Episode 374 of the RV podcast is about RV Travel with Grandkids, making memories that will last a lifetime – for the kids and the grandparents!
Our special guests in the interview of the week segment are Sam and Deb, an RVing couple from Michigan who have truly come up with a great way to connect with their grandkids through a month-long Grand Adventure that takes the kids anywhere they want to go.
They explain how they come up with the routes and the joy of RV travel with grandkids!
Plus, also in this episode, RV News, Tips, and Travel ideas.
To watch the video version of the podcast, click the player below:
The audio version is available through your favorite Podcast App (Please subscribe!) or directly through the player below:
RV Lifestyle Meetups Coming Up
We have three RV Lifestyle Meetups that we announced in this episode:
- December 11, 2021 near Linden, TN – 1-4 PM:
Come meet Mike and Jen on the property they are developing into their own 5 acre campsite. Details and Directions at MyRVLand.com
- Jan 8, 2022 At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, MI – 4-6 PM
Come hang out around the bonfire at our annual winter campout. We'll be in the Lower Falls Hemlock Campground.
- Jan 20 at the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa, FL – 2-4 PM
at the South Beer Dome on the show grounds on the south side of the lake
New Giveaway now underway!
We want to announce a new giveaway that will run for the next two weeks. We will have two prizes.
Winner #1: One-year Membership to Harvest Hosts
Winner #2: One-year Membership to Boondockers Welcome
To enter, just go to rvlifestyle.com/sweepstakes
You can enter multiple times and the winner will be announced on Dec. 19, 2021, on our “Ask Us Anything” live stream on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel.
RV Travel with Grandkids – Interview of the Week
This episode of the RV Podcast features an interview with Sam and Deb, a Michigan couple who have been RVing for years. With 8 grandkids, they began searching for a way to combine their love of the RV Lifestyle with a desire to better connect with their grandkids.
The result is a special month-long RV trip they do with each grandchild when they turn 10 years of old.
Here's an edited transcript of the interview:
Mike: Sam and Deb join us right now. Thank you guys so much for sharing your story with our audience on the podcast.
How it started!
Jennifer: And it's so nice to have you here. We want to hear about how you got started doing RV travel with grandkids and how you got this idea.
Deb: Well, when Sam and I got together, which was 10 years ago now, he had been RVing for a long time and I had not done that. And the year that we got together, he was taking his oldest grandson on his first 10-year-old trip.
And I wasn't included in that, we just met. And we have seven grandsons and one granddaughter, the following years we took each of them on their 10-year-old trip. A couple were doubled up because their birthday, they were the same age. And you got to go anywhere in the country with nana and grandpa for a month.
Mike: Yeah. How did you get this idea?
Sam: My mom and dad took my kids on a 10-year-old trip.
Mike: Your kids from your first marriage?
Sam: Yes. Matt, Joey, and Susie. They chose a destination and my mom and dad would create a one-month trip around their destination.
Mike: And how did you bring this idea to Deb, and how did you guys decide to do this with your grandkids?
Deb: Well, RV travel with grandkids just seemed like the best idea. And he had this fabulous older camper. And I'm an interior designer, so I redid the whole thing with fish prints and leopard and all of that, and it was absolutely fabulous. It was one of my favorite jobs I've ever done.
Every trip with the grandkids was different
And we took all these little guys on these trips. And what would precipitate where they went is if they were studying in school, one of them was studying the Arch in St. Louis. Another, our little granddaughter, wanted to go to New York or actually to Acadia National Park.
So Sam, as these kids figured this thing out, another two of them went to Colorado. And he would sit up there for two months and plan this trip out, so that we would see really special things with them, just have an amazing time, know that we were going to be safe in the areas that we were going to go to, and just plan something that was just going to be magic.
And we ended up going around the entire outside of the Great Lakes on one trip. Colorado was another. The Natchez trail and over to the Gulf, to Gulf Shores, and then stopped to see friends of ours, with our kids, our little grandkids so that they can meet them.
