A travel trailer can be a game changer for going on a road trip with kids. Having a camper to take on vacation can make life easier, vacations with kids more enjoyable, and really streamline life away from home. Is a travel trailer right for your family? This post will go into the nitty gritty of the benefits of a travel trailer for families, highlighting the pros and cons of a travel trailer to make the decision is investing in one is the right decision for your family.
I knew road trips would be a big part of our family soon after meeting Alex. Our first vacation together was a last minute trip to the Outer Banks, an 8 hour drive we started at 3 am because we were young and stupid and why not? When I was 8 weeks pregnant with Ryan, we drove 24 hours (straight!) to Austin literally to get barbecue. We’ve done that same drive with the boys (catch that recap here and here), a drive to Orlando for a Disney trip, and a drive to Nashville before Owen turned 2. We fully plan on showing the boys the continental US before even attempting a plane ride.
Before our most recent trip to Nashville, we finally bit the bullet and invested in our family’s passion and bought a travel trailer. It’s something we’d been talking about for years – both Alex and I grew up having vacation at family campgrounds. His family had an RV and mine had an old school pop up camper and I can HANDS DOWN attest that I had the most memorable childhood vacations. Knowing that we wanted to take many road trips as a family, it was an easy decision to make.
But deciding if a travel trailer for vacations is the right fit for your family can be difficult – it’s obviously an investment and will probably change the direction and feel of your family vacations. If you’re thinking of purchasing a travel trailer or camper for family road trip with kids, make sure you check out my list of benefits of travel trailers before you do so to learn the pros and cons.
Should your family get a travel trailer for a road trip with kids?
The Pros of a travel trailer for a road trip with kids
There are tons of pluses for having a travel trailer in the family. Read on to learn all of the benefits of travel trailers that I quickly realized after we got ours!
The number reason we got the trailer was because the vacation before we bought it (to Disney) Ryan was terribly home sick every night. He ended up having to fall asleep in bed with us every night which to say the least was no fun. My favorite part of having a travel trailer is how much it helps with homesickness. Kind will learn to love the trailer and it becomes comfortable to them. We have specific toys we keep in the trailer, Ryan knows where he’ll be going to sleep every night, etc, so I think that consistency helps a lot with attitude problems and homesickness.
You know how you come home from vacation and seriously just want to eat real food? We love that we can make and eat a meal in the trailer as needed. This means we can a. save money and do more fun things and b. have a few healthy meals made ourselves instead of eating out non stop. Alex and I aren’t huge breakfast people, so it also helps that we can serve the kids breakfast (and not just dry cereal or granola bars) without having to go out. Access to a fridge for healthy snacks and fresh produce (and leftovers, tbh) is also a plus.
Travelling to your destination
Going on a long road trip with kids? A travel trailer is PERFECT for this. It takes a bit of planning (you’ll need to find somewhere that will allow you to park overnight or that have a big enough parking lot, but many places allow it!) but it’s so worth it. When we drove to Nashville, we left at night, drove about 5 hours and spent the night in a Camping World parking lot to sleep and then eat breakfast. We were then refreshed, got a chunk of driving done, and were able to get to Nashville with minimal stops and very little complaining from the boys.
Travel trailers also make stopping for meals easier. If you’ve ever done a long road trip with kids, you’ve probably counted on meal stops to be the break from the car you need to get by without much complaining. The problem is that chances are, your kids will still be stuck sitting to eat. And if your kids are like mine, the non stop sitting will just make every and any meal totally painful.
If you have a travel trailer or camper, you can just find a place to park and make a quick meal. (or find a parking lot big enough and close to a spot to grab take out!) You can then spend an hour getting bathroom breaks done and running in circles to wear littles out.
I can’t stand having to pack and fit everything into suitcases or whatever. When you have a travel trailer, you have the ability to ‘pack’ it ahead of time, putting clothes away ahead of time before you leave. Bonus: you won’t leave your favorite pair of shoes in a hotel! This also means you can pack more and not have to rely on grabbing things while you’re there – like snacks and food.
You can’t beat the comfort level of spending a vacation in a trailer. No, there might not be a maid coming in to clean up after you, the bathroom might not be luxurious and full of freebies, the towels might not be any fluffier than the ones at home, but it’s a place you know. There’s no walking through hallways past strangers, no vacuums going next store while your kid naps, no questionable beds and bedding. It’s like bringing a small piece of your home with you to fun, new places. And like I mentioned in the homesickness pro – this is seriously so valuable when you have kids! Having a comfortable place to call ‘home’ can really make or break a vacation in terms of attitudes for kids.
On the same page as avoiding homesickness, it really helps to have a familiar place to call your ‘base’ when on vacation. It’s great to have a place to go if plans don’t pan out – when we were in Nashville, literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and it was nice to have the comfy trailer full of our own stuff to just hang out and regroup. It’s also great if you have kids who need to nap – in our trailer, we were able to take out one of the bottom bunks and put in a pack an play. there is a curtain separating the main living area from the bunk room, so it was nice to have a reliable spot to go to for Owen to nap AND a place for Ryan to play. In the past we relied on car naps since a hotel room isn’t ideal for getting a kid to nap, especially if everyone else is awake.
The Cons of a travel trailer for a road trip with kids
Obviously having a travel trailer for road trip with kids isn’t all puppies and rainbows – there are a few downsides that you need to consider before investing.
The main downside to a travel trailer is there is a cost associated. You’ll need to purchase one (or rent one, but if you’re planning on going far, the cost per mile can get pricey!) which is an upfront cost. We financed ours, but it’s still a payment we make monthly. But when balanced against the cost of hotel rooms, it’s worth it for us.
This was probably my biggest turn off when we were talking about getting a travel trailer. Who wants to go on vacation and clean, right? As a mom, it kind of stinks to have to clean while on vacation. If you’re the kind of vacationer that wants to ignore all cleaning responsibilities for a week or two – a travel trailer might not be a great choice for you.
While the maintenance isn’t as intensive as it is in an RV or something similar, there is basic maintenance that can take time, energy, and money. From tires to winterizing to general repairs, a travel trailer will require some form of maintenance.
On our first travel trailer vacation, I remember Alex saying he wasn’t sure how people who didn’t have basic knowledge of how the mechanics of these things works does it. Remember that you need a truck or SUV with the ability to tow the trailer – there is a bit of a learning curve for how to operate the trailer, how to hook it up, how to get the water working, etc.
Vacation mode in a trailer is definitely a different vibe that on a resort or in a hotel room. It’s more of a mobile home vibe. We don’t mind – in fact, part of the reason we went in this direction was because Ryan was getting homesick in a hotel – but it’s something to keep in mind.
So there you have it – the full pros and cons of a travel trailer for a road trip with kids. As an owner of a family travel trailer, I personally think that the pros well outweigh the cons, but I’d love to know – would you get a travel trailer or camper for a road trip with kids? What kind of questions do you have for taking a road trip with kids? Let me know in the comments!