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Grandparenting From Afar: How to Be a Great Grandparent When You RV

There are three moments in an adult’s life deemed their happiest; our wedding day, the day our children are born, and when we become grandparents. In late November of 2017, we parked our RV in San Antonio and flew to Minneapolis to be there when our first grandchild, Declan, was born! We got new names; Memaw and Fashia. We became those candy-feeding, jumping-on-the-furniture, spoil-em-rotten grandparents!

Let me just say this. Having your own children is absolutely amazing. But, seeing your children having their own children is pure exhilaration! And, you hope their children will be just like them (or maybe not!).

Every time we see our little grandson Declan is like stepping back thirty-some years when our son was that age. When we FaceTime or see videos of our grandson in his jam-jams, memories take us back to our own son’s feet pitter-pattering the floor in his.

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Since we are full-time RVers, we have a slightly different experience than those living in sticks and bricks. As nomadic RVers, becoming grandparents presented a unique relationship. Most new grandparents would be chomping at the bit to sell their home and move closer to their young family. Or they’d deal with the chaos of flying every month to see their grandkids. However, since we were already full-time RV travelers, it became easier.

So, what do we do? We take our home to see our grandson and his family!

Situating ourselves geographically...

We decided to not stop our nomadic RV lifestyle just as our parents didn’t stop what they were doing when we started our family in Massachusetts. However, we decided we would take our RV to Minnesota in the late spring, summer or early fall and fly to them in the winter.

In the warmer months, we typically boondock on a friend’s farm about a half hour from their home. But, if it’s too wet, we pull out our wallets and pay for a nearby RV park. We try to stay with them for at least a couple weeks.

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When it comes to the winter months, we must situate ourselves in the southwestern U.S. at a reputable RV park where we can get a sitter to look in on our cats while we fly out to Minnesota. And of course, that RV park must be close to a major airport. This sometimes is more challenging because we’re having to make reservations at an RV park as well as airlines for the holidays. So, we tend to make our reservations by May or June. We also have to deal with weather on their end; hoping flights don’t get cancelled or delayed because of snow.

So, whether it’s hauling our RV to Minnesota or finagling flights during the winter holidays, birthdays and special events, we make it work.

How we keep up the communication...

Keeping in contact with our grandson and his family is as easy as picking up the phone or FaceTime. We get to see our little guy grow almost daily. We get photos literally seconds after our son and his wife text us from Minnesota. So, this means we need to have a good Wi-Fi connection. Recently, we got an unlimited WiFi plan so we didn’t have to worry about overages during our conversations with Declan.

Each week, we get to share bath time with our little guy. Why bath time? Because each time we’d visit, that was Declan’s and my time. We’d play with his boats and “fishies.” We’d also splash as much water as we could not caring about making a mess. I mean, that’s what grandparents do, right?!

So now, when my FaceTime ringer sounds, I roll up my sleeves and share “virtual bath time” with Declan. We’d play and talk while his mom and dad watch over him with the camera phone.

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Exploring and sharing together...

Contrary to what sticks-n-brick’ers may say, living the RV life actually enables us to see him more. Speaking honestly, we could never afford flying out every month to see him while also paying that hefty mortgage and real estate taxes.

When we became grandparents, the shopper in me took on a new level. There is no greater shopping experience than buying things for our Declan. And living in an RV requires much restraint, otherwise, I’d buy it all.

Grandparenting from Afar: How to Be a Great Grandparent When You RV

While we love to buy him tons of clothes, we try to respect what our son and daughter-in-law’s wishes on how they dress him. But so far, they’ve not passed up anything we’ve sent him.

Considering that we are nomads who love adventure and exploring, we tend to shop for clothes that resonate. And, of course, those are not hard to find. Anytime we visit a National Park, I make a beeline straight to the gift shop to find Declan a little t-shirt, book or something educational. And, I will ask for an extra brown paper bag with the logo on it to use to wrap his little presents before shipping them off.

When we can't be there in person...

With the above communication factors, we also do some cool things to interact with our Grandson on the road. Now, granted, as I write this, he’s only 18 months old. But, we try to do things that are unique. Most interesting places we visit, we send him a post card.

We always look for an age appropriate book that has something to do with the area we are exploring. For example, when we were hiking at Anza Borrego State Park in California, we bought him the Dr. Seuss book Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry. We threw in a toddler t-shirt with ‘Future Hiker’ on the front. He’ll learn about where we are or have been and will be excited to go with us when Declan gets old enough.

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Distance does make our hearts grow fonder...

We’ve proven that being a career military family away from our loved ones. And now, as an RV full-time family, it still rings true. The less we see them, the more we appreciate the time we do have with them. We make great effort to travel to them.

When we do see him (and our son and daughter-in-law of course!), we play during his bath time (in real time!), read his books we sent him, go for long walks, partake in his swim lessons or play until we’re all worn out.

And then when it’s time to roll again, we go back to our cyber dates.

So, if you’re a full-time RVer, and new grandparent or grandparent-to-be, these are just a few examples of how you, too, can have a great relationship with your grandchildren while still enjoying the RV lifestyle.

Lisa Brown and Dan Brown


Lisa Brown

There are no rocking chairs for Dan and Lisa Brown of Always On Liberty. A few years after Dan retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, they sold their five-bedroom Kentucky home with everything in it and set out for the open road to see America with their new fifth wheel. They and their two Maine Coon cats have been full-time, adventurous RV nomads since 2014 with no plans of stopping.

Now, two RVs later, they are still searching for destinations unknown and forging their own paths. Their passions are motorcycle riding, hiking, kayaking and learning our country’s history. They also enjoy sharing their on-the-road experiences, RV tips and tricks, product reviews and how-to guides of RV life through their blog and writing.

