Living in a camper is a great way to cut expenses and see different parts of the country. But if you have a baby, that can present some challenges many RV’ers don’t face. So can you live in a camper with a baby?
Here’s what I know from traveling extensively in RVs with my 3 kids:
Yes. You can live in a camper with a baby. For Class A, B, or C RVs, just ensure you have an age-appropriate car seat that is properly installed. And it may be best to avoid staying at destinations in winter that see harsh temperature drops.
But that’s not all there is to know about living in a camper with a baby.
Just keep reading, and we’ll cover everything you need to know about living in a camper with a baby. We’ll even talk about some products that can make living in a camper with a baby a little easier.
How do you travel with a baby or toddler in an RV?
A baby or toddler needs to be strapped into a car seat while traveling in a Class A, B, or C RV. Typically the best place for a car seat in these RVs will be a side-facing seat. While they will have seat belts, they will not typically have tethers.
The biggest concern for traveling with a baby or toddler in an RV is safety. This isn’t so hard if you are using a tow-behind travel trailer.
Since you won’t be riding in the trailer, you can use whatever car seat fits your tow vehicle.
Where it gets tricky is in a motorhome. When considering safety in a motorhome, there are a few guidelines you need to follow.
Here are the top tips and questions:
1. Do RVs offer latch systems for car seats?
No. most RVs don’t come with tethers for child safety seats. They also don’t typically offer shoulder-harness seat belts (outside of the driver and passenger seats).
Most car seats come with the LATCH system, meaning you can just hook your car seat onto the anchors built into the vehicle’s seat.
But as I mentioned, unless you add them aftermarket, RVs just don’t have them in most cases. Also, dining seats typically don’t offer seatbelts as they aren’t designed to be ridden in. Look for side-facing bench seats.
These will typically have lap seat belts attached to the floor, and they will hold your car seat just fine.
2. Can a child seat go in the front seat of an RV?
For large Class A or C motorhomes with slides, the passenger seat may be the safest place for a car seat as the cab is the most structurally sound part of the RV. However, the RV car seat laws vary from state to state and this may not be legal everywhere.
Of course, the safest place for a small child to be is in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat. But obviously, this can be tricky for most motorhomes.
Ultimately, RVs aren’t well designed for car seats so you will have to make the best decision for you and your child. And with laws varying from state to state, be aware that sometimes the best choice may not be legal everywhere.
3. Can an RV lap belt hold a car seat?
Yes, RV lap belt seat belts can hold a car seat. Most RVs have seatbelts bolted to the floor that is designed to go across the lap without a shoulder restraint. While not ideal for car seats, many RVs don’t offer any better alternative.
Standard car seatbelts are bolted to the chassis of the vehicle.
These seatbelts are made to meet safety standards. Seat belts that are bolted to wood or floorboards, as is often the case with seats in the back areas of RVs, are not designed to meet crash standards.
These seatbelts are typically used to anchor cargo, not people.
So while possibly not legal in every state, the front passenger seat often offers the safest place to put a car seat. But many RV families do use the lap belt restraints on car seats in the side facing bench seats and have relatively few issues.
As Mayor Murray declares homelessness an emergency, we meet a family with a baby and toddler living in an RV. At 6 pic.twitter.com/bXuPMJb5zD
— Graham Johnson (@GrahamKIRO7) November 3, 2015
Where can a baby sleep in the RV?
Infants can sleep in a travel bassinet or a baby nest, which can be placed in an extra bed or sofa. They can also co-sleep with their parents. While the vehicle is in motion, the safest place is in their car seat. That is often the only legal place for them to sleep as well.
CLICK HERE to see my favorite baby nest on Amazon.
The great thing about babies is that they don’t need a lot of room to sleep.
Infants don’t need a crib with high sides until they start pulling themselves up. Toddlers can sleep in a regular bed with a side rail.
You can find a safety rail that tucks under the mattress, like this one on Amazon. These are easy to put up and easy to take down when the time comes.
Infants need a safe place to sleep but don’t need a lot of space. Just like at home, they shouldn’t have a lot of blankets. It is not advisable to make them sleep in an area that is too soft.
Until they start pulling themselves up, infants don’t even need a crib.
From about six months, when your baby starts to pull themselves up, they should sleep in a bed with taller sides. If you have room, you can use a portable crib with taller sides. Don’t place the baby on a bunk bed. The baby could fall and get injured.
There are a wide variety of travel cribs. So pick one based on the size you need, portability, and ease of setup.
Travel cribs are great for more than just sleeping! You can take it outside for naps. Or even just a safe place to hang out when everyone is hanging out outside.
CLICK HERE to check out my favorite toddler crib on Amazon.
When thinking about sleeping arrangements for your baby, you should also think about your comfort!
Camper beds can be uncomfortable but can be made comfortable by adding a foam mattress topper to the bed.
