A Multigenerational RV Road Trip — Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons When A Pandemic Strikes

A Multigenerational RV Road Trip — Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons When A Pandemic Strikes

by Alix Perrachon

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family RV road trip

Renowned interior designer Robin McGarry and her celebrated architect husband Jonathan Wagner (whose elite clientele includes the late Hollywood star Paul Newman). Both are pursuing their careers remotely from their paradisiacal retreat in Pine Island, FL, where they relocated from Weston, CT in 2017. One of their greatest joys is vacationing with their three young grandchildren who live in Boston, MA. Known to the kids as Gigi (Robin) and Jojo (Jonathan), these all-hands-on-deck grandparents’ recent family trips include a Boston-to-Bermuda cruise, a beach vacation on the Cayman Islands, and a two-week holiday in a New Hampshire lake house. 

This July, Robin and Jonathan were supposed to be sailing across the Atlantic from New York to Southampton, U.K. on the Queen Mary II with their adult children and three grandchildren. They were all set for an adventure aboard the luxury ship, followed by a tour of the sights of London. Then, Covid-19 upended these well-laid plans.  Find out how these grandparents extraordinaire are making lemonade out of lemons and have come up with a Plan B that may beat the original Plan A! Discover how they are planning for their multigenerational RV road trip. As we are all trying to figure out our summer plans, Robin and Jonathan’s upcoming adventure is definitely food for thought!

As the situation is fast evolving during the Covid-19 pandemic, please check your destinations’ (e.g., state, local municipality) websites for the latest updates on local quarantines, openings and closures (including local attractions and lodging)!

Q. Please tell us about your family.

A. Robin: We have three grandchildren—two boys, ages seven and nine, and a girl, age four—who live with our son and daughter-in-law in Boston. Normally, they come visit us in Florida, which they love, but that hasn’t happened this year because of Covid-19.

Q. How did you come up with your Plan B?

A. Robin: When our Queen Mary cruise was canceled, we started thinking of alternatives. There was no way I wasn’t going to see my grandkids for a whole year! When schools closed in March with the pandemic, we initially thought of having the grandkids come down to Pine Island for an extended spring break. But the travel logistics weren’t feasible with Covid-19, and we started exploring new summer plans. We thought of driving from Florida to visit the kids in Boston, but then what could we do there with so many attractions and activities closed?  That’s when the idea of an RV (recreational vehicle or motorhome) vacation popped up.  Jonathan absolutely loves driving. He even loved driving moving trucks from Connecticut to Florida!

Jonathan: I have always fantasized about driving an RV! This will be our first time doing it. We checked out RV rentals nearby and found a six-passenger option that’s virtually new. Given our architectural and design backgrounds, we loved checking out RV floor plans. Ours comes fully equipped with a kitchen, shower, sink, toilet, and tons of storage for luggage, toys, and games. It has a flat screen for DVDs or video games. We can get Wi-Fi from the hot spot on our phone to our iPad or laptop. The RV has its own generator which means we don’t have to worry about constantly hooking up. The generator runs from the gas tank or can hook up with a heavy-duty extension cord and adaptor to a regular plug or a campground standard plug-in.

The sleeping arrangements are really not bad at all. The kids can sleep in the bunk beds above driver seats, also in the banquet area (table drops down and the cushions fold over for another bed). There’s a queen bed in the back.

Robin: We then worked out our plan to drive the RV from Florida to Boston where we’ll pick up the grandkids and then go on a coastal Maine discovery adventure and combine that with a family visit at their lake house in Lubec.

Q. Why rent an RV?

A. Jonathan: As the RV is a self-contained environment, you don’t have to worry about being exposed to public places such as restaurants, hotels, or rest stops. Our RV will be completely sanitized, but we will give it the once over just to be totally safe before starting our trip. It’s basically a U-Haul truck size with a six-passenger sleeping capacity and so very manageable to drive.

(Please see here the RV selected by Jonathan and Robin).

Robin: You can’t find a safer solution traveling with small children during these Covid-19 times. Since we have so much storage, we plan to bring tons of toys and games to keep the kids entertained.  We’ll cook our own food and during the longer drives, I can keep the kids busy with games, puzzles, stories, books, and DVDs while Jonathan is behind the wheel.

 Q. What else do you need to bring?

A. Robin: You need to bring your own linens, pillows, towels, cookware, and dishes, or paper goods!  I am also packing environmentally friendly disposable plates/silverware.

We are bringing sleeping bags for kids, which they love. It makes it an adventure—like camping!

Q. Can you tell us about your itinerary?

A. Robin: Jonathan and I will take about five days to drive up from Florida to Boston while stopping along the way to visit friends.  We’ll spend a couple of days in Boston to refresh and recharge at our son and daughter-in-law’s house before bringing the grandkids on board. Our RV trip with the kids will be about a week long—two days driving up the coast of Maine to Lubec (the easternmost point in the continental U.S. at the Canadian border) and two days driving back down to Boston.

Lubec is the first place in the continental U.S. to see the sun rise! We’ll be parked at our nephew’s lake house there for about three days while living in the RV.  When driving up and down coastal Maine, we’ll be exploring sights including Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park (if it’s open in July), Camden, and Freeport where you have  L.L. Bean’s headquarters.

The coast is so beautiful and remote–the kids will love it! Our main priority though is spending quality time with the kids. It’s all about the journey versus the destination.

Q. Can you tell us more about what kinds of games and other entertainment you will be bringing to keep the kids entertained?

A. Robin: I’ve been stocking up on markers, crayons, coloring books, arts & crafts, Glow-in-the-Dark puzzles, and games like Scrabble, chess, Bingo, and Blockhead. Since the RV comes equipped with an oven, we’ll be baking muffins and cupcakes which the kids absolutely love doing. We’ll have bike racks so we can ride our bikes with the kids. We’re also bringing fishing rods. The kids loved fishing last year in New Hampshire and we’ll do it this summer again in Maine.

I also plan on uploading my photos from my phone onto my laptop which the kids love doing with me. They choose the photos they love best and I send them off to Shutterfly to make photo albums. Last year, the kids adored receiving their albums in the mail a couple of weeks after their vacation. Looking at them every night is one of their favorite pastimes.

 Q. Can you tell us about RV campground parking?

A. Jonathan: Most days, we’ll be parking the RV at friends’ houses and at our nephew’s lake house. When we need to stop at a public campground, we will only use it for parking purposes. We won’t need access to showers, bathrooms, or activities (e.g., pool and playground). We joined Kampgrounds of America (KOA)—the world’s largest network of privately held camping grounds—which is one way to make a reservation. You can also try the RVParky app.

 Q. Are you including the “adult” kids during this vacation?

A. Robin: Honestly, when they heard that we would be taking the grandkids with us for a week, they jumped for joy! It’s been very challenging to manage three young kids with homeschooling, etc. during Covid-19.  They need this time to recharge! Plus, we would have had to rent a larger RV if they came with us which we weren’t keen on doing.

 Q. Do you have any tips for Bébé Voyagers interested in exploring RV trips this summer with their children?

A. Robin and Jonathan: We recommend checking out the different RV sizes as there are many.  Visit the RV rental places and request a demonstration on how everything works.  The newer models have better equipment, such as solar power for the refrigerator when not on the generator.  Get a quote for the number of days–distance/mileage plays into the price.  

You need to research the route, locations of campgrounds, and the types of campgrounds. Some require reservations up to a month in advance. Check with friends you may stop to visit if it’s ok to park in their driveway…if they have a driveway. 

Always bring plenty of easy-to-travel games, drawing materials, puzzles, and books that can entertain the kids when you need a break.

Q. Why are your trips with your grandchildren so special?

A. Robin: We have enjoyed our trips with our grandchildren tremendously, especially without the parents as they seem to be better behaved and well-mannered!  Also, we get to relive our own childhood without too many “rule makers” and we don’t have to ask permission for anything. We get to follow only our rules–way less disagreements!

These have been the best trips for us and such fond memories! We always make a Shutterfly photo book right after the trip. It’s so nice that they will retain the memories!

 

We will keep you posted on Robin and Jonathan’s RV adventure with their grandkids.

This is the first in a series of Bébé Voyage articles on Summer 2020 travel alternatives. We want to hear about your plans and what they look like. Are you thinking of a summer house rental, a road trip, or even of a private boat cruise (if you are a proficient sailor)?  Have you been thinking of a multigenerational vacation? What about farming your kids to your parents?

 The BBV team wants to hear from you! We are all scrambling to find some respite from the Covid-19 existence. Let your plans be an inspiration for our community. Please contact: [email protected]

 

Bébé Voyage Disclaimer: The following article and all others related to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic are based on the experiences and views of the persons interviewed at the time of publication. As with any travel article published in Bébé Voyage, these views are published for informative purposes only. Bébé Voyage declines all responsibility related to actions taken by readers of said articles. It is the reader’s responsibility to undertake travel plans that are in accordance with governmental, public health and safety mandates at the time of travel.

 

In September 2016, the Manufacturers Alliance for Child Passenger Safety (MACPS) published a statement discouraging the use of motorized RVs for the transport of children. MACPS recommends parents “choose a non-motorized tow-able RV, so that children can be restrained properly in the passenger vehicle that is towing the RV.” To read the full statement click here https://www.saferidenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/MACPS-Harmonized-Statements.pdf 

 

You may also like these articles from the Bébé Voyage blog!

Being Both A Mom And Teacher During Covid-19

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Children’s Books That Inspire Exploration and Spark Imagination

 

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