27 Mar

Making the RV Bed: Sleeping as Comfortably on the Road as You Do at Home

Jayco Whitehawk Master Bedroom

When we bought our first travel trailer, we made two big rookie mistakes:

  1. We went out and bought discount store, cheap bed-in-a-bag sheets and blankets for all our beds.
  2. We slept on the original RV mattress for over three years.

Now think about this. We had invested in a brand new, bunkhouse travel trailer in order to have the comforts of home while we were on the road and at the campground. But then for some reason, we skimped on the beds and bedding.

This makes zero sense, folks.

We just accepted that we would come home from our extended trips with achy backs and necks.

And then the light bulb went off.

I could sleep as well in the camper as I could in my bed at home with a pretty minimal investment. In fact, I was shocked when I realized how affordable some of the internet mattresses were.

RVers are now catching on to this way more quickly than we did. There are frequent posts in our forum, Facebook Group, and on social media from people looking to upgrade their sleeping arrangements. All we can say now is: Do it now. It’s worth it. You will NEVER regret investing in a good night’s sleep.

I’m going to share the products that we have purchased and used for the last two years in our RV. But first, I want to explain a couple of no-no’s.

No-No #1: DO NOT buy cute camper bedding from big camping box stores just because you like the print or it is specially fitted for RV mattresses. Comfort is the number one priority and I have never seen a great quality sheet or blanket from these outlets.

No-No #2: Don’t assume a mattress topper is going to be cheaper than a mattress. Compare and research price points carefully. There are now mattresses you can buy online for close to the same price as a quality topper.

Now onto the recommendations…

The Mattress

When I first started shopping for an RV mattress, I figured I was in for a big investment.

Not true.

I found out that one of the best reviewed “Short Queen” mattress online came in at about $200. We ended up purchasing the Zinus Sleep Master Ultima Comfort Memory Foam Mattress and absolutely love it. In fact, I like it more that my more expensive mattress at home.

The Zinus Sleep Master Short Queen mattress comes in an 8-inch model for $199.99 and a 10-inch model for $229.99. We went with the 10-inch version, because…live a little, you know?

Many of our podcast listeners have purchased this same mattress, and we have only heard positive feedback so far. We have also received a lot of other recommendations from the RVFTA community and wanted to pass along the expertise (price listed is for queen, however other sizes are available):

Bottom Line? You bought an RV for all the comforts of home. Now you need to buy the mattress, so you actually have all the comforts of home.

The Bedding

Jayco White Hawk Bunkhouse

Bedding is a bit more simple than choosing a mattress. Basically, whatever you love at home, replicate in your trailer. I’ve gone through a couple of rounds of RV bedding, mostly because my boys’ preferences have changes as they have gotten older.

Top Tip #1: Look for great sales during the off season. I wanted a down comforter in the RV, but didn’t love the price tag. I ended up scoring a great deal on clearance at Target. We also love lightweight flannel sheets, and I waited until the end of the winter season to find a new set for 50% off.

Top Tip #2: Coordinate all the bedding in the camper, especially if you have a smaller RV. This will help your tiny space feel comfy and tidy, instead of chaotic. You can read about my ‘one-pop-of-color’ rule in our post about Easy RV Makeover Tips.

For the kids, I am in love with the Pillowfort Line from Target. They have some fun outdoorsy, animal prints that won’t make your camper look like a kid’s room.

This year, the boys decided they were too old for prints (sniff.) and wanted solid colors. They really like cozy bedding, so I got them each a set of the Room Essentials Jersey Sheets in a denim color, which gels nicely with my new blue-pop-of-color for the Toy Hauler.

I also found these Pillowfort Comforters for 50% off on clearance. Seriously. Stalk those Pillowfort aisles.

Wesley liked the Rugby Stripe

And Max and Theo chose the Navy Triangle Stitch Quilt

The Pillows

I’m going to admit it. Last camping season we were still carrying pillows back and forth from the camper to the house, because we all love our house pillows so much.

So this year, the family bedding splurge was a complete set of camper pillows. We bought 5 bamboo pillows and the boys are wild for them. They actually call them their panda pillows, which is an adorable mix up that I just can’t correct.

If you make spring camping resolutions (because, don’t we all???) let this year’s be about creating the most comfy, cozy camper bed that you can possibly imagine. If you’re not sleeping well in your RV, then there is no way that you’re fully enjoying the RV experience. How do we know? Because we finally fixed our camp bedding years into RVing, and just can’t believe it took that long.

