RVing with kids can be a great experience for everyone involved. But it can also be a terrible experience. Most of this comes down to two factors:
How the trip is orchestrated and the personalities involved.
You can’t change your personality (overnight) or your kid’s for that matter. But you can create a trip that fits with each person’s personality.
This adventure can be fun, safe, and very rewarding.
When planned right!
In this post, we’ll tell you how to design this type of trip so that you and your kids can experience the wonderful world of RVing.
I’ll tell you what you need to bring for the kids and toddlers and what you need to do below.
4 Things to Consider When RVing With Kids
1) Safety Is Very Important
There are many different aspects to staying safe while RVing with kids. You’ll need to keep them safe while you’re traveling, while you’re parked, and while you’re spending time in your RV.
Some aspects of safety remain the same whether or not you’re traveling or staying at home.
Other aspects will be more challenging and you’ll have to put a little more thought into keeping your child safe while living on the road.
- While Traveling
The first thought every parent should have when planning anything that involves their kids is how can you keep them safe? Keeping your kids safe while RVing is easily achievable but it does require some work and some planning.
You’ll need to consider safety while traveling in the RV while living in the RV, and while staying in one place.
Traveling in an RV with kids is simple but it does require the right equipment. The seats need to be safe and secure and they need to have seat belts.
Your motorhome’s dinette might be a really comfortable place for the kids to play games and eat in while traveling but it might not be safe for them to do so.
Different states have different laws concerning seat belts and car seats in motorhomes but why do the state minimum when your kid’s life is at stake?
Motorhomes get in accidents too and if you happen to be in one you’ll want to know that your children are sitting in the safest seats they can sit in.
A general rule you should follow is that if your kids would normally be in car seats in your everyday vehicle, they should be in car seats in your motorhome.
Also, if the seat doesn’t have a seatbelt then your child shouldn’t be sitting in it while in motion.
In Pennsylvania, the police have a slogan, “click-it or tick-it”, meaning you’ll be fined if you’re not wearing your seat belt.
People were angry about the law being passed but in the end, it has saved a lot of lives.
- Do I need Isofix?
The short answer is yes.
If you’re from the United States and are unfamiliar with this term, ISOFIX is the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars.
We normally refer to it as LATCH in the United States, otherwise known as Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.
Regardless of what your country refers to, it is always a good idea to have the latest child safety systems installed in your motorhome. If you can’t find a motorhome that meets your needs, you might consider buying a camper that can be towed with a vehicle that can safely transport both you and your children.
For example, a Chevy Tahoe can comfortably transport up to seven people and can tow up to 7,500 pounds.
- Safety While in Your RV
In an RV or motorhome, you’ll have the same safety challenges that you have in your home plus a few more.
For example, you’ll have exposed outlets, cabinets with cleaners in them, hot cooking surfaces, and even steps in some RVs.
If you need to cover your electrical outlets at home, you’ll need to cover them in your RV.
Safety items can be added to cabinets and drawers to secure them and small baby gates can be used to block off dangerous areas like steps and hot kitchens.
- Safety While Parked
In my experience, most RV parks are full of wonderful people who just want to experience life on the road.
However, you do have to remember your neighbors are transient and you won’t have time to get to know them as well as you know your current neighbors.
Never assume that your neighbors are good an honest people who can babysit your children when you need them to.
A person in a motorhome or RV isn’t attached to the place your staying in and can abduct your child a lot easier than your stationary neighbor can.
Talk with your neighbors, have dinner with your neighbors, let your kids play with your neighbor’s kids but never leave them alone with them.
The same advice holds true for the campground staff.
Never leave your children at an unofficial campground daycare. Daycares are licensed and insured for a reason. Some campgrounds will have official daycares setup for children and others will not.
Be sure you know which one you’re dealing with before you drop your kids off.
- Educate Your Kids About Safety
If you’re traveling a lot you’ll probably be visiting many new places and while this can be fun for your kids it can also be scary.
Make sure your kids know what to do and who to call if you become separated.
Cell phones can be great at connecting people but they shouldn’t be your only line of defense.
Remember some remote areas may have poor cell phone reception and these areas are often the areas where you’re most likely to become separated.
If you plan on spending a lot of time in the wilderness, make sure your children know the basics of wilderness survival. It can be all too easy to get separated and one night out in the wild can quickly become a life or death situation.
Educate your children and they’ll be able to keep themselves safe even when you aren’t around to do it for them.
2) Organizing And Storage
Organizing kids and their belongings are often more challenging than herding cats.
Additional structure and discipline will be needed to keep your RV clean and well organized.
My advice is to come up with a cleaning and organizing routine so that your RV is always neat and tidy. Messes are often amplified in small spaces and an RV can become dirty quickly.
Luckily, an RV can also be cleaned quickly so you should never have to spend more than an hour cleaning and organizing your RV to perfection.
Your kids will want to bring their toys and electronics with them while they travel and you may find that space is at a premium. Luckily most kids are shorter than their beds are. In this case, you can have your children store their toys and personal electronics at the foot of their beds.
