Packing for a long trip with a family is an artform. While a weekend away is simple enough, and even a short trip can be managed in a couple of suitcases, when you are anticipating being on the road for months, the rules change. What you might consider for a short jaunt may not suffice, but where do you draw the line?
Just because you are going for longer, it doesn’t mean you are going to want to pack a great deal. In fact, in the limited space of an RV you aren’t going to have huge wardrobes for storage so you will want to limit the amount of clothes you take. Think quality over quantity, and consider the environments you are anticipating spending time in. There’s little point packing a down parka if you plan to spend a month at the beach!
You will likely have some items that you want to keep for special occasions, and these will be more bulky or require more attention. However, for day to day, keep it as simple and low maintenance as possible. If you are travelling long-term, washing clothes can be done regularly at laundromats or in RV park laundries. RV washing machines do exist, and it is possible to get hand-cranked versions for use in smaller RVs, but all of these use water which needs to be stored and disposed of, so bear in mind your camping plans and the availability of facilities like grey water dumping before you plan to use them.
RV travel means you will need to consider a number of other factors. You possibly won’t have access to a full oven. Bench space will be limited, and you may have no more than a microwave oven and/or a cooktop. There are one or two appliances though that will help with meal preparation, if you have an electrical power source.
Consider investing in an electric frypan. These are remarkably versatile, and can be used to cook a variety of dishes. Because they have their own heating element, you can use the cooktop to prepare side dishes, and ensure your entire meal is ready at the same time. Likewise, if you have a little more space, a slow cooker can prepare anything from soup to a roast and is very easy to use. These do require some time though, so are best suited to days where you aren’t travelling for long, or at all. Another option is to leave the meal to cook overnight, store the food in the refrigerator and simply reheat it the following evening.
If you are vacationing over summer, of course you should make use of outdoor cooking opportunities. At camping grounds there may be communal barbecues to use, or alternately some RVs have them built in. Not only do they make meals simpler, barbecues are a very social way to prepare food, and cooking outdoors means you won’t have to miss out on the long hot days.
When it comes to meals, you may want to reconsider your regular menu too. Fancy or complex meals will be a challenge to prepare, and unless you love being in the kitchen they will eat into your vacation time. Before you leave on your trip, create a collection of recipes that you know you will be able to prepare easily on the road. Meals that can be prepared in one saucepan are great for this. If you are able to fit these recipes into a small notebook or have them in a digital format, this will again keep the weight down and make things simpler as dinner rolls around. Another option is to purchase pre-prepared meals (just add water!) which are very easy and light to pack. You could also eat fresh foods like salads, filled rolls and so on that take minimal preparation. One of our favourite meals when travelling long-term is to buy a cooked chicken from a supermarket or deli and a bag of bread rolls. Add a salad and garnishes to taste and you have a quick, healthy meal for the whole family.
Where you do need small appliances, try to think about the facilities you will have available. A small rechargeable dustbuster is going to serve you better than a full sized vacuum cleaner, taking less space and not being reliant on mains electricity. While some of us don’t function so well without our morning coffee, an espresso maker is quite a bulky piece of equipment with pretty limited use. Instead, a small electric or gas kettle and a plunger, or a stovetop coffee pot will give you a satisfying start to the day with a lot less fuss and in a smaller package. As with everything when you are preparing for a vacation, stop and ask yourself if you really need this or if it falls into the category of ‘it would be nice to have, but…’ If it’s the latter, put it aside and reconsider if there is space once the essentials are accounted for.
RV vacations really are great. They allow you to have a home away from home, and free you from the chore of constantly packing and unpacking bags while still letting you explore different places as often as you like. If you pack wisely they are as comfortable and convenient as any other vacation option – maybe even more so.