KIDS LOVE THE RV LIFESTYLE TOOby Peggi McDonald
Webmaster note: this article is a little dated but has some excellent ideas that are never obsolete!
As we move from the RV shows to dealer open houses, RVers with young families continually ask for suggestions to keep everyone happy. However if left to their own devices, campground kids will explore, invent games and generally have a good time by themselves or with a newfound friend or two. Since Kids generally understand the spirit of co-operation and fair play, especially if participants are of different ages, rules and structure for impromptu group activities are not added until absolutely necessary.
Wet or less than perfect weather doesn't usually damper the enthusiasm of young campers. As a rule when kids are allowed to follow their instincts, they simply don a jacket or a poncho and investigate outside riches. A selection of family style board games, a deck of cards and a few good movies also help to fill cold or rainy days. Children raised with respect for elders, try hard not to infringe on their space. However when ideas fade, the following suggestions may help.
WHAT SHOULD I WATCH FOR WHEN RVING WITH TODDLERS?
Take a tour through your unit on your hands and knees. See what the kids see and eliminate hazards such as burners on a stove or sharp corners. Modify dangerous spaces with removable gates and kid control covers. Add diapers, favourite toys and formula to a backpack for touring or hiking. NOTE If baby is on formula it's safer to buy bottled water and carry powdered formula---Bassinets and strollers are more space efficient than cribs and carriages. Sleeping bags are more fun to use and easier to cope with than individual sheets and bedding.
ARE WE THERE YET?
'Game Boys' (be sure to invest in a battery pack that provides 12 hours of continuous play---it is more economical than batteries) and other easy to play hand held travel games amuse for quite a while. Click the 'search button' and type in 'Travel Games' (I found many page of games to choose from) to find a wide selection of additional games designed for vehicle travel such as yahtzee, chess etc. Many of these games take two players. A favourite toy, colourful interesting publications, and/or colouring books for the younger set also help the miles slip by. Search the bookstores and libraries for additional special travel pastimes. Movies playing on a portable 12 volt TV/VCR make long days fly by. A cassette player with headphones and a selection of personal music also helps to occupy young travellers en route.
Assure the kids have a special place to store their games such as a back -pack. What doesn't fit doesn't travel with them. My friend's mom used the good portion of old shower curtains to make special plastic pouches to pack games into. Try to fill a few hours by making up family travel trivia games such 'I spy', or 'naming a moment in history of each province or state license plate you see', or 'who can spot the highest number of visiting vehicles'. Plan long lunch breaks punctuated with physical activity. Young and old benefit from active games, stretching or a short jog to relieve stress, aches and fatigue from restricted activity of a seat belt (even in a motorhome). Frequent stops for treats and souvenirs make for happier travellers. On long trips, early departures encourage sleep for the first few hours. A good supply of non-messy snacks such as crackers and peanut butter, or cheese and celery sticks, or raisins along with spill resistant juice boxes go a long way to appease restlessness.
OUR FAMILY IS IN GRADE SCHOOL, ANY 'ON-GOING' HOBBY SUGGESTIONS?
Inexpensive point and shoot cameras add interest to an uneventful trip, allowing one film per child per trip (or month) restricts developing costs. To help limit the number and type of pictures taken suggest they record the climate, place, subject and date of each photo in a journal for show and tell or future reference.
MY TEENAGERS NO LONGER LIKE CAMPING, HOW CAN WE RESTORE THEIR INTEREST?
As kids get older the wonders of a campfire or a hike in the forest may be less appealing. However when choosing a destination as a family affair, great getaways are still possible. Visits to theme parks such as Disney World or Wonderland, to diversified water parks, to National Parks are always interesting. Without prodding these will usually echo positive "I want to go too!" Although canoeing, motorboating and fishing are popular family events, tubing creates a special challenge and white water rafting trips are the ultimate adventure to most teens. On-site events at campgrounds mean taxi service may not be necessary.