And the most wonderful thing about RV travel with grandkids is to have these little 10-year-olds, because they're so cool and they can do stuff, you can still be the boss of them, but they get the whole program and they're so happy.
And I raised one little girl, and I now was taking these seven little boys on these trips. They never stopped eating, I never stopped going to the grocery store, but it was all hysterical. And I had already fallen in love with all of these kids and grandchildren of Sam's, so it was just a given.
RV Travel with Grandkids brings lasting memories
His kids still talk about it. These little kids still just talked about it at Thanksgiving last week. So it's just an amazing thing to do.
Sam: Yeah. My kids, who went on their 10-year-old trip with my mom and dad, they still talk about their 10-year-old trip. My dad used to have this big old video camera and he would take videos. And every once in a while, they pull out one of the old VHS.
And they still look at their videos and talk about it. Cherished moments. And we wanted to replicate that because, quite honestly, our kids said, “Dad, you going to take our kids on a 10-year-old trip?”
And we said, “Well, yeah, I think we should. Is that okay with you guys?” And they all said, “Yeah.” So we've been to many places. The destinations have been Key West and we built a month around going down to Key West and back, including Disney and Bush Gardens and whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River, where Deliverance was filmed, and Washington D.C. in that one.
And then the other trips were, as Deb mentioned, Acadia National Park. Two of our grandsons, Deb's grandson, and mine, Zach, chose Mall of America because it's got an amusement park in the middle.
We went up through the U.P. over into Wisconsin and Minnesota. Went to the Mall of America, then came down to the Wisconsin Dells. And if you've never been to the Wisconsin Dells with kids, with all those water parks and amusement parks, oh my Lord, they were in heaven.
Each grandkid got a special trip designed by their Grandpa
Deb: There are no words for RV travel with grandkids. There's no words for the whole thing, but it was a ball.
Sam: Another two of them chose to go to Grand Canyon. So we went up through the Badlands, through the Dakotas, to Yellowstone, the Tetons, down into the Grand Canyon.
Deb: Lake Powell.
Sam: Lake Powell, yeah. And they put all their feet and their hands in the Four Corners. Yeah, that was great.
Jennifer: What a wonderful opportunity to be parents again in the form of grandparents.
Jennifer: Because lots of times when you're a parent, you don't have all that time.
The RV Trips last a month
Deb: Yeah. And Sam's retired and I have my own business, so we're very fortunate that we get to cut that, take that month out and do that.
And I'm as blessed as the kids are to be able to do this, this has been such a gift for me. When we brought the kids home, and you'd think, “Oh, maybe I'm ready to go home,” but you kind of weren't, but you certainly weren't ready to give them up.
And we dropped them off at their various homes and Sam and I would literally cry from the time we dropped them off until we got home. Yeah, because it was such a treasured, treasured moment. And the laughter, and the funny, and the watching them feel so comfortable with us, it got better every single day. It was out of the park, it was so amazing.
Mike: I would think that the most amazing part about RV travel with grandkids is that you know your grandkids. I mean, in a way you never would've known them before.
A month of RV Travel with Grandkids creates an unbreakable bond
Deb: Yeah. And that has continued on in our relationships with them now, which is another reason why we bought the home that we did, because if you build it, they will come. So now we have ATVs and all of that for all of them, too, and a lot of property.
And that's another thing, you have to have the toys and the everything else, so you can spend a lot of time together. And it makes a very big difference when you can do that. Because even though they're riding around in an ATV and not necessarily talking to you, they're still here and connected and you still get to sit across a table from them and have a discussion and just be with them.
Sam: The kids that we took talk with their moms and dads about their trip and they share stories back and forth. Because some of them have been to some similar places. Five of them have been to Wall Drug.
Mike: Yep, South Dakota. Yeah.
Sam: My three and two others, two of our grandkids, went to on the way, on their trips 40 years ago. And on one of the trips back in '12 or '13, they all went to Wall Drug. And so, they talk about things, some of the common things. “On our trip, we did this. Did you guys do that?” “Yeah, we did that.”
