As we head into fall, it’s time to start planning your fall travels, as well as your holiday adventures. No matter when you plan to travel, the fun starts not when you leave home, but when you begin the planning process. Why not let your kids in on the fun by letting them in on the road trip planning this time?
Letting your kids plan your road trip may sound crazy, but when done right, it’s actually a fantastic way to get them excited about your upcoming adventures. On top of that, road trip planning presents some fantastic learning opportunities. Your little travelers will have a chance to learn about budgeting, get a better grasp on geography, and practice time management.
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Before You Begin
Before you get started, it’s important that you give your kids the tools they need to be successful. A map is a good idea, and supervised access to the internet may be necessary. You’ll also want to set a trip budget.
Setting a Budget
When setting your budget, be sure to consider everything. Include gas, campsite fees, RV rental fees, attraction admission costs, and food in the budget. Break the total number down into categories and let the kids know how much they have to spend on each thing. This will set some solid limits and help them plan the trip more successfully.
Choosing a Destination
Once you have a budget set and the right tools gathered, the next step is to choose a destination. If your family doesn’t already have a destination in mind, there are a couple of ways you can go about handing this task over to the kids while still ensuring the end result makes sense for your family:
Give a Mile Range
One option is to tell the kids how many miles your gas budget and vacation time will allow you to travel. Show them what that looks like on a map and allow them to figure out which city, national park, or other attraction/landmark they might want to visit in that radius.
…or Offer Options
Alternatively, you could create a list of 3–5 options of places to go and let the kids choose from there. If you have more than one kid, you might have to take a vote or have the kids take turns picking a destination each time you take a trip.
Not sure what options to offer? These fall camping destinations are fantastic!
Picking an RV and a Campground
With a destination chosen, the next step is picking an RV to stay in and a campground to park it at. This is another task that the kids will be able to help with, and they will likely love having a say in where you stay.
You should have a budget set already by this point, but you’ll also want to set other parameters to go with it.
For instance, you might require a campground that offers full hookups, or one that is close to the attractions you will be visiting. On the other hand, you might need a driveable RV specifically, or you might need one that you can tow with the vehicle you own already. You’ll also want to consider the number of sleeping spaces your family requires.
Figure out what your needs are and let the kids know these up front, before they start looking at the options.
Think About Amenities
Next, allow your young adventurers to set some limits of their own. Ask them which amenities are most important to them and include those things in the list of campground and RV wants and needs. In some cases, you’ll even be able to include these wants in your searches.
Some examples of amenities that might be important to the kids include:
- RV Wi-Fi
- Bunk beds
- Swimming pool
Really though, this list could include anything. Just remind your travel planners that if they have too many requirements, they may not be able to find something that works, so flexibility is key.
Look at RVs and Campgrounds Together
Once you have a list of requirements together, have your kids sit down with you to browse the available rental RVs and campgrounds that meet those needs.
Give them a chance to have fun considering the various floor plans and amenities, and allow them to choose whichever rig and campsite they like, as long as it suits the family’s needs and falls within your budget. These may or may not be the same choices you would personally make, but that’s what makes this a fun adventure for everyone!
Note: Remind the kids that if they stay under the gas, RV, and/or campground budget, that money can be rolled over to be used on attractions and activities!
Deciding What to See and Do
Now for the most fun part of road trip planning: deciding what to see and do. If you can, gather brochures of the options in the area you’ll be visiting. You can also search the internet for attractions and sights that are worth seeing in the place you’ll be visiting.
The kids are sure to have an amazing time deciding how to use their fun budget to make this the best camping trip ever!
Look for Inexpensive Options
If your budget is on the smaller side, let your young travel planners know that they can save a lot of money by looking for free and inexpensive attractions and activities. Most towns have a library with free events, and free festivals happen all across the country. Your membership to your local museum or zoo may offer reciprocal benefits (giving you free entry to other museums and zoos), and many outdoor activities are totally free.
