Thanksgiving RV Trip: How to Enjoy the Holiday on the Road

Why not shake it up this year with a new tradition? Instead of the usual family gathering, jump in the RV and hit the road for a holiday you can be truly thankful for.

The classic vision of Thanksgiving typically involves a giant stuffed turkey with multiple side dishes and pies, all covering a long dining table surrounded by family and friends. 

However, as RV travel continues to grow in popularity and more and more people adopt non-traditional lifestyles such as digital nomads and full-time RVing, the entire concept of holidays is rapidly changing. They can still be spent making memories and connecting with loved ones but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending several days in meal planning and prepping or even staying home. 

This year, why not consider a Thanksgiving RV trip? Whether you go to a favorite place or a new one, head out solo, bring your whole family along, cook up a quintessential Thanksgiving feast or skip a traditional meal altogether, hitting the road is a fun and memorable way to spend the holiday.

Enjoying Thanksgiving at Clerbrook Golf and RV Resort, Clermont, Florida

Reasons to take a Thanksgiving RV trip

  • Experience national parks and other popular destinations during the shoulder season when there are few other visitors—enjoy less-crowded viewpoints and trails, little to no traffic, and your pick of campsites
  • A Thanksgiving RV trip creates a new tradition with your significant other or family
  • Minimal cleanup as compared to a kitchen in a house for Thanksgiving dinner
  • If you’re not a full-timer, a Thanksgiving trip can extend your camping season and let you enjoy one more adventure before storing your rig for winter
Spending Thanksgiving in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ideas for your Thanksgiving RV trip

The sky is really the limit when it comes to places you can spend Thanksgiving in your RV but here are some unique ideas. 

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National parks

Even the parks that close individual entrances or most roads for winter have at least one campground open all year. Planning a Thanksgiving RV trip is a wonderful way to experience some of the country’s most popular parks in a unique way without the crowds and in a much quieter setting. Most national park campgrounds are dry camping with no utilities.

Related article: 49 Million Americans Will Road Trip This Thanksgiving, 15 Million by RV

Best of all, some national parks even host special Thanksgiving programs. For example, restaurants in Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park host elaborate Thanksgiving spreads.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State parks

A quieter alternative to national parks, many state parks are open year-round and are very accessible. Choose one close to home, look for one that will still have fall foliage late in the season, or pick one that offers a warm climate. State park campgrounds offer a variety of sites including no services, electricity, and water only, and full-service camping. It’s a design-your-own-Thanksgiving-RV-trip.

Camping at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traditional RV parks

Camping in an RV park or resort over Thanksgiving can give you access to full hookups, scheduled activities, clubhouse and pool, fire pit, outdoor seating, and table space, and perhaps even shared kitchen facilities. Some parks may even host Thanksgiving events where you can meet other travelers. 

Boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boondocking

If you want to try something different and completely unplug over the holiday, consider boondocking. You’ll need to do some advance planning in terms of grocery shopping and meal prepping plus decide how you’ll make Thanksgiving dinner but can be a fantastic, memorable way to create new traditions.

Related article: Top 8 Tips for Planning a Road Trip this Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season

Potential downsides of a Thanksgiving RV trip (and how to deal with them)

Carrots for a colorful Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being away from family and friends 

If you’re used to spending the holiday with a large group of friends and family, this can be a major factor in deciding whether or not to take a Thanksgiving RV trip. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with loved ones. Consider scheduling a FaceTime or Zoom call at some point during the day so everyone can say hello. 

You can also plan a traditional Thanksgiving meal when you’re all together in person even if it’s nowhere near the actual holiday. Who knows, this could become a new favorite tradition.

Thanksgiving dinner? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wanting to prep a traditional meal but not having enough space

Whipping up a Thanksgiving meal can be challenging even in a single-family home so there’s no denying it’s difficult in an RV. However, it’s not at all impossible.

Pie for Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think about what you realistically have fridge and oven space for and come up with creative ways to prepare and cook everything else. For example, maybe you purchase a pie from a local bakery or you cook some dishes over the fire pit or grill. 

