This year, my kids had a whole week off of school for Spring Break! (Usually, they get a couple of long weekends around Easter.) To celebrate the week of freedom, we decided to rent a 2005 19 ft Airstream Bambi and head out on the first ever DeGraf family road trip in a camper! We had never stayed in an Airstream as a family before, so this was quite a learning experience. Here are some of my tips for renting an Airstream for the first time:
6 Lessons Learned Camping in a Rental Airstream
1. Less Stuff = More Joy
I OVERPACKED. LIKE WAY OVERPACKED. We could have comfortably lived with 1/4 of the items we took. Our itinerary drastically changed mid-trip because of inclement weather, and we didn't get to do many of the outdoor activities we had planned. Most of the equipment and things we took didn't see the light of day. And it turns out that we were never far from civilization so we could grab things that we suddenly need something. Nineteen feet is not much space for everything for a family of 4 for seven days. Top that off with the fact that it all had to be inside the camper because of the rain. All the extra stuff made it hard to sit back and relax. It felt like the clutter was all around us. Looking back at it now, I feel like less stuff would have made us all more relaxed.
2. Be Flexible!
It rained every single day except the day we came home. We did not plan for a week of rain, so we had to change course mid-trip. Our original plans included two nights on the Buffalo River, Devil's Den State Park and Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas. Except for Devil's Den, the other AR parks are pretty remote with very little to do besides enjoy nature. (That's why I picked them!) But when you are facing being stuck inside your 19ft camper for six days with your family because there is nothing else to do, you change course. We ended up staying at Table Rock State Park in MO and found tons of fun indoor activities to do in town.
3. It's EVERYONE's vacation.
So you need to do things that each person likes. Maddox wanted to meet friends and ride bikes. Zoe wanted to fish and go geocaching. I wanted to go for walks and read a book. Bryan wanted to play games and learn all the ins and outs of the Airstream. We all had things we wanted to do so we worked hard to make sure that each person got to do some of the things important to them.
4. YouTube Research!
If it is your first time operating an Airstream, there are many helpful things you can learn beforehand to avoid the "What does this button do?" questions. They gave us a walkthrough at the dealership but it was overwhelming, and we were still confused about quite a few things. Water pumps, dumping stations, furnace (yes, we were cold), battery switch, status monitors, water fill-up, etc. I think if we had headed out with a little more knowledge it would have saved us some stress on the first couple of days. But never fear, YouTube is only a couple clicks away!
5. Food shop as you go.
I had a meal plan for the week. It seems a little over the top now even saying that. My advice would be, don't try to fill the trailer with all the food you need for the week. Chances are you will change your mind, go out, or want to make something completely different. You might take food for a couple of meals, but I would highly recommend just buying what you need as you go. Plus I learned that vacation means "eating out" to me. I don't want to be cooking all week. We did eat almost every breakfast in the Airstream though.
6. Travel journaling is like a personal highlight reel.
Time with my family is always precious to me. I feel like sometimes when you are laughing hysterically or trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, it's hard to stop and realize how amazing THIS. MOMENT. IS. Ever since Bryan and I went to Europe, I try to write down some notes about our trips. It is usually as simple as what we did or what I loved about it or where we ate. I try hard not to overthink this and jot down whatever feels important. But I have learned that doing this simple exercise helps me find the magical moments that I might have missed had I not reflected on the whole experience later. Doing this always reminds me of one of my favorite travel quotes:
"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." —Benjamin Disraeli
Our first trip in the 19ft Airstream Bambi was incredible. We had so many unforgettable moments that I think my kids will always remember. And even though it rained every day and I did compare it to being in your master closet with your entire family, I would do it all over again today! In fact, we are already planning our next Airstream rental. There is entirely nothing quite like hitting the road and camping in with your family in a silver dream.