Taking the kids camping in the RV sounds like it should be fun and exciting. A family vacation. A summer trip with Grandma. Keep it simple for sweet memories. Complicate things and it can turn sour.
But, it hasn't always been that way.
My parents rented an eight-foot pickup camper when I was a kid. I was about nine years old. We took it on a family vacation from Minnesota to Oregon and back. There were six of us on this trip: my aunt and uncle, my parents, my teenage sister, and me. My mother, aunt, sister, and I rode in the camper. My mother cooked while we were going down the road. She made elaborate, full meals, involving multiple stove burners and the oven. I spent the entire trip worried she was going to catch the place on fire and that that would be the end of us.
Mother enjoyed orchestrating this trip so much that when we returned home, my parents bought a ten-foot pickup camper. As long as it was parked in our farmyard and I could use it as a playhouse, I was a happy camper.
But, we often took it to fishing lakes, to the county fair, or on other trips. Yes, we were camping together and making family memories. Sour memories.
What I remember about these excursions was the work involved and how complicated it all was. Packing and checking lists to make sure we had everything with us. Making menus and cooking for days ahead of time. Planning and coordinating the activities, to make sure every minute was filled with some scheduled activity.
Somewhere I'd gotten the idea that camping was supposed to be fun. But it wasn't this kid's idea of fun at all. It was all too hectic, too hurried, and too overdone. And besides, there were still beds to make (with square, hospital corners), dishes to do, and timetables to keep.
By the time I was old enough to make my own travel plans, RVing or camping was out of the question.
When you take kids camping or RVing, keep it simple. Make it a laid-back trip. Serve simple, easy to fix meals. Don't try to pack too much in, either materially or event wise.
How much more fun it would have been if we'd simply roasted hot-dogs. Or had bologna sandwiches and potato chips. Yes, it was the seventies, but what kid ever yearned for a meal of molded lime Jello with artfully arranged pears slices, dainty ham roll-ups with mushroom sauce, and escalloped vegetable casseroles? My advice for camping with kids is to opt for one dish meals and go heavy on the finger foods.
Use sleeping bags. And, don't worry if a little sand gets inside them.
Keep scheduled activities to a minimum. Let the days unfold as they will. Kids camping don't need to have every minute programmed for them.
Leave plenty of time to relax. Watch whatever there is to watch -- clouds in the sky, birds in the trees, and ripples on the river. Take time to be outside, to enjoy the great outdoors.
Keep it simple.
The kids you take camping will love you for it. They'll grow up looking forward to spending time RVing with you. And, they'll look forward to taking the next generation of children camping.
RVing with kids doesn't need to be -- in my opinion shouldn't be -- complicated.
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