And if table/counter space is an issue make use of any surfaces you have outside the RV. There’s no rule saying you can’t decorate a picnic table or folding chairs for Thanksgiving.

Be prepared in case bad weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bad weather

Late November can be dicey weather-wise, no matter where you are. Plan ahead and have some day-of backup plans in case inclement weather forces you to stay inside. Do your Thanksgiving grocery shopping in advance to eliminate the possibility that you’re short one or two key ingredients and if you’re planning to dine outside have an indoor layout in mind so there’s plenty of space to accommodate everyone. 

Related article: Thanksgiving & Our RV Lifestyle: Giving Thanks

Do something different this Thanksgiving, Go RVing! Take your family off the Wi-Fi craze for a few days and enjoy a nearly work-free meal prep and enjoyable conversation with the whole family. It will be an experience you never forget!

Worth Pondering…

Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.

—Catherine Pulsifer

Christmas Music Inspires and Brings Cheer during the Pandemic

Celebrate the most wonderful time of the year with the best Christmas songs of all time

Christmas delivers more traditions, festivities, and entertainment than all other holidays combined.

During the Christmas season, we sing traditional carols and hymns. In churches and homes, many set up nativity scenes, a practice created in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We also participate in secular holiday traditions. Originally modeled on a fourth-century bishop, St. Nicholas of Myra, Santa Claus has long been an icon of the Christmas season. We set up and decorate spruce and fir trees in our living rooms, attach stockings to the mantle, send out Christmas cards, buy sleigh loads of presents, and tell the little ones about Santa’s elves and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world of arts and entertainment exuberantly joins these festivities. We read books such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and share poems with our children like Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Hollywood has pumped out scores of Christmas movies ranging from classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” to comedies, religious stories, and Hallmark romances.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, families practice their own holiday customs. That newly wedded couple must decide whether they’re going to open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Some families watch “A Christmas Story,” while others stick to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Some repeat the Thanksgiving menu of turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes for their holiday meal while others enjoy roast beef, goose, or ethnic foods.

Another Christmas tradition: The Story of the Poinsettia

And then, of course, there is the music.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Songs, songs, and more songs

It’s not really Christmas until the gang from Pentatonix releases new material and this year they’ve stretched the definition of Christmas material.

The group offers classics like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and also tackle songs not often caroled like Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” And then they give “I Saw Three Ships” and “Frosty the Snowman” a rhythmic beat.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are so many Christmas songs and so many different artists who have recorded them that certain radio stations fill their December air time with this fare without strain or repetition. Load copies of all these recordings into Santa’s sleigh and even that bearded wonder and his 12 reindeer might have trouble making lift-off.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of these compositions are more than 1,000 years old while others have popped up in just the past decade. Some celebrate the coming of a savior like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, O Holy Night”, and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Others center our attention on the symbols of the season like “O Christmas Tree” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Some take a turn toward romance, as in “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Christmas Every Day.” There are even silly Christmas songs: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And you don’t need to be Irish to enjoy “Christmas in Killarney”:

  • The holly green, the ivy green/The prettiest picture you’ve ever seen/Is Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home/It’s nice you know, to kiss your beau/while cuddling under the mistletoe/And Santa Claus, you know of course/Is one of the boys from home
  • The door is always open/The neighbors pay a call/And Father John, before he’s gone/Will bless the house and all/Our Hearts are light, our spirits bright/We’ll celebrate our joy tonight/It’s Christmas in Killarney/With all of the folks at home
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Songs and carols and how they came to be

Behind many of these songs are intriguing stories of their creation and their meaning. Here are just a few of these histories.

