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Bring On The Adventure

Later this month we, these five kids + me + Aaron, are heading out on an adventure in a RV for Spring Break. 

The photo you see above was our first all-together adventure over two years ago - everyone is quite a bit taller and smarter and sillier and better acquainted. 

We decided, this being our first RV outing, to not go too far. We'll be keeping it within Oregon and hitting up two different state parks on the coast. We've got our spots reserved and have started thinking about meals and snacks and activities. 

Having new experiences is one of my love languages and this has been one we've been talking about for awhile. 

So in the spirit of planning and thinking ahead and organizing and wanting to have some good ideas in place before we head out, I'd love to hear any ideas or tips you might have for traveling with kids in a RV. 

Menu ideas? Craft ideas? Games? Scheduling the day?

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81 thoughts

  1. Daisydoolittle says…
    03/11/2015

    Ali, we are towards the end of a 5-week camping adventure in an RV, and just left the Florida Keys today. Just John and I and our two dogs. I don't have much advice about camping with kids. As far as you and Aaron, extra patience as you navigate driving and parking -- (no drive thrus) and make sure you get some quiet time together. Keep meals really simple (foil packet meals are great!). http://kathypassmore.com/blog to read about our adventures. You guys will have so much fun.

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  2. abbypimentel says…
    03/11/2015

    Many RVing years under my belt with kids. If there are no hook-ups, water is golden. BBQ (not much clean-up) & use paper EVERYTHING: Fewer dishes means more water for showers...speaking of which, usually only 6-8 gallons of hot water. So, water on: get wet, water off. Soap-up/shampoo and rinse FAST! If the fridge is on propane, be very careful to park the RV LEVEL - if it's not, the fridge will break (1st ugly lesson learned on our motor home the hard way). Toilets use special paper - Walmart, Target, Camping World, places like that have it. DO NOT use regular TP or wipes. And as someone mentioned above, make sure there is a generator or things will get ugly. Just a few things that came to my mind upon seeing your post. Have a great time!!

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  3. pnwdutchgrl says…
    03/11/2015

    Here's a trick to see if your regular toilet paper is suitable for RV use. Take a glass of water, add a piece of toilet paper, wait, if it dissolves you're good to go if not buy a different brand. RV toilet paper is horrible. Kids will use oodles of it and it's very expensive as well. It's not needed to buy that thin expensive stuff, if you do the RV test and your paper is ok then there is no need to buy another brand,

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  4. msicotte says…
    03/11/2015

    Bikes are the best if you can manage the space. My kids are on their bikes all the time when we're camping. Great way to burn off the energy from sitting in the truck.

    Try to plan your stops around playgrounds. 30 minutes at a playground can do wonders.

    My son likes to have lots of time at the campground, and less time on planned excursions. He often makes friends and just wants to hang out and play. Lots of unscheduled time works well for us.

    I also bring bedtime music on my iPod to play while they're going to sleep. Good way to change to tone and bring the energy level down.

    Sloppy Joes are a favorite camping food. Just make the chili before and all you need are buns. Great for rainy, cozy days. BBQ is great too. Plan all your meals ahead of time and make anything you can ahead too.

    Have fun! We still have loads of snow here but I'm excited for summer camping season to start.

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  5. Queen_Mary says…
    03/11/2015

    Ali, I have done almost all my camping with kids as a scout leader -- boys and girls. I am a big proponent of take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, but that's not always possible, especially with little kids like Anna. I recommend you look around Pinterest for some Scout ideas. You'll find craft and camping ideas. Meanwhile a couple of my favorites:
    1. Let the kids cook. Potatoes can be baked in tin foil as can fish with vegetables, even meat in an open fire -- easy, fun, kids love it -- they wrap their food in tin foil with some spices, put it by the fire, carefully open it later (like 45 minutes) and miraculously it's cooked. You can cook a cake in a Dutch oven -- they also love that -- some charcoal on top and on the
    bottom, lots of fun, kids have accomplished something.
    Girls could cook with you once; boys could cook with Aaron once; mixes families, cooperation, etc., could be planned ahead. OR Girls could cook or serve, boys clean one night; Boys cook or serve, girls cook or serve next night. We did this with patrols, people were nicer to each other knowing they'd have to clean up each others' messes!