Sweet dreams at the campground…

22 Mar

RVFTA #134: 2017 Spring Gear Guide, Part Two

Download the complete Product Guide that accompanies this episode!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are bringing you the second par
t of our annual spring gear guide. On last week’s episode, Kate Dunbar schooled us on stocking our camp kitchens. Now it’s our turn to fill in the rest of the RV cabinets and cupboards.

We will share items that make your walls a little prettier, your campfire a little cozier, and your beds a little comfier. That just about covers it in our world. Plus, Brett Neilson is back with his favorite picks from the 2017 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.

Segment One: Stephanie’s Picks

In the first segment, Stephanie shares a selection of her new favorite things, including some fun decorative items, clothing, and a surprise tech appearance…

Cutco Knife RV Set ($370):

A curated set of 4 Cutco knives with sturdy sheaths, designed to take care of all the cutting and chopping you may have to do while traveling in your RV. The custom set includes the hardy slicer, 5″ Petite Santoku Knife, Traditional Cheese Knife, and 4″ Paring Knife. This custom 4-knife set with sheathe is only available through Stacy’s online website, where she will give RVFTA listeners the special pricing!

Camp Casual Nesting Bowls ($34.99):

A set of four nesting bowls in fun retro colors with tight-fitting lids. These will join our Camp Casual 12-Piece Dish Set and Serving Bowl in the RV this season.

Angel Tears Solar Light Mason Jar Lid, $10

These solar light lids fit onto standard mason jars and are absolutely adorable sitting on the picnic table at the campground.

Bottle Cap Map, $35.00

This bottle cap map is already hung on the wall in our new camper, just waiting to be filled with craft beer bottle caps from all around the country!

USA Scratch Off Travel Map, $32.99

Another new decoration for our RV. We are excited to scratch off the states as we visit them in the future!

Camping T-shirts from Cabela’s, $14.99

Stephanie ended up with four of these shirts with fun graphics about camping and the outdoors. They are on sale for $14.99 right now, and that is a bargain for a quality t-shirt from Cabela’s.

Women’s Hiking Boots by Cabela’s, $129.99

Stephanie needed waterproof hiking boots, and this Gortex option from Cabela’s hits a great price point. The color is also guaranteed to cheer you up on a rainy day. Again, there is a Spring sale right now over at Cabelas.com, so you can snag these for as low as $80.00.

Amazon Basics Portable Powerbank, $29.99

It was long overdue for us to acquire a portable power bank, and we are so happy that our research led us to this affordable option. With two USB ports, we will both be able to charge up even when away from shore power for an entire day.

Segment Two: Jeremy’s Picks

In the second segment, Jeremy steps up with a new favorite coffee gadget, a collection of leashes, and a solution to an age old problem with winter camping…

National Park Service Camping Guide by William C. Herow, $15.95

The National Park Service Campgrounds are notoriously tricky to research, and this book is a big help.

Flexi Retractable Dog Leash with accessories, $26

This is Jeremy’s Nimbus 2000 doggie leash setup. He gets razzed a lot for it, but having a retractable leash with light and attached doggie bags has proven to be convenient more than a few times over the last year.

Nite Ize Nite Dawg Leash, $12

In addition to a retractable leash, we always carry a standard 6-foot leash in the camper. This affordable one offers illumination for late night walks.

Linwood Ripstop Pants by Cabela’s, $29.99

Jeremy has been searching for a lightweight hiking pant that will translate into real life situations as well. He finally found one.

Roughneck Men’s Thermal Lined Hooded Sweatshirt by Cabela’s, $70

Jeremy had a similar sweatshirt in the past that was perfect for Spring and Fall temperatures. This Cabela’s version is even better than the one he had since it is fully lined through the arms.

Porta Potti 320P by Thetford, $100

We initially tested this porta potti for our pop up and vintage camper listeners. Then we realized it was awesome for winter camping, and is small enough to go in the truck when we are heading into the backwoods. This might be your new favorite thing…

Stanley Classic Vacuum Travel Press Mug, $34

Segment Three: Brett’s Picks

Our last segment features Brett Neilson, of OurCampingAdventures.com, who brings us his picks from the 2017 Outdoor Retailers Winter Market, which took place this past January in Salt Lake City, Utah…

  1. Superfleece blanket by Rumpl
  2. Country Archer Jerky
  3. Gear Ties by Nite Ize
  4. Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern
  5. HX5 Flashlight
  6. Kicker Bullfrog Jump Bluetooth Speaker
  7. SureCan Gas Can

For a handy-dandy, quick reference guide to all the products reviewed in this episode, download our Product Guide!

