An RV vacation lets you take part of your world with you while you immerse yourself in the new world of your destination. It's the best of both worlds -- even more so when you take a little home with you and start traditions for the special occasion of being together as a family on the open road. Here are some ideas for RV traditions that will increase anticipation and bonding.
Take a little home with you. New, foreign and different places are nice, but so is familiarity. Bring along a family photo -- preferably one of all of you in full vacation splendor. Start a collection of these and have your photo mementos of past trips on display in your RV. If it can be secured or will not fall over, a live plant also makes your rolling environment healthier and more inviting. And you can never go wrong throwing in a favorite afghan or blanket for cozying up with. A special little lamp from home or one that you use only on RV trips -- casting a homey light with a low-watt bulb -- will provide a nice atmosphere.
Make your camp festive. What says "This is our extremely happy home for the next however many days"? A string of colorful Chinese paper lanterns or Christmas lights? Striped canvas lawn chairs? A silly lawn troll? If you don't already have a certain something that has your family written all over it, decide on one or several items that will say to you and yours "relaxation" and "fun" and "home" whenever you see them.
Make the first night special. Maybe having a big spaghetti and garlic-bread dinner the first night sounds like a family tradition. If you're still in transit and don't want to cook, pizza always makes an evening. Regardless, the first night you actually make camp, get into your RV lifestyle with a special meal. Using the same menu for each trip will set the tone and proclaim your vacation officially off and running.
Keep a map of your travels. Post a map of the United States and mark your route with highlighter and your destinations with push pins, round sticky marks, paper stars or something suitable that will stand out and that works with the surface to which you'll affix the map. Choose a different color for each trip. This is a great way to teach your children geography, and it's an exciting thing to see your journeys plotted. Bring along an atlas that describes each state and its claims to fame, and read about your route as a family.
Take a family walk. One of the most wonderful ways to get your vacation juices going is to go for a walk. Declare the first full day at your destination as a family-walk day. Bring field guides to the region's wildlife and flowers and have a ball experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of this new place. Stretching your legs and getting your heart pumping and blood going after a lot of sitting and driving will feel great. Being outside as a family will feel even better.
Get into rocks. As you walk, pick up interesting rocks. Find out about the geology of the area from local residents, park rangers, the Internet, or guidebooks. Keep a couple favorite rocks and mark them with a taped label detailing the type of rock (if you can identify it), the place it was found, and the year you found it. Now you have a rock collection that can grow with each vacation. If you don't have a good geology book, get one that you and the kids will enjoy. When you get home, look into buying a rock-tumbling kit at a hobby store; if you tumble your finds to a shiny finish, they will be fit for display.
Have a family talk. At some point -- let spontaneity be your guide -- schedule in some quality family talk time. When you are all gathered together enfolded in the warmth created by kinship, you can find out about each other on the deep level allowed by your being away from your usual busy lives. What's important in each family member's life right now? In the intimacy created by your RV, you might be surprised at what you learn about the folks you live with 24-7.
Have plenty of family fun together. You're on vacation, so make the most of your time together. Experiment with different ideas to see what combination of activities strikes the right chord with your crowd. Those things that resonate with your family will become traditions. Here are a few ideas you might try:
- Set up a big cookout on the hibachi
- Declare one night Kids Cook night
- Have a fishing trip with a fish fry/boil
- Read a family classic together
- Eat by candlelight (maybe even bring table linens)
- Play Scrabble, Monopoly, chess, checkers, gin rummy or other games.
- Stage a chili-and-chips party
Whatever your family enjoys will steer you toward traditions.
Leave room for plenty of private moments. You can overdo togetherness. To ensure this doesn't happen, don't overbook yourselves with activities. If everyone has room to be in their own space -- and can do as he/she pleases at least part of every day -- the times you come together will be enhanced.
Make a family memory. Gather photos, found objects, and pictures your children drew and painted on your trip. When you get home, make a tradition of looking at the photos together as a family and putting them in an album or scrapbook with other mementos from your trip. Make sure you shoot a photo in front of and inside your faithful RV, at your campsite(s), and at memorable destinations throughout your trip. One of these images will be the shot you put on display with the others when you dust off the RV next year for another memorable road trip with your favorite open-road companions.