    2. Photo sensitive paper (I forget exactly what it's called) if you're expecting sunny weather. Then the kids collect things, put it on the paper, set the paper in the sun, go on a hike, come back after a couple of hours (whatever the label says) and the objects have "developed" the paper. It is SO cool! It has a science lesson with it but you could skip that if you want (or add it if you want :) ). I always had an educational element to everything we did.

    3. People have mentioned scavenger hunts, we would hunt for tracks of native animals. One winter camping trip we found where a deer had been during the snowfall. The girls absolutely loved it! We also identified different trees and plants. you and Aaron could make notebooks for each kid or buy small ones if you want and have them sketch plants and trees they find, bark and leaves.

    4. Simon is definitely old enough for compass work and if you go geocaching, all the kids will be learning compass work so night time reading could involve maps, history of the parks, the area, the Oregon coast. When I went to Goshen with the Boy Scouts for two weeks, the theme was Pirates so I went to the library and got several books about pirates -- especially female pirates, many of whom were Irish so I told them one was my great, great, grandmother, which of course they believed! But something I didn't count on was it also gave them an opportunity to talk about their fears about being away from home! They talked about the gross food the pirates ate -- meat with maggots -- and the boys had so much fun laughing and being gross! Me again with teachable moments.

    5. So stories are very important! An excellent game is having one person start the story then the next person adding a sentence and going around the circle, every person adding a new sentence. I hope it would work with your crowd, not sure since I don't know the kids, but once they get the hang of it, it usually works out -- after you've talked about other stories.

    6. Craft: leather bags in which they can put ONE thing they have picked up -- a stone because stones are magical and guard the entrance to the fairy world. You can usually pick up a kit at Michael's. There are also lots of things out there to do with parachute cord now. If the younger girls prefer they can make bracelets with their names on them. You can find a gazillion of these ideas on Pinterest scouting sites.

    7. I love the washing dishes idea. The way girl scouts do it is for each kid to have a mesh bag into which their kit goes (plate, bowl, cup and flatware goes); leader has clothesline and hangs it between trees (carefully so as not to harm the bark on the tree -- Simon could hang it I think, he's pretty tall); the mesh bags hang by a string or clothes pin. Dawn in a dish pan with water to wash, 2nd dishpan to rinse (GSA makes you put a teaspoon of bleach, but you probably don't have to be so strict), into the mesh bag, hang it up until the next meal -- you and Aaron will need your own too. :) The advantage is that this also keeps the kids busy after each meal for a little bit of time and they can do your dishes as well.

    8. It won't probably be cold, but another idea for a craft is to pick up some fleece and let each kid make their own little throw, or you could make it placemat. Bring a pair of scissors (or 2 or 3, however many people can handle scissors well), cut down the fleece long enough (at least 4" I'd say) every 2" about, on two sides -- so you have an even # of "flaps" then tie every 2 together in knots and voila, you have a cute placemat they can use at meals during the trip, or a throw while cuddled around the fire listening to stories, sharing stories, or reading in the RV before lights out! Or both! No sewing for the guys or the little ones but a cool thing for everyone and fleece comes in a gazillion patterns, including camo for hunting in the woods or your favorite movie, maybe even Harry Potter -- or horses!

    9. I've done First Aid, Outdoor Cooking, Photography, Hiking, Astronomy, Sewing(!), Whatever the Local Animals one is called; the Local Flora; We even made up our own Badge because the girls came up with all these ideas for making jewelry out in the woods! The boys always have everything handed to them! :)

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  6. wawter says…
    03/11/2015

    Whenever we take our girls camping we find glow stick games. Ring toss tends to be everyone's favorite.

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  7. 4toots says…
    03/11/2015

    - We love geocaching!!!! Takes us on adventures & places we wouldn't normally have stopped.
    - my daughter builds fairy houses in a tree trunk when she gets bored. Using only found items....
    - one of my favorite traditions is we write a brief letter to the next set of campers & leave it in the bear/raccoon box or stick it to the camp tag clip. We went on a trip 2x now & found letters waiting for us. It's fun to share what we did, our favorite hikes, worn others about camp critters & bugs, and just all around tell a small story for the next group. Best tradition!!!