A special thanks to our sponsors who support weekly RV content for all our RV fools!

Play
16 Mar

RVFTA #133 2017 Spring Gear Guide, Part One: Kate’s Camp Kitchen

Download the Complete Product Guide that accompanies this episode! 

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are bringing you the first part of our popular and much anticipated Spring Gear Guide!!! We always like to mix it up a bit with our gear guides, and this time we reached out to Kate Dunbar of KatesCuriousKitchen.com and begged her to develop a complete guide for building and stocking a camp kitchen.

Boy, did she come through on that request.


Kate dug deep into her trailers (Airstream and Vintage Shasta, folks), hauled out the bins, and catalogued all the products that she uses to make the magic happen at the campground.

Kate basically runs her camp kitchen like a catering service and provides restaurant-quality meals for her crew. So you might not need as many grills, cooktops, and ovens as she does, but you can be guaranteed that the products Kate recommends have been put through their paces and thoroughly tested.

And we wanted to make sure you could easily reference the dozens of items Kate recommends on this episode, so we put together a complete guide with links to every single product mentioned. Download the PDF and start building your own dream camp kitchen today!

Listen to the episode to hear Kate discuss:

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09 Mar

RVFTA #132 Say Hello to Highway West Vacations

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are introducing you to Highway West Vacations, a company with 12 luxury resort campgrounds spread out across the great American West.

We were first introduced to this brand when Kate Dunbar reviewed the Flying Flags RV Resort over on Campground of the Week last year. Kate raved about this place, and we knew it was worth checking out.

Well the more we learned, the more we became convinced that Highway West Vacations has it’s finger on the pulse of campground resort trends. So we invited Didiayer Snyder, Director of Marketing and Sales, onto the show to tell us more about this growing brand.

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08 Mar

Make-Ahead Meals for RV Vacations

Folks in the RVFTA community are gearing up for their spring trips, and many have been asking for make-ahead meal options. Sure, we all love cooking over the campfire and on the grill, but it’s also a great idea to bring along some ready-made meals.

Listeners were giving some great meal suggestions over on our RVFTA Facebook group, and it inspired me to share three of my easy-peasy favorites.

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02 Mar

RVFTA #131 Who is Ready to Go RVing?

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about current RV buyers. The RV industry has been breaking sales records for the last few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. We have all heard that the average RV buyer is getting younger, and perhaps more adventurous.

But seriously, who is buying all these RVs?

We decided to go to the source, and reached out to the RVIA, which recently commissioned Nielsen to complete a study of current owners and potential RV buyers. Karen Redfern, Senior Director of Marketing Communications returns to the show to talk about what the RVIA plans to do with all this great data they collected.

Segment One

In the first segment, we discuss the data gathered about current RV owners, many of whom are researching or shopping for their next rig. We chat about:

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27 Feb

The Chatbooks App: Our Favorite Photo Book App for RV Vacations

RV travelers are really good at taking pictures of their trips, right? Most of us have Instagram and Facebook accounts stuffed with photos of campsites, activities, and food from our travels.

But printing out those photos for memory books or framing? Yeah, that’s another story.

On our recent Winterization Blues podcast episode, we recommended tackling a picture project to get through the cold, winter, non-camping months. Well, we practice what we preach, and in early January I went in search of a new way to print out our huge collection of RV trip photos.

I have tried a lot of things in the past, but nothing really clicked. Years ago, I made picture book collections on Shutterfly and Snapfish. However, the clunky platforms soon lost their appeal, and I was annoyed with the long upload times and very high prices.

Then we started buying those cheap little photo wallets and printing out pictures for the boys of individual trips. This was a great keepsake for them, but my aesthetic sensibilities were definitely not satisfied.

Enter the Chatbooks App.

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23 Feb

RVFTA #130 Pros and Cons of the Class B RV

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about Class B motorhomes, one of the fastest growing segments of the RV industry. The small foot print might scare away a lot of buyers, but driving comfort and flexibility are huge draws.

Segment One: Pros and Cons of the Class B RV

In Segment One, we talk about the pros and cons of the Class B that you might want to consider if you are in the market for a small motorhome. Here are some of the issues we discuss.

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16 Feb

RVFTA #129 Greetings from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida

RVFTA #129: Greetings from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, Florida

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about our recent trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Harry Potter is a pretty big deal in our family right now, so we decided to cheat on Mickey and spend a day exploring Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

We will walk you through planning your trip to Universal Studios, plus discuss some strategies for enjoying a theme park known for long lines and expensive ticket prices.