In fact, you could even build them small footlockers to keep there so that they won’t be lying out in the open.
Alternatively, you can make use of net storage that fits overtop of their bunks.
This type of storage is lightweight and keeps everything stored in one place. When you decide to sell the RV, the net storage can easily be taken down.
3) Recreation Is Important
Let’s face it, kids get bored easily.
An hour of downtime can be a refreshing break for an adult but it can feel like an eternity to a child. Be sure to limit travel time and bring plenty of things for your kids to do both while traveling and while stationary.
Some campgrounds will have plenty of activities for children to engage in and others will be geared more towards retirees.
Try to choose destinations that cater more towards children and bring your own activities to engage in for when you can’t find these destinations to stay in.
Also, remember that kids like to use a lot of electronic devices. This can put additional strain on your RV battery life.
Because of this, you may want to upgrade to a bigger battery bank or an RV with a larger electrical system altogether.
An RV with a 50 amp power supply will be able to offer you much more power than an RV with a 30 amp power supply. Read more here on how much power RV’s use.
4) Respect Is Extra Important
While you want your kids to have fun while traveling, please be mindful of others.
The retiree who has dreamed of traveling all of his or her life may not want to be woken up at 3:00 am every morning by your screaming child. Be respectful of others and try to keep the noise down to a minimum.
The same holds true for your older children as well.
Children shouldn’t be left to run around your neighbor’s RV after dinner. They paid just as much for their spot as you did yours and they should be able to quietly enjoy it.
Respecting your neighbors is good practice and will serve to benefit you just as much as it will benefit your children as well as your neighbors.
Besides, who wants to spend their vacation getting yelled out by their grumpy old neighbor all because your kids decided it would be fun to play the drums on the side of their RV?
The Best RVs for Traveling With Kids
Traveling with kids means that you’ll have extra sleeping requirements as well as extra seating requirements for traveling.
While a large Class A or Class C might provide you with many sleeping options, it may not provide you with as many seating options as you need.
On the other hand, many class B motorhomes have plenty of safe seating options, they do not provide as much room for sleeping as you may need.
You can read a quick guide to the different RV sizes here.
For small families, you may consider a motorhome or fifth wheel camper but with large families, you’ll almost certainly need a pull-behind camper and a large tow vehicle.
3 RV Examples
- The Forest River 2251 SLE
This class C motorhome is great for the family of three or four who want to do some traveling. It has plenty of sleeping options as well as four forward facing seats with seat belts.
It holds 35 gallons of freshwater with is enough for all for people to take showers while away from modern amenities for a long weekend.
- The Cougar 367 FLS Fifth Wheel
This camper has two separate bedrooms on opposite sides of the RV and three large beds. A family with two older children could easily live full-time in an RV of this size.
- The Starcraft Launch Outfitter Travel Trailer 283 BH
This camper has two separate bedrooms as well as a sleeper sofa and a dinette that turns into a bed.
You can sleep all the way up to 10 people in it but I’d imagine any more than six would be quite uncomfortable.
Full-Time RVing With Kids
Full-time RVing with kids is a lot more challenging than taking the kids out for a week long or even a summer-long adventure.
When fulltime you’ll have to worry about ensuring your kids get a good education.
You’ll also have to make sure that they get proper socialization and that they grow up with all of the advantages that a child with a stationary home receives.
The advantage to this is that your kids will be exposed to many more experiences and you’ll get to spend more time with them than you would have been able to otherwise.
In fact, if life on the road reduces your expenditures enough you may find you get to spend much more time with your kids than others get to.
You’ll also get to hit the road while you’re still young enough to do everything you’d like to do. Many people wait until they retire and unfortunately they just don’t have the energy to do and see everything they always dreamed they’d do while full-time RVing.
When you hit the road while you and your kids are still young, you won’t have that problem.
Full-Timing With Toddlers
This is Max last summer.
A SUPER active toddler with a TON of energy (and the best smile ever! <3)
Full-timing with a toddler means your child probably won’t remember most of the places you bring them to.
It also means that you won’t be able to travel as fast and you’ll need to take steps to find campgrounds and RV parks that are close to medical providers.
This is especially true for new parents.
Being a new parent is wonderful but it’s also scary and it is hard to tell what is just a simple fever and what is an emergency.
Travel too far from civilization and you may find yourself too far from a hospital or emergency care facility for comfort.
Traveling with a toddler means that you’ll probably need to stay closer to cities and towns but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Choose a travel path that brings you to areas where you can stay for extended periods of time.
Areas close to family members are ideal as you’ll be able to introduce your young child to out-of-state relatives and you’ll have people to babysit while you get some much-needed rest.
Also, even though you may not have as much flexibility when traveling with toddlers.
You won’t have to worry about your toddler missing their friends or being unenthusiastic about the trip.
Elementary Age Children
When you travel with kids in elementary school you’ll need to consider the fact that they probably already have a set of friends and they’ll miss being around them.
