Many people fantasize about driving a motorhome cross-country. We’ve done it, complete with the good and the challenging.
Living in a 25 ft motorhome, crossing the entire USA, as a family of 4, throughout 6 months and over 10,000 miles of driving, is no joke, and the pros and cons of an RV with kids are something we now know well. We broke up motorhome time here and there with the occasional stint in hotel rooms or rentals, or longer stays with family. We’re writing this during a week where we’ve been enjoying staying with family, and I’d be lying if I said we missed the RV.
That said… There are a lot of things that have made the RV life worth it. A motorhome for a family of four can be small on living space, but big on enabling incredible experiences. But was it worth it?
Our family’s motorhome experience
We’ve crossed the entire USA from Washington State to Florida in a 25’ Class C motorhome. No trailer, no additional vehicle, just us and our motorhome. Crossing the country corner to corner also had various twists, turns, and side trips, such as starting in the San Juan Islands and veering northeast to the International Selkirk Loop in Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia, before taking a mostly southeast cross-country course.
Traveling across the entire country has given us a range of incredible experiences, from sunsets on a cliff overlooking the Oregon Coast, to sunrise on a pier in Jacksonville, Florida. We’ve watched meteor showers in South Dakota, marveled at wildlife in Yellowstone NP, and relaxed by ponds and a big bonfire in South Carolina. Our two kids have done schoolwork while traversing interstates, state highways, and even one rather skiddingly fun red dirt road in northeastern Wyoming. They’ve fed pigs in Colorado and listened to ghost story history in a horse-drawn wagon in Georgia.
When we talk about what we’ve done, many people have said that crossing the country is a trip they’d love to take, and maybe they will, say after they retire. That’s made us all the more grateful that we’ve experienced this while we still have kids at home.
Pros and cons, RV with kids: What are the upsides and downsides of traveling long-term, in a motorhome, with kids?
Pros of crossing the USA in a motorhome with kids
Traveling the roads and byways of the USA in a motorhome is a dream for many people, and it is a dream we are so grateful to have realized for our family. We’ll get to the downsides, but let’s start with the good stuff. Long-term travel in a motorhome offers a lot of advantages to the traveling family.
Accommodation and transport, all in one
When we were traveling back to the US, we had 2 problems to solve: where to stay and how to get around. Getting the motorhome took care of both, and that alone made a big pro for pros and cons of RVing with kids.
Not only could we drive our motorhome anywhere we would drive a car, we could stay at a broader range of accommodation than we would with only a car—or even back when we had our pop-up camper. From campgrounds to Harvest Hosts, we drove scenic roads, met wonderful people, and always had something fascinating to see outside our windows when we woke up in the morning.
A motorhome kept things budget friendly
Speaking of accommodations, driving our house kept our budget lower.
Filling up our 55-gallon unleaded gas tank typically costs around $160–190. While that brought some initial sticker shock, we soon realized that we could drive between 400–500 miles between fill-ups. Plus, since we were driving our house around, we didn’t have to shell out for hotel rooms or vacation rentals. Crunching the numbers, we realized that we came in under budget for accommodation, thanks to our motorhome.
Our motorhome’s small size gave us more options for getting around and where we stayed
When you think about motorhomes, it’s easy to think about the large ones. However, our Class C motorhome is only 25’ long, or about a car and a half. That made it easy to find parking and campsites. The longer the RV, the fewer the options. With our small rig, we could park in public beach parking lots in Florida, or fit into older National Park campgrounds nationwide.
Lots of time in nature
Our international travels have been primarily urban. RVing across the USA though, we have been mostly in rural areas, and it has been wonderful to splash in creeks, spot wildlife, and wander forests again.
Cons of living full-time in a motorhome with kids
We drove our motorhome around the scenic roads of South Dakota’s Custer State Park, gazing at wildlife from buffalo to donkeys to sheep. Yet we could also drive around Washington’s San Juan Island, the streets of Omaha, Nebraska, or the historic sites at Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown in Virginia.
Traveling in a motorhome can make a lot of amazing experiences possible, but let’s have no illusions. There are negatives. They don’t have to be deal breakers, but it’s good to be aware of the downsides so you can plan and adjust accordingly.
Lack of space and privacy
Living in a small motorhome means we basically live in one big room. Lack of privacy and lack of space can be tricky. The kids share the sleeping space in our cabover, and we adults have a bed in the back of the rig. The bathroom is the only private room (and even that is only but so private).
Sharing a small space means getting creative and intentional about making privacy, such as using picnic tables or common areas at RV parks and campgrounds. We also found it helpful to build in breaks, with occasional nights in a hotel room, or, in Missouri, a week in a vacation rental (which happened to have a front porch swing that looked out on the Mississippi River).
The pace can be fast
Even with many months of RV travel, we typically averaged around 2–4 nights in any one location. We typically prefer at least a week in one spot. We find that helps us build in time for work, school, and recreation, without having to feel that we’re on the go constantly.
A faster pace might work for some folks, but we prefer to take things slower. We find that we take in more of what’s around us, and we feel more present with our surroundings and with each other.
Unreliable cell, wifi, and internet connections
We appreciate disconnecting, but only for a little while. Whether figuring out places to go or running our company, we rely on good online access. Even if an RV park advertised wifi, it was often unreliable, or had ludicrous pricing. Other areas are simply too remote to have good signal.
On the road, we relied on public libraries for online time, whether for work, school, or play. We also looked into satellite-based internet services, but at this point the costs didn’t pencil out—and the reviews on overall service quality continue to be too mixed for our taste.
Long-term, cross-country family travel in a small motorhome… was it worth it?
Our biggest takeaway from our six months in a motorhome? It was three months too long. As we continue to travel the USA in our small motorhome, we’ll typically aim for no more than three months. We think that’ll be more of a sweet spot of managing the downsides while getting the most out of the good parts.
Long-haul travel in a motorhome isn’t for everyone—but it was definitely for us. Yes, there are downsides. But the upsides of the travel, nature, and overall experiences we had set off the negatives, and made our six months of long-haul memory-making more than worth it.