Segment One: Planning and Preparation

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14 Feb

Tips for Planning a Romantic RV Vacation

HOW TO PLAN A ROMANTIC RV VACATION

You may not think of your RV as the prime setting for a romantic getaway, especially if you usually travel with kids.  But many couples know that an RV vacation, if planned correctly, will leave them feeling as relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated as staying in an expensive bed and breakfast.

To plan a romantic RV vacation, make sure you focus on creating opportunities to connect with your partner, and invest a bit of time into tweaking your regular RV routines to make this trip seem special. Then let the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and romantic campfire do the rest.

Set the scene.

When picking out a restaurant for a romantic dinner, you focus on location, decor, and service. You wouldn’t visit a family dining establishment hoping to find a peaceful atmosphere and nice mood lighting. The same is true when choosing a campground for a romantic RV vacation.

There are actually quite a few adult-only campgrounds, where two adults are allowed per camper and minimum age requirements are enforced. Some campgrounds have a dedicated adult-only section, often referred to as “Lovers’ Lane”, that provide a quieter setting.

There are other ways to set the right mood as well. Splurge on a beach or lake front campsite. Book a deluxe patio site with stone fireplace, pavers, and furniture. Look for little extras like nice swings or gas grills for cooking a special surf and turf dinner.

It is not a bad idea to avoid online booking systems and make a call to the campground. Tell the receptionist that you are planning a romantic getaway and ask for recommendations on the best site. There is no substitute for insider information!

Pick a theme.

Picking a theme around a common shared interest is a great way to encourage bonding on a romantic RV vacation. Take a trip to wine country and indulge in a culinary tour. Visit all the craft breweries in a nearby city. Tour historical sites, visit art galleries, kayak and fly fish, or shop for antiques.

Having a theme, or focus, for your time together can create a sense of adventure and expectation. Just make sure it is something that you both truly enjoy, so no one feels like they are getting dragged from one activity to the next.

Plan some time to unplug.

Discuss the use of technology before your trip, and if possible make an agreement about times that you will both be completely unplugged. Nothing ruins the mood like seeing your partner looking at a screen while you are trying to have an important conversation. A little time away from social media can do wonders for creating a peaceful and relaxed environment.

Also discuss ahead of time any work that needs to be done. It might be unavoidable to check in with office periodically, but a clear understanding about this will prevent hurt feelings or resentments from ruining the romantic mood.

Pamper yourselves.

If you were staying at a spa or a bed and breakfast, little items of luxury would help create the perfect setting for romance. Take a bit of time before departing to fancy up the RV with nice linens, comfy robes, and the good towels. Stock the refrigerators with fruit and cheese. Pack the good wine and chocolates.

Make reservations at a special restaurant, or if you both enjoy cooking, prepare a gourmet meal at the campsite. Some campgrounds have on site wine tastings, massages, and spa treatments, so book these in advance if interested.

Try something new.

It is very exciting and romantic to try something for the first time with your partner, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Get extreme and go skydiving, bungee jumping, or book a hot air balloon ride. Keep it mellower with horseback riding or fly-fishing.  Bonding over a new experience will make sure this trip is one to remember.

Schedule some ‘me’ time.

With so much togetherness, a little bit of scheduled ‘me’ time can be a very important thing. If you enjoy shopping, and your partner loathes it, embrace the opportunity for some alone time. Again, planning this ahead of time will help prevent misunderstandings or hurt feelings. And if you just can’t stand to be apart from each other at all, that’s okay, too.

Although camping is often portrayed as ‘roughing it’, an RV vacation can be a luxurious and romantic experience. Make sure you pick the right campground, and then plan activities that focus on shared experiences and opportunities for connection. After all, is there anything more romantic than sharing a cozy campfire under a sea of stars with your love?

13 Feb

Our First RV Rental: Visiting Disney World and Fort Wilderness with a Lazydays RV Rental

After booking a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for this past January, we faced a dilemma: should we take at least two days on both ends of the family vacation to tow our RV south from New Jersey, or just stay in a hotel like so many other travelers?

Unfortunately, neither of these options worked for us. We didn’t have the time to make the drive, and hotels are stressful, uncomfortable, and expensive for our family of five.

So we figured out a third option: fly down to Florida, rent an RV from Lazydays in Tampa, and stay in the rental at Fort Wilderness. This checked off all the boxes: we would get down to Florida quickly, enjoy the comforts of an RV, and get to stay at one of the best campgrounds in the country.

Done.

