Holidays in the RV: Reflections on a New Adventure

Holidays in the RV: Reflections on a New Adventure

It is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and I am ready to throw my Christmas tree out the window.

Don’t get me wrong…I really do think it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But by New Year’s Day, I’m always ready to sweep up the last of the needles and call it quits on the holiday season.

This year, the holidays looked quite a bit different for us. We traveled on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, spending one in the RV and one in a hotel. So of course I have some thoughts and opinions. You have come to expect that from me.

When Max and Theo were three years old, we traveled south to visit family over the Christmas holiday break. To be frank, it was a nightmare. Instead of enjoying our own family traditions and relaxing, we ended up tired and stressed. The trip ended and we said, No more. From now on we celebrate holidays in our own home.

And we did. Until this year. If you listened to the Thanksgiving podcast episode of Girl Camper, you heard me talk about how we have struggled to answer the question of what holidays will look like now that our extended family has moved far away. We have slowly let go of what a holiday should look like, and have started asking ourselves what we want it to look like.

This year we decided to try camping on Thanksgiving. I honestly did not know how I would like it, but I’m going to cut right to the chase…it was marvelous. The next month, my mother in law offered to send us to Great Wolf Lodge for Christmas…and it was just as awesome.


So I’ve been thinking: Why did I enjoy holidays away from home so much? Why were these holiday travel experiences different from ones in the past?

Holidays are supposed to be about spending time with loved ones, right? But so often we get caught up in the planning, preparations, events, cleaning, baking, and general running around, and we end up stressed and exhausted.

When we spent Thanksgiving in the RV, 100% of our focus was on spending time together with family and friends. I wasn’t worried about a clean house or making 5 different desserts from scratch. I actually experienced more sustained gratefulness over this Thanksgiving weekend than I ever can remember in the past. We were doing fun things together, enjoying the last of the beautiful fall weather, and gathering with friends who we don’t often see.

On Christmas, we spent the morning at our house, opening gifts and enjoying a holiday breakfast. By noon we were off to Great Wolf Lodge. Again, I didn’t know how I would feel about the experience and again, I ended up feeling an overwhelming freedom spending time with my family instead of worrying about all the holiday busyness that can be so distracting. We were in bathing suits going down watersides instead of sitting around the living room feeling over stuffed and overstimulated. We weren’t installing batteries and breaking down cardboard boxes. We were just having fun.


Don’t get me wrong, everything wasn’t perfect. I think if we did it again, I might want to develop some roadworthy traditions because I’m sentimental and love that stuff. Next year on Thanksgiving, for example, I would definitely do a campground meal instead of eating out at restaurant.

I was worried that spending the holidays away from our home would leave me feeling unfettered and strange. Instead, I felt more rooted than ever. Because I was completely experiencing the most important part of the holiday season…time with family.


Happy New Year, and we wish you joy.



  1. April

    Aww such a sweet reflection and I’m so glad that you did not regret being “away” from home for the holidays. I can see how the choice to do something different would be worrisome, at first. I would need a lot of nudging to be out or away at Christmas. This year was so weird weather-wise and so warm at Christmas that it would have been fun to have been able to take advantage and camp, had we known that beforehand. Nevertheless it’s all about spending time together. I do love the idea of having Christmas morning and then setting out to experience something new together as a family instead of just sitting around watching TV and eating. LOL

    • RVFamilyTravelAtlas

      Thanks, April! The mild weather probably did have a lot to do with our blissful experience over the Thanksgiving weekend. To be honest, if there was an awful weather report in the future, we would probably just cancel. We don’t like to suffer, lol.

  2. JP

    I guess at each point in our lives we enjoy all kinds of different things. When we were both working full time and the kids were little we had a lot of parental support to have the holidays at our family homes. You are right, it was stressful, but that was all right with us. Now, it is our home that is the center of all the action. The Boston and Virginia Beach families do the drive to here, and invade our retirement retreat for the holiday. Some for a short stay and some for longer stays, but we cherish the time with our grandchildren, whom we don’t get to see as often as we would like. When they are driving to and fro, I am a nervous wreck. But, we do this because a few years ago my daughter told us that after the drive to Havertown, when they walk into our house it is suddenly “Christmas.” Our daughter, the college professor, doesn’t have the money to take the family to a place like Great Wolf Lodge, so that type of thing is off the table for them and therefore for us.
    All of that being said, we are really glad that you enjoyed what you did over the holidays and hope that you are starting a new family tradition. When I was an undergraduate (back in the Dark Ages) I read a philosopher, the name escapes me, who said that the most important things that we do to keep our societies together it to have the traditions. So we hope that these new family activities become part of your family’s tradition. Happy New Year.

    • RVFamilyTravelAtlas

      Hi JP,
      I think most people would hope to be in your situation, with regular holiday traditions and a house that “feels like Christmas.” The trouble for our generation is that some of us don’t have that, and by no action on our part. For example, my parents moved 13 hours away and so traveling there for the holidays is virtually impossible, especially since Jeremy doesn’t have any extended vacation days at that time.
      I think I wanted to encourage people to not be sad for what they don’t have, but rather look for the joy in what they do have–the opportunity to spend time with family regardless of the location. After all, many family traditions can be carried out regardless of physical space.


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