Multi-Generational RVing

Teaching the Next Generation to Appreciate the Outdoors
Brandy Gleason and her large family sitting around a campfire

There’s nothing better than spending time outside with loved ones. Over the years, my husband and I have developed a greater appreciation for the times we get to spend with our kids and, now, our grandkids. Our family has been RVing and camping for many, many years, and being able to pass this joyous experience down to our kids, and then seeing them do the same for their kids, is really special.

When my husband and I purchased our Heartland Sundance travel trailer, we were really intentional with our selection. We knew we needed enough space for the two of us, but we also knew we’d be bringing along our adult children, our teenagers and our grandchildren. It would truly be a multi-generational family RV. And while you might think it’s crazy to have so many different age ranges in one small space, we absolutely love it and we love the lessons it can provide.

A middle aged man sitting with his two grandkids on a couch.

If you’re thinking about going on a big family RV trip, or maybe you’re planning to do this a few years down the road with grandkids, here are some tips to help make the experience a memorable one for multiple generations.

  1. Get The Whole Family Involved

    Planning an RV camping trip takes a lot of coordination and patience, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I like to get each child involved, no matter their age. Ask them what the number one activity that they want to do is, and try to plan a day so each child can do something they love. Divvy up meal planning, cooking and chores among family members so not one person is stuck cooking or cleaning every night. Even the littlest ones can help clean plates or collect firewood. Try to play to each family member’s strengths as well. For example, my daughters are extremely organized, so they typically help plan the driving routes and make the reservations. My sons are much more handy, so they handle the packing and campsite set-up. After planning and taking a few trips, you’ll find your individual family’s groove.

  2. Book Early At A Centralized Location

    Whenever you’re planning a trip with multiple moving parts and multiple people, my number one recommendation is to book everything as early as possible. Depending on the size of your family, I suggest planning and booking one year in advance. This way, you’ll have more campgrounds and campsites to choose from, and can take your time to really figure out the details and logistics. Choosing a campground is one of the most critical parts—if you end up at a place that no one likes or isn’t suited to your family’s needs, it can spell disaster. To help narrow down your search, try to look in locations or regions that are somewhat central for everyone. As our family has grown, we have kids in the Midwest and all along the East Coast, so we try to pick locations that are roughly the same distance from everyone. It isn’t exactly fair for one child to only drive 30 minutes while the others have to fly two hours.

  3. Consider Both The Adults And The Kids

    It can be easy to prioritize the little ones on a family camping trip, but keep in mind that this is a vacation for the whole family. Before you book a campsite, make sure you check all of the rules and regulations. While most campgrounds are very accomodating of kids and young families, some places are exclusively reserved for adults or people over a certain age. Luckily, there are plenty of campgrounds and RV parks that have amenities and entertainment for both young children and older adults. Look for places that have a playground and a pool bar; water slides and wine tasting. And don’t forget to look outside the campground for activities as well. Local farmer’s markets, live shows and street festivals can be great for all ages. Our family loves camping near national parks, and we always incorporate a day trip into the park so the kids can get Junior Ranger badges and the adults can enjoy some scenic hiking.

  4. Be Mindful Of The Environment

    I know that if we want to keep enjoying our family RV trips, we need to be mindful of our impact on the environment and take steps towards more eco-friendly travel. That’s why we always try to weave in some safety and sustainability lessons to help raise better environmentalists. I take every opportunity I can to share with my family, both young and old, ways to help keep our campgrounds, parks and green spaces better than we found them. Here are just a few examples:

    Lead by example - When planning our RV camping trips, I try to pack as minimally as possible, use eco-friendly equipment and shop locally. It’s important that my kids and grandkids see my planning process and use these items, as my hope is that they will see the value and naturally adopt the same mindset.

    Leave no trace - Once we arrive at our campground, I make a point to show everyone (including the grandkids) how to properly dispose of trash in the correct cans and why it’s important. This may seem simple but, in addition to our own trash, everyone usually ends up picking up trash that has been left behind by others. I also like to bring a reusable bag with me on hikes so I can show our kids how to pick up any trash along the way, and what “pack it in, pack it out” means. You can even make a game out of it and see who can collect the most trash at the end of the hike for a prize. Don’t forget to bring gloves with you to help keep germ and bacteria spread to a minimum.

    Adopt-A-Trail - A great way to show your appreciation for nature and become a more active participant in trail preservation is by adopting a local hiking trail. This program is offered in numerous state and national parks, and simply requires a one year commitment to take care of and maintain a designated trail. Not only is this great for family bonding, but it helps keep our public lands clean and pristine.

    Plan around a clean-up - If you’re looking for a destination or an activity to do with your family, why not center it around a local clean-up or trash pick-up event? If there is a particular region or area you like to camp at, check and see if there are any clean-up events being offered nearby and try to stay near those events. For example, our family likes to RV camp in western North Carolina due to the plethora of outdoor recreation offered and proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is a campground in this same area that does a big lake clean-up event every year, and we hope to stay there sometime soon so we can enjoy the space and participate in the clean-up.

As our kids start to move and our family grows and expands, gathering everyone together can be challenging. But my goal is to take one big family camping trip every year. And even if that one trip doesn’t work out, I can still set-up the RV in our driveway and have people over for a couple hours of storytelling and s’mores. You don’t have to travel far to make some great family memories.

A baby playing on the ground outside an RV.

Travel Trailer

Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.

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