But we still had some major concerns about the whole RV rental process. We know that many of our listeners and readers are very curious about RV rental vacations, so we wanted to share the details of our experience. To hear us chat more about our stay at Fort Wilderness in our Lazydays RV rental, you can listen to RVFTA podcast episode #128: Greetings from Walt Disney World, the Most Magical Place on Earth!

Cost: What are the Economics of an RV Rental?

Our first concern was cost. By combining a fly and drive vacation with an RV rental, would we be spending a ridiculous amount of money? The answer to that question is going to be different for every single family because the combined cost of airline tickets, Fort Wilderness campsites, and RV rentals can vary so much depending on when you travel, where you are traveling from, and how many people are in your party.

For us, the cost ended up being comparable. We didn’t save a ton of money by staying in an RV, but we didn’t spend more than we would have on two hotel rooms for our family of five.

Here is a basic breakdown of our costs:

  • Fort Wilderness Premium Campsite: $90/day
  • Class C Bunkhouse RV Rental from Lazydays: $275/day

So ultimately our cost was $365/day for very comfortable accommodations at our Disney resort of choice. That’s a financial win in our book.

We are lucky to have a budget airline that flies out of an airport near our home, so we were able to buy all of our airline tickets for $650.95. This means that it did not cost us more to fly than drive, when we factor in gas, tolls, and overnight stays.

Now, you can lower these costs if you are on a tighter budget. Fort Wilderness offers sites for as low as $74/day if you are traveling at non-peak times. Lazydays in Tampa also has RV rental options for as low as $150/day. Realistically you could find a combination that will keep you under $250/day. That’s a pretty competitive price point for a Disney resort.

Logistics: How do you pack and prepare for an RV Rental vacation?

If you are used to having the RV in the driveway, and traveling with all the luxuries of home, it can be intimidating to pack for your first RV rental experience. We tried to keep it as simple as possible, and this really paid off.

Lazydays offers the option of adding additional packages like a Kitchen Kit ($150), a Linen & Towel Kit ($150), an Outdoor Kit ($50), and a bike rack ($25). We added on the Kitchen Kit and the Linen & Towel Kit, which meant that we could pack as if we were taking a traditional hotel vacation, but would still enjoy the benefits of an RV kitchen.

In fact, we only packed one carry on item and backpack per family member, which meant we saved money by not checking any baggage. We had everything we needed, and knew we could easily do laundry at the comfort station if necessary. (But we were happy when we didn’t have to!!!)

Fort Wilderness also offers rentals on all the gear you could possibly want to use during your vacation. Bikes, fishing poles, canoes, and golf cart rentals are all reasonably priced, so you won’t miss having your favorite toys!

Benefits: Why choose an RV rental over a hotel room?

Although we were excited to try something new, we honestly didn’t know if we would end up enjoying the RV rental experience. After all, it wouldn’t be our  family camper…and that familiarity is one of the best parts about RV travel.

Well, we loved it more than we ever expected to. First of all, the RV was a beautiful unit with comfortable sleeping options for everyone.

Then there was the luxury of having a kitchen, where we made coffee in the morning, had breakfast before heading into the park, and prepared PB&J sandwiches before heading to the pool. After traveling in an RV for so many years, we hate not having a kitchen available to us when we stay in a hotel. With kids, this becomes an even more important feature.

The third benefit was outdoor space. Our campsite backed up to woods, and the boys spent tons of time back there running, playing, and stick collecting. Show me a hotel room that comes with an amenity like that.

The final benefit for us is probably the most important one. Simply put, we are campground people. We enjoy the atmosphere at campgrounds: meeting new people, spending time outdoors, hanging out at the campfire. Disney World is amazing, but it is busy and frenetic. Starting and ending each day on the peaceful grounds of Fort Wilderness is the only way we will ever do Disney. Seriously.

Other Details: The Lazydays Experience

We were in Tampa for the Florida RV SuperShow, so it made sense for us to rent from Lazydays, just a few minutes away from the fairgrounds. Lazydays is the largest RV dealership in the world, so even though their rental program is relatively new, they know a lot about RVs. We were extremely impressed by their whole operation–customer experience is definitely at the heart of the Lazydays culture. Plus, all of the rentals come with unlimited mileage and unlimited generator use, a recipe for a great RV road trip.

One of our favorite things about the Lazydays RV Rental service is the wide variety of really great motorized rigs available for rent. There are smaller Class C options starting at $150/day. Then you have a luxurious Class A toy hauler at $500/day. Of course, there are also plenty of price points in between. We really like the fact that you can pick and choose your rental based on personal budget constraints.