The Grandkids had limits on using digital devices
Mike: If you look at kids today and often even when they're out to eat with their parents, everybody's on some digital device. Did you have any rules about that when you did RV travel with grandkids?
Sam: Yes, we did.
Deb: Yes, we did.
Sam: They got one hour a day.
Mike: One hour a day. And did you choose your places based on WiFi, as the kids would ask?
Sam: Not really.
Deb: Not at all. Not at all. Because that was not the focus of what we were doing. It was to be together, it was to show them places, it was to have them see and feel and be places that they… Who knows if they'll ever go back there in their lives, but at least they've seen that part now. And they were so good with it all.
Mike: How did they initially take that when you said no devices?
Sam: Oh, they were a little bit upset.
Mike: Yeah. Did they say anything afterward like, “This wasn't so hard?”
Sam: Yeah. They all said, pretty much said, “Wasn't so bad.”
Sam: And we gave them an hour a day and they managed it themselves. We had an idea of how long they were on. And sometimes if we were traveling and we had like a five-hour drive, we'd give them a little bit longer.
Mike: Little more peace and quiet.
Deb: Yeah. And it was good for them because then they weren't antsy and that whole thing, and it gave them something to do. And so, it was totally fine. And then by the time we got where we were going, they were totally ready to have some fun and do stuff.
The Grandkids could bring a guest
Jennifer: Now, normally there was just one grandchild, but sometimes there were two because they were about the same age?
Sam: Yeah. If they're close in age… Well, first of all, each grandchild gets to choose who they take with them.
Mike: Oh, they get a guest.
Sam: They get a guest, yeah.
Deb: Or a cousin or a friend. Yeah. Yeah.
Sam: Most of them chose a sibling or a cousin. Our granddaughter, Delaney, had a little tragedy in her life and she didn't get to take the person that she wanted to. So Delaney went along with Deb and I.
Deb: So her go-to guy was gramps and they got closer and closer and closer. And I can still see them sitting across the dinette from me playing cards, and she would get closer to him and just…
Sam: She'd be right here. I'd be hiding my cards, and I'd pretend like I'm looking over at hers and she goes, “Hey, stop it you peeky looker.”
Mike: Have your grandkids asked you to take their kids someday on the same trip?
Deb: They've actually asked us to take them again on another trip.
Now they want a trip when they turn 20!
Sam: On their 20-year-old trip.
Mike: Are they all past 10 now?
Deb: Oh yeah.
Sam: Our youngest is 14.
Mike: So a lot of people have struggled with this idea, “What do I do with my grandkids?” Give them some tips on how people can do RV travel with grandkids and create those special memories.
Sam's Tip: Let them bring bicycles
Sam: I guess one of the things is let them take bikes.
Mike: Take bikes?
Sam: Yeah. Take bikes. Because you've got to keep an eye on kids even more so now than 10 years ago or whatever, but they got to have a little bit of freedom. And if they can explore, they can create some of their own memories.
Deb: And it's their trip. It's not our trip and they're with us, it is their trip. So every stop that Sam planned for it, there was something very, very kid-oriented or something fun and unusual that they would get into and would remember.
That's the amazing thing. It wasn't just going from one campground to another, it was going from one campground that had something near it or within it that was just wonderful for kids. That's the amazing thing about how he did this. Because we're so used to planning our own trips and what we like to do, and this was all geared for them.
Planning a trip took Sam about two weeks
Mike: How did you do that, Sam? How did you plan this trip? How long did he spend on each one?
Deb: Two months, at least.
Mike: How did you plan it?
Sam: We'll take Delaney's trip for example. She picked Acadia National Park.
Sam: In Maine, yeah.
Mike: And you're in Michigan, you're leaving from Michigan.
Sam: Yep. And she also showed interest in New York City. So I just looked at the camping books and the different points of interest books, special interest books between here in New York City, picked a couple things. And New York City, we parked out away from the city and went into the city.
Deb: I think we were in New Jersey, weren't we? And took a train or a bus or something.
