After more than a year of no travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided that it was time for my family to bust out of Kansas for a real vacation. I had a long list of criteria, the first of which was to plan a trip that would be pandemic friendly. I also wanted to maximize family togetherness and check off a few items on my bucket list.
Having done my research, I happily announced to my family that we would be renting an RV and traveling across the country to the Grand Canyon. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Both kids immediately started groaning and complaining about being on the road without WiFi. I told them that this was a great opportunity for us to spend some real time together to which my husband noted that all we have done for the last year is spend time together. He may have had a point, but there was no turning back. In the words of Clark Griswold, “This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”
RV Vacation Preparation
We rented a large RV from Cruise America in Lee’s Summit that is made to house seven people comfortably. I was impressed with how spacious and clean the RV was—although I sanitized everything twice. The rental company provided a checklist of supplies, and I made sure that we packed everything but the kitchen sink (the RV already has one of those).
We planned some RV friendly meals. Luckily, we did some research and were advised to keep meals simple. We brought a portable grill and stuck to hot dogs, lots of snacks, and anything that could be made in the microwave. We also brought a quesadilla maker and a smoothie blender that both paid off big time. There is lots of storage, and I’m pretty sure I filled more cabinets with food than I did with clothes—more on that later.
Hitting the Road
On departure day, I was giddy with excitement. I had been on an RV trip when I was 10 years old (the same age as my son), and I have fond memories of that trip. I was sure my kids would have the time of their lives!
I brought board games, advanced coloring books, and even had family friendly podcasts picked out for us to bond over. However, I didn’t realize two very important aspects of RV life that I want to caution you about: RVs can be very, very loud, and most of the time we were shouting at each other. Also, the RV rocks and rolls… a lot. One of the games we love to play is Clue, but after about 10 minutes, we finally gave up because the pieces and cards slid around everywhere.
Setting Up Camp
We drove seven hours the first day and pulled into our campground in Guymon, Oklahoma. You can book many different types of campsites, but I always booked a site that provided hookups for your electrical, water, and sewer. I also chose pull-through sites so that we could do as little backing up as possible.
I was nervous to set up and prepared myself for the inevitable: an inaugural fight with my husband about all the complications. However, by the time I had barely taken a few deep breaths, my husband and son informed me that we were all hooked up! It actually is that simple. You plug into an electrical outlet at your campsite and connect a hose from the RV to the water source, and the sewer hose runs into a pipe in the ground.
We took a walk around the campground to stretch our legs, and then my son and husband got busy setting up the grill. My daughter got busy hooking her phone up to the free WiFi. No sooner than the hot dogs were laid on the grill, a vicious storm blew in with wind, rain, and dropping temperatures. It was neat to watch the storm roll in until my daughter mentioned that she wondered where we would go if there was a tornado? Another lesson learned: bad weather while in an RV isn’t so great.
We survived dinner and the storm, and we ended the night with my husband teaching all of us how to play card games like In-Between and Texas Hold ‘Em. We could play card games anytime we want at home, but we don’t. My forced family-time was starting to work its magic.
The Best Laid Plans
The next day we took our time getting up, and showered in the campground bathhouse. This took my husband and me back to our dorm days, and the kids thought it was cool. I highly recommend using the showers at the campgrounds when you can.
We made our way to the Petrified Forest National Park through a snowstorm. In an RV. This was not planned, and I should note that we had one sweatshirt each, and my daughter’s only shoes were Birkenstocks. The park had a delayed opening due to weather, so we waited in the parking lot. Luckily, being in an RV really helped during unexpected delays. We threw on the generator, made some quesadillas, and played more cards.
We toured the Petrified Forest briefly when it opened, but hiking was out of the question. I contemplated making hot chocolate for everyone, but decided it was too much work. (The charm of cooking in the RV wears off quickly. This was only Day 2.)
Royals in Training
We took in a Kansas City Royals Spring Training game in Surprise, Arizona, which was on my bucket list. Carlos Santana threw a baseball to my son, but it hit the top of the net and bounced back only to be picked up and put away by a Marlins player. This went over like a ton of bricks with me, but we still had fun. I was worried about taking the RV to a place where the parking situation was unknown, but we found people recognized the RV was rented thanks to the giant decals on the exterior, and they seemed to feel sorry for us.
Unfortunately, it was at this point in the trip that our campground reservations in Colorado were canceled due to a huge snowfall. We also learned that only one entrance was open at the Grand Canyon causing huge backups. Making it to the Grand Canyon could delay our arrival home by at least one day. Because you cannot rent or return an RV on Sundays or holidays, we would have had to pay for an additional two nights, adding a pretty big expense.
Because of all of these reasons, the Grand Canyon remains on my bucket list despite us going on a Grand Canyon adventure. I was crushed, but in true fashion, the rest of the family was not fazed by this at all.
Is RV-life For Everyone?
Overall, we had a great time on our RV trip. We did get to do what I wanted the most: spend quality family time together. One of my favorite parts of the day was waking up together in the RV, something that never happens at home. I also loved not having to drag our stuff into a hotel room every night.
I would definitely rent an RV again, but next time, I would leave my kids and husband at home.