Sanity Saving Tips for RVing with Kids

How your little ones can be “Road Trip Rock Stars.”

David & Karen Toste David & Karen Toste  |  10.02.2017

You’ve decided to take a road trip with the family. You’ve selected the dates and destinations, so you’re ready to go, right? When RVing with kids, nothing is ever quite that simple.

As adults, we cherish the beauty and ever-changing scenery of the open road. However, the majestic beauty breezing by the window might captivate our little ones for about five minutes (if we’re lucky). When we were planning an RV trip with our kids (ours are 6 and almost 4), thinking about how we would keep them entertained and happy was just as important as planning our route and stops along the way. And a little time on the front end made a huge difference in ensuring the journey remained an enjoyable one for all of us.

Rest stop at Mount Shasta.

On our most recent trip, we departed from our home in Silicon Valley, up to Portland, over to eastern Washington and Idaho, then back down through Oregon’s Bend and Klamath Falls and California’s Mount Shasta. We traveled 2,000 miles across four states in a span of nine days. At the end of it all, our kids officially earned the title “Road Trip Rock Stars,” as they exceeded our wildest expectations for behaving, especially during some of our longest driving days.

In no particular order, here are a few of the things that saved our sanity during those long stretches on the open road:

The Allstays App

As we prepped for this trip, we heard a lot of great things about the Allstays app. For those who may not know, this app helps you find campgrounds in your area, gives you information about your route (including when you might encounter a steep hill grade or low-clearance bridge), and maps the locations of all the Walmarts, gas stations, and truck and rest stops along the way. We learned pretty early on in this adventure that our kids can tolerate about a four-hour stretch on the road before they start to get a little squirrelly, so it was critical that we knew when and where we could stop so they could snack and/or run off some energy. Allstays was especially helpful in this regard and helped us to avoid more than one meltdown!

The Goodie Bag

We’ll preface this by saying we are not above a little bribery to help keep the peace on a road trip. The week before we left on our trip, we made a quick trip to Target and the Dollar Store to load up on a bunch of fun, easy prizes and rewards for our kids (think blind bags, small craft projects, felt boards, and the like). The intent was to keep the bag itself as a surprise, but that didn’t last. However, once our kids knew we had a bag full of goodies, they couldn’t wait to see what was next. We were able to break out something new over the course of the trip, which kept our kids looking forward to – and behaving until – our next stop and their next treat.

iPads and LeapPads

One of our favorite things about our RV adventures is the minimal screen time our kiddos have while we’re out and about. This applies everywhere, except for those driving days when it is super helpful for breaking up those long stretches. Before our trip, we bought a few new educational games for their LeapPads and loaded up our iPads with several movies and TV shows they’d never seen. It was a treat for them to watch or play something new and a blessing for us parents, because they remained entertained for some of our longer stretches.

Travel Trays and Washable Markers

We picked up these plastic travel trays at our local craft store for about $5 each, and they quickly became one of our must-haves! Because our kids are still in car seats, we usually travel with the dinette table down. These trays were great because they fit over our kids’ laps when they were seated on the sofa or in their car seats. They also included compartments on each side to hold coloring books, crafts, and other activities. We also stocked up on washable markers for their artistic creations so they could let their creativity run wild without permanently altering the interior of our coach. Fortunately, any traces our little artists may have left on the upholstery came right off with a towel and a little water.

Truck Stops and Rest Areas

Rest stop Oregon/Washington border (along Columbia River Gorge).

If you’ve traveled down any freeway in the U.S., you have undoubtedly passed countless truck stops and rest stops. We had too, but had never taken full advantage of them until now. After hours on the road with little ones, you can imagine that cabin fever starts to set in. To be able to pull off at a travel plaza where we could gas up, park our rig, and make some lunch, or a rest stop where we could pull over for 20 minutes to stretch and get some air, was such a blessing. We were also pleasantly surprised by how nice some rest areas have gotten, with grassy areas and even some with play structures. This was a great way to stop, refuel, eat, and give the kids some time to burn off some of the energy that had built up after being in a motor home several hours.

We often hear that it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. We hope these tips make that journey more enjoyable and give your own kids the title of “Road Trip Rock Stars.”

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  1. Krista Posted on 06.12.2018

    Spot on!! We have 3, ages 6, 4, and 2. I always have new coloring books or activities for the drive. We use our iPads and LeapPads for long drives or when we have our kids sit at the gym with us for an hour 3 times a week, so not very often. We keep our 2 year old in an infant car seat on our couch while driving (Vista 29ve). Can you explain more how you keep your older kiddos in car seats and where you place them? My husband and I are always concerned about the safest place for the kiddos to be while driving. This past trip we let them lay in the back (for the first time ever), mainly because they NEEDED naps! Part of me felt nervous doing it, but again, naps. Thanks for a great article!

  2. nancy carey Posted on 11.24.2017

    I would like to purchase a Winnebago View but they have very few seatbelts (average one). Any recommendations on traveling with children and seatbelts?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.25.2017

      Your best bet may be the J floorplan with 3 seat belts around the U-dinette. The V and D models have two.

  3. M Million Posted on 11.13.2017

    We have been RVing for 32 years. It started with our own sons and continues with our grandchildren. Your article was spot on. I’ve always made sure to pack surprise activities and toys for the children. It makes traveling so much easier when the young ones are entertained. We too, used them as bribes, but it adds excitement for them also. We had video tapes back in the day, but now have an assortment of dvds to use when we need quiet time. I also make sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks. We usually stop every few hours to stretch, throw balls, or just sightsee. Very enjoyable and informative article. Thanks!

  4. Deb Posted on 10.27.2017

    Great article! We travel a lot of the time with our almost 3 yr old granddaughter so good tips are always welcome. Thank you!

  5. David & Karen Toste Posted on 10.21.2017

    We purchased ours at a local art and craft store. They’re called Ankyo Development Kids Lap Trays. You should be able to find them on Amazon or with a quick Google search. They’re stackable too!

  6. Richard Korzun Posted on 10.21.2017

    Can you tell me who the manufacturer is for the Travel Trays or which store you got them at ?? Looking for one for my Grand Daughter

    Thank You