If you are lucky enough to start RVing in your 20s or 30s, it might become a passion you pursue throughout the rest of your life. This means, you and your family will go through many phases along your journey. Your camping life will evolve just as your family life does, bringing some tricky parts and some great parts at each stage. It can be difficult to navigate the balance between those, but if don’t lose sight of the real reasons you are camping, you’ll continue to find joy in the journey. Here’s our rundown of the joys and challenges of each season of RVing:
The Babies & Toddlers
Tricky Parts: When you have babies and toddlers, simply driving your RV down the road is harder if you’re traveling long distances. Then, there’s the challenge of hauling all of the extra gear. Plus, you might just be constantly exhausted from the lack of sleep and from the constant monitoring involved (especially once the kids start toddling around the campground).
Great Parts: One of the great things about traveling with babies and toddlers is that they go where you take them, and they don’t express opinions. Nap time is another magical part of traveling with little ones, especially when parents get to take a break, as well. Plus, babies and toddlers go to bed much earlier, leaving the parents time to connect. Date night around the campfire? Yes, please.
The Why: The best thing about starting your kids’ RVing life early is that they become flexible travelers. They learn how to eat, sleep, and play away from home. Plus, these skills might even transfer to other types of travel. Our boys did great on their first plane trip, probably because they had developed some independence and flexibility from the years they spent RVing. Most importantly, young campers become more confident in conquering new environments and learn to embrace the great outdoors.
The Elementary Years
Tricky Parts: By the elementary years, the kids have grown and can usually do well on long road trips; however, they still have their moments. They can become obnoxious after 7 hours in the backseat. When they’re not poking each other, they may spend some time poking at you. Elementary kids are in a natural phase of developing independence, which is great, except when they want to relentlessly negotiate for more freedoms. Traveling introduces new hiccups because you’re continually in new situations, which trigger new streams of negotiations. They also begin to have lives and interests of their own at home, which may interfere with your travel plans. Finally, they are working to build stamina for some physical activities, but they still have some restrictions based on their age and size.
Great Parts: The great thing is that elementary kids truly enjoy hanging out with their parents (for the most part). They simply love family activities. Plus, they enjoy learning about the world around them and act like little sponges, taking in everything you can fill their brains in. This elementary-aged child’s need for independence also has a great side, as these kids can truly be helpful around the campsite and can enjoy some freedom in the campground.
The Why: The elementary years form a foundation for their upcoming years, when they might pull apart from you during their preteen and teenage years. Since they are little sponges at this time, it’s the perfect season for filling them with enduring lessons, modeling behavior, and teaching them all that you want them to learn.
Tricky Parts: All of that independence that has been stewing during the elementary years becomes even more prominent during the preteen and teen years. Your kids might become reluctant travelers, and they might frequently express boredom. It’s natural for them to want to spend more time with their own friends and activities, making them grumpier about RV trips that pull them away from those.
Great Parts: The great thing is that you can get your preteens and teens involved in the planning since they have clearer interests. You can build in some grander adventures or do things you couldn’t have done with smaller kids. Plus, these independent kids can entertain themselves so much more easily than their younger counterparts. You can give them the run of the campground, and you’ll have fewer backseat brawls.
The Why: This time is sacred. Soon, those teenagers will be embarking on a new adventure all their own. Savor the time you can spend together, but don’t push too hard. If you walk that fine line and give them some space and freedom, you’ll soon find them appreciating family time all over again as young adults.
Tricky Parts: For some couples, the transition to an empty nest is difficult. You suddenly find yourselves alone, without all of the activities and obligations you used to center your life around. Also, you may have forgotten how to spend time alone or together as a couple. It can be hard to rediscover yourself separate from your parental roles.
Great Parts: One great thing is that you can finally get a smaller rig. Also, you finally have more time for individual pursuits. Empty nesters can explore some of those activities you’ve always enjoy and didn’t have quite enough for while caring for kids. Also, grandkids! If you are fortunate enough to have grandchildren you can camp with, you will get the good parts about each of the previous stages, with less of the tricky stuff.
The Why: Camping really is an antidote to so many parts of our modern culture. It encourages us to stay active, explore, socialize, and pursue hobbies in a way that doesn’t happen as much during the earlier seasons. When we are tied to home, work, and a calendar, we can easily lose ourselves in the grind. Empty nesters can lose themselves in adventure and relaxation.
Enjoy Each Season While it Lasts
No matter where you are along this time line, you need to embrace the season you are in. Don’t live in the past, and don’t wish for the future. Enjoy the NOW. That’s not to say that each stage will be equally easy for your family, and that’s okay. Seize the day…especially if it’s spent at a campground.
See you at the campground,
Jeremy + Stephanie