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  8. Kary13 says…
    03/11/2015

    I have great memories of doing this with my 4--they are all grown up now (youngest will graduate from high school this spring, oldest just had our first grandbaby!). My kids did the dishes at night in the RV (& actually had fun doing it because we had a dishwasher at home), but I would always read them a story while they worked. They loved it. Bring a small rug to put at the door to catch all the dirt from being tracked in, and a whisk broom & dust pan. I even did that when we tent-camped--makes life so much nicer (and I am not a clean freak! Just nice not to have sand/dirt all over the tiny floor). I brought a brownie or cookie mix (be sure you have the necessary pans) for dessert at night--my kids loved that too. We didn't make dessert often at home, but making it in that little oven was an adventure! I also brought simple art supplies--sometimes we even did travel journals and such (wonderful to have now). Just have a great time--nothing better than hanging out with your kids.

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  9. sophikins says…
    03/12/2015

    Everyone has their own opinion, but for us and our three kids, camping is a time to be UNplugged. No iPods, no tablets, no computers, no headphone, no iPad etc. It is a perfect opportunity to get in touch with nature and each other. And if that means getting on each other's nerves once in awhile- so be it. It is a chance to learn to get along WITHOUT all of those electronic distractions and devices that isolate people from each other. No problems with limiting "screen time" if it is zero. It may not be the easiest way, since it requires people to deal with each other and find ways to amuse and entertain without electronics, but camping is probably one of the best settings to give it a try. Although it may seem extreme to some, we don't even do electronics during the long car rides either. Our kids have fond memories of singing in the car, playing travel games, drawing and actually talking to each other.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. bdaiss says…
      03/12/2015

      Right there with you Sophikins! Of course we're also the evil parents that drag our kids on 15 hour car rides and don't bring gadgets...no DVDs, no iPods/iPads, no tablets. We do allow audiobooks! Funny how they do just fine when it's the expectation from the start. ;)

  10. Lize says…
    03/12/2015

    I so loved reading all these ideas and memories. We haven't camped as a family, but love going to the mountains, so some great ideas. I don't have much camping advise, except to say that here in South Africa people cook anything on a fire. If you can get your hands on a Braaimaster or Jan Braai recipy book, you get recipies for everything, including making delicious puddings. There is a braaimaster competition also where teams compete over several weeks preparing various things on an open fire, spit or in cast iron pots etc. Kalahari.com might have these if you're interested at all.

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  11. bdaiss says…
    03/12/2015

    I read a few responses, but don't have time to comb them all, so apologies for any overlap...
    1) Make a list before you go. Seriously. Write down what everyone thinks they want to take. Then cut it in half. You will be in tight spaces. Make use of laundromats (or throw in the "camping" towel and don't worry about it if your kids wear the same clothes for 3 days straight). For food especially - find meals that use similar ingredients/condiments so you don't have to pack the entire refrigerator. I prefer to stick to our washable plates/cups/silverware, but I don't know what your RV will come with. (Disposables just take up that much more space.)
    2) "Chore" charts: these might take time to develop as RV'ing is new to you, but they are helpful. For instance, our camper is small and it means the beds have to be "put away" every day so we can use the tables/space most effectively. I'd recommend getting the kids in the frame of mind that everyone will work as a team - making meals, cleaning up, putting things away, etc. but don't try to lock yourself in to a schedule or chore list before you go. Whiteboards/chalkboards are good for this.
    3) Check KOA.com - while you're not planning to camp with KOA, their website is a wealth of camping info, recipes, crafts, and other ideas!
    4) I'll pile on the National Park and geocaching ideas. Both are great for kids of ALL ages. You can also find a number of nature scavenger hunts online that are fun and will keep kids busy while also getting in touch with their surroundings.
    5) I'm sure you already thought of this, but give each kid a journal to write their thoughts/draw pictures/stash keepsakes in. We also find individual flashlights are sanity savers (and can lead to shadow dance parties or shadow puppet plays). We only have 2 kids, but getting them each an inexpensive digital camera has been really fun. You can see the trip from their eyes.
    6) Keep it simple. The most important thing for us is to NOT pack too much. We keep meals simple. We don't over pack entertainment. We have a few decks of cards, each kid brings a handful of books for downtime (I find it's a great time to read through my back stash of magazines...they double as campfire starter), we have a corn-hole game that fits in a cubby. The idea for us is to unplug from our devices (easy to do here in the Black Hills where there is zero signal and we use primitive campsites (no hookups)), and find things we wouldn't normally do. (Oh! A star book! Yes, there are apps for that, but it's so much fun to do it the old fashioned way - and works even when there's no signal!)
    7) We put a hanging organizer in our only closet (hopefully you'll have a bit more space). I found it at Target - it's like a hanging shoe organizer only each cubby is larger (square). Each person then gets a cubby for their clothes. I also use small rubbermaid containers to hold toothbrushes/personal items.
    8) Keep meals simple. Cook on the fire as much as possible. (I mean come on, you're camping! Don't rely on the RV stove/oven too much!) We like foil packet meals and it's easy to customize for picky eaters.
    9) Glowsticks and sparklers. These are reserved only for camping trips around here. The glowsticks double as a good way to keep track of your kids at night.
    10) Peeps! It's that time of year. Stock up and use them in place of marshmallows for s'mores. The kids will find it hilarious to watch them puff up. The adults will find s'mores even more tasty when you warm them until gooey, then get the sugar crispy (it's a creme brulee s'more!). Couples words of caution: hot Peeps are more drippy than regular marshmallows and can cause some serious burns; they come in a wide variety of flavors! Some are awesome for s'mores (birthday cake), some are gag worthy (lemonade). :)

