How a Seasonal Campsite Helps a Traveling Teen

Towheads surveying vistas in National Parks. Toddlers chasing drones in the desert. Giggling girls playing in frothing waves. These photos slide across our view from the feeds of traveling friends. We love seeing the ways families raise their kids once out of the suburbs.

Traveling Teens

We’re in a different place. Our two kids are 16 and 18 and are starting to resent being called kids. Their attentions are turning from chasing bubbles to chasing goals.

They are starting to tense, to draw back, to gather energy in preparation for the leap into adulthood.  What if constant travel doesn’t provide the solid footing necessary for that jump?

The Cost of Travel

It’s hard for a traveling teen to make money. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit that not every teen has.  Sometimes that fast-food job is the perfect start to a working career.

It’s harder for a traveling teen to line up internships to explore a career. Internships are measured in months, not days. Telling a prospect that you’ll be gone next week is a sure-fire way to get passed over.

Use Your Brakes

If you travel with teens and face these issues maybe our solution will work for you.

Stop down for a season.

You might live on wheels or under sails but that doesn’t mean you have to use them.

It might be hard as the adult. You’ve spent years in one place. You worked hard to get mobile. Your wanderlust is still strong. But, you made the choice to start a family. You need to own up to that choice and do the right thing - the hard thing - for your kids.

Many campgrounds and RV parks offer “seasonal campsites” - where you buy one site to park your RV on for the entire camping season.

Benefits of a Seasonal Campsite

We’ve just moved onto on a seasonal campsite in mid-Michigan. We’ll be here for five months - long enough for the kids to find summer jobs and internships. This is our second year of being “seasonals” here. It has the advantages of:

  • Cost
  • Convenience
  • Community
  • Consistency

Cost

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Save money while your kids make it. Buying a site for the season can save you money in several ways:

  • Cheaper Rent

    Like so many things in life “buy in bulk” applies here too. The more nights you buy the cheaper per-night cost you will get. Our monthly rate is $375 which works out to about $12.50/day for a full hookup site. That’s cheap living.
  • Cheaper Internet

    Mobile internet plans are expensive. Cable and DSL options are cheaper. We put our $100/mo mobile Verizon service on hold and bought $50/mo local cable internet. The faster download speed and bigger data cap (300GB on cable rather than 20GB on 4G) is a bonus. Maybe we’ll save more money by streaming movies rather than renting them.
  • Cheaper Fuel Bills

    As a fulltime nomad you often trade a mortgage for a fuel bill. Driving less we’ll use less gas. Not towing the RV when we do drive increases our average fuel mileage.
  • Cheaper Groceries

    Food is a big expense for traveling families. You can’t buy in bulk because you don’t have the storage. By not moving we can be smarter about when and where we buy groceries. We can also put a dorm-style fridge outside for more capacity.
  • Convenience

    Make sure you don’t end up in a seasonal spot that’s too remote. You don’t want to end up all “suburban busy” again. Choose the right park and you can be close to both the kid’s jobs and the things that interest you. Picture our home in the middle of a set of concentric circles and we have:

    300 Yards Away

    • Kayaking
    • Fishing
    • Shuffleboard
    • Boat Launch

    1 Mile Away

    • Downtown
    • Library
    • Concerts
    • Summer festival
    • Parades
    • Farmers Market
    • Laundry
    • Local groceries
    • Dozens of potential employers for kids

    3 Miles Away

    • Walmart
    • Humane Society

    20 Miles Away

    • Parents cottage
    • River Kayaking

    Community

    We don’t always think it takes a village to raise a child. Yet - there are benefits to being close to a village. In that village are the employers your teens will need for their jobs and internships. Seasonal campsites can provide other community-building opportunities:

    • Relatives

      Our spot is 16 miles from my parents house. We’ve been able to provide help when they needed it. I’ve been able to use my Dad’s shop and tools for trailer upgrades and repairs.
    • Fellow Seasonals

      The park’s other seasonals are a great chance to build community. Make friends during the summer, then look them up down south in the winter!
    • Volunteers

      Being in one place for months will allow you to find volunteer opportunities. We’ve helped with local parades, car shows, and food kitchens.

    Consistency

    Let’s face it - most traveling kids are going to start their working career by getting a “regular” job. Stopping down travel for a season gives them a chance to practice having a daily schedule. Having more regular days can also help with other personal goals:

    • Big Work Projects

      Say, like, oh I don’t know - writing a book?  Travel can sometimes distract you from ambitious work or personal goals that need daily tending.
    • RV Repairs or Mods

      As a seasonal camper you’ll can get away with more projects in the campground. You’ll also have more time to get them done.
    • Exercise

      It’s hard to get fit or train for endurance events while traveling a lot. Stopping down for a season and having a daily routine can help you drop those pounds.
Harrison umped the local Little League games while staying in a seasonal campsite.

Harrison umped the local Little League games while staying in a seasonal campsite.

We found other volunteer opportunities while in town.

We found other volunteer opportunities while in town.

Miranda was able to volunteer at the humane society because we weren't moving so much.

Miranda was able to volunteer at the humane society because we weren't moving so much.

Harrison does a great job volunteering with special needs kids.

Harrison does a great job volunteering with special needs kids.

We handed out 'back to school' backpacks in the fall.

We handed out 'back to school' backpacks in the fall.

The local library issued us cards because we were seasonals. We read >250 books as a family.

The local library issued us cards because we were seasonals. We read >250 books as a family.

Getting cable internet installed in our RV makes sense since we'll be here 5 months.

Getting cable internet installed in our RV makes sense since we'll be here 5 months.

5 months of sunsets over this lake and it only did this once. We were there for it.

5 months of sunsets over this lake and it only did this once. We were there for it.

We could be choosy and only kayak on the pretty mornings.

We could be choosy and only kayak on the pretty mornings.

How to Choose a Seasonal Campsite

If the benefits of a seasonal campsite appeal to you here’s how to find the perfect spot:

  • Determine Your Budget

    Spend too little and you could end up in a dive. Spend too much and you might as well keep truckin’. We pay $375/month but have to commit to 5 months.
  • Choose Your Location

    Trust your gut here - you probably know the area of the country that appeals to you. We located about 1.5 hours from where we used to live.
  • Visit the Park

    Don’t buy sight unseen. Visit for a night or three to get a feel for the place - especially the community. We camped at this park on a holiday weekend and were impressed with how friendly the people were.
  • Check Amenities

    Not all seasonal spots have full hookups. Some are water and electric only. Some have metered electric. Get the full financial picture before you commit.  Our spot is full hookups, no metered electric, but we have to mow our patch of grass.
  • Check Dates

    Some seasons start in April, some in May. Some end earlier than others. Make sure you know how long you need to be there. Our park is open from late April to mid-October.
  • Check All Types of Parks

    Most private parks have seasonal (or even year-round) spots. Many government owned (state and county) parks do as well. Our seasonal spot is in a city-owned park.
  • Think of the Children!

    Keep your teens engaged in the seasonal site selection process. If you are going to be in a spot for several months life will be easier if it’s a place they love. Our kids were lobbying heavily to return to this spot. One claims it “home”.

Other Solutions?

If you have done long term travel with teens how did you give them space for the transition off to a life on their own? We’re always anxious to compare notes with other parents in this regard. Drop us a comment!

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