There is something to be said for a vacation in an RV.
When you have your accommodation with you, there is no need to pack and unpack at every destination, or wonder what the next hotel room is going to be like. Having the same bed night after night can add some stability for younger children, without sacrificing the desire to travel and see new things. They are called ‘mobile homes’ for a reason, and making your home on the road is a great option for families who want to see and do a little more than the main centres. However, not all RVs are created equal, so it pays to do a little research to find what will suit your family best.
There are essentially three main categories of RV: Class A are buses, Class B and C cover motorhomes from campervans up to housetrucks, and the third group is trailers – both ‘Fifth Wheel’ and caravans or travel trailers.
While they are often some of the largest, Class A campers are not usually set up for families per se. You can find buses with bunk beds or secondary bedrooms, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most buses are built around space and convenience for a couple, with perhaps space for guests or a grandchild. They are usually less than ideal for longer term travel with a family, as the children’s beds will be part of the living space and constantly need packing down or setting up. That said, they offer a great deal of room and convenience, and are fully self contained, which is a big plus if the weather turns bad.
While it wouldn’t be impossible to have a family vacation in a Class B campervan, these again would be best kept for short trips. Although they can boast six or seven beds – or more! – through clever design, the arrangements in such a small vehicle make any kind of indoor activity almost impossible once someone goes to bed. They are better suited to outdoor living and short hauls.
Their larger cousins, Class C or housetrucks, are a little more family friendly. With a single or double bed-space usually overhanging the cab, these vehicles can offer greater separation of living and sleeping areas, making family living more manageable. Larger Class Cs may boast entirely separate bedrooms, and it’s not uncommon to find models with one or two bunk beds for larger families. Again, as a self contained vehicle they are great when the weather isn’t cooperating, allowing you to stop and stay without having to brave the elements. Anything from a medium rig upwards will be fully self contained too, meaning you don’t have to miss any of the comforts of home.
Within the trailer sector, there are a number of factors that differentiate the various RVs. You can find just about any floorplan if you look long enough, and the variety of options is staggering, but a few basics hold true. Fifth wheel trailers are generally larger than the caravan or travel trailer versions, offering more storage and indoor space. Travel trailers, by contrast, are a little more lightweight, meaning you can get away with a slightly smaller tow vehicle. Also, without the fifth wheel hitch, caravan-style trailers can be towed by vans and SUVs, as well as traditional pickups. Both versions can house bunks or separated bedrooms, and are well suited to families living on the road. Either one can also have a ‘toy hauler’ configuration, with a large rear cabin for motorbikes, jetskis and the like. We saw one where the ‘garage’ space had been converted to a woodworking and sewing workshop for a retired couple who loved their craft work! The one down-side to trailers though is the need to transition from the tow vehicle to the trailer when you stop, and they can require a little more setup than their motorised cousins.
Regardless of the style of vehicle you choose, you have to keep in mind your family and the type of vacation you plan to take. If you are expecting a lot of outdoor living, consider a vehicle with an outdoor shower, built in barbecue and decent awning. If you have difficult sleepers, or want to be able to entertain friends when the kids are in bed, pay close attention to the layout of bedrooms and living spaces. Keep in mind that often the number of beds listed for an RV includes converting sofas and dinettes, which are less than ideal for vacations where you will want those spaces during the day. Make sure there are enough fixed beds or that you are happy to make and unmake them as needed. If you want the freedom of leaving the RV and making short trips to attractions or into town, you need to weigh up the value of having a vehicle you can detach, or, with Class A and C, needing a tow-behind runabout.
Vacations in an RV can create amazing lifelong memories. They offer flexibility and freedom that is hard to beat, and let you get a real feel for the places you visit. Nothing beats stepping out your front door to the beauty of the wilderness – and knowing it will be an entirely different landscape again tomorrow.