Spooky, fun, and festive ideas to decorate your RV for holidays on the go.
The holidays make our memories glow. And when we take to the road over the holiday season, we don’t want to leave all that in the past. The traditions, the decorations, and the mood all matter wherever we are. We want to take it forward. And yet, we do have to face a fact: We’ve left the attic—that busy, chaotic, junk-filled attic—with all its storage space behind. (Just saying that, though, does feel pretty good.) That fact alone means that our cargo capacity for holiday decoration is pretty limited. But don’t be deterred! Your home on the road can be just as festive as any house in the neighborhood. (Looking at you, Griswalds!) All it takes is some creativity, which fortunately for you—you have in spades. So let’s talk about the two things you must master: logistics and atmosphere. If you get those down, even your small space can make wonderful new memories.
Sorting Out a Few RV Basics
YOUR STORAGE STARTER. For part-timers with attics and garages, this might be a nonissue. But it’s big for full-timers. Avoid getting overwhelmed: Start with one box and imagine that’s all you get (for now anyway). What items will make the biggest impact? Go for atmosphere. The holidays are super sensory, so think in terms of lighting, bursts of color, and images. Remember, the box isn’t everything. It’s your starter kit.
CHEAP TRICKS. You can get a lot of holiday decorations for cheap at Dollar Tree. And charities and secondhand shops often give stuff away. (You can even donate them back when you’re done.) It’s a great way to fill gaps while avoiding adding more permanent stuff to your RV (see Page 41). And don’t forget: Some of the best décor comes from nature itself (more on that in a sec). Now, let’s talk about ideas for the fun part: creating an atmosphere.
Trick or Treat Create a Campground Thriller
ERECT EERIE LIGHTING. Nothing quite creates atmosphere like lights. And you don’t need a lot for Halloween. (In fact, less is more, because you don’t want it too bright) A simple spool of orange rope lights with command hooks can frame windows, outline a sidewall, and give an entrance an eerie pulse. Also, don’t discount the effect of keeping a fire pit burning just outside. On Halloween, you can also swap in a few black lights inside your cabin to give trick or treaters a little extra thrill when the door opens.
EMBRACE THE PUMPKIN. Jack-o’-lanterns have been making an impression since their earliest days in Ireland (see Page 13). But for RVs, they’re really perfect. Pumpkins are affordable and temporary. Carving them is half the fun, and their firelit eyes animate your campsite with a watchful feeling.
COBWEB IT UP. This décor is cheap, cheap, cheap, and easy, easy, easy. Dimly seen under the orange shadow of your camper, its effect is bigger than the price. WHAT’S THAT SOUND?
If your RV has an outdoor sound system, use it. You can stream tracks with wolf howls, creaky doors, cat screams, or—what everyone really wants—“Thriller” or “Monster Mash” playing on a loop.
Season of Harvest Thanksgiving for the Modern Pilgrim
USE NATURE’S BOUNTY. Stop by a pumpkin farm and pick out a few small gourds or pumpkins, dried corn or leaves, and fresh apples to decorate for Fall. You can use some indoors and others outside. You might even pick up a few straw bales to sit on under your awning. Organic decorations can be easily disposed of (even composted) at the end of the season.
SPREAD A TABLE. Throw up a table one evening—or use the picnic table if your campsite has one—and create a communal spread for anyone who walks by. The best things are easy: hot cider, hot chocolate, a pot of chili, a bowl full of apples, a cooler of soda or beer. When folks walk by, invite them to eat, drink, and chat with you. SWAP IN AUTUMN ACCENTS. Inside your cabin, a little bit goes a long way. Choose just one or two throws that can be changed every season. Better yet, use throw pillow covers instead, which are easily changed and take up almost no storage space. With your organic decorations, the accent pillows will really pop—whether they’re Fall colors, leaf-patterned, or flannel. MAKE IT SMELL LIKE FALL. There are two paths here. If you have a screen, let that Autumn air in. Or just light a Fall-scented candle, so the cabin smells like a bonfire or an apple pie.
Deck the Campsite This RV’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
LIGHT. IT. UP. This is one of the best items to hunt for at charities, secondhand shops, and discount stores. (Because you don’t want your passthrough storage to be wall to wall with Christmas lights.) But hunt well. Whether it’s icicle lights on the inside of your windows (classy) or a merry multicolor wonderland (warm and cozy), get an arrangement that makes you feel most at home—and go for it. TRIM THE TREE. Inside your cabin, you’ll need a slimmer tree to conserve space. But it doesn’t have to look like Charlie Brown’s. Still, load it up with lights and ornaments to make it feel extra merry. If you’re staying for a while at your campsite, get a real tree and place it outside your camper for all to see. You can even invite others to help you decorate it. (And yes, if you’re in the Southwest, you may decorate a cactusfor fun, so long as you put a Santa hat on top.)
MAKE IT SPECIAL. Christmas decorations make a space feel cozy. And few Christmas decorations are as versatile as garlands. They also take up very little space, in or out of storage. Cloth and ribbon are also inexpensive and fun ways to create atmosphere without having every surface covered. (Now is also the time to swap in your other pillow covers for the couch.) But remember, you’ve been saving space for a reason: to have room for those very special items (in your box) that connect all your old Christmas memories to this one.
FILL THE AIR. Whether you’re inside the cabin or out under the awning, let Christmas music fill the air—from “O Holy Night” and “White Christmas” to “Jingle Bell Rock!”