Do you travel with children in your motorhome?
Taking the whole family away in the motorhome sounds like a great idea. Bonding time! Time away from the pressures of work and the seduction of screens.
But is it always a happy family holiday?
If you’ve never had a cross word whilst on a motorhome road trip with your children then spill your secrets in the comments section below! Otherwise, read on and add any of your own hard-earned wisdom.
Motorhome road trips with children
The first trial is the journey…
Firstly, there’s the front seat. Everyone wants it. “Back in the day” the front seat was adult territory. Nowadays it has become a source of conflict. It makes sense for it to be taken by a map reader if there’s any navigating needed.
If you regularly travel with passengers, especially children, your choice of motorhome layout must ensure enough proper seatbelts for all. Younger children who need those huge child seats will need three point belts. Your motorhome will have to be family friendly; older models may not have appropriate belts for those seats. Talk to a reputable garage about retro fitting if possible. Don’t take risks with this one – especially with children in the motorhome!
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The main seating issue once travelling is in motorhomes with the side facing settee type seating. This is usually in older vehicles. The lap belts are not ideal – in fact they are not recommended for use nowadays. Also those in the back ride with just a small window to look out of if they are not twisting their backs or necks to see what those in the front are talking about.
If there’s more than one child, scraps can break out as they get bored.
If this is a road trip with travelling every day, you’ll need to prevent boredom!
What is the solution? Screens??
Was this holiday supposed to be time spent away from screens?
Maybe you can agree that there is a time and place for technology.
Decide as a team how long screens are allowed. And when.
Another thing you need to agree on is that “no screen” periods mean adults too! There are few things more likely to cause upset than an adult glued to their phone whilst the children try to connect with them! If this is to be a family holiday then, beyond the parents having sensible vetoes, the children have as much directional input as the adults. It’s their holiday too! Kids react well to being treated as adults. They deserve a degree of control. But don’t make a rule then break it yourself!
Make sure that they have some preloaded games – ones that don’t need internet connection. Having no wifi could be a game changer in so many ways!
What will keep children amused on a motorhome road trip?
Maybe you can take books for travelling time…although books do seem to be a thing of the past now unfortunately. Of course, reading may provoke travel sickness so bear that in mind.
Family games are often a minefield of triumphal in-seat dances (usually clipping the nearest sibling in the ear) or disappointed tantrums and sulks.
Try creating teams to even up age differences and prevent one person being “The Loser”. A child per parent, or kids versus adults.
“I-Spy” and car numberplate games are no good if people are not all looking out of the same window! Maybe the first journey could be spent making up games to play!
You can do a running commentary on “how many more miles?”. Actually, maybe every so often, you can all guess how many miles have passed using the mileometer. Read out the new number and do the maths! Do try to remember the previous number! The driver will either not take part or be totally trustworthy! They could of course be the “number keeper”, remembering the last one.
Or maybe you could all talk about the holiday and what you want to get from it. What are people looking forward to? Have you already seen the local attractions – which is everyone’s favourite?
Make memories – and write about them!
Each day, you can discuss yesterday’s activities. What was good. What wasn’t! Recall funny moments – so long as EVERYONE finds it amusing – know your audience and victim if you are going to tease anyone. Even the adults!
Maybe you can keep a holiday diary. Either one each or one between all of you. Buy postcards and keep receipts and advertising leaflets to put in it. Make notes of your experience of the place – in years to come, it will bring so many memories back to mind. I always tried to persuade my children to do this. A nightmare parent! I diarise Motorhome Hobo road trips. You’d be surprised how a few words can quickly have you reminiscing. Take a quality notebook and a Prittstick.
Stop frequently on a motorhome road trip with children
Take regular breaks. If your motorhome allows, have a shift round of the children’s seating arrangements. Have favourite snacks to keep everyone sweet!
Years ago, we used to have “singalongs” – there must be some genre of music you can agree upon! Make up your own songs perhaps.
Talking CDs may keep everyone quiet. Choose a selection before you leave – children’s stories- or talking books if you’re all a bit older. Just none vilifying stepmothers please!!!
Maybe you can make up your own stories! Each person can take a turn at adding to the plot line. Agree character and “time allowed” parameters in advance! No killing off your sister or eating a brother!
If the children don’t mind being educated, a pre-written potted history of towns or historical areas you pass is interesting. (Or is that just me?) Kids can read one out perhaps.
The Camp Site
So, you have arrived in one piece. After the vehicle is on the chocks and is stationary, give everyone a responsibility whilst setting up. Younger children can accompany a parent to collect water or help set the awning up.
You will be tired. The preparation, the planning, the driving and navigation will have taken their toll. Get out a peaceful activity or allow some of that precious screen time.
Have a walk around the site – make sure everyone knows where the facilities are and how to get back to the van.
If you are wild camping, especially in a layby, be very sure that you have explained the rules of the road until they’re able to recite it all! You will not be able to put out seating or awnings if you are off grid in England. The children will need to understand that you may have to move off at short notice.
