Have you ever been on a family vacation and wondered how much more of a vacation it would be without the kids? Once you have teenagers, you quite likely can go RVing without kids, but should you leave them home alone? Before deciding whether they should stay home or go with you, there are some considerations, pros, cons, and preparations you should think through.
Maybe images of Home Alone and teen-movie house parties pop into your mind as you even consider the idea of leaving your teenagers home alone. However, with a little thought and prep, you, too, can be on your way to a kid-free vacay!
Of course, the age of the kids in question matters. We are talking about older teens here–the older they are, the more freedom you might have. While your kids are younger, they may stay with friends and family, but as they get more independent, they can manage to stay home alone.
To listen to our interview with Kerri Cox, please click on the media player above, or subscribe to The RV Atlas wherever you get your favorite shows. Kerri has two young adult sons and writes about her travels with–and without–them on Travels with Birdy. Thanks to Kerri for providing several photos for this post as well.
7 Questions to Consider When Deciding Whether to Go RVing Without Kids
Aside from the laws in your state, there is no set age for determining whether or not you can leave your kids home alone overnight. Really, you have to consider the maturity level of your own teenage. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:
- Can any nearby adults keep an eye on things? If you live in a neighborhood or have relatives nearby, you can easily ask someone else to keep an eye on the house, which may add a layer of comfort.
- Will your teen get scared? Age isn’t the determining factor here. You have to know your kids! Some are more comfortable home alone at night than others.
- Can your kid manage their own basic needs? Are your children already in the habit of getting themselves up for work/school? Can they make their own meals and let themselves in and out of the house? Can they drive themselves (or access public transportation) independently?
- Will they be able to reach you? Before booking your glorious kid-free trip, make sure to check into the cell reception and your overall reachability. If you won’t be reachable, you probably shouldn’t leave the kids at home.
- How do siblings behave together? Sometimes, the thought of leaving one kid home alone is much easier to digest than the idea of leaving siblings. If your teens bicker and fight, they may not do well alone together.
- Can they handle emergencies? While no one is ever prepared for all emergencies, you can judge whether your teen has a good head on his/her shoulders.
- Can you trust them? Before leaving your kids at home alone, hopefully, you have a good sense of whether they are trustworthy when they are not supervised. Do they generally follow your rules/expectations at home and when they are out with friends?
Pros of RVing Without Kids
- You and your spouse can enjoy time alone together.
- You’ll deal with less whining and arguing.
- It’s much cheaper with fewer mouths to feed and fewer bodies to entertain.
- Kids can stay home to do their normal activities (no more FOMO!).
- You’ll have fewer schedules to coordinate.
- It’s important for older teens to develop self-sufficiency before/during college.
- They develop confidence and independence!
Without your kids around, you have more time for the hobbies you prefer. You don’t have to make group decisions.
Drawbacks of Leaving the Kids Behind
- You might feel sad about not including your kids in the experience, and they might be sad about missing out. It may be better to avoid going to a super exciting destination.
- You’ll probably deal with some anxiety about all of the things that could go wrong for you on the road and for your kids at home. You’ll seriously double up on potential catastrophes! If this will ruin your trip, maybe leaving the kids at home just isn’t for you.
- Your kids could be seriously naughty while you’re gone…and you may or may not find out.
Finding yourself at a beautiful campsite without your kids is definitely bittersweet since you might miss them, even while you have fun:
How to Prepare Your Kids for Staying Home Alone
- Start with short trips close to home. Once your kids have managed a few overnights here and there while you are within an easy driving distance, you’ll all feel more comfortable with them staying home alone for longer durations and for further distances.
- Build trust and independence before going further/longer. As you gain experience letting them stay home, you’ll build trust in them, and they’ll build their independence.
- Consider purchasing simple security cameras. There are many options on the market, such as those from Wyze and Ring. Having one or two that can monitor the comings/goings can give you a sense of comfort. You can get alerts whenever motion is detected, and you can get a live view.
- Review expectations for what is and isn’t allowed. Is it a free-for-all, or will your kids follow some rules? We set some boundaries for how late our teens could stay out and talked about whether/when friends could visit.
- Discuss meals and housekeeping responsibilities. If you have siblings who will share some of the duties, it may be good to clarify who is responsible for what before you leave. Otherwise, you might come home to a messy house and kids who are pointing figures at each other.
- Don’t overdo the management. You might be tempted to prep every meal ahead of time or to stock up on groceries. Try to resist this urge, and let your teenagers figure some things out on their own.
- Discuss what to do in various emergencies. Talk through their options for getting help if needed. It’s important for them to understand when to phone a family member versus when to call 911.
- See if a trusted adult can check in. If you have grandparents nearby, they may love this opportunity. Otherwise, ask someone in the neighborhood or a family friend.
- Choose a campground with some connectivity. Campendium and some other websites or apps make it possible to determine ahead of your trip whether or not you’ll have cell coverage. When in doubt, call the campground and ask. You don’t want to be totally out of range with the kids home alone.
Whether or not you leave your kids home alone while RVing is a very personal decision that comes from your comfort level and your kids’ comfort level. However, as you all develop confidence with it, you can possibly get a taste of the empty nester life in your mobile empty nest.
To hear more about Kerri’s experiences and trips for RVing without kids, click play on the media player or look for this episode of The RV Atlas on your podcast player. We shared a great discussion about parenting that extends far beyond RV travel!