RV Pro Tips: 10 Tips for Surviving Long RV Family Road Trips


Lindsay McKenzie

Favorite Trip

Our favorite trip was when we first hit the road full-time and drove all the way up the coast of California and into Oregon. Our first 3 months as full-time RVers we drove the entire Pacific Coast Highway and camped at different beautiful beaches along the way. We then drove through the towering redwoods in Redwood National Forest and continued on through Oregon and Idaho on our way to Glacier National Park in Montana. There was so much stunning scenery and adventure around every corner that entire trip.

Home Base

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Favorite RV

We loved our Winnebago Navion 24D. It was nimble so we could park it pretty much anywhere but it still gave us a comfortable living space with the Murphy bed. We drove it all over the country!

About Contributor

Lindsay McKenzie travels full-time in her Winnebago Navion with her husband Dan and their 2 dogs. Originally from Colorado, they have been seeking adventure together for 10 years now and have done a lot of international traveling, including living in Costa Rica. They took the leap into full time RVing after experiencing life-altering news. They viewed the news as a life “detour” and started a travel and inspirational blog called Follow Your Detour. Lindsay has grown more passionate about pursuing her dreams and a leading a fulfilling life, while inspiring others to do the same. She loves that RVing allows her to be in nature and do more of what she loves. You can usually find her on the river fly fishing, hiking to sunset spots, or at a local brewery. (All photos by Lindsay McKenzie, except where noted.)

RV road trips are a great and affordable way to travel! You can take the whole family, have all the comforts of home, and there are so many family-friendly camping destinations to choose from.

But the truth is, long drives and travel days can be pretty tiresome. Rainy days at the campsite can leave kids whining and bored. We’ve got all the tips you need to survive long RV family road trips so you can enjoy the ride, arrive at your destination safely, and have a fun vacation the kids will talk about for years.

1. Safety Check

Be sure to pack a roadside emergency kit, check your tires, and walk around and inspect your RV before you hit the road. If you’re not sure you’ll remember all the checkpoints, book an appointment at a Camping World service center to have qualified technicians give your rig a once over.

Leave information with a loved one regarding your route, estimated arrival day and time, and anything else relevant to your travel plans. Keep in touch with that person throughout your trip to inform them of your location, and any change in plans. It’s common to lose cell phone service as your driving along and if something were to happen, you’d want to make sure someone was aware and could send help.

2. Know Your Route and Stop Frequently

The biggest time and stress saver for your RV family road trip will be mapping out a route. You want to be focused on the road as you’re driving, not glancing at a map or questioning your turns while hauling a long RV. Popular cell phone navigation apps may not take into account weight limits, low clearance bridges, hairpin turns, and other factors that are critical for safe RV travel. A good road atlas or GPS will help you avoid roads that could be tricky for RV navigation. The Good Sam Trip Planner App is designed to route RVer’s on big-rig-friendly roads. Take the headache out of finding your route and automate it with this easy-to-use app. Schedule your gas stops, rest stops, and plot out your campgrounds for extended road trips.

It can sometimes be hard to pull off every 2-3 hours when you’d rather keep going and get to your destination sooner. But, you don’t want to push it too much, which can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Allow yourself breaks to step out, get fresh air, and recharge as often as possible. It’s a good idea to take shifts driving. While driving doesn’t seem like that much work, it can wear you down quicker than you realize. You don’t want to risk falling asleep or mentally checking out and losing concentration while on the road.

3. Plan and Prep Meals and Snacks Ahead of Time

Some fries and ketchup.

It’s tempting to load up on junk food to help make the drive more enjoyable and pass the time. It’s also convenient to get fast food while on the road. While you can definitely enjoy these foods from time to time, it’s a good idea to bring along healthy snack options to avoid a sugar crash. Be sure to drink plenty of water too—stay hydrated.

When it comes to meal planning, there’s nothing you can’t cook in your RV kitchen or on an outdoor gas grill that you can’t cook at home. Meal plan ahead of your trip to take a huge stress factor out of your family RV road trip. Pre-chop ingredients for chili at home and keep fresh in your RV refrigerator. Then, dump all ingredients in the slow cooker and hit the trials. Return to an RV full of the savory smell of soup. Fewer runs to the grocery store means more time to have fun together as a family.

