Our First Holiday in the RV

An RV kitchen decorated with pine boughs and lights for Christmas.

When we first moved into our 2016 Keystone Fuzion 416, I didn’t have the slightest clue how we’d celebrate birthdays and holidays. I figured it would be a bridge we would cross every year, as our family grew older and our surroundings constantly changed. With three young kids, we got lucky––they wouldn’t remember how things had been before or feel nostalgic for the way things used to be. That small amount of grace lifted the pressure to emulate traditional holidays, allowing us to make it up as we went along and fit our celebrations to whatever our lifestyle looked like at that moment. 

While we choose to travel as a family, my husband still works from the road, which means we often go where his job directs him. Even during the holiday season, we don’t always have a say, and we don’t always get a ton of notice. So wherever we wind up, we embrace that as not just our new location, but our new home, for as long as we’re there.

So, for instance, one really great way to embrace a new location is to join in on local festivities. We’ve found that RV parks really come together around the holidays, when everyone is looking to feel cozy and connected. Sometimes there will be potlucks that bring the whole park together, other times there are activities like Christmas bingo or games for little kids. It’s incredible to see the community come together to mark these occasions, just a bunch of nomads making family from strangers they meet along the way.

On our own, we still like dipping our toes into traditional holiday customs. A few days before Christmas, we’ll bake cookies to leave out for Santa, which usually leads to a big discussion. “Mom, how does Santa visit us on the road?” 

We keep it simple. 

“On Christmas Eve, Santa doesn't just go to houses, he also makes special trips to all the little families living in boats and hotels and trailers and buses. Santa loves visiting children no matter where they live!”

Our son, Bear, has gotten to the age where he’s got major holiday spirit and an invasive curiosity to match. I have to be pretty careful about where we hide gifts now, because he keeps his eyes open wide in the days leading up to Christmas. He can reach cabinets this year that he couldn’t last Christmas, which means I have to get creative about our hiding spots.

My current favorite is the outside storage under our toy hauler. Bear can’t open it yet, and it’s the perfect size for bigger gifts. We keep the smaller stuff in our bathroom cabinets for now. 

Our biggest priority for holidays is sharing experiences and being together. So, whether we’re helping the boys make their own wrapping paper, hang ornaments, or prep the Christmas cooking, we like to involve them as much as possible. 

For the past three winters, we’ve been in snowy climates, so one of our favorite things to do on Christmas morning after opening presents has been to make snowman pancakes, dusted in powdered sugar, and then go outdoors and enjoy nature. The boys love playing in the snow and we love watching them run off all that Christmas energy.

As far as decorations, we like to keep things minimal. We love to incorporate natural decor that can be secured or put away quickly. My number one go-to tip for hanging Christmas decor is to use removable hooks. They hold up our stockings, garland, wreaths and lights, and they can be taken down just as easily as you put them up. We haven’t had to travel yet over the holidays, but we never know when the next job will move us. 

Downsizing our life and moving into a toy hauler four years ago was an amazing choice for our little family, but it’s come with so many curveballs. When we started, we were first-time parents, and we’ve grown our family on the road. We’ve often felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants, just making it up as we go along, and the holidays have been no exception. 

But the best part of living the way we do is the opportunity to redefine our life to what suits us best. It's given us a blank slate to create memories and adventures. We’ve shared many holidays and birthdays in our tiny home, and we look forward to more for years to come.

Here are a few of my best tips for celebrating holidays in your RV:

  1. Get crafty hiding gifts.

    When living with curious children in an RV, your lockable storage under your trailer is the perfect hiding place for gifts. Kids can’t get in without a key, meaning they won’t spoil their own surprise––intentionally or accidentally. 

  2. Adhesive hooks are your best friend!

    I don’t like putting holes in my RV walls unless absolutely necessary, so adhesive hooks are my go-to. They’re easy to put up and take down, and they don’t leave any structural damage when you’re done with them. Use them to hold things like wreaths, Christmas lights and stockings. 

  3. Expect a bit of chaos.

    When there’s a chance you may be on the go over the holidays, plan for decorations that can withstand movement. Pick decor that can be easily taken down or secured well enough to stay up while you drive. For example, when we put up a tree, we place it in a decorative woven basket. It not only looks great, but if we have to hit the road, the basket keeps the tree from sliding around or tipping over.

  4. Take advantage of the outdoors.

    One of the great things about having a home on wheels is the ability to seek out adventure. Make getting out into nature a part of your family traditions while you’re on the road. Ask locals how they incorporate native flora into their holiday decorating. For instance, while northern states may use pine boughs and snow to make a holiday wonderland, if you’re on the beach, why not incorporate palm fronds, sparkling shells and driftwood into your holiday decor? Respectfully collecting natural materials from appropriate outdoor areas can become an activity for the whole family. 

Autumn and her family live in their Keystone Fuzion Toy Hauler.