Everyone’s first RVing experience is a little different. The first RVing trip can be filled with excitement for adventures ahead and concern for what could potentially go wrong. Everyone seems to find different things that hold their interest or that they tend to worry about. Those with families may wonder what kind of experience to share with their children for the first adventure.
Recently, the Rankin Family (Tom, Sue, and their children Erik and Kate) took their first RV adventure together through California. Although they had tent camped before, this was the first trip the family of four had done together in an RV. The Rankins flew from their home in Texas to LA where they rented a 24-foot Minnie Winnie that they would call home for the next two weeks.
They started in San Diego, winding their way up the coast to San Francisco before turning inland to Sacramento and continued down the Sierras back to LA. Their road trip took them to national, state, and county parks as well as friends’ and family driveways.
The trip included all sorts of adventures like sea kayaking in La Jolla, rafting the Kern River, Universal Studios (they have RV parking), coastal hiking, a tour of Alcatraz, and both drives and hikes through Yosemite and Sequoia National parks. All of the areas they explored were places that Tom and Sue had previously explored when they lived in the area and wanted their kids to see the beautiful landscapes that had captured their minds early in their marriage.
Erik (14) and Kate (11) agreed to share some of their insights and observations as first-time RVers, in the hopes that other kids might find their experiences helpful. Erik is a tall, thoughtful young man with a bright mind and a love for books. Kate is full of energy and humor and is great at finding unique ways to observe the world around her. Through their eyes, their RV experience was filled with fun and amazement.
Erik and Kate both agree their first RV trip was enjoyable. Erik liked the RV over tent camping because you didn’t have all the work of setting up camp and breaking it down again as you move from place to place. “Nothing is less fun than packing a wet, muddy tent after a rain-filled trip, and having to put the wet, muddy tent back up at the next destination.”
The Minnie Winnie was perfect for the family. In addition to the large bed at the back, Erik could spread out in the bed over the cab and Kate had a cozy nest surrounded by cushions with the table conversion.
The RV had a surprisingly large amount of storage including a closet, drawers, a cabinet with shelves for toiletries in the bathroom, a large fridge with separate freezer, and large cabinets above the master bed and dining area.
Kate was particularly excited to have a fridge to keep her Sprite cold, something they had not done while car camping. The utility status panel was very helpful as it helped the family learn how to monitor and manage their water use between the toilet, kitchen sink, and timer-managed showers on dry camping days. The family also stayed at RV parks with water faucets and bathrooms close-by so they could balance their water use.
Erik most enjoyed being at a location with full hookups, but also enjoyed primitive camping as well where he could disconnect from our digital world and instead explore nature. The family alternated stays between dry camping, partial utilities (at friends’ and family homes), and full hookup sites.
After decades of tent camping, the family felt like they had it really easy on their dry camping nights since it felt no different than full hookups, and they were not right next to a neighbor’s RV. The propane fridge/freezer eliminated electrical power draw to keep the food cold, which allowed for plenty of available electrical current without needing the generator running to charge electronics, which made the kids VERY happy.
One of the biggest challenges for the family when planning the trip were national and state park camping reservations. California has tremendous campsite demand and little campsite supply. The available campsites are immediately booked after their once-per-month release 6 months in advance.
While it was a “fun” challenge to learn the rules & strategies in order to get campsites, they discovered that the days when you used to spontaneously decide to head out and stay in the parks is over. As first-time family RVers, they did not feel comfortable depending on available boondocking sites in the parks’ vicinity.
If it were up to Erik, the next RV adventure would be to go to Alaska, somewhere near Anchorage, because while he loves the natural beauty of the wilderness, he could also be near the conveniences and places of interest in the city. Kate loved the California trip and would like to do it all over again. However, the kids report they really missed their beds and their dog, who stayed behind with a house sitter who sent regular pet updates and photos for the family during their travels.
Erik and Kate both loved being able to be on the move and taking their home with them everywhere they went. Erik really enjoyed the feeling of being on a road trip adventure.
Erik says, “It was pretty cool going to all those places in California over a span of 2 weeks. My space above the cab was cozy. It was nice having space to myself inside an RV.”
Kate chimes in, “We went to quite a few cool places & it was a lot of fun. I liked the small RV space and the small kitchen.”
As for Tom and Sue, their advice for families considering taking a first RV trip together is to stop worrying and DO IT!
“It was so much fun to plan the trip, and the US is very RV-friendly. As are many other countries!” The time together as a family was precious, and the journey was one the family will always remember fondly.