Are you considering buying a camper or renting an RV for your next road trip vacation? I love the luxury of traveling in an RV! It’s less work than dragging out your tent gear and it’s more comfortable in terms of space and living. Let me help you learn more about RV camping and what you will need when you are camping with kids!
PLUS I designed a printable checklist for RV camping (works for camper camping too!) at the bottom of this post to help you stay organized and have everything you need for camping with kids! Not sure you’re ready to buy your own camper? There are loads of places you can rent campers for vacations and even rent airBNB trailers just to get the feel!
If you google “family camping” or “RV camping with kids”, you’ll find an outstanding overwhelming amount of ideas – everything from luxury glamping to wildly outrageous million dollar floating campers – none of which you are probably looking for if you’re beginner campers!
Although you may worry about keeping your kids “busy” while camping, generally kids are easily entertained in nature once they realize they have nothing else (ie – electronics) to distract them! Plus when you’re camping in an RV you have the luxury of a little bit more space than tent camping!
Aside from hiking, fishing, finding new friends to play with at the campground, geocaching, biking, etc., below are some simple outdoor games for kids to play while camping.
Simple Outdoor Games to Play While Camping:
- hide & seek
- scavenger hunts
- tic tac toe (with pinecones, rocks or sticks!)
- bring a frisbee, ball, etc.
- pick up sticks
What to Bring While Camping with Kids:
So what do you actually need in order to go camping? Camping in an RV comes with some different requirements than tent camping, but just like tent camping you’ll find luxury items vs. items you actually need. At the bottom of this post I’ve got a printable checklist for camping that will help guide you while packing.
Let’s talk about each “section” of camping gear you will want to consider.
RV / Travel Trailer Care:
There are a millions things you COULD bring with you, but below are some of the absolute basic things you’ll need for RV care on the road.
- Sewer Hose Pipes
- Extension Cord
- Water Hose AND Water Filter
- Water Pressure Regulator
- 1 ply RV safe toilet paper
- Leveling blocks
- Duct Tape and/or Flex Seal
- Zip ties
- Power Adaptor
- Sway Bar + Stabilizer
- Normal basic tools + flat tire care
- Outdoor rugs
- String lights
- Camper lock
- Screen/vinyl repair kits
- Portable poop tank
RV Sleeping Gear:
- Sleeping bags and/or bed sheets (see below)
- Recommended – waterproof mattress pads
- optional – blankets
I can’t understate the luxury of not needing to sleep on the floor or hand pumping air mattresses when you have an RV! Sleeping in an RV where your bed doesn’t move or need to be set up is SO nice! I find that I get excited about a comfortable night’s sleep and go a little overboard on extra blankets and comforters though!
The bedding you will need in an RV will be dependent on the type of bed you are sleeping in. You will mostly be needing regular bed sheets for any mattress style bed you are sleeping on. If you are sleeping in a loft, on a couch, or on a fold down kitchen table you may need sleeping bags instead. I also find that I appreciate having some additional blankets to snuggle in if the weather is chilly but unnecessary for hot weather.
TIP – Invest in waterproof mattress pads for your camper mattresses! It will protect them from any food/drink spills, potty accidents, or camper leaks when it rains! This makes it cheaper and easier to care for camper mattresses instead of needing to replace them!
RV Kitchen Gear:
One of my favorite parts of having an RV or camper is not needing to tote around kitchen gear in my car! It’s such a big space saver to be able to store it all in the RV! This may vary some depending on the type of camper or RV you will be using of course. And if you don’t want to cook in your RV you can use the campfire to cook your meals!
If your RV does not have a stove I highly recommend this portable camping grill and this double electric hot plate. We have also (when space allows) brought along our Instant pot or slow cooker depending on the electric hookups.
Coffee is another important thing to discuss for those wonderful lazy mornings at the campsite! We bought a travel coffee Press machine (mini Keurig machines are perfect for RVs!) but have also tried Instant Coffee (my least favorite) as well as a small tea kettle for coffee bags.
Pros vs. Cons of Cooking over the Campfire:
- Campfires are AWESOME when camping!!
- Food takes longer to cook and needs to be monitored.
- Cast iron cookware can be expensive and HEAVY to pack.
- Firewood can add up in cost for every meal.
- Tough to cook and light a fire when it’s raining.
Pros vs. Cons of Using Portable Grills:
- Initial cost for the grill and continuing costs for propane tanks (about $6/small tanks).
- Packing space for grills & tanks.
- High wind can make it hard to keep your grill lit.
- Not always ideal in rainy weather or bad storms.
- Grill must stay cleaned in order to pack it in the car around everything else! (foil helps!)
Pros vs. Cons of Eating Out:
- Not as budget friendly.
- Restaurants may not be close by or open when you want to eat.
- You miss out on the camping experience!
- GREAT option for bad weather days when you can’t cook!
- Less food to pack = more space in the car!
We have never regretted bringing a well-packed cooler (or fridge!), especially when needing cold drinks! In fact we pre-freeze items that we won’t need for a day or two so that not only will the food last longer but it will also aid in keeping our cooler colder!
Typically when we are RV camping we bring one small cooler for drinks and hiking days away from the RV. A small snack sized cooler that goes in between the seats in the front for road trip lunches and drinks is perfect for our family of 5!
RV Space Saving Hacks & Tips:
The biggest hinderance to my packing is that I try to pack too much! Thankfully they make camping sized everything nowadays and there is no shortage of travel space saving hacks and ideas out there! Take advantage of any magnetic surfaces in your RV to add heavy duty magnetic hooks for hanging pots, spatulas, oven mitts, etc.