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10 Responses

  1. Reading your post gives me hope. we just purchased our first RV with the desire to travel the US and visit all of the baseball parks. I retire next year and th plan is to sell our home and RV for a year or so. It seems itimidating but we will either love or not! We have one 70 lb dog and two 8 & 11 pounders so wish us luck!

  2. We, too, are grandparents and though we love our children, we love for our 6 grandchildren immensely. Even being in a sticks and brick did not allow us to spend a lot of time with them – they have lives as well, so we did not want to put our travel plans on hold just to sit around and wait to be able to see them. We also travel back home in the summer months to be able to spend time with them and fly back during the winter (and 1st birthdays..lol). FaceTime has certainly helped us cope with those periods in between when being there personally to squeeze them is just not an option. Also started sending postcards of our travels to them too – they love “seeing” where we’ve been.

  3. Wow, I believe our story is the same except my husband retired from Air Force. We have two Grandchildren Cole 4yrs and Willow 2yrs. Our son followed in his Dad’s and Grandfather footsteps and is now in the Air Force and is currently stationed in Kansas. We do all the things you suggest in your article with the two exception: 1st-after our visit we choose a photo that is usually of the two grandkids and us doing something fun. We go to Walmart and get the photo printed on a small canvas and hang it in there bedroom so they see it every day. 2nd – We also decided we would hang a map of the United States. When they receive a post card their Mom and Dad put a pin on the map and talk about where we are at and what we are doing. I too feel like we connect with them more in our lifestyle.

  4. Im exactly where you are one year behind. Last November I left my MH in San Antonio and drove up to the Twin Cities. My son and his wife found the one thing that would get me to come back in the winter. Carson was born right after thanksgiving. I got back here in May and have been spending alot of time with him, so he will know me whenever I come back. Since he will be older when I leave, we will be doing lots of facetiming. 🙂

  5. Wow. A great article. We sold everything in 2015 and hit the road. We had already taken part in helping to raise 2 grandkids who were 16 and 11 when we left but left behind a 2 year old and 2 newborns. It has been awesome traveling and video chatting nearly every day but they live north and summer is the best time to see the northern parts of the country like Montana, Wyoming and UP of Michigan. We try to visit near end of summer for 4-6 weeks when kids are back in school. Less long term demands from our 3 daughters and more fun time with the grands. Not sure I ever want to voluntarily give up this lifestyle.

  6. Loved your grandparenting story!
    We sold our home and everthing in it in Oregon 4 years ago, 2016. We new it was a God thing because the house sold in 2 days. We then worked 3 summers in a rv park with a golf coures as managers. We were only an half hour away from our 3 teenage grandsons (and mom and step dad).
    When they were little, I got to have them 3 days +, per week. They loved spending the nights with us. They had their own bedroom with a cool boat bed in it that we had to draw straws to see who would get to sleep in it that night.. And boy did they remember who slept in it last! LoL
    Being that the winters are cold in Oregon, the first winter of full time rving, we headed for S. CALIF. and Arizona for 3 months.. I really cried hard when I had to leave my 3 grandboys and so did my 12 year old grandson. I had to miss two of their January birthdays. Thank God they enjoy money in a card. :0) They texted and we sent videos and talked on the phone. IT WAS OK!
    We headed back to Oregon to see my grandboys (and their parents and our son too).
    MAY OF 2018, we took our youngest grandson on a cruise to the Caribbean for his 13th birthday. The other two for their 13th birthdays chose Disney World and one chose Maui……but now in 10 years, we will have to take our 19 month triplet girls somewhere special! Yes, I said triplet girls. Identical!
    This grandma and grandpa were shocked when our son and daughter in law announced they were pregnant right after they were married in May 2017, but they were shocked when (and all of us were also shocked) that they were having triplets! It was a scary time with that pregnancy, but thank God they are all doing well. PIPER was 1.1 lbs Olivia was 2.6 lbs and Sophia was 3.11 lbs. Because of their weight differences, that is how we can tell them apart. They are 17, 24 and 27 lbs now and thriving. The dumb Specialist Drs. wanted to abort Piper.
    The girls are 19 months now.
    They were born in Nov. 2017 (winter months in an RV, burrrrr actually it was a mild winter.) The girls were in the NICU for 3 months. Only 8 mins away from the rv park. Then when they came home, I lived with them for 3 months. We basicly stayed in Oregon to help for 1 1/2 years.
    After the girls turned 13 months, we did take another snowbird trip to Cali and Arizona. I flew home for 1 week to get my grandma fix. We have been back since April 2019 to help again, but now we are leaving to head east towards South Dakota. It will take us a month to get there and a month to get back. We will hit 8 states in 2 1/2 months. Lots of pictures and videos will be shared! I WILL MISS MY FAMILY, but when we get back, we WILL have quality time together.

  7. I’m still dreaming of full-timing and grandchildren, but your article gave me some great ideas. It’s good to hear positive experiences. I look forward to taking future grandchildren on vacation too

  8. Thank you for this article. We are 43 and grandparents and our last adult child will be moving out next month. My husband wants to sell the house since market is hot and get an RV and travel. We have been married for about 24 years now and we feel like it is our turn. We never really had a chance when we were younger since we started so young. We also have my dads house that we inherited that my other son and his family are in. It is hard to think if us not being there physically but I love what you said about bath time. That too is mine and my granddaughters time when she visits us. She is 2 years old. Definitely a grandmother thing. We are all super close and they live about 25 minutes away. So this article gave me a little bit of peace for doing it. Thank you

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