Check Along the Route
Another thing your kids will want to look at? Things to do along your travel route. No road trip is complete without a stop at a roadside attraction or two, so you will want to check to see what kinds of parks, museums, and landmarks you’ll come across in your travels and add them to the list of possibilities.
Consider Fun Eateries
While you’ll likely do some cooking at your campsite, eating out a few times during your trip can be fun as well. Encourage your kids to look at local eateries and choose which ones they think sound best based on reviews. You might allow them to choose one restaurant each to keep things fair.
Look for National Parks
One of our favorite things to do while traveling via RV is explore national parks. In some cases, the national park is the destination, but even if that isn’t the case for your trip, you may be able to day trip to one of these amazing places.
Some of the best national parks to visit during the fall season include:
- Congaree National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Big Bend National Park
- Zion National Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Acadia National Park
In the winter, we recommend:
- Everglades National Park
- Big Bend National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Saguaro National Park
- White Sands National Park
If your kids do choose to visit a national park, keep in mind the fact that fourth graders can receive a free national parks pass, making your visit 100% free!
Get Everyone’s Opinion
Once you’ve finished digging for options, make a list of the top contenders and then allow each family member to choose one or two things to do during your trip. This will ensure every child has a say in what you see and do, and it gives you (the parent) a chance to do something that sounds exciting to you.
In the end, you’ll have a diverse itinerary of fun activities that’ll fill your trip with excitement!
Having Fun around the Campground
Of course, you’ll also want to enjoy the campground itself and take part in some traditional camping activities. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to go about this, and many of them even add to the educational value of your RV adventure.
Fun Activity Ideas
Some of the best camping activities are the things you’ve always done while out camping. These include things like:
- Building campfires
- Making s’mores
That said, there are tons of more creative ways to have a good time around the campground. You might:
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt
- Go bird watching
- Play field games
- Have an outdoor movie night with a projector
- Do crafts using leaves, twigs, and other items from nature
Let your kids have fun thinking up ways to have an awesome time while in the campground and add all of their suggestions to a list so you can remember them when the time comes.
Create a Family Must-Do List
If you want to make sure everyone in the family gets to do their favorite camping activities, consider working together to make a camping must-do list. Let each family member add a certain number of activities to the list and then make a point of doing each and every one while out on your camping trip.
Any of the activities listed above could be added to such a list, but your family may have some great ideas of their own already!
Preparing for Your Trip
Last but not least, you have to get ready for your trip. This involves 1) making sure you have all of your plans together in one place and 2) ensuring you’ve packed everything you need. The kids can totally help with this!
Gather Important Documents
Documents related to your RV rental, campground reservation(s), and attraction tickets should be downloaded and kept in one place. Older kids should be able to take care of this, and it will be excellent practice for working with a computer. Have them print hard copies of everything as well, and give them the responsibility of keeping those hard copies in a folder together and pulling them out when needed.
Note: Be sure you have access to the saved digital copies just in case those hard copies go missing!
Build a Packing List
Sit down with your kids and create a packing list. Using this list as a foundation can be helpful, but have your mini travel planners add other things they deem important, such as outside toys, electronics, and board games. Make sure you also add equipment for any outdoor activities your family plans to enjoy during your getaway!
Once your family has created a list that suits their needs, work together to pack, showing your kids how to check items off as they’ve been packed into a bag.
Create a Meal Plan and Shopping List
Finally, you will need to make a plan for food. Talk with your little travelers about their favorite camping meals and allow each family member to pick a meal or two. Help the kids build a grocery list based on their choices, and then when the time comes, give them a chance to help make the meals they chose. This gives them a chance to practice cooking, budgeting, list-making, and often even a bit of math!
Road trip planning is a fun and educational activity that even the youngest campers in your family will enjoy. Be sure to allow the kids to help with the planning for your upcoming travels. We’re betting you’ll be thrilled with the adventures they take you on, and the kids are sure to feel accomplished after planning a successful getaway for the family!