Sam: Yes. Yeah, we took a train. And thank God, Delaney knew how to navigate the subway better than us because she got us out of getting lost a couple times.
Build the RV Travel with Grandkids adventures around their interests
The kids, they had special interests based on why they chose a destination. Like she chose Acadia, so we did a lot of things in and around Acadia National Park. She showed interest in New York, so we went to Ground Zero and all the… Went to that American Doll place.
Deb: Most of it was school-oriented, something that they had been studying in school. And so, when they were asked, it was just… And maybe something that they were studying kind of right then.
Mike: Did the kids get involved in the planning at all? Did you ever [crosstalk 00:14:48] say, “Okay, Delaney, we're going to go here. We think you ought to see this. What do you think about that? Or do you want to see that?”
Sam: There was some dialogue.
Mike: So kind of build up anticipation for them?
Sam: Yeah. A lot of it was also talking to their parents. I would call them and say, “Hey, Delaney mentioned American Doll, or that place in… So think she'd like to go there?” “Oh yeah, for sure.” I dedicated a day to that and…
Deb: In New York City.
Sam: Yeah. And she wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty. And so, talking with the traveler and their parents, you just… And Deb's really good at getting these welcome to New York City books and stuff like that, so she'd be studying on the way.
And a lot of RV travel with grandkids was spur of the moment. We were going to, with J.P. and Luke, out to the Grand Canyon. We were in a place where everything is the world's largest. The world's largest pencil, the world's largest rocking chair. And we just saw the sign.
Laughter was the common denominator
And then we also saw the ice cream capital of the world on a little road sign. So Deb and I, “Did you see that sign?” “Yeah, I saw that sign.” Because they're doing this back there. So we got off and we got off on the side road and traveled, and 10:00 in the morning we were eating ice cream.
Deb: And then you get into this thing where it's the largest gopher and it's the largest rocking chair. And I thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. We've got pictures of all of us sitting up in this rocking chair. Sam has pictures of me and the kids in the largest mailbox in the entire world and you laugh and the kids just can't even believe it. You have a sense of humor, too. Plus, watching them get into this and their joy, it's just amazing.
Sam: And that's what gets them away from their electronics, well, they're given their one hour, is once you get them involved in looking for the world's largest something, you're going along and they'll see one. The world's longest train. “There it is grandpa. I can see it, it's right over there.” Mesa Verde.
Why when they're 10?
Mike: 10 years old…and you chose that age because?
Sam: Because my mom and dad did.
Mike: Yeah. Because your mom and dad did. The wisdom of that age is they're old enough to communicate and have a lot of fun with?
Sam: They haven't gotten into the age where they can develop so much of an attitude. Because that does come and go.
The innocence and the wide-eyed just wonderment of what they're seeing.
Mike: And it's a month-long, anywhere you want in the U.S?
Jennifer: In the United States?
Sam: Yep. Only one of them went out of the country and he chose… He asked if we could go around the Great Lakes on the outside, circumnavigate the Great Lakes. And that was Gabe. That was a very special trip, too.
Sam and Deb are still avid RVers
Mike: You guys are still RVers, right?
Deb: Yes, we are.
Sam: We've had big ones and small ones. Now we're into being on the small side because we like going to the national forests and some of the more primitive places.
Mike: Well, you guys have been a delight. People are going to love hearing this. And we encourage them to try it with their grandkids, too.
Sam: And if anyone asks you for help in doing one, I would be very happy to give some tips to people.
Mike: They can contact us and we'll put you in touch with you guys.
Jennifer: This is just such a great tool, such a great resource, such a great idea, because we all want to build those special memories with our grandkids and we don't quite know how to do it. So thank you.
Sam: You're welcome.
Deb: You're very welcome.
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More onfo on RV Travel with kids
We've written and podcasted lots about traveling with kids, including:
- The Amazing Power of Family Camping
- 10 Tips for Traveling with Teens
- Keep Your Daydream and RV Traveling with Teenagers
- RV Travel with Infants
- Including Kids or Grandkids in your RV Lifestyle