Another thing that stood out about the Lazydays experience was the availability of online information. Every available rig is itemized on their website, with a floor plan diagram and pictures of the interior and exterior. To be honest, they also have a great print brochure, and we would probably request one in the mail for a handy reference…

We rented the Lazydays RV specifically because we wanted to have the Disney experience and the Fort Wilderness experience without towing our own rig. But Florida is an amazing winter RV destination, and there are so many other fantastic destinations and campgrounds around the state. After our trip, we would highly recommend flying down and renting from Lazydays.

Sometimes you want to travel a farther distance than you can reasonably tow your own rig. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still enjoy the RV experience. After our first RV rental adventure, we are more convinced than ever that traveling in an RV is the best option for our family. In fact, Lazydays also rents RVs out of their Tuscon, Denver, and Northern Colorado locations…sooooo, we may just find ourselves out west sooner rather than later.

We might have to fly there, and we might be in a rental RV, but as always…

We will see you at the campground!

Stephanie + Jeremy

08 Feb

RVFTA #128: Greetings from Walt Disney World, the Most Magical Place on Earth

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are reporting on our fabulous trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. After hanging out at the Florida RV SuperShow, we couldn’t leave the Sunshine State without paying Mickey and his friends a little visit.

So we rented an RV from Lazydays in Tampa, reserved a site at Fort Wilderness Campground, and brought our boys to the most magical place on earth.

Listen to hear all about our planning and preparations, our first experience with an RV rental, and our favorite park rides and dining treats.


To hear the complete scoop on our trip, you can also listen to Campground of the Week Episode #67, which has our in-depth review of Fort Wilderness Campground.

Podcast Segment One: Planning and Preparation

First, a disclaimer: This is not an insiders’ guide to everything Disney. There are entire books, blogs, and podcasts devoted to exploring every nook and cranny of the this place. To be honest, we think it’s a bit overkill.

So we are breaking it down, and keeping it simple. Want to go to Disney and have a great time? We have you covered!

  1. People talk about how much planning you have to do before a trip to Disney. We agree, up to a point. Campsite reservations, dining reservations, and FastPass+ reservations should all be booked as early as possible if you want to nab your favorites!
  2. Balance a schedule with flexibility. Having a flexible game plan is crucial to enjoying Walt Disney World without getting burned out. We had our park mornings scheduled with reserved FastPasses, but after lunch we had a general, less strict game plan and could adjust to crowds and our kids.
  3. Don’t get carried away with dining reservations. We did two dining experiences (Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Chef Mickey) on days that we were not visiting the parks. That freed up our park time to focus on the activities and attractions that we wanted to see. In the Magic Kingdom, we kept it casual and ate at Pinnochio Village Haus. In Epcott, we had a fun lunch in Germany.
  4. Take advantage of the FastPass +, and book your reservations 60 days in advance. We didn’t book a FastPass for the most popular ride we wanted to experience, opting to head right to that option when we arrived in the park (Space Mountain, Soarin’, etc.). Then we booked three FastPasses back to back between 9:30-12:00 pm. Once they were used up, we were free to add one Fastpass at a time for the rest of the day. This strategy worked perfectly for us.
  5. Download the My Disney Experience App. Disney has done a great job with this app, and it really does make managing all your plans and reservations a complete breeze. We wish we had an app like this to manage our daily life.

Podcast Segment Two: Our Lazydays RV Rental Experience

One of the most exciting parts about this trip was having our first experience with renting an RV. Lazydays is the largest RV dealership in the world, and they have a location in Tampa right near where we were staying at the Florida RV SuperShow. They also happen to have a great fleet of Class A and Class C motorhomes that are available for rent.

The Lazydays website is very user friendly, and you can easily browse through the rental options that they have. Price and floor plans are clearly displayed, and we love that they offer a large range of price points with a budget option of $150/day up to luxury options at $500/day. There is unlimited miles, unlimited generator use, and a 3-day minimum for all rentals.

We used a Class C bunk house model (much like this one here), which costs between $200-$275/day, depending on the specific model. Added to our premium campsite fees, that placed the total cost of our accommodations as comparable to staying in a hotel suite or condo, which would be necessary for our family of five.

Listen to hear more of our discussion about budget and cost, plus what we thought about our first Class C experience.

Bottom line? This was an amazing way to stay at Fort Wilderness, and renting an RV was a better experience than we even imagined it would be. We will be writing more on how we packed and planned for an RV rental vacation in the future. Stay tuned!

