This post is sponsored by Good Sam RV Rentals
When we first started RVing with kids, one of the biggest questions I had was what to pack! I wasn’t sure whether to pack like we do for air travel, for tent camping, or for living at home! I did look at an RV packing list or 7, but a lot of them also didn’t take into account what to pack with kids. I couldn’t find an RV essentials checklist while traveling with kids!
There are also quite a few things that I’d put into our RV that we own that I wouldn’t necessarily take along for a shorter trip in a rental RV with kids. The great thing is you can get away with a bit less in that case! Good Sam RV Rentals makes it really easy to set up a rental, and I love that there all different levels of provisions. Most owners list what gear they will provide with the rental, from cooking supplies to linens to camping extras, so you can choose a rental that suits your needs. It gives a lot of flexibility in travel planning. This is helpful for a variety of different RV rental prices (more on the RV rental cost here).
Here are 20 can’t-miss RV packing list essentials when renting an RV with kids or doing a camper van hire!
1. CAR SEATS
One of the most frequent questions I get is whether you need to use RV car seats for kids. And the answer is YES!! Any seat belt and child restraint laws that apply in a normal vehicle also apply when driving in an RV. This is the number one most important thing to put on your RV essentials checklist when RVing with kids.
If you’re doing a travel trailer rental or pop up camper rental, you’ll likely be driving your own vehicle, so make sure you have the proper restraints installed.
Car seats in an RV have some special considerations, however. Most RVs do not have lap-and-shoulder belts, which means most low-back boosters will not work. There are also special considerations for how to install forward facing car seats that must be tethered at the top. Here’s a post on safety considerations when RVing with kids, as well as a post with which car seats in an RV that we personally use. This for sure one of the most important tips for renting an RV.
2. KITCHEN TOOLS
One of the big benefits of an RV is having a kitchen available to prepare meals! We love not needing to eat out constantly because it’s cheaper and healthier to cook our own food.
While some rental RVs provide kitchen essentials, many don’t (or provide them as an add on). If you’re not renting a kitchen kit for the RV, here are a few basics I definitely recommend having on hand. A luxury RV rental will almost surely include all of them, but it’s always a good idea to double check in advance. It’s easy to pick up inexpensive ones that you can even keep in a plastic tub to take on your next RV adventure.
- Kitchen tools
- Can opener
- S’more roasting sticks (or use sticks you find!)
- Cutting board + chef knife
- Aluminum foil
- A few food storage containers (I love that those take less space)
- Zipper storage bags
- Some disposable plates/cups/utensils/paper towels just in case
Like kitchen tools, some RV rentals include linens while others do not. We absolutely love having Beddy’s zip up bedding on our RV bed, but you can also just take a set of sheets you have from home (or purchase an inexpensive set like this to keep with your set of RV essentials so you don’t forget to pack them. If you’re traveling somewhere cold, make sure you have a warm duvet + cover or an extra blanket if the nights get chilly (or if you run low on propane!). I really love this blanket and this blanket – so cozy and soft.
Don’t forget to pack towels, as well! Here are all the towels we pack:
- Dish towels for kitchen/bathroom
- Washcloths for wiping up counters/spills
- Bath towels (we love these Turkish towels because they’re so lightweight and absorbent, and dry very quickly, even inside the RV)
- A few extra quick dry towels to take to the pool/beach
Don’t forget food for the RV! We like to have a good mix of pantry staples and refrigerated items. We always like visiting Trader Joe’s before a trip and picking up some of their prepared meals. Our favorites are the shelf stable Indian and Thai meals – you just heat them in the microwave and they’re so delicious. We also like having some items for easy meals to cook such as pasta, canned beans for stovetop vegetarian chili, and burrito fillings. This is great whether you’re doing a family RV rental or a travel van rental.
Don’t forget your toiletries! Here are some of the basics you don’t want to forget:
- Hand soap
- Body wash/baby wash
- Skincare products
- Feminine hygiene products
- Baby wipes (these are great if you can’t get a shower every day)
6. CLOTHING AND SHOES
This one is pretty obvious! You’ll obviously need to pack clothing and shoes for your adventure. While we tend to pack super minimally when traveling by air, packing for RV travel gives us a bit more flexibility in terms of storage space. Plus, there’s no carrying suitcases in and out of hotels and unpacking and repacking! One of my favorite RV benefits.
We typically pack 5-7 sets of clothing, sometimes rewear (if we’re not doing strenuous activity), and do laundry about once a week. We used to always try to stay at an RV park with laundry facilities once a week. But about 6 months ago, we purchased a mini portable washing machine (ours is no longer available but it’s similar to this one). It now lives in the trunk of our RV. It’s so fantastic for doing a couple of quick loads at night anytime we have a water hookup!
We also tend to pack 3 pairs of shoes when heading out on outdoor-focused adventures: one pair of hiking shoes, one pair of hiking sandals, and one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Depending on our activity plans, we may also have a slightly nicer pair of sandals or a pair of dress shoes. Keep in mind space considerations as a camper packing list may need to be smaller.
7. HANGING SHOE RACK
Speaking of shoes, while it may seem silly to purchase storage solutions for a rental RV, I promise it’s worth a few dollars in order to keep things organized. With a small space, things can get chaotic pretty quickly, especially with shoes. We always like to remove our shoes when inside the RV, just like we do in our home. This shoe organizer helps keep it cleaner, especially when we’ve been out hiking and playing. So the pile of shoes can get a bit overwhelming!
I love this simple and inexpensive hanging shoe rack. At around $10, it’s definitely worth the price, even for a short-term rental. it’s great having a space to store all our frequently used pairs of shoes. This can be especially helpful in a small RV rental, where floor space is definitely at a premium!
