RVing is fun. You know it, and depending on the age of your kids, they may or may not know it. There are thousands of fun places to go and thousands of fun things to do, but the real question is, how do you make RVing fun for the whole family?
Get Suggestions From Everyone Going On The Trip
When you’re planning your trip get suggestions from everyone in the family about where they want to go, what they want to do. Make a list of all the things everyone wants to do and decide on what you can do as a family so everyone gets to do at least one or two things on their list. Here are things you might want to do on a typical camping trip.
You won’t get to do them all of course, but pick the ones you really can afford and want to do:
- Bird watching
- Animal watching
- Visiting a waterfall
- Photography field trip
- Rock collecting (if allowed – in National Parks it’s not allowed)
- Horseback riding
- Playing in a river or stream
- Rock climbing
- Playing video games in the campground game room
- Watch television
- Eat out
- Go to a nearby attraction
- Visit a Cave
- Visit a local attraction
- Go to a movie
- Go to a play
- Fly kites
- Board games
- Video games
- Attend an arts or craft fair
- Cook out
- Build a campfire
- Roast Marshmallows or make S’mores
- Play around the RV
- Play with toys brought from home
- Learn a new skill – like how to use a compass
- Go Geocaching
- Go Scuba diving
- Go snorkeling
- Go mountain biking
- Take an airplane or helicopter tour
- Visit a nearby theme park
You may surprised to find that simple activities like cooking over a campfire, board games and just hanging out around the RV are more popular than doing a lot of other activities.
Everyone Pitches In
Whether it’s loading the RV, packing their own clothes and toys, or helping shop for groceries, make sure everyone has a hand in getting the RV ready. Not only will young children feel better about themselves, they’ll also be more likely to pitch in when it comes to cleaning up, pitching camp, breaking camp or helping around the RV when they feel like they’ve had a part in the planning and packing of the trip.
If your children are old enough, generally around 10-14 and up, teach them to help you set up the RV and hook up the systems. Depending on their size, maturity and confidence, you can have them hand you items you need, or just watch, or actually do some of the set-up themselves. They can collect firewood, sweep away leaves, pick up trash, set out chairs, get ice or items from the camp store and take out the trash.
A vacation doesn’t mean everyone gets to give up chores and go wild and expect mom and dad to do all the work. Establish new chores based on the RV and what they can do. When children have chores and pitch in they feel more like a part of the family and the experience. Include fun chores too – like taking photos of different activities, or writing in a family camping journal about their day.
Have a Plan B
Nothing ever goes exactly as planned when you’re RVing or camping. That’s the fun of it! But when a weekend you intended to go fishing or hiking or swimming ends up being cold, rainy or ruined by events beyond your control (flooded river, pool closed for cleaning etc) you’d better have some alternative activities on hand, a “Plan B” for the trip. This can be board games, video games, movies, crafts, books, comics, a special project, whittling, wood working or quilting or knitting or something you and the kids or spouse can do in case your original plans don’t work out.
Talk about your Plan B, and plan for it before you need it. Explain that sometimes things don’t go as planned and that you might have to change plans unexpectedly. This should help cut down on the tears and frustration they’ll feel if you do need to go to the backup plan.
Make Time to Rest
Public pools often have a mandatory 10 to 15 minute rest every hour to ensure that kids and adults take a break, even if they don’t particularly want to. It’s a good rule. It forces everyone to take a breather, calm down, get something to eat, go to the bathroom or reconnect with parents. It’s amazing how rejuvenating that break is. Do the same with your family. Build in some mandatory “down time” when everyone must take a nap, read quietly, or rest before getting back to what they’re doing. Set the time as you see fit, but generally 30-60 minutes depending on the age of the children, is a good idea. You’ll get a nap and a break and so will they. Encourage them to lay down in the RV and read (provide a good comic book if you must), or relax. They’ll be able to go longer and appreciate the evening campfire better if they’re not grouchy. If they balk at the idea, tell them it’s so they can stay up a little later that evening (true!) and enjoy the campfire. A day spent swimming, running, biking and playing is exhausting for any child and they may actually appreciate the late afternoon break – especially if mom and dad are resting!
Recap And Debrief
One of the best things any family can do after a short trip, and especially after a long trip is to “recap and debrief.” You may want to do this the last night before you leave. Sit around a campfire and talk about what each person liked best and least about the trip. Encourage two positive reviews for each negative.
Go around in a circle with each person getting to say one thing they liked about the trip. For instance, you might say, “I really liked the way you all pitched in and helped me keep the RV clean,” or “I really liked the morning we went fishing and caught breakfast for ourselves!” Keep the comments coming and take time to write them down, or even videotape them so you can all enjoy them later. Try to keep it light and fun, but listen to things like, “I thought it really sucked when it rained all day Saturday and we didn’t get to go horseback riding.” Listen and acknowledge their frustrations. “I see you’re frustrated and upset you didn’t get to go horseback riding. Maybe we can make sure we put that on the list for our next trip so you do get to go.”
This is where memories are strengthened and where your family becomes close. Don’t use it to criticize or nag, but to share the good feelings about the trip and what you’d like to do better next time. It shouldn’t be highly structured – a half hour around the campfire or dinner is fine. But take time to listen to what your children or spouse felt and experienced about the trip. It will make planning the next one better and ultimately provide the most family fun for all your future trips!