To read more about whether camper beds are comfortable and how to make them more comfortable, just read this recent article.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
My wife and I would love a shot at a new RV from #campingworld! We’re both essential workers, and in the middle of it all, our baby Amelia was born early. 23 days in the NICU, and our goal is to show her the U.S. #camping in a new RV from @CampingWorld! pic.twitter.com/SD6J8Bmy33
— Kody Burg (@kodyburg) June 13, 2020
Can you move around in an RV while driving?
You can move around the RV when someone else is driving, but depending on what state you are in, that may not be legal. But many RVers will use the restroom and get snacks when another is driving.
But as I alluded, you should avoid walking around in an RV while it’s moving because it is very dangerous and illegal in many places.
Walking around in an RV while someone is driving may not seem like a big deal.
But if you get into an accident, you risk getting severely injured. If you are buckled on your seat and get into an accident, you may even avoid getting injured or get away with just a few scrapes and bruises.
But if you are walking around the RV, you can get thrown across the RV.
You can be thrown into a table or onto the floor. Even if you are in a low impact accident, you can still get injured. Imagine walking around the RV and wrecking at interstate speeds. Your injuries will most likely be grave.
Seatbelt laws vary from state to state.
Every state has laws that require front-seat riders to wear seatbelts. Twenty-two states require all RV passengers to wear their seatbelts while in a moving RV.
So if you are in one of those 22 states, not only should you not be walking around, you should be in a seat with a seatbelt.
If you are not sure about the seat belt laws in your state or states you’ll be traveling in, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an excellent resource.
Although there are states with no seatbelt laws, it doesn’t mean that you should be walking around your RV. Remember, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
@CampingWorld #campingworld @marcuslemonis we made it to Lake Arrowhead, Dogwood trailhead! Camping in a tiny tent with the family of 5. Would love to have an RV experience so baby Scooby could see Yosemite National Park! He might make the long drive in an RV! pic.twitter.com/WIONIm8oZj
— Parasuco (@Parasuco97) July 21, 2020
What states allow you to live in an RV?
Most states and counties don’t have restrictions against using an RV as a dwelling as long as it is parked in a designated campground, mobile home park, or private residence. Some neighborhood HOAs, however, may prohibit this.
Every state, county, and local municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding where you can live. Generally, parking your RV on your property is fine. However, living out of said RV is usually a different story.
Typically, RVs aren’t considered a permanent dwelling by the federal government. Of course, they can be used for typical recreation – travel, and camping, but it’s generally prohibited to use an RV as permanent housing.
But make sure to check zoning laws first.
Zoning laws can be tricky. They don’t just vary by state; they vary by city, community, and even specific plots of land. And if you want to park your RV in a community with a homeowner’s association, you run into another obstacle entirely.
Check zoning laws by looking for city handbooks regarding recreational vehicles and zoning laws. It should tell you where to park your RV and give you rules regarding using it as a permanent residence.
You can also call the local zoning office to check on your piece of property.
Calling around to local zoning offices is a great resource. Typically, clerks are knowledgeable and happy to point you in the right direction.
If you are considering moving someplace with harsh winters, there are some things that you may want to consider.
They may include things like how cold it gets during the winter, how good your insulation is, and the risks to your RV in harsh winters. But a good space heater can definitely help!
I wrote this recent article that dives deep into RV living, winter tips, and how to know if it’s a good idea for you to live in yours during the winter season.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Happy Father’s Day!! My 1st as a dad of 3, this one’s especially meaningful cause we introduced our baby girl to her grandpa, my FIL, who’s battling the big C. Rented an RV to drive 1100 miles, staying isolated to keep him & baby safe. A stop at #Arches in Moab was awesome, too. pic.twitter.com/kzDaOZ5lFD
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) June 22, 2020
Is living in an RV safe with kids?
Living in an RV is no more or less safe than living in a home, especially if you are parked somewhere relatively permanent with electricity, water, and sewer access. If you are on the road, the biggest danger will be getting into an accident.
If you live with a baby or toddler in an RV, your primary aim is to drive safely and baby-proof the vehicle.
Finding the right car seat and the right location in the RV is crucial. The good news is baby-proofing isn’t that hard in an RV.
RVs are somewhat already baby-proofed. Cabinets and refrigerators typically require a fair amount of force to open. Refrigerators will typically have a lock on them, too.
Even the drawers have these features on them. These features keep cabinets and refrigerators from flying open during travel. They can also double as safety features to keep your kids out of places you don’t want them to go.
You may still want to consider purchasing a toilet lock if you are concerned about your little one getting into the toilet.
But if you just keep the door closed to the toilet room, that should be sufficient. If you have one of those kids that just seem to be all over the place and get into everything, you can get doorknob covers.
Doorknob covers snap right on to the doorknob, making it very difficult for tiny hands to open doors.
So if you have medication or sharp objects that you want to keep your kids away from, it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to keep them.
Safety tips in your campground
As far as physical safety goes, if you are moving around from campsite to campsite, you may want to keep a closer eye on your kids.
Especially if they are older and like to wander around. Living in campgrounds can be a great way to meet people, but it’s not like living in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors.
Everyone in a campground is transient. If there is a bad guy visiting that campground, it wouldn’t be hard for him to grab an unsuspecting child undetected.
That doesn’t mean you can’t let your kid ride their bike around the campground, though! It just means you should consider doing it with them. Teach them to be aware of their surroundings and what to do if they find themselves in a scary situation.
Living with kids in an RV can bring a different set of problems instead of living with them in a home.
One of those problems can be whether CPS can take your kid if you live in an RV, especially if you are separated from your kid’s other parent.
This recent article covers everything you need to know about whether CPS can take your kid for living in an RV. The bottom line is that CPS just wants kids to be happy, healthy, and educated.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
Just visited an RV rental place prepping for a summer road trip to Canada with 5 friends + my baby and realized all that had been missing from my life is a camping high chair pic.twitter.com/Si254W09m3
— Anna Michels (@AnnaKMichels) February 3, 2018
What are the best baby products to have in an RV?
The best products to keep on hand in your RV for a baby or toddler include a portable crib, waterproof outdoor blankets, a folding jogging stroller, and a backpack carrier. Those will all help you make the most of the outdoors while keeping your baby entertained and safe.
Advertising, well-meaning friends, and TV make parents feel like they need an abundance of baby products.
Whether you live in a home or an RV, we tend to buy much more for our kids than they actually need. They need a safe place to play and sleep. But you may want some other products that just make caring for a baby a little easier, especially in an RV.
It can be overwhelming going through pages and pages of Amazon recommendations. So, I’ve done the research for you.
Below are some of my favorite products for living in an RV with a baby. Just click any of the links to see the current price on Amazon.
Extra Large Waterproof Folding Outdoor Blanket
This Extra Large Waterproof Folding Outdoor Blanket by Lightspeed Outdoors inexpensive and folds nicely to a compact size. It’s also versatile. When it’s folded, it doubles as a cushion.
This is such a great item because it can be used in so many ways. It can be a tummy time mat when you’re at home, or it can be a comfy place to nap during the day, indoors or outdoors. It can be used at the beach or on a picnic too. It can be used at sporting events or anywhere you want to lay outdoors and relax.
At 70 x 58 inches, it’s big enough that multiple people can hang out comfortably.
And it folds down small enough to carry. A very nice feature is that it comes with a detachable shoulder strap. So if you need to carry it, it’s easy to do so. But if you want to use it as a cushion, you can simply remove the strap. It also has a large pocket so that you can carry any essentials!
Infant Travel Bed
This Infant Travel Bed by Lulyboo is so cool! It’s a bassinet that folds up for easy storage. It also has straps so that you can wear it as a backpack for easy carrying.
It has a removable activity bar and canopy. Use this with the outdoor blanket for a day at the park. Then everyone will have a nice place to hang out, and the baby will have a nice, comfy place to play and nap.
This would be great for a small baby to sleep in the RV. It is lightweight, safe, and folds up for storage easily.
Baby Delight Go With Me Chair
Older babies and toddlers will need a place to eat that they can’t escape from. This Go With Me Chair is such a great option.
This foldable high chair is suitable for kids up to 75 pounds. It really grows with your child. The seat can “unvelcro” to reveal two leg holes to let your baby stand with support. It also has a removable harness for big kids to sit without being strapped in.
It has a removable snack tray and sun canopy. It also comes with a bag for easy carrying. It’s perfect to use in the RV or out and about.
Ultralight Jogging Stroller
Finding time to exercise can be challenging anywhere. It’s especially harder when you live in an RV because you don’t have a ton of space.
This Ultralight Jogging Stroller by Joovy is a great way to get some exercise with the baby. It reclines for smaller babies but sits high for older babies to enjoy the view. It has nice wide tires and comes with a tire pump.
While it does fold for storage, it’s a jogging stroller, so it does take up a good amount of space. Make sure you have room to store it before you purchase it.
Backpack Carrier for Hiking
If jogging is not your thing, or if you just love to hike, this Baby Backpack Carrier for Hiking by Luvdbaby is an excellent choice.
It protects your back while safely and comfortably holding your baby. It can be used for babies and toddlers. It has a removable sunshade and tons of pockets, including insulated ones. This feature allows you to take formula, snacks, and drinks for you and your baby, and it also comes with a diaper changing pad!
This carrier will be the only bag you need to take on your hiking trip with your baby.
Again, just click on any of those links to see the products on Amazon.
Did I answer everything you wanted to know about living in a camper with a baby?
Living in an RV with a baby carries a unique set of challenges, particularly if you will be traveling.
Babies don’t need a lot of space, so sleeping arrangements are relatively easy to navigate. There are tons of products out there that make living with a baby more comfortable, whether it’s in a home or an RV.
Driving with babies and toddlers is the trickiest part of living in an RV, but it’s not impossible, and in fact, very doable.