Ben is a husband, father and western lifestyle photographer. His passion for the American West stemmed from watching classic western films as a young boy. When Ben isn't photographing the desert landscape surrounding his Arizona home, you can find him riding his motorcycle, camping with his family and living out his own western.
How to take a week-long RV trip
Let me start by saying that my family and I camp all the time. And typically when we do, it’s either pitching a tent or sleeping in the back of my van. But with a week off from school and three kids under the age of eight, my wife and I decided that if we were going to do another trip, we needed to find something a little bigger and a bit more comfortable…
Deciding to take an RV on our trip was the easy part. Figuring out where to go, what to pack and how to plan was much more challenging. But if I can do it, anyone can. So, if you’ve got some time off and you’re ready for a fun family vacation, check out some of my tips for having a safe and successful week-long RV trip.
Find your perfect RV.
Once you’ve decided you want to take an RV on your trip, you need to figure out which unit is the right fit. Asking yourself some key questions can help narrow down the search: How many people are going? Do I have a car that can tow a trailer? Do I want to bring a car and the RV? For me, I knew we needed something that could comfortably sleep five and offer enough storage space for all the kid’s gear. I also wanted something that my wife felt comfortable driving if she needed to. We decided to go with a 2020 Entegra Coach Odyssey Class C. The Class C motorhome was a super easy transition from my van and offered plenty of space for the whole family, while still allowing us to feel close. And even though we didn’t bring our car, the Class C could’ve easily towed one should we have decided to bring it.
Plan your perfect route.
Once you’ve got the RV figured out, the next step is to plan your route. Now you might be wondering, "Why do this step second?" Well, it’s important to be aware of height, weight and width restrictions when taking your RV on the road. Some roads have tunnel or overpass height restrictions, and many campgrounds have RV length restrictions. It’s important to check these during the planning process and even call ahead to confirm. Our Class C had two slideouts—one off the back and another off the driver’s side—so be sure to measure the length and width of your unit with these fully extended.
When planning the route, you should also take into consideration how many days you have for the trip itself, and if you want any “recovery” days afterwards. Our family decided to head out on a Saturday morning and come back the following Thursday. And while we may not have been able to drive as far, this schedule allowed my wife and I a few days after the trip to get organized, do laundry, get groceries, and prepare for the upcoming week. We also know our young kids can get restless, and more than five days on the road is a lot for their little bodies to adjust to. All of these factors could impact where and how far you travel from your home base.
Pack it up, pack it in.
One of the best things about taking an RV on a trip is that you only need to pack and unpack once. Rather than hauling suitcases and bags in and out of hotel rooms, everything you need is always in one place. And because this was our kids’ first time in an RV, we chose to pack some comforts from home and make the space feel even more familiar. This included blankets, pillows and a few special games. We also decided that we would cook dinner in the RV every night as a family, much like we do at home. So, before we left, my wife planned out the meals for each night—including how to turn leftovers into lunches and snacks—and we stocked the RV fridge and cabinets accordingly. Lastly, spring weather can be unreliable (speaking from experience). One day might be warm and sunny, and the next could be pouring rain and freezing. Be mindful of these changes and pack some lightweight ponchos or jackets, an umbrella and some indoor activities in case everyone gets stuck inside.
Driving time can be fun.
Another great thing about the Class C motorhome was that our whole family could be together and enjoy the inside of the RV while I drove. The kids could sit around the table and watch a movie, and my wife and I could listen from the front seat and laugh along with them. The kids had ample space to color, read and make jewelry—and they could do it all while safely seated inside the RV. Regardless if you’re taking a Class C or hauling a trailer, the drive is a lot more enjoyable when the kids are happy and preoccupied.
Last bit of advice.
Make fewer stops. If you’re deciding between seeing a lot of different places or spending more time at fewer places, we recommend the latter. When you get to your destination and you’re stationary, that’s when the RV—and all of the many incredible features—really shines. If we hadn’t spent a few days camping at the beach, we might never have uncovered the RV’s outdoor shower or outdoor TV.
Leave before lunch. To help balance driving time with time spent at each location, our family made a point to hit the road before lunchtime and only drive 3-4 hours per day. Doing this gave us time to arrive at our next destination before dark, hook up and enjoy dinner in our new spot.
Cook if you can. Traveling with a scaled down kitchen is super convenient, and helpful if you’re traveling on a budget. Take advantage of the fact that you have a sink, stove, oven, microwave, even a campfire, and try making some RV-friendly meals.
Don’t be afraid to try. Taking an RV on our trip opened a completely new door for me and my family. Having always been so comfortable in my van, in hotels, even in tents, we never really considered an RV before. But having everything with us made all the difference. It’s safe to say, this won’t be our last family vacation in an RV.