Podcast Segment Three: The Parks

On this trip, we spent a day in Magic Kingdom, a day in Epcott, a day at Universal Studios, and a day at Fort Wilderness. We decided that we wanted to completely cover Universal Studios and Harry Potter world, so stay tuned for that episode in the future.

Magic Kingdom:
  • Take the boat from Fort Wilderness. This is an amazing way to start and end each day at the Magic Kingdom.
  • Get there early. The difference between crowds at 9 am and 11 am is unbelievable. Suck it up, Buttercup, and set the alarm. It’s worth it.
  • Go immediately to the most popular ride you wish to enjoy. At 9 am, the wait for Space Mountain was 5 minutes. By 10 am it was 30.
  • Take advantage of ride swap if you have a youngin’. Disney has this system figured out, and a ride swap is basically a Fastpass you can use for the same ride at a later time. This was awesome for our family.
  • Enjoy the sentimental rides. Going on It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean is like getting in a time machine if you visited when you were a kid.
  • Take time out for the parade at 3 pm daily. Our boys are not totally into hugging and mugging with the characters, but they really enjoy watching them from a safe distance. The parade was a great way to see all the main characters in one place.
Epcot:
  • Allow extra travel time to get from Fort Wilderness to Epcot. You have to take the busses from the Outpost, and it is definitely a longer journey than the boat ride to Magic Kingdom.
  • Soarin’ was more amazing than anyone had led us to believe.
  • FastPass+ your rides for the morning and then head over to the World Showcase for lunch and the afternoon. We did another round of rides when we circled back between 4-6 pm, and this worked really well for us.
  • I made notes in the My Disney Experience app about timed performances at the different countries. This way I knew when the Chinese Acrobats or Voices of Liberty were scheduled to appear. This helped us time our tour of the World Showcase and the boys LOVED the live performances.
Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom:

We opted out of these parks on this trip, because we only had time for 3 park days, and we decided to bring the boys to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. It was a touch choice, and we will definitely be visiting Hollywood Studios during our next visit. Still not sure if Animal Kingdom will make the cut…

Dining Options:

We talk about the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ over on Campground of the Week, and we also enjoyed:

  • Chef Mickey–a great option when staying at Fort Wilderness since you can take the boat over to the Contemporary.
  • Biergarten Restaurant, Germany–the food here isn’t spectacular, but the beer flights and the entertainment are fantastic.

Closing Segment

Overall, we really were blown away by how much we enjoyed this trip to Walt Disney World. We are convinced that staying at Fort Wilderness in an RV turned this special experience into a truly spectacular one. Days spent at the Meadows Pool and evenings spent at the Campfire Sing a Long with Chip and Dale helped us balance frenetic fun with relaxation.

And yes, Jeremy already did make reservations for next year. He’s totally out of control.

A very special thank you to Lazydays RV for helping us enjoy our very first RV rental experience. We can’t wait to do it again!

And thanks to our sponsors for supporting weekly content for all our RV and Disney fools…

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05 Feb

The Best Bang for Our Buck: Cabela’s Hooded Sweatshirts

Product Review: Cabela’s Hooded Sweatshirts

When Cabela’s reached out to us last year and asked if we would test camping gear, we honestly didn’t know a lot about their products. We did know, however, that they had a great reputation for value and quality, so we were happy to join their Pro Staff and start some testing.

Nine months later and we understand exactly why Cabela’s has earned such a devoted following among outdoor sports enthusiasts. We’ve totally hopped on the bandwagon, and have been happy to review many of their quality products on our RV Family Travel Atlas podcast.

So I decided it was time to write a review of the item that has most impressed me since we visited our first Cabela’s store back in June of 2016. It’s not the ice maker or the smoker or the cast iron starter set. It’s not the hiking backpack, life vests, or Gortex raincoats. (Although you know I love those, too!)

It’s the branded hoodies.

Seriously.

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02 Feb

RVFTA #127 Greetings from the 2017 Florida RV SuperShow!

On this podcast episode we are reporting back from the Florida RV SuperShow, our very favorite RV show of the year. Two weeks ago, we fled the frigid temperatures of the northeast and hightailed it to sunny Tampa, where we enjoyed touring an amazing variety of RVs and shopping for camping accessories.

We also were lucky to meet tons of podcast listeners and enjoy the talented and quirky entertainment that visitors always find at the SuperShow.

Segment One

On this episode, we will chat about some of the podcast listeners that we spoke with, and share their unique and diverse RVing experience. We are still continually surprised at the wide variety of listeners this podcast has, and we will introduce you to the stories of young couples with Aliners, moms with Class As, and retired folks living the life in Class Bs.

