RV Vacations For Dummies
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RV camping is for everybody. No other form of travel adjusts so readily to any sort of special need. RV vacations are family-friendly in the extreme. RVing is a cheap and convenient way to take the whole family on vacation, including your pets or elderly parents.

In most cases, having the kitchen and bathroom with you makes the “I’m hungry” and “I have to go potty” requests easy to deal with, and traveling together as a family can foster closeness and communication.

RV camping with kids and pets ©Welcomia / Shutterstock.com

RVing with kids

The simple truth is that kids love RVing and camping. In fact, you can help your children grow into teens and adults who appreciate travel by allowing them to use a paper map, a book like this one, and a time and money budget to plan their own “mystery trip,” with their parents as chauffeurs, over a long weekend. They pick the destination and route, and plan and arrange all aspects of the trip.

Veterans of family RV travel suggest involving children in the planning stages, rotating seats in the car or RV en route to the campsite, and assigning duties at the campsite. Older children can be responsible for packing items and handling last-minute duties at home, like locking the doors and windows and removing perishable food from the refrigerator.

Even infants can go camping happily. Experts recommend carrying a toddler in a backpack carrier and an infant in a front-pack carrier, both of which are made specifically for hiking. Bring along a folding stroller and playpen, mosquito netting, and a baby guardrail for the bed to use while in camp. A baby seat that clamps to a picnic table also enables a small child to join the rest of the family at meals.

©Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Packing sunscreen to protect children’s delicate skin is essential. So is bringing along a gentle insect repellant.

For more tips on traveling with kids, check out these websites:

  • Family Travel Network offers travel tips and reviews of family-friendly destinations, vacation deals, and campgrounds.
  • Travel Mamas offers ideas and tips for traveling with kids, including many first-hand accounts and destination reviews by the founder.

RVing with pets

As you travel, you meet many RV owners who favor their particular brand of travel because they can take their pets along with them. The Travel Industry Association of America says that 6 percent of all traveling dog owners take their pets with them on vacation, whereas only 1 percent of cat owners do. I’m willing to bet that some 50 percent of all traveling dog owners (and probably 25 percent or more of cat owners) take their pets along on their RV vacations.

Check campground information in advance to make sure pets are permitted. Some campgrounds assess a surcharge; a few impose pet restrictions, which means that they determine to allow pets on an individual basis, based breed or size. Always call ahead to ask.

Although a few campgrounds have fenced dog runs where pets can frolic off the leash, almost all require dogs to be on leashes in the campground at all times. Owners also are required to clean up after their pets. Some campgrounds provide dispensers of plastic bags at the dog runs and receptacles for the used bags. Otherwise, carry your own cleanup bags, and dispose of them properly.

Dogs should not be left alone in an RV at the campground or tied up outside the RV while you’re away. Never leave your pet in the RV for more than 10 or 20 minutes in mild weather when you’re running an errand, and don’t leave your pet alone in the RV at all when temperatures are hot.

The following tips can help you and Fido have an enjoyable RV trip:
  • Feed pets at night. Feed them after you’re finished driving for the day, especially if they’re susceptible to motion sickness.
  • Give pets water only during the day. Give your pets bottled water, without any additives for taste, which you need to introduce at home before the trip. As you would for humans, use bottled water, because the mineral content in water changes from one campground to the next. A contented tummy is something that you want a traveling pet to have.
  • Bring familiar toys and bedding for the pet. Like security blankets, objects from home can comfort your pet on the road.
  • Help your pet become accustomed to the RV. If you have access to the RV before the trip, spend some time in it with your pet.
  • Keep your cat’s litter box in the shower or tub. Encase the litter box in a 30-gallon plastic trash bag, put the box in the trash bag bottom down, dump a 10-pound bag of cat litter into the box, and snap on the litter-box cover.
  • Carry a couple of small washable throw rugs. Putting a small rug over the RV carpeting can protect it from muddy little cat or dog feet.
Debate continues as to whether pets are safer while kept in or out of a kennel crate in a moving RV. Defenders of crates (many of them professional dog handlers who travel to and from shows in RVs) say that occupants are safer when the animal is confined while the vehicle is in motion. People who favor freeing pets during the ride claim that it enables animals to protect themselves from injury. A challenge for a single traveler with free pets is keeping them off the dashboard and out of the windshield, as well as preventing them from blocking the mirrors and clear views of the road.

A good online resource for information about traveling with your pet is Petswelcome, which also dispenses medical tips and lists the names of animal-friendly lodgings and campgrounds, kennels, and veterinarians.

RVing for people with disabilities

Recreational vehicles can be made as accessible and comfortable for the physically challenged — especially those in wheelchairs — as any home. Mechanical seat lifts, either installed at the factory or retrofitted into existing units, can be added to motor homes for people who have trouble climbing steps. Wider doors, raised toilets, roll-in showers, roll-under sinks, lower kitchen counters and cabinets, and a permanent place to lock in the wheelchair while the RV is in motion are options that can be installed at the factory or by aftermarket custom shops.

More campgrounds offer handicap-accessible campsites with wide, level paved sites to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and electric scooters. Many provide improved access to public toilets and showers by installing ramps and handrails.

Wheelchair travelers aren’t the only ones who adjust well to RVs. Many other handicapped travelers — from those on dialysis to those requiring a supply of oxygen — find much more comfort and security in a well-equipped motor home than they do in an automobile, plane, or train.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA; 703-620-6003) publishes a directory with information about RV accessibility for travelers with disabilities. Another valuable resource is the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (212-447-7284), which offers a wealth of travel resources for people with all types of disabilities and informed recommendations on destinations, access guides, and companion services. Annual membership fees are $49 for adults and $29 for seniors (63-plus) and students.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Christopher Hodapp, along with co-author and wife Alice Von Kannon, has had a lifelong love affair with the RV lifestyle. Chris traveled and worked out of a motorhome for many years as a commercial filmmaker, and Alice grew up with travel trailers. Veteran RVers, they’ve explored 44 of the 50 U.S. states so far, staying in literally hundreds of campgrounds and parks. Alice Von Kannon, along with co-author and husband Christopher Hodapp, has had a lifelong love affair with the RV lifestyle. Alice grew up with travel trailers, and Chris traveled and worked out of a motorhome for many years as a commercial filmmaker. Veteran RVers, they’ve explored 44 of the 50 U.S. states so far, staying in literally hundreds of campgrounds and parks.

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