8. CAMPING CHAIRS
One of the best parts of RVing is having the world as your backyard! I love that it can change every night if we want and we get to enjoy the beauty of so many different places. We love being able to sit outside to take it all in, so camping chairs are something we love having along. Definitely add this to your RV camping packing list.
9. SUN PROTECTION
People often say to me that they could never be in such a small space with their kids, and wonder how we do it with 5 little ones. And I always say that the RV really means that we spend very little time INside the rig and a whole lot of time OUTside. This also means that we try to be careful with sun protection while spending so much time outdoors.
I always make sure everyone has a hat and sunblock, and sometimes sunglasses. This is my very favorite sunscreen for kids – it’s gentle and mineral-based, rubs in easily, and protects well. An essential for an RV camping packing list!
10. HIKING GEAR
Speaking of being outdoors, our family loves using the RV as a launchpad for tons of outdoor activities with kids. Hiking is a favorite of ours! We always make sure to pack our favorite hiking gear, especially these kids hydration backpacks, hiking sandals and shoes, and a good baby hiking carrier.
Here is all our favorite hiking gear for kids!
11. BOOKS + BOOK BASKET + KIDS KINDLE
RVing usually means we’re driving for a good amount of time at some point or another. So I like to stay stocked with books for the kids to read. We store them in a basket like this so that they can easily access them. I love this 50 States book while driving, these ones with lift flaps are great for preschoolers and early elementary kiddos to peruse, and a few chapter books for my kids to read on their own or for us to read aloud.
My kids ages 7+ also always have their Kids Kindles stocked with plenty of chapter books. Then it’s easy to get new digital books from our library any time we connect to the Internet.
My kids love playing some simple games on the table in front of their car seats while driving. We also love having a few that we can play in the evenings as a family, especially if we’re staying somewhere without service. We like to take ones that don’t take up much room and are quick and fun to play. Here are some favorites:
13. CLEANING SUPPLIES
Sadly, even if you escape from home in an RV, you probably can’t escape cleaning up a bit. Even with removing shoes inside our RV, it still tends to get pretty dusty, and crumbs fall from eating in there (though we try to eat outside in the fresh air whenever possible). The great thing, though, is that since it’s generally a very snug space, cleaning is super quick! Here are a few basic cleaning supplies I love having available:
- Dust pan + mini broom
- Sanitizing wipes (I use these to wipe down the floor if it all feels dusty, or to quickly clean the bathroom or kitchen)
- Cleaning spray + rags
- Dish soap + scrubby brush
14. OUTSIDE TOYS
We love getting out and playing in the various places we go! We love taking along some of our favorite outside toys to experience the beauty around. Of course, it depends on the type of place we’re going and time of year, but here are some things we like to take for our RV essentials checklist:
- Bikes (our favorite for men, women, and kids)
- Life jackets (adult, youth, kid, infant) and or floaties for the pool (keep in mind puddle jumper-type flotation devices are NOT Coast Guard approved for use on a boat)
- Inflatable boat
- Snorkel gear (kids and adult)
- Snow boots/snow bibs
- Boogey boards
- Adventure kit
- Sand toys (although 95% of the time we skip th }}}ese and just carry out a plastic cup or two)
Even if you’re renting an RV for a short time, I highly recommend having a few basic tools with you. You’ll be glad to have them if something breaks that requires a simple fix. This is something I didn’t realize for our RV essentials checklist, even for a rental!
16. FIRST AID
We get plenty of cuts and scrapes while out adventuring, so we like to be prepared with a few basic first aid items. This is especially helpful if we’re staying somewhere that doesn’t have a pharmacy or grocery store close by. Here are the first aid items I recommend packing for an RV essentials checklist:
- Bandages (these are our very favorites that actually stay on
- Antibiotic ointment
- Cold compress (helpful if you don’t have ice available)
- Children’s pain relievers
- Adult pain relievers
- Pepto Bismol
17. EXTRA POWER
A lot of times, it’s nice to have some extra power, especially at night. We love taking along this huge portable power bank to charge our devices. It’s big, but powers our RV (including microwave, devices, etc.) through an entire night with no issues so it’s a must on our RV essentials checklist.
If you don’t want something quite that big, be sure to carry along at least a couple of smaller external chargers. That way, you can power your phone overnight if needed, especially for an emergency. These are also great to take along on a day of adventures.
18. RV TOILET SUPPLIES
Most RV rentals should provide you with RV-specific toilet paper, but if not, just be sure to get a kind that’s safe to use in RV toilets. I also highly recommend using these toilet chemicals so keep the bathroom smelling as fresh as possible.
When parking an RV, it’s important that it stay pretty level. This is of course nice and more comfortable for sleeping than being on an incline, but it’s also really important in order to not damage the RV fridge. RV refrigerators often need to be kept fairly level when left on so as not to permanently damage them, so this is not something you want to play around with – be sure to have something to help with leveling on your RV essentials checklist.
Many rentals might provide chocks, but be sure to double check. They’re inexpensive to buy and can save you from a much bigger issue.
20. EMERGENCY ROAD SUPPLIES
We’ve had a few instances where we’ve needed to inflate a tire ourselves (the roadside assistance changed the RV tire for us since the vehicle is too heavy to do it ourselves, but didn’t have a way to inflate the spare!) or take care of other minor issues. I HIGHLY recommend having this tire inflator as well as this external battery jump kit with you for safety.
The jumper cables allow you to jump your vehicle off that battery instead of requiring another vehicle to be present, so it’s hugely helpful if you’re somewhere without others around or if you can’t access another vehicle in your position.
Those are some of most important things for what to pack in an RV with kids. I’d love to hear if you’ve relied on these items before, either in an RV or otherwise!