Velcro and/or Command Strips will also be your best friend! This is great for securing items while you are driving. You can add cutting boards onto walls and cabinets with velcro, hold soaps and toothbrush holders onto countertops, etc!
Consider investing in collapsible colanders, small dish drainers, portable clotheslines or hangers for the shower area (if you have a bath), caribiners for hanging anything and everything, etc. Hang a mesh bag for dirty laundry. Choose toiletry bags you can hang too.
Downsize cooking spices, soap bottles, cooking oil, shampoo bottles, etc into smaller containers before traveling.
RV Bath & First Aid:
- shampoo, conditioner, body wash
- toothbrush & toothpaste
- shower bag
- flip flops (for camp showers)
Above is the basic run down for our toiletries! It seems like a lot but it covers all of the basics. I do recommend a shower bag of some sort, that way you can hand your child the bag to head to the showers (if you’re not showering in your RV). It also allows them to hang their bag on a hook and not set it on a wet dirty floor. (We had too many times where we couldn’t juggle all the bottles with our clothes and dropped everything!)
I also HIGHLY recommend a pair of flip flops in your shower gear for each person when using campground showers – just a cheap $1 pair will do! Some of the showers you’ll come across are not nearly as clean as you might light them to be!
Lastly, let’s talk towels! They are the bane of my existence when we go camping because they take up SO MUCH ROOM and take a long time to dry! We ended up splurging on some nice microfiber camping towels that are paper thin but get the job done because they don’t take up much room AND they dry quickly which is a HUGE benefit! You can buy them on Amazon. (They’re also easy to hand wash and dry if needed on long trips.)
First Aid & Safety:
First aid and safety are a MUST for any camper. Do NOT skimp on your first aid kit!! It doesn’t need to be gigantic but it needs to be well thought out and well stocked. Things like burn creme, anti-itch creme, bandages, antibiotic ointment, bug spray, gauze, tweezers, scissors, gallons of water, a pocket knife, Life Straw, whistle, compass …..these are just the minimal items to bring!
Shoes & Clothes:
I debated adding this in here but here are a few things I would have liked to known before my first camping trip.
- ALWAYS bring empty garbage bags – at least 6-10. Not only can these be used for holding trash in the car while snacking on the road AND for trash at the campground, but it is PERFECT for wet muddy clothes, toys, etc. It’s also good for covering dirty spatulas or tools you don’t have time or ability to clean.
- Have a second pair of shoes for EVERYONE! In fact on occasion we have 3 pairs each – which sounds overly excessive but hear me out. Everyone gets a cheap pair of flip flops to wear in the showers (trust me!), we each have a pair of water shoes we are comfortable using in rocky lakes (sometimes its just the shower flip flops!), and everyone has a good pair of hiking shoes. Many times our hiking shoes get wet in the rain or our feet are wet at the beach and we don’t want to put them in our hiking shoes!
- Buy a mesh laundry bag for dirty clothes. On our first camping trip we quickly realized as we were taking dirty clothes off that we had no place to put them!! It was a funny mess because we had to end up just throwing them loosely in the car and they were falling out everywhere. Now we know better and have a simple mesh bag that all dirty clothes get thrown into. We just hang it on a hook in the car or over the back seat headrest so everyone knows where it is.
Staying organized in an RV as opposed to a tent is a completely different ballpark. The BIGGEST space hog in your RV will probably be your clothes (unless you’re in a large RV with drawer systems).
Baskets – I use small baskets for a LOT of things in our camper. Wicker is pretty and holds up well but is more difficult to use velcro if fastening to a countertop. Plastic containers are easier to break but also easier to clean. Baskets are perfect for piling toiletries, keeping cleaning supplies together underneath sinks, etc. When you’re packing the RV to go on the road it’s very easy to grab the basket and toss it under a sink or place it on the floor in the bathroom to keep everything from rolling around.
Clothes – You might have to get a little creative for storing clothes while camping in a camper depending on the size you have. Obviously utilize any drawer space or cubby holes you have. You can also consider tiny “one day” duffles to stay in the camper for quick clothes access. You may opt to keep your clothes separated by bags or drawers in your vehicle too.
For small kids you can roll their clothes into a door organizer to hang up inside the camper.
Wet clothes we always store/hang in the shower or outside depending on the weather.
Toiletries – If you’re opting for showers at the campground instead of the camper I have a “girl” bag and a “boy” bag since we typically can’t ALL share the same bathroom at the campgrounds. The boys have their own toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant etc. and the girls have their own bag. That way when we go to the bathrooms we can just grab one bag per bathroom and share.
Kitchen gear and cooking stuff – I like to use small containers to hold campfire related things (lighters, color change packets, etc.) Keep all of your paper plates/napkins/silverware in one spot in a container or gallon ziploc bag.
Fun Stuff & Extras:
Here are some simple fun “extras” you might consider if you’d like to stay well stocked and prepared for your upcoming camping trip. Consider:
- empty ziploc bags for leftovers, rocks/shells, keeping electronics dry, etc.
- blank notebooks for pressing flowers or journaling adventures
- mess-free art supplies
- magnetic games, travel toys, dress up, balls/frisbees, etc.
- small hand-held electronics that do NOT need internet/network
- kid-friendly camera for documenting their experience
- one small backpack for each child to fill to keep them busy