6 Lessons From Family RVing

Contributor

Kristen A. Schmitt

Favorite Trip

Travel from NY to FL for an entire month during pandemic

Home Base

Canton, NY

Favorite RV

2021 Winnebago Solis

About Contributor

Kristen A. Schmitt regularly writes about the outdoors, health and adventure from her home near the Adirondacks. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Marie Claire, Smithsonian + more. Follow her on Instagram @kristen_a_schmitt.

Our family has dabbled in RVing since our daughter was in diapers, initially covering thousands of miles across our Michigan stomping grounds before expanding to the entire East Coast, enjoying the freedom RVing allowed us while also providing a mobile home base that, as any parent can attest to, really makes a difference when your kids are under a certain age.

Our first trips were taken behind the wheel of a Toyota Sunrader – bought used from an Army pilot looking to upgrade – and perfect for our new family of three. We flew from Michigan to Colorado to pick up the mint condition Class C vehicle, making our first cross-country voyage satisfied with our purchase. For newbie RVers (at the time), the Sunrader was its own little world, complete with a tiny oven, two-burner stove, fridge, queen sleeping loft, and a small bathroom with shower. We traveled extensively across the Mitten State and into the Upper Peninsula, staying overnight in places previously unavailable to us because they lacked accommodations like the white sand beach of Grand Marais and the skyscraper pine tree campgrounds bordering Tahquamenon Falls.

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

We were hooked. And while we eventually sold the Sunrader, we knew we’d unlocked a new – and nearly perfect – way to travel as a family that allowed us to bring along the creature comforts that airplane and hotel travel couldn’t provide.

For the past 15 years, we’ve bought and traveled and sold a few RVs—the Sunrader along with a Toyota Bandit and a Chevy Astro Tiger Provan, both used—with our latest foray a massive upgrade (to us) from our previous models: a brand new 2021 Winnebago Solis bought at the height of the pandemic. Not only was the Solis a way to see family several states away when travel was considered difficult, but it also allowed us to make the most of the new remote-friendly lifestyle. It also didn’t hurt having a bathroom on the go when running errands or attending our daughter’s sporting events when all others were closed to the public.

Lessons From Family RVing

Over the years, we’ve definitely learned a few ways to keep everything running smoothly on the open road. Here are six important lessons we learned about family RVing along the way.

Selecting the Right Rig for Family RVing is Everything

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

Consider not only how many people will be traveling together but whether there are animals, too. When we first started RVing as a family, we didn’t have pets that came along with us. During our time with the Winnebago Solis, which can sleep four thanks to an additional pop-top bed, we had one golden retriever and a cat. Both traveled comfortably down to Florida with us over a four-day drive, stopping at campsites along the way. However, with the addition of another golden retriever, we know it’s time to rethink size. With two large dogs, a teenager, two adults, and a cat, we’re in the market for a bit more elbow room for our next RV.

Learn more about the Winnebago Solis if it looks like an RV your family would love too!

Pre-Trip Meal Prep Maximizes Recreation Time

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

As the self-appointed family meal prep manager, I start every RV trip with meal planning and food prep to make healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners easy whether we’re on the road or at our destination. This means slicing veggies ahead of time and planning out meals that work within the RV’s specifications (most have two-burner stoves, fridges, and microwaves). Hard-boiled eggs, sandwich fixings, stir-fries, and other easy meals are great for RV trips. And there’s nothing better than rolling up late to a site and knowing that everything you need is already under your “mobile” roof.

Packing for Pets Requires Creativity

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

When traveling with our dogs and cat, we use collapsible dishes for food and water. They stow away when not in use and come in several sizes. Thicker bathmats work well on the hard RV floors to pad our feet and give dogs a soft place to sleep during the trip. For your cat, try a large Tupperware container with a lid as a traveling litterbox (the scoop can easily be stored along with the litter when not in use). For dry dog and cat food and extra litter, I use reusable bags or containers.

Small Accessories Can Make a Big Difference

USB-powered fans and small space heaters can make a big difference if it’s hot or cold, especially at night, and they easily tuck away when not in use.  A lint brush and/or mini-dustbuster helps keep small spaces clean, especially if traveling with pets: that dog hair can pile up in no time. Plastic drinking and wine glasses are essential, along with drip coffee packets that require only a bit of hot water.

Reservations Aren’t Always Required, But Sometimes They’re Worth It

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

Want to stay in a semi-private vineyard or farm field instead of an RV park? Try Harvest Hosts or HipCamp – two apps with a lengthy list of unique places to stay that are often privately owned and off-the-beaten-track. Using Harvest Hosts, we found a local gem of a New York winery where there were only two spots for the night (as in, only two RVs for the entire night), and we were the only ones there. HipCamp found us an inexpensive campsite that overlooked a then-closed Six Flags during the pandemic. Both apps operate on a first-come, first-served basis and are worth the cost.

State parks make another great option if you want a bit more space between vehicles than a regular RV park typically provides. Reservations are often required (so not as last minute as the Harvest Hosts or HipCamp app), but some parks are completely worth it, like Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, FL.

RVs Can Be More than Vacation Vehicles

Image by Kristen A. Schmitt

When we decided to purchase an RV, we never realized its hidden potential until the keys were in our hands. Not only do RVs allow us to go anywhere, anytime (within reason), but they also pull double duty as vehicles with hauling capacity. We’ve used the extra space to bring home boxwoods, fruit trees, shrubs for landscaping projects, and huge 5’ x 5’ canvases for my husband’s painting pastime, among other things.

During fall cross-country season, we’re often on the road mid-week for an away meet that’s, at a minimum,45 minutes away. On the outside, our Winnebago Solis appeared to be a regular cargo van, but on the inside, we were able to warm up between races, use our bathroom, heat up coffee, and relax instead of standing in the shivering cold.

Running errands in a smaller RV also means that you can have lunch on the go without having to stop at a fast-food place. We pack the fridge with yogurt, sandwiches, or salads, eating lunch in our hidden oasis among the other parked cars in the lot. When we stayed in Florida for a month during the pandemic, our Solis seemed so car-like that it was HOA neighborhood-friendly.

RVing as a family is a great way to see the sites and spend time together. I know we’re ready for our next adventure.


What has your family learned while RVing that has saved you time and allowed you to enjoy more time together while camping? Leave a comment below.

  • Comment (4)
  • Lucy M says:

    We have been locked out of our class A 3 times. Thinking of getting a new one that you can control better.

    Our first camper was a class C we bought it from camping world during the pandemic. We then found out the whole top of the above bed over the cab had leaked and leaked. It was really bad camping world knew it was there, and they sold it to us anyway, we didn’t know to pull the bed up and look underneath it and had been sealed many times so you know we paid way too much for something like that. We went to another dealer and bought a smaller class a made by Thor 24 foot so cute. It to had its issues everything was not done completely missing screws. He had it for just about six months and the slide out broke.. fridge and just one thing after another.
    We decided after they could not find the piece for a wall that we need to repaired. We would get another one so we trade it up to a 31 foot FR3. We really like it much nicer much bigger husband likes it much better too to drive, so we’ve been happy with it. It’s done really well so after the third camper third dealership, we finally got it right. The FR3 31 foot is very nice. Husband says it handles great. It was alot more money but so worth it.

    • Hi Lucy!

      I’m so sorry to hear you had that early experience with your first Class C! My first was a 1987 Tioga Class C and I’ve learned A LOT about what to look for when buying since then. Really glad to hear you’re enjoying your FR3 now!

  • Charlene Edmoundson says:

    I am looking for me a 5th wheel, about a 24ft – 30 ft. with Washer and Dryer.

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