Living In An RV with Kids (The Reality)

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Living In An RV with Kids (The Reality)

rovingfoleys with foil covered helmets and eclipse glasses on

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Thinking about living in an RV with kids? We made the jump almost 4 years ago and we’re here to tell you, it CAN be done. Having a family is something most of us dream of our whole lives, but once it happens we can find ourselves living in a bit of a rut- chained to all of the things we have been taught are the responsibilities of adulting and parenthood.

We struggled for years with infertility and after 6 1/2 years, we finally adopted our son and 13 months later our daughter. We tried the suburban life for a while but it just didn’t suit us. We had itchy feet and knew we wanted to travel like we did pre-kids.

But the drudgery of home and job kept us in one place outside those few precious weeks a year when we got to take the time to get out.

It just wasn’t enough for us- we knew we needed to live a different life.  So in 2015 we sold everything, bought our RV and hit the road.

One of our biggest questions was this: “We love our kids A LOT but do we love them enough to live in 400 square feet 24/7?”

RV Living With Kids – The Reality

I think the thought of traveling with kids is what puts a lot of families off of taking on the RV lifestyle. Homeschool, security, socialization- so many things to worry about with the kiddos.  And I get it, believe me. Leaving the comfort zone of home, neighborhood, friends, and family to travel full time can be scary. But the rewards can be fantastic and so worth it.

Most normal people considering this kind of life would rent an RV and try it out on some trips first right?  Well thankfully we’re not most people and we don’t do things as ‘normal’ people do.  Sorry, mom!

We bought our RV without ever staying a night in one, EVER! We were THAT committed- this was the life we wanted and everything was going to be absolutely peachy…right…?

Right! This RV lifestyle is fun and exciting, no two days are the same and we love watching our kids discover unique things every day. It’s not all peaches and cream, but on the whole, we love this life.

We want that for you too.

So we are here to answer your questions and hopefully help you to see this RV lifestyle as a little less intimidating than you might now!

What’s It Really Like as a Family Of 4 Living Full Time in a Fifth Wheel?

People ask if we are living the RV dream and the answer is always “Yes.”

Is it stressful?  Yes

Full time RVing is amazing, exciting, breathtaking, exhausting, stressful, worrisome AND awesome! Yep all of that. Stick with me though.

I will tell you that the positives far outweigh the negatives!

Here are our best “Traveling With Kids RV Living Tips” 

 Buying an RV

What things should you consider when buying an RV to travel with kids?

  1. How much do you love your kids?  lol (just kidding, we all love our kids)
  2. What ages are your kids and how much privacy does everyone need?  Teenagers obviously will need more privacy than younger kids.
  3. Are you okay living in such close quarters?  Seriously, these quarters are close!  Are you going to be okay with that?
  4. Do you need a bedroom for all your kids or are you okay with setting up a makeshift bed every night?  Converting the dinette, etc? If so, there are many more options in Class C and Class A rigs. We definitely did NOT want to convert beds daily so a travel trailer or bunkhouse fifth wheel was a certainty for us.
  5. Do you have a closet for clothes and toys or are you okay fitting them in Tupperware – I am the type where I need things to be in order.
  6. Be honest with yourselves, because full time means NOT temporary, so what may seem like a small annoyance will grow over time. We wanted doors, closets, and beds for everyone, as well as separate living space for the kiddos to play. So that is what we shopped for and a fifth wheel bunkhouse was our answer. THEN talked ourselves into buying a smaller travel trailer because it was a really good deal, and ended up having to trade it in only a few weeks later.  Don’t make that mistake– best to really know what you need and buy it the first time.

Online Homeschool

Do you plan on homeschooling your kids while you travel or will they be unschooled?  I had never considered in a million years homeschooling my kids.  My former neighbor homeschooled her 3 kids and loved it.  I was in awe but no thanks – not for me!