Another Christmas tradition: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” has its roots in the monasteries of the ninth century. That early version was in Latin, of course, and is just as beautiful as the English we sing today. Originally, monks or nuns chanted verses and psalms from the Old Testament anticipating the arrival of a savior. Discipleship Ministries of the Methodist Church offers this interesting observation on the original arrangement. Each of the antiphons (a short chant in Christian ritual, sung as a refrain) began with the words below:

  • O Sapentia (Wisdom)
  • O Adonai (Hebrew word for God)
  • O Radix Jesse (stem or root of Jesse)
  • O Clavis David (key of David)
  • O Oriens (dayspring)
  • O Rex genitium (King of the Gentiles)
  • O Emmanuel
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the seventh antiphon—O Emmanuel—the first letter of these words read in opposite order gave listeners an acrostic “Ero Cras,” which means “I will be present tomorrow.”

Another song from the Middle Ages, “In Dulci Jubilo,” we now know as “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” German folklore holds that Heinrich Seuse composed this carol sometime around 1328 after he had heard angels singing it.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

“Silent Night” has a story that is almost as beautiful as the carol itself.

Another Christmas tradition: The Holiday Season Favorite Veggie: Sweet Potato or Yam?

Just after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, a young Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr, took a walk on a winter’s evening and was struck by the peace and beauty of the snow-covered village below him. He wrote down the words for “Silent Night,” and two years later, in need of a hymn for Christmas Eve, he paid a visit to his friend Franz Gruber, a school teacher who was also the church’s choirmaster and asked him to compose the music for his lyrics.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That night, at Midnight Mass, Gruber and Father Mohr, playing on the guitar, gave the world one of its most beloved carols.

Eventually, “Silent Night” was translated into more than 300 languages and is today sung around the world. One fascinating historical note: During World War I’s Christmas Eve truce of 1914, soldiers from both sides of no man’s land gathered and sang the carol in English and German.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Secular Songs of the Season

The past 100 years have seen an explosion of non-religious holiday songs. Of these, “White Christmas” remains one of the most popular, and again the music comes with a special story.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Russian-born Irving Berlin who gave us such hits as “God Bless America” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” also wrote “White Christmas.” Though the Jewish composer didn’t celebrate this holiday, some have speculated he may have written the song in memory of his 3-week-old son who died in 1928 on Christmas Day. For years afterward, Berlin and his wife annually visited their son’s grave on that day. Certainly, the opening lines and the slow, rather melancholy tune might point to such a loss:

  • I’m dreaming of a white Christmas/Just like the ones I used to know/Where the treetops glisten and children listen/ To hear sleigh bells in the snow
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1941, Bing Crosby first brought the newly published “White Christmas” to the airwaves just days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. During the war, whenever Crosby appeared overseas to entertain the troops, the soldiers, again and again, requested this song.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I hesitated about doing it because invariably it caused such a nostalgic yearning among the men, that it made them sad,” Crosby said in an interview. “Heaven knows, I didn’t come that far to make them sad. For this reason, several times I tried to cut it out of the show, but these guys just hollered for it.”

Another Christmas tradition: Fruitcake: National Joke or Tasty Christmas Tradition

Those men wanted that reminder of home and what they were fighting for.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cultural Bonds

If we explore the origins and histories of such songs and carols, we find that many of them come with these special stories. In “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” for example, some believe that the gifts mentioned in the song, from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming, refer to certain symbols of the Catholic faith while others contend this strange array of presents derives from a child’s memory game.

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While learning these stories can be fun and instructive, it’s the music we know and love. It’s a small bit of that glue that binds us together as a people. We would be hard-pressed to find a child, or an adult for that matter, who had never heard of Rudolph or The Grinch. Whatever our religious beliefs, we’re familiar with “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.” We may not know the words, but we can hum along with songs like “Little Drummer Boy” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

Another Christmas tradition: O Christmas Tree, Don’t Fall Off my SUV

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved MERA

How mainstream is your taste in Christmas music?

Compare your faves to the most-streamed Christmas songs on Spotify this holiday season:

  • “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey (written and recorded in 1994)
  • “Last Christmas” by Wham! (another 1994 recording)
  • “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” (written and recorded in 1951)
  • “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms (recorded in 1957)
  • “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (recorded in 1958)
Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To my readers, I’ll conclude by way of one more song title: “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!”

Merry Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!

―Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas