the Top 3 benefits of traveling with young children:
1.) They’re rarely bored because they always have a new place to explore. Even if that’s just our campsite patio. It’s still a different patio with new bugs, rocks, and dirt to shovel. And when I say ‘they’, I honestly mean both boys. Even our infant’s body language changes when he’s in the freshness of the outdoors. All the toys we thought we needed in our traditional lifestyle have easily been downsized to a single basket. And even then, our 3 year old hasn’t felt a need to dig to the bottom in weeks. And here’s the best part... they’re so tired from the fun that on travel days they actually sleep a bulk of the drive and it’s, dare I say… QUIET! Yes, parents, I said “Quiet!”
2.) While some might think the idea to do this with young kids is arguably asinine, we’d argue it’s the most ideal time to do it. After all, we’re a young family still trying to navigate the newest addition to our family dynamics. Six months ago we scrambled to prioritize family time on our busy calendars of work, house, daycare, etc. Now, we have to be conscientious of respecting each others’ healthy need for space. And before we know it, they’ll be enrolled in hobbies and sports and off with friends. We figured there was a shrinking window of optimal time. Talk about a 180! Not only do we spend more time with our kids, but Mom and Dad now find each other sitting down each night after bedtime huddled over the dinette talking and eating together. Yup, we actually have the time for each other.
3.) As a former high school social science teacher, museums are just as high up on the Must-Do List as hiking nature’s wonders. Yet nobody wants to be the person whose child is melting down and impeding upon the climax of the tour guide’s storytelling. But guess what!? We’re still taking our children with us. And so far, they’ve been wonderful. They’re not only becoming historically adept, they’re practicing what it means to “be patient” and use their “quiet voice”. They’re learning that not everything revolves around instant gratification.. And sometimes, it’s not their turn to be directly entertained. Which is quite the modern-day parenting epiphany.
Ok, so things have improved in a lot of ways. Now, here we sit in Arkansas planning our next big move (maybe the Ozarks?), and we’re starting to feel a little more confident in our routine and ability to overcome the never-ending hiccups of full-time RV life.
The 3 most regular challenges we seem to be faced with are oddly enough, the day-to-day affairs we overlooked. Here they are:
We live in a fancy RV. In fact, the kitchen is nicer than our just-recently-sold 1960 Ranch House in the OC. But the reality is that a house on wheels tends to need a lot of attention… like our threenager. So currently, our AquaHot isn’t working properly and our grey tank is cracked. We have no choice but to use the campground facilities. I’m not a princess. I don’t care. We have shower shoes. Easy-peasy, right? No. Not when you have to account for a toddler who would pluck the stray hairs off the walls at every chance they get and the need to hold onto your slippery fish of a baby in your arms all while juggling the sensitive hot water system of a public shower while then dodging the pee stream that’s aimed at your feet. Ok, now imagine getting that wet sausage of a baby who can’t yet sit up, dried off and dressed while trying to avoid the public surfaces. Sounds super fun, right? Hey, we set out for adventure. We just so happened to find it in our bathing habits. If you find yourselves in the same predicament, here are two tips that have transformed the struggle. The first is to invest in a collapsible, drainable shower caddy. We found ours on clearance at Target for less than $2. Second, use a wagon. We load up all the necessities, towels, and our spawn into our also collapsible wagon and haul them into the shower. We then use it as a changing table as well. This has helped so much! Wagon, people. Wagon.
2.) Setting up after a long day.
One of the pleasant surprises of travel days is that, more often than not, it’s a really relaxing day during the drive itself. Life outdoors seems to run our kids ragged. And some days it’s hard to stick to a bedtime when you’re adjusting to a time change or simply having fun exploring wherever your feet are. We aim to avoid drives longer than 4.5 hours. But when you add in the pace of an RV and the stops we need to stay sane, 4.5 turns to 6. And sometimes we’re just crazy enough to rip the band-aid off and make it an 8 hour day. When we do this, generally we get in around dinner time. But at that point, the boys have rested and NEED to exhaust some energy. We also NEED to dock the RV, set up for dinner and bedtime, and walk 3 dogs. Juggling this is hard. And we still don’t have a system in play. Ordering a pizza if available has helped. As does having a glass wine in hand’s reach. And, ultimately, a lot of inner serenity for the craziness around you. It helps that we don’t move around too often. And if we have a lot of consecutive days of travel, we try to stop somewhere for an extended stay to get the wiggles out before moving onward.
3.) Lastly, space is and continues to be a struggle.
You’re probably thinking, “duh, of course space would be a concern.” But again, we live in a larger RV than most doing this lifestyle. We were space-arrogant. Oops. Anyway, toys were seemingly easy to minimize. But it’s hard to do that with clothes. We’re sharing a bedroom of condensed closet space with 4 people, and the overnight pull-ups, diapers, and wipes. I don’t know about your kids, but mine tend to leave zero clothes in presentable conditions for a second day’s wearing. So we go through our wardrobes quickly. But we also don’t have a plethora stowed away. We’re still working on our shoe dilemma. We’ve got about 4 pairs per person (minus the baby)- hiking, gym, sandals, and shower. I’m hoping we discover some untapped crevice in our RV by chance and it’s the perfect storage solution. Fingers crossed.
Happy travels, friends.
You can follow this RV family and their journey on Instagram at @3dogs2boys1rv