Once we made the decision to live in a camper full time, I knew I was going to have to re-consider homeschool.   I had some awesome conversations with my neighbor as to how exactly this was going to work for me.

Having homeschooled for over three years now, I have been through some not so good programs and some very good ones. It takes some time to find your pace but you will.  You can read all about the online program I use and how this all works for us on the road.

conor and aine with female park ranger

What is great about this life is the NATURAL education your kids will get. Our kids have been to Yellowstone National Park twice, the Mighty 5 Utah National Parks, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon just to name a few. They have met George Washington in person, learned how to make rope, and experienced a solar eclipse from the totality. They’ve hidden food for one of the biggest grizzly bears I’ve ever seen at a bear sanctuary, fished crabs, shrimp, mussels and clams.  Even when they are not in school, they are learning so much every day because of the cool places that we are visiting.

What Does Our Daily Schedule Look Like?

Not everyone has a daily schedule and that works great for them.  We have a daily schedule that changes from time to time and that’s fine.  I find that the kids do better if they know what’s happening every day.  My son flourishes with a schedule and does the opposite without one.

This is something you will figure out for your own kids as you move into this RV lifestyle. The thing to remember is that you can be as flexible as you like.

We start school at 9 am every day for the most part.  There are days when we wake up and it’s rainy outside so we decide to stay in our pajamas all day, finish school early and jump into bed with a good movie.  There are days when we are up at 4 in the morning to drive to Yellowstone to see a pack of wolves and a grizzly bear up close.

We tend to visit places when everyone else is home so we get to see the Smokey Mountains, or Yosemite, or Glacier National Park while other kids are at school. This way they tend to get quality time with the Park Rangers and we can take our time exploring.

On a ‘regular school day,’ we finish school close to lunch time and then head out for the day.  Sometimes this means we have an event planned, but sometimes it means hanging outside in the campground having fun.  The kids finish their day up by watching something fun on their tablets and staring out the window at the stars.

If we have a whole day out planned, we get up and go.  We do a lot of field trips to zoos, aquariums, national parks and try to hike as much as we can.

All of these family outings have tightened our family bond so much and I’m so grateful to this journey for doing that.

What About Privacy

You won’t have any and this doesn’t change, so get used to it!

Haha was that too tough.  You’re not going to have MUCH privacy when you travel with kids. But with a little creativity, you will get some.

There isn’t a lot of private space living in a fifth wheel full time, especially when the only bathroom is in our room!  Just an FYI, there are fifth wheel campers with 2 bathrooms available, keep it in mind. We only have one toilet.

Locked doors are a good, but sound travels. So you have to be creative planning your alone time.  When the kids are in bed or watching a movie or outside playing :).  Just tell them the rocking was a sudden wind storm!

Do You Get To Have A Date Night With Your Spouse?

Yes, absolutely we do and we need it.  After being with the kids all day, it’s nice to be able to sit quietly with your spouse and catch up.

My kids are in bed usually by 8 pm at night.  On Friday and Saturday night they are usually tucked up in their beds watching a movie with a big bowl of popcorn.  This now allows us to relax with a glass of wine and a movie.  If it’s nice outside, we’ll grill a steak and enjoy dinner outside.

For the most part, this is uninterrupted time. It is not very often that we go OUT on our own as babysitters are tough to come by when you only stay places for a month or so, but we don’t miss it THAT much.

Just one of the trade-offs to be aware of.

Kids Get On Each Others Nerves

All siblings fight but when you are living in an RV full time, they are together almost all of the time which can lead to squabbles.

Here are some tips to help with that.

