David and Dani took a break from life in Austria this year to travel North America in an old 1991 Rockwood RV. Along for the ride are their three kids, including two 3-year-old twin sisters and their youngest at just 11 months.
“Many firsts happened on the trip so far,” David shares. “Seeing awesome Cowgirls dominating an authentic Rodeo (South Dakota), feeling the massive power of the Niagara Falls (New York), sweating while hiking up Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), surrounding the out-of-space Devils Tower (Wyoming), and spotting the kids’ first bald eagle (Arkansas), smelt the rush of a Bison herd in Yellowstone NP (Wyoming).
And even more: our son walked his first step, our daughters rode on a real horse. Or even simpler ones: Getting a teddy bear present from locals, learning first English words, or riding a bear on the Great Northern Carousel.”
The family says they want to encourage others to start traveling and exploring the unknown. They shared their travel photos with Do It Yourself RV and answered a few questions to give us a better insight into their experience.
How long have you been traveling? Where do you plan on visiting in the future?
Our half-year sabbatical started in May and will end in November. We purchased the RV at the beginning and will sell when we leave. We definitely will visit the US again to explore some more of the many unknowns, especially in the South. We also only traveled 2 weeks through Canada—from Toronto to Soo Locks, Upper Michigan—and also the North waits to be explored further!
In total we spent several years travelling all continents before the kids were born, mainly as backpackers, with rental cars and overlanding. We chose North America due to the manifold natural beauties, the ease-of-travel, and the great medical coverage.
What has been the biggest culture shock in visiting the US and Canada?
Europe and the US have more cultural overlaps than differences. People are very friendly, try to make contact and ask about our trip—and offer help if needed. It was interesting for us to explore that most of the Americans we met have European ancestors!
We mainly miss our bread: Although American supermarkets are gigantic, it often is impossible to find rich and high-fibre bread with a crust. We bought a toaster to overcome that challenge somehow. By the way: As Europeans don’t refrigerate their homes with air conditioning, the toaster stays the only appliance requiring our generator.
What do you like most about traveling in an RV? What do you dislike about RVing?
We are fully self-contained; we do not have to pack and unpack all the stuff like in a traditional hotels-and-rental-car-holiday.
With kids it takes a long time to store everything before starting to drive—things, kids, and teddy bears. Rough roads only allows slow driving—otherwise fragilities like eggs won’t make it. Our large rig requires a lot of gas and only can go about 7-8 miles per gallon.
As we do neither have a dishwasher nor a washing machine, we spend a lot of time on the parking lots of laundries. We think that laundry should be done when you fill-up the RV, cook, eat or go for drinks, hopefully near the laundry!
Do you stay in RV parks with hookups or do you camp off-the-grid?
We preferred primitive or dispersed camping over established campgrounds. The most fabulous spots and views are not to be found standing in a row with other RVs. Especially for young families the cost aspect might be relevant as well.
However, in some regions it is only possible to stay at campgrounds (e.g. national parks). We used some apps to plan on short notice where to stay overnight.
What advice do you have for families who want to take their first RV trip?
- Don’t be afraid about the initial investment into a used RV, it will very likely pay for itself when being sold again.
- As you are on a road trip, charge your devices while driving, it prevents you from the hassle of searching required hookup sites.
- Use campgrounds only when necessary—the real adventures are found outside RV parks.
- Plan your route only loosely to react flexibly both temporally and spatially. Shop in smaller supermarkets to be quicker.
- Invest in a back-up camera or in walkie-talkies right from the beginning of your trip.
- You do not need a lot of useless but promoted camping gear: think twice before buying gadgets.
- Clearly plan resting times of your kids, supply them with a variety of games and books. And not messy, unhealthy food! Use apps or web search to find the cheapest gas near you. Read your magazine/blog!
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