You may have left normal life behind when you drove off in your new camper, but that doesn’t mean safety concerns were left floating in the dust. Keeping the kids safe while traveling full-time is always a main concern for our family.
Are we giving too much freedom, are we giving too little? The truth is, we all love the freedom our wanderlust has afforded our families, but some of us struggle with just how much of this freedom to pass on to the kids.
Our travel lifestyles, include the ability to roam the country and for some the world. We pack a few items, some supplies and clothes, then we hit the road hard going out to see, do and experience the things others will often only dream or read about in books, blogs or magazines.
Our reality is a dream for so many, and for so many of us, it becomes a struggle to keep ourselves grounded, our kids in check and our families safe. Every now and then even the most seasoned travelers can use a reality check on how much freedom is too much for the kids.
Raising children is a tough job to begin with. It’s full time. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Unlike a typical 9-5, you’re always on call and overtime is most definitely required. Children raised as full-time travelers are no different. If anything, they need more parental attention and sometimes structured rules, to help keep them safe in a life of ever changing environments, people and cultures.
With each new place your family travels to, I truly believe it’s necessary to prep your children upon arrival with a few safety measures, just in case. Things like walking your campground and making sure they know where the front office, emergency shelter, and your camp site is located along with how to get to each is almost always a must.
Also, the kids will likely want to enjoy the park’s amenities like their playground and swimming pool. Letting them know up front, if they are able to go alone or only with an adult can help squash any preconceived notions of adventurous kids only swims, while Mom’s in the shower.
In our family, our older girls obviously have more freedom then the twins, who are just 5 years old. They are free to explore the park together, but are not allowed to go swimming alone or inside other campers’ RVs, and we prefer for them to stay out of the gift shop.
We set boundaries on where and how far our younger travelers can roam, both alone and with their older sisters. While they can go much further with the big girls, they can still enjoy the ability to play right outside the camper, under the awning by themselves, for much needed twins-only playtime, while being supervised by Mom & Dad.
While we don’t want to hinder the kid’s personal development or their natural urge for freedom, but we realize that raising a family of nomads comes with its own set of parental duties and obligations. Our job is to keep them safe and we take that seriously.
We love the idea of perpetual travel and wish to continue to live this lifestyle, enjoying all that it offers. While we do so, we strive to instill character traits in our children that allow them to make good choices on what is right and wrong, as well as safe, which is why we like to follow these
Nine travel rules in and around our campsite:
You can be courteous and say “hello,” you can even chit chat and answer some basic questions, but it is both unsafe and unacceptable for our kids to hang out in adult settings without our presence.
Example: Our older girls went to walk their dog around the campground one afternoon and did not return for 30 to 40 minutes, which is totally unlike their usual 10-minute loop. When they finally returned, they explained they had been sitting at a campfire with a woman and her dog toward the back of the campground. While it seemed harmless, after more details were presented the woman was clearly drinking alcohol and asked the girls several times to go inside the camper to watch TV with her. Stranger Danger!
2. Safety in numbers
Personally, I don’t like the kids to go outside without a buddy. There are four of them, so that’s three opportunities to find a playmate and then two alternates if it doesn’t work out. Usually this isn’t so much of an issue, because they all want to go outside, but sometimes one will want his or her own space, and that’s when it gets tricky. I just don’t feel comfortable sending my 8-year-old outside by herself in a campground we’ve only been parked at for a day.
3. Don’t play in the street
Kids will be kids and sometimes they don’t pay attention to what everyone else in the world is going, that includes cars and golf carts. There is almost no reason for the kids to play in the middle of the street. Most campgrounds have a playground, patio, rec room, or grassy field where they can run around and have fun, so keep the street clear for the cars and avoid unnecessary stress.
4. Look both ways before crossing the road
The last thing anyone needs is for a kid to be run over by a RV! Lets be real for a second. This is totally avoidable and would be a total devastation to our community. I tell my kids to stop at the side of the road, not on the road, the side. Then check both ways to make sure nothing is coming. Then check again! Then cross quickly.
5. Do not go inside anyone’s camper
There are some instances where we bend this rule. If you’re camping with a friend or family or if you’re sitting right outside, then of course I would bend the rule. But, to just have our kids running around trying to have play dates in each new friend’s camper, isn’t our cup of tea. The campground is wide open. Why can’t they play outside?
6. Stay inside your boundaries
For the twins, since they are only 6, this usually means being where I can see them. But the older girls know they can wander off a bit, if they don’t go to the pool, inside campers or buildings without my knowledge, and stay out of areas that look like they are being used for storage, maintenance or trash.
Example: Once while camping during the fall at a campground in Kentucky where the pool had been closed and tarped until the next season. But, the campground forgot to lock the gates to the pool area. A young boy, about the age of 12, decided it would be not only fun to go into the pool area to hang out but also to challenge himself and others to walk across the tarp. As the the tarp began to stretch and sink lower and lower into the pool he barely made it out before the brackets snapped.
7. Don’t pet or approach anyone’s dog
Some people love animals. Some animals love people. Then there is the opposite of both. I’d rather my kids not pet anyone’s dog, and they know to leave stray cats alone as well.
Example: We were camping in Virginia at a family campground when a 3-year-old boy was bitten in the face by the neighboring camper’s friendly dog. Without warning or being provoked, the dog snapped off the lease and charged right at the toddler. Pinning him to the ground before anyone could do anything, he bit the entire left side of the child’s face which resulted in a helicopter flight to the children’s hospital and many hours of reconstructive surgery.
8. No running around the campfire
Campfires are fun, but that doesn’t mean you should play games like “tag” around them. I’m so nervous that someone will get burned, fall in or have his or her hair singed off. I prefer to sit around the campfire and have family time. Stories, songs, talking about your day or what you have planned for the next — these are things to do around a warm fire. Not run!
9. Wear your helmet
We see kids all the time, riding bikes, scooter, roller blades and ever those motorized racers without helmets. It’s just not safe. My kids must wear helmets if they want to ride anything. I would prefer knee pads, elbow pads and gloves- but I realize that’s pushing it, so I don’t go overboard.
I must admit, sometimes I can be a worry wort! But, I want the kids to have fun and be safe while they do. When they play, they play hard and you’ll likely hear them throughout the entire campground, because of this hard play. I’d much rather hear playful screams and giggling laughs than cries for help and an ambulance.
Keeping our kids safe while traveling is a big concern. They’re always up for an adventure and we want to make sure they’re prepared to take it on.