Selective hobbies can turn ordinary getaways into pleasant memories. For instance, most kids spend some time in Cyberspace; have them log your proposed trip on programs such as www.randmcnally.com or www.freetrip.com. Because laptops are very mobile, investing in a specific 'Trip-planning' software program is another option. Allow each young traveller to plan and research 1-2 stops of their choice en route. Whether travelling near or far, try to assign details of reaching the chosen destination to your teen---offer assistance only if asked. Don't despair; a few wrong turns can convert unplanned stopping spots into wonderful adventures.
If there's no access to such software, suggest they trip-plan the old fashioned way --- by writing or phoning tourist bureaus of the province or state you plan to visit to ask for their guidebooks plus maps and campground reference guides. These travel guides are handy even if you use the Internet to plan. (NOTE: To find phone numbers of these provinces or states, look in the front of International Campground directories such as Trailer Life or Woodalls---available from bookstores or RV dealers. You can also call 1-800-555-1212 and ask for the toll free number). Using these publications and maps along with your families travel time-schedule, a Rand McNally Disto-map plus campground directories, the kids can plot a route including stopping spots and sightseeing diversions. When young campers help to plan the trip they feel very much a part of the getaway --- remember to keep days short with lots of breaks and leisure activity.
Snorkeling and diving destinations or even a winter ski excursion are RV outings featuring a different slant. The RV can become a cozy chalet for a lunch or dinner break, a hot shower, or a spot for mom and dad to relax if the activities are not a family affair. Some ski resorts even accommodate RVers with electric hook-ups, a dump station and a place to take on water. Researching a destination before leaving home may bring some unexpected rewards.
WHAT EXTRA CONSIDERATIONS MAY HELP?
When teens travel with a friend it can make a trip more special. Pitching a tent or another mouth to feed is no big deal if the kids are happy. A stopping spot should have one activity that appeals to each family member such as a waterslide, a pool, a fishing stream, a boat ride, video machines, ping pong tables etc.
One relaxing and interesting hobby for young and old is Astronomy. A stellar constellation guidebook, a glow in the dark map of the stars along with a telescope and several lenses is enough to get started. Studying stars on clear campground nights can fascinate curious campers for hours. Another appealing pastime for pre-teens as well as more mature campers is the use of a metal detector. Interesting treasures lay waiting on beaches, around campsites, near war sights, riverbanks, in and around ghost towns and during lunch breaks at rest areas etc. By the way detectors weigh between 3-4 pounds and take the space of a golf bag.
HOW CAN WE MAXIMIZE THE LEARNING ADVENTURE?
Audio Cassette Travel Tapes are another wonderful way to amuse, entertain and educate all RVers on the areas they travel through. With talking tapes, an ordinary trip can develop a memorable personality simply because of the many facts and information presented. Check tourist bureaus, large US Truck Stops, libraries, flea markets and bookstores for a vast selection of tapes available for rent or for purchase. We have rented cassette tapes in Banff, Alberta for a trip to Jasper, it explained wildlife, glaciers and, history; in Brown County State Park in Indiana we learned about local wildlife; In Lafayette, Louisiana the tapes discussed the historical beginning of the Acadian people; and at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania we enjoyed a better understanding of the history surrounding the battles.
A selection of paperback guidebooks such as birding, wild flowers, insects, rocks and shells adds interest to natural collections or still life photography. Unusual discoveries teach kids the value of reference material, in a fun way. Developing good research activities early in life is an immense help in secondary and university studies as well as in the work force. A dictionary, thesaurus, Farmers Almanac, Guinness Book of World Records, Hoyle's Rule Book for Games, a medical dictionary and Red Cross First Aid Book round out 'on road' libraries.
RVing provides a perfect opportunity to establish future effective writers. A personalized 'writing box' for each RVer adds intrigue. Encourage daily entries to journals or logs (diaries are more personal than logs); include good and bad, exciting and mundane happenings. Sending post cards to friends is an easy way to practice. Be supportive, help only when asked and never be critical---praise at every opportunity. Kids will soon realize it's convenient to have prepared compositions on hand for school projects plus they'll discover writing can be a most enjoyable outlet.
In general, half the fun of a vacation is getting there. Destinations near or far are always more exciting simply because they are new experiences. Keep schedules flexible. Junior RVers travel with an open mind; adults are always looking to the future.