Help kids feel comfortable in a new environment by keeping their meals and diet familiar. At the same time, don’t be afraid to create new tasty traditions for your family road trips, like roasting marshmallows over an open fire and crafting gooey s’mores for a rare after-dinner sweet treat. It’s these quality time memories that will have the kids begging to hit the road again once they’re home.

4. Exercise or Stretch During Breaks

Go for a walk or run every chance you get while on a long road trip, especially if the trip is a couple days long. Moving and stretching your body is important to avoid cramping, soreness, or stiffness.

You don’t want to show up to your vacation with an achy body and not be able to fully enjoy the activities you’ve planned. Moving your body can also help you stay alert and energized so you can power through!

5. Gas Up Often

Pumping gas

Don’t let your tank go much below half a tank. We become so accustomed to driving our cars until we’re close to empty, knowing we can usually find a gas station within a few miles.

However, driving long distances, you’re likely to pass through rural areas where gas stations can be harder to come by. You also can’t rely on your vehicle’s typical fuel consumption. Driving at varying speeds, up and down grades, and pushing against the wind can greatly impact your gas mileage. Again, you can’t guarantee that you will have cell phone service either, so running out of gas could mean you’re stranded until someone stops to help.

6. Try Not to Drive Past Dark

Many people think that driving at night is best for road trips because there’s less traffic, and the passengers can sleep to pass the time. However, driving tired is dangerous and dark roads mean reduced visibility. Wildlife also tends to be more active at night and harder to spot on the side of the road, increasing your chances of hitting an animal and causing an accident. It’s important after a long day of driving to rest and get a good night’s sleep so don’t hesitate to pull over and catch some z’s.

7. Give Yourself an Extra Day or Two

Don’t cut it close by assuming your road trip will be as long as the GPS suggests. Tack on at least one extra day to your agenda. Weather can interfere with travel, things could go wrong with your vehicle, or you could come to unexpected road closures or other delays. It’s better to have extra time than stressing about being behind schedule and rushing, which is never a safe way to travel. Road trips are much more enjoyable when you can take your time.

8. Think About Entertainment

Kids in car on road trip.
Keep kids calm and happy on road trips with tablets, coloring books, and plenty of snacks. Image: Shutterstock

To keep kids entertained on long drives, or on bad weather days, bring elements of home with you. What does that mean? Bring games that you play at home with you in your RV. After the sun goes down, cozy up in the RV for a family game night. If video games help your kiddo wind down, an hour or so of game time at night before bed will help everyone feel a little more relaxed.

For long car rides, don’t be ashamed to let the kids indulge in extra screen time. The most important part of the drive is for the driver to stay focused on the road. If kids are screaming, crying, or whining, it can pull focus from driving.

Whether you listen to an audiobook, sing along to your favorite tunes, or play the classic road trip games, you’ll want to find ways of keeping everyone in the car occupied. Don’t forget your furry family members too. Give them bones and toys to avoid boredom. Nothing makes a road trip feel long like being bored or having cranky passengers!

9. Don’t Overload Your Schedule

It might be tempting to cram the schedule to make the most of your time, but when traveling with kids it is important to schedule in free time too. Kids can quickly become cranky after seeing several monuments and museums back to back. Aim to visit one big attraction per day. Schedule in some “free,” days where the kids can play and explore at their leisure. It may seem like you’re throwing away valuable education time, but kids learn a lot playing by themselves and with others. It’s important to let them recharge to avoid crankiness and tantrums.

10. Enjoy it!

Sometimes it’s more about the journey and not just the destination. Allow yourself time to pull off, enjoy sights and detours, take photos, and make the trip memorable. Your vacation should start the moment you get in the car, not when you arrive.

We hope these tips prepare you to have a safe and enjoyable road trip with Happier Campers in tow! Let us know if we missed any tips in the comments.

  • Comment (2)
  • Ronald A Costen says:

    I am 61 and wife60 we are thinking about renting a RV for 3 weeks this will be our first time how many hour’s should I drive before taking a break

  • chipper146 says:

    I say 2 hours give or take. Watch the gas too. don’t go much under half a tank. Then you have choices. Less and you chance getting in a pinch.

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