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Keep Adventuring with Kids, Says Road-Tripping Family of 6

Ten months. 42 units of the National Park System. 25 states. How does a road trip like that sound to you?

Now imagine doing that as a family of six in an RV. 

That’s precisely what Anna Vineyard and her family did. While many fear having kids could slow you down, Anna and her husband took advantage of the world of remote work and hit the road in a 31-foot-long RV. They covered about 15,000 miles and stopped in well-known parks like Yosemite, Sequoia, Bryce Canyon, Arches and countless other popular parks and lesser-known outdoor areas.

Anna says she and her husband first dreamed up the trip in 2021 with the pandemic fresh in their minds. She had already been homeschooling their four boys, so it seemed as good a time as any—the family dove in head first by buying and renovating an RV in March of last year. A few months later, they hit the road and just got home this July. 

Anna documented the journey in her blog and shared some answers to common questions with Outdoors.com.

What inspired this massive road trip?

Anna Vinyard: Our kids love the outdoors. We were inspired by their natural curiosity and decided to do a National Parks tour and build a curriculum around the places we were going to see and experience. We also knew we had a very small window of opportunity with our oldest, as he is going to start high school next year. We wanted to build some lasting memories and quality time while we could. Our youngest was turning five and similarly would be starting Kindergarten. It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to press pause and gather everyone all together and do something incredible before life became more static. 

bryce canyon road trip
The family’s stop in Bryce Canyon. (Source: Anna Vineyard)

How was it traveling with your family? What was it like homeschooling your children while on the road? 

We quickly learned that it took about 25% longer to get anywhere in an RV than driving in a car. Super long travel days were hard for one of my kids, who doesn’t like to be restrained in a car seat and needs lots of wiggle breaks! About a 5-hour drive was about our sweet spot. I would fill the hours by teaching the kids their core curriculum unit studies and math. Then we’d usually watch a video that related to the content and do something creative that also corresponded to their learning. For example, after hiking the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, we learned about erosion and built hoo-doo statues out of Plus-Plus blocks. After wandering through the Painted Hills in John Day Fossil Beds, we discovered how to blend colors with pastels and create our own representation of the Painted Hills, learning how natural pigments were made as well as the minerals that cause the coloration in the rock layers. Everything was interrelated, and we studied Geology, Geography, History, Indigenous Peoples, Earth Science, local flora, fauna and culture, etc. in this way, everyone learning the same thing at their own respective levels (including math). 

Each National Park Unit had a Junior Ranger program that also helped us dive deeper, exploring the landscape, ecosystems, and resources and helping to create feelings of both love and responsibility towards the wild places we were exploring. 

What was the high point of the drive?

One of the high points for me was seeing the kids wonder at every place we went. We were seeing so many incredible things and exploring so many amazing places – but it never got old. There was always a hunger of “Where are we going next?” and excitement of being somewhere new. Also, seeing the kid’s confidence, resiliency, life skills and flexibility grow was so wonderful. They were growing and changing and maturing right before my eyes in challenging new situations and that was such a privilege to witness. 

What was the low point or the hardest part about living life on the road with kids?

There were a few things that were tough. Meeting everyone’s individual needs in a small space was constantly on my mind. My husband’s need to work, one of my kids needs for sensory input, one childs need to connect with friends back home, another’s need for downtime to recharge while us still needing to adhere to travel plans – I felt like I was constantly trying to juggle and balance everything. Add to that the stress of constantly traveling to places we had never been, setting up and taking down camp every few days and making sure we were on track with our educational goals meant there was a large mental load to carry. 

The lowest point on our travels was definitely when we all got COVID in November. When you get sick, you just long for the comforts of home and really appreciate the friends and family who would usually step in to help. We were in a campsite in an unfamiliar town with kids who were very ill. My husband even ended up in the hospital with COVID complications. It was really scary. There was no one to help us, and nowhere to go, and at the time there was a medication shortage of Tylenol and so even trying to find the things we needed to get through it was tough. We just had to wait it out hour by hour, monitoring each person and praying for recovery.

barataria preserve road trip
Visiting alligators in Barataria Preserve in Louisiana. (Source: Anna Vineyard)

Would you recommend other families to try this?

Absolutely! What a gift this year was! We created so many memories, built stronger bonds and saw so much growth in ourselves and each other. I feel grateful to have been able to travel with my kids and see places I had only heard or read about. Childhood ebbs so fast, we have a limited time to embrace it.

We wanted to model to our kids that you can make crazy adventurous plans and see them come to life. We want them to experience the sacrifices it takes to chase dreams; including the financial, relational, and emotional sacrifices as well as the mental toll of planning, executing, and walking into the unknown. It’s difficult to sit with uncertainty. It’s difficult to be away from everything and everyone we know. We don’t chase dreams because they are easy. We chase dreams because they are amazing. Dreams challenge us. Grow us. Dreams open our eyes to life outside our bubble. It’s not just the landscape that’s changing, it’s the very viewpoint from which we perceive it.

The trip wasn’t without hiccups. Besides their own personal COVID outbreak, they also faced plenty of bad weather, including multiple wind storms that changed some of their travel plans. Bad weather also included a handful of tornado warnings and temporarily being trapped at one campground due to flooding. 

Anna says it’s surprisingly hard to be home for the first time in months and would do the whole trip again in a heartbeat.

The Trip’s Complete Itinerary:

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