Segment Two

Then in the second segment, we compiled a list of things we learned about RVers from hanging out at the Florida RV SuperShow. In many ways this RV show is more like a festival, and we thought a lot of wonderful aspects of RV culture were evident during our visit. We came up with 6 things we can say for sure after the show:

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26 Jan

RVFTA #126 The Gift of the RV Kitchen: Traveling with Special Dietary Needs

 

On this episode of the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast, The Gift of the RV Kitchen, we are talking about one of the most amazing parts of RV travel…carrying your kitchen with you on the road!

For some of us, this is merely a convenience that we have become attached to, but travelers with special dietary needs, a self-contained kitchen is the only thing that makes travel a viable option.

Addressing allergies or dietary restrictions while traveling in an RV can be an overwhelming and daunting process, but we don’t want anyone to feel like it’s an insurmountable obstacle. So we invited Jenn and Jerome Braga from Our1Chance.com to pass along their advice for living an adventurous life while still staying safe and healthy.

Segment One: Meet the Bragas

The Bragas life took a dramatic turn when their youngest daughter was diagnosed with severe allergies. Although they were scared and overwhelmed, they were also determined to live life to the fullest and learn how to manage this ‘gift’. After purchasing a travel trailer so they could still vacation as a family, Jenn and Jerome discovered that they loved the RV lifestyle. Now they spend months at a time on the road every year in their renovated fifth wheel.

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19 Jan

RVFTA #125 Towable vs. Motorized with Josh the RV Nerd

 

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas we reigniting the age old debate about which is better, motorized or towable! And while it may be different for every family we have some general tips and principals to consider before you plunk down your hard earned cash!

We decided to invite Joshua Winters (aka Josh the RV Nerd) back onto the show for this topic after we watched his great You Tube video on the same topic.

In Segment One we talk to Josh about his families dealership and their own stock and experience with towables and motorized. Josh breaks down his best selling units for us and talks about why they lean hard towards stocking towable.

In Segment Two Josh walks us through his tips to consider before deciding on towable vs. motorized:

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12 Jan

RVFTA #124 8 More Tips for Campground Owners

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about our top eight tips for campground owners, developed after spending hundreds of nights at campground over the last few years. We have had some fantastic experiences, but also quite a few that could have been improved.

We first covered this topic all the way back on episode #5 of RV Family Travel Atlas, over two year ago. It was definitely time to revisit the issue with fresh eyes, and chat about some of the bigger campground features that make the difference between an average camping visit and an amazing one.

Segment One: Revisiting the Original 8 Tips for Campground Owners

On our older episode titled 8 Tips for Campground Owners, we addressed the following topics:

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09 Jan

Counting Down to the 2017 Florida RV Supershow, January 18th-22nd

The snow is covering the ground here in the northeast, so we are counting down the days to when we head south to Tampa for the 2017 Florida RV SuperShow taking place from January 18th-22nd.

This is simply our favorite RV show all year because not only are there huge numbers of RVs (over 1,400), there are also over 450 vendors and tons of live entertainment. This year we are bringing the boys with us, and we know they will have a great time as well.

SuperShow Accomodations

We are camping on the Florida Fairgrounds with the Super Rally, which is completely sold out at this point. If you are also camping with the rally, make sure to say hi during morning donuts and coffee. You can count on us being at the donut tent early and often.

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08 Jan

Punk Rock Parenting, Pinball, and the Search for Stephanie’s Lost Records

Stephanie and I have been scratching for time to write our second book–and coming up short.  Parenting, podcasting, freelancing, and teaching are all fulfilling, but time consuming.  This weekend I decided that it was time for some Deep Work. I would take the boys out for five or six hours on Saturday so Stephanie could write.  On Sunday I would take my turn writing.

But then the snow…

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05 Jan

RVFTA #123 Kick Those RV Winterization Blues, 2017

On this RV Family Travel Atlas Podcast episode, we are back with more tips on how to treat (if not cure!) those winterization blues. Thousands of RVs across the country have been winterized and covered for the long, cold months ahead, so we came up with a brand new list of all the things you can do instead of crying quietly in your camper.

From books to projects to getting cozy in the traditional Danish style, we have something to keep you busy no matter how much you hate Mr. Jack Frost.


Segment One: 2016 Recap and Getting Hyggelig

In the first show segment, we have a quick recap of our favorite timeless tips from the Winterization Blues, 2016 podcast episode. If you missed it last year, you can check it out here:

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