Traveling with youngsters; organizing tips; selecting a coach for full-timing.Â
By Janet Groene, F47166
In this annual column, the spotlight is on children. Only a handful of RVers full-time with their kids, but many have their grandchildren, nieces, and nephews visit or take a trip with them at some time. Here are ideas for keeping children safe, happy, and involved.
- Pick up free tourist newspapers and magazines everywhere you see them (campground offices, retail businesses, restaurants) and cut out coupons for kids-eat-free promotions, early-bird specials, and two-for-one offers.
- I found a wealth of travel books for families with children at www.justforkids.com. Type “Activities” in the search line to bring up lists of books about destinations, activities to play on the go, and day hikes in different areas. Also see travel-with-kids books at www.openroadguides.com.
- Organize a campground potluck for families with kids. Focus less on food and more on fun. You might, for example, ask everyone to come in costume or bring an â€œinstrumentâ€ for the kitchen band (wooden spoon and a pot bottom to bang on; a washboard to scrape with a wire whisk; two pot lids to serve as cymbals; and any real instruments that can be rounded up). After dinner, have the band parade through the campground. Then come back for dessert.
- Go to www.koa.com and click on Family Zone for a bazillion great ideas for keeping kids interested in camping and the outdoors.
- Do your preteen girls or granddaughters follow the Beacon Street Girls (BSG) series? The first book in a new adventure series for the BSG team is Charlotte in Paris. For more information about this series, visit www.beaconstreetgirls.com.
- Spend next winter in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and fly in the grandchildren for a weeklong Kids in Nature (KIN) cruise aboard American Safari Cruises. The Safari Quest sails the Sea of Cortez, departing from Loreto, where there are several campgrounds as well as an international airport for your visitors. Kids are captivated. A professional naturalist is on board to lead all expeditions, give programs, answer questions, and play games that are so much fun, kids donâ€™t realize they are soaking up science lessons.
On board, youâ€™ll all watch for whales and dolphins. Other activities include snorkeling, exploring remote shores and villages, and visiting a sea lion sanctuary. All-inclusive rates cover cabins with a private bath and gourmet meals, an admissions passport to Mexicoâ€™s protected lands, shore excursions, educational materials, and more. Two kids under age 12 travel for the price of one adult.
Go to www.amsafari.com or call (888) 862-8881 for schedules of 2008 KIN trips. KIN cruises during the summer take in Alaska’s Inside Passage.
- Introduce children to the golden days of rail travel with a visit to the Berkshire Scenic Railway in Massachusetts. Take the train ride between Lenox and Stockbridge, visit the volunteer-run museum, and see a yard filled with railcars and engines. Call (413) 637-2210 or visit www.berkshirescenicrailroad.org to find out more.
- Take a three-hour nature cruise with Space Coast River Tours in Florida to see worlds of dolphins and sea birds and also giant ships at Port Canaveral, said to be the second-busiest port in the nation. Itâ€™s fun to go through the locks and be swept into placid lagoons that teem with life. For more information, call (321) 652-1052 or visit www.spacecoastwatertours.com.
- The Great Florida Birding Trail is now complete. This 2,000-mile system travels through 445 of the stateâ€™s best bird-watching and nature education areas. Go to www.visitflorida.com to discover more about the trail and things to do in the Sunshine State.
- Headed for the Adirondack Mountains this summer? New York state parks now are accessible to everyone, including those with wheelchairs, baby carriages, and strollers. John Dillon Park, for example, has three miles of trails, accessible fishing, and camping in lean-tos equipped with solar panels to recharge wheelchair batteries. Go to www.johndillonpark.org or the Adirondack Region Tourism Council at www.adk.com; (518-846-8016).
FULL-TIMER’S FORUM. This month we have replies to questions about maintaining and eliminating clutter in the coach, and what a person should look for when buying a full-timing motorhome.