    Whatever happens - make fun the priority!!

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  12. melaniefaber says…
    03/12/2015

    RVing....SO fun :)
    Rule #1: Watch RV, with Robin Williams - hilarious classic
    Rule #2: Make sugar cone melts on the fire - sugar cones stuffed with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, whatever else your heart desires, wrapped in foil and heated briefly in the fire for melty goodness
    Rule #3: Washer toss - total family favourite at my house
    Some of my most favourite memories have been created since my partner and I bought a trailer 2 years ago. It is so much to me - a place where we come together, a place where I can truly relax without having to stare at a load of dishes or laundry or my work laptop, a place where I can sleep in. I hope you have a great time!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. pnwdutchgrl says…
      03/13/2015

      Washer toss? Do tell! I'm am immigrant not familiar with secret American games but more than willing to learn!

  13. mrsmindy says…
    03/13/2015

    we live in the seattle area & RV camp year round. one thing i do suggest to bring is a 10X10 canopy (with sides) that you can put over the picnic table. helps keep the wind at baby when eating & it's especially helpful for when it rains & you still want to be outside. we always have two & attach the two together near the fire so there is room to sit inside & the fire helps keep it somewhat warm inside. hope you all have a great time! oregon coast..nehelam bay state park & cape lookout state park are our favorites!

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  14. dawecthit says…
    03/13/2015

    You might try cooking and freezing a meal or components of a meal like spaghetti sauce or meat for fajitas. The frozen items can help keep cooler items cold and cuts down on meal prep time while on your trip.

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  15. Smylee87 says…
    03/14/2015

    My kids love using the Instax camera when we are camping--and I love the pictures they take with it.

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  16. JennJones531 says…
    03/14/2015

    My favorite camping meal is a "hobo" dinner. Wrap up a chicken breasts with veggies and seasoning in a aluminum foil packet and let it sit on the fire for a few hours while everyone plays. They can be customized according to each person so you get only veggies you like. We make these at home also by baking in the oven...so yummy!

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  17. lily5775 says…
    03/15/2015

    I don't know anything about traveling with kids in an RV, but it sounds like a fantastic adventure! What I'm wondering is, how do you go about taking a photo like you did (with all the kiddos looking out the window), to make it look like it has that silhouette "thang" going on?

    Lisa

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  18. Cllapham says…
    03/15/2015

    I grew up camping with 6 kids in a trailer. Bring a small pop-up tent too. It's a safe adventure for the older kids to tent out (right next to the RV), and expansion space in bad weather or when you'd like fewer bodies in the RV. Also, s'mores, ghost stories, campfires and sing-alongs. Personally, my favorite part of camping as a kid or now as an adult, is permission to get dirty.

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  19. ruthannpug says…
    03/16/2015

    We lived in a motorhome for 500 days in the early 2000's and our best strategy was traveling during nap time or at night. Yes it can be a bit harder for the grownups to set up camp on arrival, but its worth it to wake up and ready to see the new places.

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