Do bear in mind that wild places occasionally attract unsavoury people. Laybys can be meeting places for dogging or other activities you may not want to answer questions about.
Packing for a road trip with children
When packing for a break with children, think “first aid” – bring the pain relief of choice, travel sickness pills, inhalers, sanitary wear – anything you or the children need daily. Check your first aid box is up to date and that the fire extinguisher is within date.
Then think what they’ll kick off over if it isn’t available – ketchup, chargers for all the equipment, the favourite bear or blanket.
Take clothing which dries quickly and is versatile. Make up layers rather than take one huge sweatshirt which takes up the whole wardrobe space. Comfortable shoes only!
What else to take on a road trip
Favourite foods are a must. It has to be practical but generally modern food is easily stored. Or plot a course which passes supermarkets!
Sports equipment, puzzle books, colouring books and pencils, models if practical, favourite games, reading books if they are interested – the holiday is not the time to push education as my own children will tell you!! Darn it, I tried! Oh- and as much technology as you can cram into the lockers!
Remind everyone that the motorhome load weight is not limitless – an overweight motorhome is potentially dangerous. Everyone needs to make sacrifices – not just the youngsters.
Sleeping and chill-out space
Sleeping arrangements can be tight too – siblings who have spent the day seated closely together, nipping and pinching, complaining, grizzling, teasing etc. etc. are then expected to share a bed space. Oh dear!
An awning can be an investment if you are staying on a site for a while. This can provide separate bedrooms for older children. Or at least a storage space so the van isn’t cluttered. It can be a “chill out” area too.
Chill out spaces could be pre-arranged by adults to keep warring factions apart. Actually, that could be the adults! If necessary, separate children, one into the front cab seat and another on the overhead cab bed…or the awning or whatever your RV allows.
A nasty trick I used to employ when my three were trying to murder each other again – I gave them a common enemy! I waded in, all guns blazing (METAPHORICALLY!) By the time I had finished, they’d be sitting together, a Shakespearean conspiracy of witches and warlocks, complaining about me. Believe me, they teamed up against me often enough!
OR you can use a “talking stick”. Only the person holding the stick may speak. Time with the stick cannot be limitless. Nor can it be used to berate a fellow traveller. In argument situations, stick time is for putting their own point of view across. This will give everyone the chance to speak and be respectfully heard by the family. In normal conversations it can be used to encourage the quieter child to speak out and promote attentive listening. You could decorate your own family stick perhaps?!!
Safety in the motorhome
Safety – everyone must be aware of the kitchen area whilst it is in use. It is a good idea to remind your party that you are all in a confined space. No throwing or jumping! Maybe I worry too much! Where’s that fire blanket?
Spend a moment considering emergency exit routes. Where is the kitchen in your motorhome…that’s where a fire is most likely. Can people escape from either side of it? If not, get it into your memory to shout “get on the floor and crawl towards me”.
If the vehicle breaks down, have reflective jackets and space blankets in a cubby hole or bag near the exit door. Grab them on the way out. Do not be tempted to remain in the motorhome beside a busy road. The chances of a vehicle strike are too high!
Many campsites have a list of local hospitals, surgeries, pharmacies as well as attractions. Photograph that list!
During your time away, don’t be afraid to throw in a little local history. (IF you want to!!) Kids have a huge capacity for learning if it is fun. Ensure that their questions are answered later if you can’t respond immediately.
Choose attractions in advance. Check out the entrance fees though. If money is limited, don’t blow the whole budget in one go. Be honest with the children about this – not enough to scare them but enough to instill financial responsibility and awareness. Eating out will munch into the budget too! If they are happy with onboard meals, then there will be more money for fun. (Maybe the washing up can be “fun” too!)
If you promise a trip to a castle, make sure that they are aware of the condition of the building. Many “castles” are the long-passed remains of hill-forts. The gang are expecting to run along the ramparts, shooting pretend arrows. They may be disappointed. And stroppy.
Other people’s kids…
If you’re adventurous enough to take someone else’s children in the motorhome on holiday as company for your own kids, make sure you know the vitals – allergies, aversions, quirks etc.
Without embarrassing your own brood too much, get them all together and have the safety talk. You know what your own children are liable to do, what they’re capable of. You know what level of highway code they’re at. And you’ll know that they’ll listen to you. Or not. You’ll be somewhere unfamiliar – there have to be non-negotiable ground rules for all.
Decide what lost children are to do. I always told mine to stand still or to find a shop employee. Call their name if you cannot see them – they may be the other side of a tree or door as you go past in your search. Don’t be afraid to reiterate the rules. Importantly, they’ll remember them before panic takes over.
Moreover, most kids have their own phone now – get the numbers in your contacts list.
The main idea is to enjoy their company though – and allow them to enjoy yours. When there’s friction, be the adult and take a breath before speaking. Take a walk before speaking if it’s that explosive. Yelling back is only going to keep the tension alive longer. Sure, be assertive if necessary but don’t be a part of the problem.
But definitely enjoy time in the motorhome with your children. Next week, they’ll be all grown up! College, marriage, the world back-packing trip…you’ll miss the little monsters.
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