How do folks control their clutter? Sharon Buenger admitted, â€œClutter is conquering me,â€ even though she does declutter regularly. Sharon keeps a basket in the bathroom to hold her current reading. Paper and notepads are kept in another basket near her desk. She hates to part with newspapers and magazines, so she clips articles about places she wants to visit and keeps them in a binder organized by state. â€œWhen we plan a trip for that state, all I have to do is pull these articles,â€ she said. Sharon and her husband, Mel, have found shoeboxes to be good storage places for DVDs. â€œItâ€™s a constant battle,â€ she said, â€œBut one good thing is that I have to find a place for everything every time we move the motorhome.â€
Jim and Karen Maynard are four-year full-timers who spend their summers working in Yellowstone National Park providing maintenance help. Jim is the locksmith, and Karen works in the stockroom and with computers. “Our biggest clutter problem is mail,â€ Karen admitted. â€œWe shred all credit card invitations, throw away most junk mail, and recycle catalogs.â€
Their magazine collection does build up, but Karen loves scrapbooking, so she goes through them for ideas and recipes. When she wants to save an entire article, she scans it into her computer. Extra magazines (with the Maynards’ address information removed) are left for others in laundry rooms and game rooms.
Peter and Connie Bradish report, â€œFor everything a place, and for every place a thing! We are lucky to have a coach with LOTS of interior cabinet space.â€ Each cabinet is assigned something and when itâ€™s full, something has to go. â€œWe had our coach weighed and we know we are not overweight,â€ Peter said. â€œSo we have a good idea of what we can and cannot carry.â€
Ken and Ann Sair kidded that one answer is to buy a bigger coach. â€œWhat we try to do â€” and the emphasis is on try â€” is to have a place for everything,â€ Ann said. â€œGroceries are put away as soon as we get home. Mail, which we get twice a month, is dealt with as soon as it is received. Once magazines are read they are disposed.
â€œWe love to go to craft shows and street fairs,â€ she said. â€œHaving no room for ‘stuff’ really saves us a lot of money. As for clothing, we donate the old when we buy something new.â€ She wonâ€™t cook any dish that requires equipment she doesnâ€™t already have. Their towed vehicle serves as a storage compartment and it, too, must be decluttered often.
Rich Miller said the first step in conquering clutter is to develop a routine pattern of putting things in their place, then to organize them accordingly. â€œMake maximum use of storage space,â€ Rich said, â€œand look for spaces, such as under the couch, to store items that are rarely used.â€ He uses plastic bins in different shapes and sizes to divide storage areas and labels them for easy viewing.
He also believes in buying specialty storage devices when appropriate, such as a water hose reel, a drawstring bag to corral leveling blocks, tubes to hold fishing rods, a multi-compartment toolbox for sewing supplies, and so on.
What advice do you have for those who are shopping for their first full-timer coach? Al and Doris Sutherland said the first step is to make certain the coach has the payload you need. â€œFull-timers carry more than weekenders and vacationers,â€ they observed. â€œOverloading a coach leads to reduced safety and increased repair and maintenance problems.” Second, they said to look at the layout, the motorhome’s amenities, and whether there is enough living space and cabinet and basement storage with easy access. Is the headroom adequate for you and your friends? Where will you sit to watch TV? Are the windows and vent placements right for fresh air, especially in the bedroom?
Can you live with the decor over the long term? Where will the computer go? If youâ€™ll be boondocking, do the unit’s holding tanks have adequate capacity, and can the generator/inverter/batteries sustain a long stay without shore power? Does the coach have solar panels? Does it drive well, with controls and gauges that are easy to see and use? How hard is it to do routine maintenance on this unit, such as checking fluid levels and changing filters? Bottom line: do you like the coach?
HOW THE FULL-TIMERâ€™S FORUM WORKS. A question is posted each month in this column. Answers are welcome from all full-timers who would like to participate. E-mail your replies to email@example.com, including your family membership number, if you like (or ask to be anonymous). A consensus of answers will appear in future columns.
THIS MONTHâ€™S QUESTION: Please share anecdotes, firsthand experiences, and tips on traveling in the motorhome with children or grandchildren. Be specific about problem-solving, helpful games and books, meals they loved, how you advised their parents to pack kidsâ€™ things for a motorhome trip, and any other suggestions and advice.