  1. Join the Facebook Group Full-Time Families, they have other families in there and they organize family get-togethers several times per year.  This is so great because both you and your kids get to hang out with other families who understand how you feel.  The kids get to run around with other kids and have that social interaction they need.
  2. If you are staying anywhere for a long period of time during Christmas or the summer try and get them signed up for a local camp or fun group- separately so they can take a break from each other and make other friends on their own. A lot of places have homeschool groups as well that you can join.
  3. Spend one on one time with each kid.  Let mom take one and dad take the other one and go have some fun.  My kids bicker and fight a lot but once they are separated even for a while, they are so happy to see the other, it’s so sweet to see.
  4. If there is a kid at your RV park, open that door and get them outside immediately and let them play with someone new.  I have been known to end school early if I see some kids outside.  We loved this state park in Idaho, close to Yellowstone because there were kids playing outside all the time (of course it was the summer)
  5. Check with the local library in whatever area you are in. There is almost always some kind of programs that your kids can participate in. They get to make new friends and try out different things.

RV Living Tips For Travel Day 

Long travel days can be stressful for everyone concerned.  Long periods of containment with little to do are not great for the kiddos and NOBODY wants to hear “Are we there yet” for hours at a time.

These are some things I do that I think help to ensure family travel days are successful.

  1. If you are acting with positivity and enthusiasm about travel day, so will everyone else.
  2. Make sure hubby sleeps well the night before a long travel day – no-one likes a snarly driver
  3. Pack healthy and fun snacks and change them up so they don’t know what to expect.  The element of surprise, right.
  4. Download extra movies, who knows what might happen.  We ended up having truck troubles in California once and what should have taken us 4 hours, took 10!
  5. Bring their favorite books, not the ones you want them to read!  You want quiet time right?
  6. Open a pack of candy when you can feel everyone starting to meltdown, this always calms everyone down.
  7. Make sure to plan some stops along the way so everyone can get out and run around
  8. Read our 15 Road Trip Travel Hacks That work well for us

How Do You Work On The Road With Kids

Well, it’s not easy however we have figured out a few ways to make it work.

Frank and I run an Amazon FBA business that we started before we started our full time RVing adventure.  Over three years of being on the road, we have figured out that we need to split work duties up.

Here Are Some Ways We Have Figured Out How To Work While On The Road

  • I get up at 5 am every morning and work until the kids get up, so I usually get at least 2 hours done before they are up.
  • If we are near a town, one of us will head to Starbucks or the local library and work for the day.
  • We have also gone as a family to the local library and gotten work done there while the kids explore books.
  • I homeschool the kids but if I am running behind on work, I will hide myself in the bedroom while hubby takes care of the kids.
  • We work when the kids have a movie on, or later at night if we are out all day.

I can’t tell you that we have loved every minute of being on the road with the kids because I would be lying.  However,  I am so thankful that we jumped in with both feet and took this incredible journey together.  I will never forget watching my 6-year-old daughter taking notes of the things she saw at Yellowstone, or looking back at old photos of my kids discovering live sand dollars when we were at St Simons Island.

This spring we stayed at Bryce Canyon for a month and hiked all the trails at Bryce and had a blast.  I have amazing memories of both my kids on what seemed like massive horses in Idaho when they were 7 & 8.

This is what it’s all about, we are actively participating in life and having a blast while doing so.

RVing with kids is so much fun because you get to see the country through their eyes, they are so excited at the littlest things such as a caterpillar crossing the road (will he make it in time?), catching crabs in Oregon and eating them for dinner, and learning about Blackbeard in Okracoke.

kids standing in front of Blackbeard cutout in okracoke

I love the rainy days where we stay indoors and take out all our games and play them one by one.  I love making hot cocoa after a snowball fight when the kids saw snow for the first time.

I love snuggling with them up the night before Christmas comes (boy that’s a fun holiday in a small space!).

If you are thinking about getting into full-time RV living, but the thought of doing it with your kids scares the hell out of you, rent an RV for the weekend or week and give it 100%.

Or better yet, just shag it all and jump right in! We have no regrets that we jumped all in almost four years ago.

Do you still have questions about the full-time RV lifestyle, leave a comment below and we’ll answer them for you.

Kids with foil hats on their heads

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