RVing with Young Kids

It's Easier Than You Think!
Sammy Seles takes a selfie photo of her husband and two small children on a hike.

I’ll never forget the last time I dropped my husband Dustin off at the airport. With tears in my eyes, I tried to comfort our young daughter as she desperately clung to her father. We had just spent one glorious week together, and it was already time for Dustin to head back to work. We wouldn’t see him again for another two months.

As I pulled away from the airport, my cell phone rang. Dustin was calling. Almost immediately, we both said to each other, “We can’t keep doing this, something has to change.” For the past year, Dustin had been on the road building industrial cranes across the United States. He would work for eight weeks, come home for one week, and then leave only to repeat the cycle again. While he was gone, I stayed at home to care for our newborn son and our two-year-old daughter. To say the distance was hard on our family is an understatement, and that last goodbye at the airport felt like a breaking point.

Fast forward three months, and our family was moving into a brand new 2021 Keystone Montana fifth wheel. It was truly a whirlwind of events in such a short amount of time—everything from selling our house, to donating our stuff, to ultimately deciding to buy an RV. Despite having no prior RV experience, the idea that we could follow Dustin across the country, and be together every day, was enough of a reason for us to make the jump. We’re now chasing cranes as a family and we haven’t had a single regret since.

It was definitely an adjustment for us to move into the RV, especially with two young children, but I have learned so much this past year. So, if you have young kids and are considering moving into an RV full-time, or even just considering a long RV trip, here are some of the questions and considerations that helped me the most.

  1. Why did you choose the RV lifestyle? What about it made this the best choice for your family?

    For us, Dustin’s job was the main reason we decided to get an RV. This job was such an incredible opportunity, and I didn’t want him to pass it up because of the travel. And while Dustin tried to be an involved dad from the road, the “FaceTime parenting” just wasn’t enough. He was missing so many little moments and our kids were growing up so quickly. We had initially discussed flying with him from place to place, but that didn’t seem right for our kids and felt like a lot of work. All of the packing and unpacking… We knew we needed a “home” on the road. I began looking into full-time RVing and was surprised to learn how many people do it, especially people with young kids! There is a huge community of families who live in RVs, and they are so willing to freely share their experiences and what they’ve learned—it made our decision so much easier. Moving into an RV allowed us to keep Dustin’s dream job and keep our family together. We are better parents when we can be together, and we both knew we couldn’t waste any more precious time being apart.

  1. What RV layout and features works best for traveling with young children?

    Our first RV was actually a small, rear-bunk travel trailer. While we liked being able to tow our home and have a separate car for errands and short trips, there were things about that travel trailer that we realized didn’t work for our family (most notably the small refrigerator and limited outdoor storage space). We decided to transition to a larger fifth wheel and landed on our current Keystone Montana. We absolutely love having bunkhouses for our kids, and so we made a point to prioritize layouts that included those. Bunkhouses are great for both storage and giving some extra space for the kids to play. Not only does our Keystone have a bunkhouse, it also has a loft above the rear bunk for additional sleeping space. Our refrigerator is also residential size, which helps so much when it comes to family meals. Oftentimes, we’re not conveniently parked near a store, so frequent grocery trips aren’t possible. Having a larger fridge allows us to plan our meals and store more food for those times we can’t run out and quickly grab something. Lastly, the outdoor storage on our Keystone is perfect for holding all the kids’ extra gear—things like bikes, helmets, camp chairs, even bulky clothing like winter coats and jackets. Even though we downsized when we moved into the RV, kids still come with a lot of stuff!

  1. How do you manage a routine while traveling and in the RV?

    On travel days, we try to do most of our driving while the kids are asleep. This means we usually drive in the evenings, early mornings, or during afternoon naptime. This helps make the time go by faster and gives our kids a more normal schedule. If we do have to drive while the kids are awake, we try to break it up by stopping for lunch or at a park—any place where we can get out and stretch our legs. Routine and movement are really important when you live in an RV with children. To help tire them out and to avoid going stir crazy, I like to take the kids outside in the mornings and before their afternoon naps. It’s also important to have a dark, quiet place for sleeping, just like we had back home. The rear bunk in our Keystone gives our kids a private, designated space to sleep, while Dustin and I can go about our days and not disturb them. I also highly recommend incorporating cleaning into your bedtime routine. Every night before bed, my kids and I will go around and pick-up toys, clean up messes and put things away. Clutter in a tiny space can pile up quickly, so making a point to keep things clean and tidy every night helps start the next day on a much better note.

  2. How do you narrow down which items are essential to bring and which are not? How do you store them and stay organized?

