Important Tips For RV Camping With Toddlers (Safety First!)

happy family of three in front of their RV parked in a campground area

RV camping with toddlers is a great way to explore the countryside without giving up all of your home comforts. Taking kids with you on an RV camping trip does mean you need to plan a little more before you set off though.

Can you take a toddler in an RV?

You can take a toddler in an RV if you have some safety measures in place. You will need to make sure your toddler’s car seat is positioned in a forward-facing seat with a seat belt that is secured to the RV frame. They will need somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep, such as a portable crib.

Do toddlers need a car seat in an RV?

Toddlers will need to sit in a car seat in an RV. The laws on car seats vary from state to state, so you’ll have to stick to the car seat laws of the states you’re traveling in. Many states recommend that children under 2 should use a rear-facing car seat and that children under 8 should use a car seat or booster seat.

To keep your child as safe as possible, fit the car seat to a forward-facing seat with a crash-rated seat belt. You shouldn’t fit your child’s car seat to a rear-facing or side-facing seat. In some RVs, there are seat belts on the seats in the living areas, but these are not always safe as they may be attached to floorboards or the wood underneath the upholstery, rather than to the frame of the vehicle.

Not all RVs are suitable for traveling with children. If your RV doesn’t have a seatbelt with a diagonal strap in a front-facing seat, or a latch system (known as an Isofix in the UK), then it may not be safe for your children to travel in the RV.

If you’ve not yet bought or hired an RV and you want your children to be as safe as possible, then the best options are to choose an RV that:

  • Meets car seat manufacturers’ installation requirements.
  • Has a front air bag on the passenger seat that can be turned off.
  • Can be pulled behind your family car, so your children can sit in their usual car seats.

If you already have an RV, then check with a certified car seat technician to see if the RV has seats suitable for a toddler car seat.

You can find a certified car seat technician by searching the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Training Programme website. If you have any doubts about the safety of your children when travelling in an RV, speak to a certified car seat technician. 

children strapped in children safety seats when driving in motorhome RV

How do I get my toddler to sleep in an RV?

The unfamiliar surroundings inside an RV can mean a toddler will likely be too excited, or too scared, to drop off to sleep quickly!

The first step is to ensure they have somewhere suitable to sleep, the safer and more comfortable they feel, the more likely they will be to go to sleep.

Below are a few things you can try to make sure your little one has the best chance possible of falling asleep and staying asleep.

  • Establish a sleep routine. This doesn’t mean they have to be in bed early every night, in fact putting them to bed later might make them drop off more easily! But a good bedtime routine, as near as possible to what you do at home, will help your child feel safe and ready to sleep.
  • Create a toddler-only sleeping area. Things can get chaotic when the whole family is living in an RV and any surface (including the beds!) can soon become covered. The last thing you want to find when it’s time to put your toddler down to sleep is that their bed is covered in clothes and belongings. Designate a set place that is only for your toddler to sleep.
  • Invest in blackout blinds. Depending on the time of year you’re camping, you might want to hang blackout blinds to avoid the light sunsets and early sunrises. Portable blackout blinds usually come with suction cups so you can attach them to the windows of the area where your toddler is sleeping.
  • Block out the noise. Even if your toddler is a deep sleeper, getting them to sleep can be difficult if you’re on a busy campground. A white noise app on your phone, a dedicated white noise machine, or even a fan should help block out the noise enough for them to drop off to sleep.
  • Stop the shaking. RVs aren’t the sturdiest places to sleep and even just moving around and slamming doors can cause them to shake. Minimize the shaking by installing stabilizer jacks and wheel chocks and tightening these up regularly.

Curly haired boy at the door of his camping RV motorhome on a sunny morning

Should I take a playpen or crib for a toddler in an RV?

A portable crib is a great option for your baby to sleep in and it can double as a playpen during the day. Portable cribs are large though, so it won’t be practical to take one unless you have a large RV.

Having a space to put your toddler down in the day can be invaluable and you know they’ll be safe while you get on with chores, or just enjoy some quiet time yourself.

One of the best portable cribs to take camping is a Pack n’ Play, this is the brand name of a travel crib by Graco which features a bassinet, a changing station, and a playpen, which older babies and toddlers can sleep in. Pack n’ Plays are expensive, so to get the most use out of one, invest in one from when your little one is a baby, that way they can use the bassinet for their first few months, before transitioning to the crib area.

You don’t need to splash out on a portable crib that has all these extras though. Toddlers can happily take naps and sleep in a regular travel crib at night. In the day, just add some toys for an instant playpen!

Always remember to refer to the latest sleep guidelines for babies and toddlers to be sure they’re safe when asleep.

Bonus tips for RV camping with toddlers

  • Pack a baby gate for the RV door. This will mean your toddler won’t be able to get in, or out, of the RV, depending on where you want them to be!
  • Keep toddlers strapped in when you’re on the move. RVs may have all the comforts of home, but they are still dangerous to move about in when they’re being driven. Keeping kids strapped into their car seats will mean they won’t be wandering about when you’re driving and will keep them as safe as possible if you brake suddenly.
  • Take a bed rail. If your older toddler sleeps in one of the RV beds, adding a portable bed rail will mean they won’t be able to roll out of bed, no matter how much they wriggle! One end of the bedrail slips under the mattress, and the other side creates a barrier. These bed rails fold flat so are easy to transport too.

With a few precautions, your toddlers can enjoy all the benefits of RV camping and stay super safe!

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