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Mendo Lake Family Life

Lessons Learned While Traveling in an RV with 3 Kids

By Jessica Guerrieri

In an attempt to travel safely during the pandemic, we rented an RV. I picked a campsite an hour away, where my husband and I could take our daughters—a school-aged child, a preschooler, and a toddler—to experience the great outdoors.

The kids loved the RV right away. Seventy percent of childhood pleasures seems to consist of elevated or confined spaces. So it’s no surprise that the older girls adored the rig’s bunk beds, and the storage containers, which they used as secret hideouts.

There was even an indication that toddler Josephine’s older sisters were including her in their girl gang: “This is Josephine’s first vacation in our family,” my four-year-old said to me before we left. Wow, you finally accept your little sister, I thought, letting her words trickle through me like a hug.

But warm, fuzzy mom-feelings aside, my “fun” barometer definitely had to be auto-tuned. It’s just a fact that everything about traveling with young children requires lowering expectations. Moms always spend more time prepping and unpacking than enjoying themselves. The sheer volume of stuff required for a family trip of any kind is ridiculous. If you’re like me, the laundry machine runs for 48 hours nonstop before and after any venture. And then there are the inevitable obstacles—in our case, four items we forgot to pack, three major inconveniences, two meltdowns per child, and one unexpected detour.

When it became clear that I was going to be lucky to get five hours of sleep, it was only natural that I asked myself what I was trying to get out of this “vacation.”

It wasn’t R&R. The chance for that was lost when I, screaming kids in tow, had to help my husband back the RV up a hill into a camp spot situated between two huge trees. (I’ve officially unfriended RVs.)

It wasn’t to sleep well. That became clear at midnight when we were playing a losing game of musical beds during which I was trying to co-sleep with a 16-month-old who had never co-slept before.

It wasn’t to increase my squat and hover strength or brush up on entomology. Though those skills were surely challenged when we tried to hook up the RV to a water line and were treated to liquid running all over the floor. Off to the open-air bathrooms we went, and there, mid-hover, I happened upon a bug that was the size of my foot (please keep in mind I wear a size 12).

Then around 16 hours in, it hit me.

I was sitting on the beach letting Josephine cover my legs with rocks (the closest thing I’ve had to a pedicure in 120 days) and watching my husband and two older girls gleefully splash in the reservoir when I became aware that it all felt exactly right.

The effort, coordination, worry, money, and sleeplessness had absolutely nothing on that feeling. It’s those kinds of moments—the ones that become memories that we can call up in the darkness—that we are here for. Experiencing them is just a matter of traveling out of our comfort zones and letting the meaningful minutes speak louder than the challenging ones.

Find Jessica Guerrieri at and on Instagram @witandspitup.