    My recommendation is to narrow down your items, and then narrow them down again. Before we moved into the RV, we tried to eliminate almost everything. I told myself that if there was anything we really needed later on, we could always replace it out on the road. And surprisingly, we didn’t have to replace anything! When I went through our kids’ toys, I made a point to bring only the ones they regularly played with and wouldn’t quickly outgrow—things like Legos, building blocks and magnetic tiles. I also tried to bring a few core items that would help make the transition from house to RV a little easier. This included their noise machine to help with sleep, baby monitors to keep an eye on them and their favorite stuffed animals to remind them of their old beds. For clothing, I brought three of everything and that’s it. When you have a newborn and a two-year-old, they are growing so fast that you constantly have to buy new clothes anyways. If you have young, growing kids like us, don’t stress too much about their clothes. Bring only what you have room for.

  1. What do you do to ensure you feel safe while traveling with young children?

    Thankfully, RVing and camping have become so popular that there is usually always a safe place for us to stay wherever we go. Plus, the beauty of having everything with us is that we can always move and go somewhere else if we don’t like where we are. When we look for an RV park or campground to stay at, we always take into account the park’s natural surroundings. For example, is there a deep lake nearby or a steep canyon? My husband and I love being close to nature, but we have to be aware of our surroundings so our kids don’t wander off and potentially get hurt. Whenever possible, we try to stay at family-friendly parks that offer a playground, pool or kid-friendly activities. Not only does this give our kids fun things to do, but there are typically other families around that we can talk to or ask for help if needed. Ultimately, having our home with us wherever we go makes us feel safer and gives us a better sense of security.

  1. What are some of the biggest challenges with raising young children on the road and how do you address them?

    One of the biggest challenges for our kids is staying close to friends and family. We have met a lot of great people on the road, and our kids do get opportunities to play with other children and FaceTime their family, but sometimes it still isn’t enough. We always listen to our daughter whenever she tells us how she’s feeling—especially if she’s lonely or misses seeing other kids. When that happens, we make a point to go somewhere where we know there will be other RV families or even just spend a few extra hours at a nearby playground. With constantly being on the move, it’s hard to get our kids involved in team sports, dance classes and group activities like we had before. To help, we’ve done some virtual classes online and even joined some local, short-term community offerings in whatever town we’re staying in. Local zoos, libraries and community centers are all great places to check for family and kid-friendly events.

  2. What are some things to consider while childproofing your RV?

    One of my favorite parts about living in an RV is the fact I can typically see or hear the kids no matter where I am. It’s so much easier to keep an eye on them in our tiny home, but there are still a few things to look out for. First, make sure that the kids are secure wherever they sleep. We added safety railings to the bunkhouse in our RV so we could feel assured that they wouldn’t roll out while they slept. Second, turn off your propane when you’re not using it. The buttons and knobs on our kitchen stove are easily accessible and practically at child-level. Only having the propane turned on when we need it makes us feel better should the kids want to play with any of the knobs. Third, buy some latches for your cabinets. Much like you would do at home, add some command strip child-proof latches to any cabinets or drawers that are within arm’s reach of your child. And lastly, consider getting some adjustable steps for your RV. We purchased some MORryde folding RV steps and they make such a huge difference for our kids. Their smaller legs are able to navigate these much better, and the steps feel much more stable and secure, so we worry less about them falling when getting in and out of the RV.

  1. What are some of the biggest benefits you have found from raising young children on the road?

    Our family’s philosophy is to build a life of experiences over things. Being able to see the United States and regularly experience new places is still so amazing to us. Just this past year, our kids have played in snow, swam in waterfalls, summited mountains, and ran through deserts. And that’s only a shortlist of the things we have experienced together! I honestly think that if we hadn’t made this change and moved into the RV, we would never have made the time to do or see the things we are now. Having less things but more freedom has helped us all grow closer. I’m also getting to see, in real time, how flexible our children are becoming. We are constantly on the move and trying new things, and they just roll with it all. Some days we hike, some days we chill inside the RV, and some days we spend hours driving in the car. I love seeing how adaptable they have become through all of this—they truly are such well-rounded little people. I also can’t fail to mention how our family gets to be together now. My kids get to see their dad every day instead of just a few days every few months. Seeing them run (and crawl) to the door when he gets home only further reinforces that this is exactly what we are supposed to be doing.

Traveling in an RV with young children really isn’t that different from being at home. Whatever routine, schedule or safety precautions you would take at home can very easily be done in an RV—and sometimes it’s even easier due to the smaller space. Besides, I think you’ll be amazed to see how resilient and adaptable kids really are.

Sammy Seles and her family travel in a 2021 Keystone Montana High Country Fifth Wheel.

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