This means that you may have to take more steps to keep them entertained.
You may also find that you need to stay at campgrounds that are more child-friendly. There are many campgrounds that have lots of activities for kids to engage in and seeking them out can help to reduce the stress your child might feel over not being around their friends from home.
Campgrounds and RV parks with pools and playgrounds are more likely to have children than ones without. You’re also more likely to find other children in the spring and summer months in resort towns.
RVing With Teenagers
Teenagers are more likely to push back against full-timing as they’re more likely to be established in your hometown and they’ll have more friends that they’ll want to stay in contact with.
This being said, teenagers are the most likely children to benefit from full-time RVing.
A teenager will remember the places you bring them and they’ll be able to participate in most activities. They’ll also have special places that they want to visit and you’ll get to experience those places with them.
On top of all of this, a teenager will not need to be watched over the way a young child might have to be.
The key to ensuring that your teenager enjoys the life of a full-time RVer is to make sure that they have comfortable and private living quarters. If at all possible, buy an RV that has a separate bedroom for your teenager.
Also, make sure you talk to your teenager to find out what places they’d really like to see.
A teenager will be more likely to enjoy your new lifestyle if they feel like they are a part of the decision making process. If you haven’t bought your RV yet, it may be a good idea to invite them to help with the shopping process.
After all, your teenager will be living in the RV just as much as you and they’ll enjoy it more if they’ve had a hand in taking ownership of it.
One unique way to provide older children with the privacy they need might be to tow a camper behind your motorhome. For instance, you could drive a class B or C motorhome and tow a small 13-foot camper behind it.
The addition of the 13-foot camper would give your teenager his or her very own bedroom, bathroom, and even kitchen. This could also help to serve as backup living quarters for everyone in the event that the motorhome needs to be left overnight at a mechanic’s shop.
School And Education
Your kids will learn a lot just by traveling with you.
However, this shouldn’t take the place of formal education. You’ll need to find a good homeschool program and you’ll need to set aside time to help your children with their studies.
Remember, different states have different home-school requirements so you’ll have to find a program that works for you, your child, and your home state.
Also, keep in mind that many home school programs are now online.
You may need to plan your travels around how and where you can find access to the Internet. Some programs can be accessed at any time and others follow a set schedule.
So you may find you need to have a solid and stable internet connection on certain days of the week and at certain times of the day.
Most kids learn how to socialize and interact with their peers at school and through after-school programs like sports and clubs.
When you’re on the road you probably won’t have access to these types of social events.
To get around this, you may want to join a group of others who are also traveling with kids. Traveling with others can be a great way for both you and your children to make new life-long friends. This can also help to provide you with a support network in case you ever experience trouble while on the road.
Another way to socialize your children would be to travel slower and stay in places longer so that your kids can join and participate in local activity groups.
Youth sports and activity groups may only form for a few months so slowing things down might give your children the opportunity to join some of these teams or activity groups.
If you plan on working while on the road, be sure you have a quiet place to get your work done.
When you’re living in a house, it can be easy to shut the door of your office and focus in on your work. In a small RV, this can be a much harder task to accomplish.
Add in a few small children and you might not have any peace and quiet at all.
One way to get around this might be to ask your spouse to take your children out for a while. If both you and your spouse are working while on the road, you could split your hours up so that each of you could take the kids out for a while.
Another option might be to find co-working spaces to use as a mobile office of sorts. Many co-working organizations have a multitude of spaces throughout the country.
Join a club that has offices in each of the areas you’re traveling through and you’ll always have a nice place to get your work done from.
Towing your own office is also an option you may want to consider.
A small office built into a cargo area could be used as a mobile office as well as a place to store extra gear or personal items while traveling. Small cargo trailers are not very expensive to purchase and almost all motorhomes will be capable of towing them.
I’ve also seen some people who tow a camper but use a pop-up pickup truck camper as an office that they can also use for quick weekend getaways from their base camps.
RVing with kids can be both challenging and rewarding at the same time. If you’re committed to living the RV lifestyle with your children you’re sure to succeed.
Just be sure you set expectations for your children as well as for yourself and remember that while you might be excited about hitting the road, your children may not be quite as enthusiastic.
Do everything you can to make your children comfortable and make it a point to sell them on the idea of living the RV lifestyle with you.
Is It Legal to Live in an RV With Your Kids?
It is not illegal to live in an RV with your kids. Many people have done this over the year and HUD has exempted RVs from their suitable housing standards as they are not truly considered houses.
You can view HUD’s regulation on this at https://www.regulations.gov/
Can You Claim An RV as Your Primary Residence
The IRS does allow you to claim an RV as a primary or secondary residence for federal tax purposes. This being said, the legal and tax implications of living in an RV can be complicated.
Since you’re traveling around and you aren’t paying school taxes to every school district you pass by, you won’t be able to take advantage of local schools.
Also, if you’re working online while traveling in your RV with your kids you may have to worry about which state to pay your state taxes to.
I’ve written an in-depth article on claiming RVs and boats as primary residences.
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Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.