31 May

RVFTA #144 What’s New at Camp Jellystone, 2017?

One of our favorite annual family camping experiences is visiting a variety of Yogi Bear’s Camp Jellystone Parks. Jellystone campgrounds have cornered the market on family fun, and we want to share some of the things that we think they are doing right.

It’s important to realize that Jellystone Camp Resorts are individually-owned franchises, so the activities and amenities vary from park to park. In this podcast episode we are specifically talking about the features of the very best ones we have visited.

5 Things Jellystone Campgrounds are Getting Right

We visited our first Jellystone Park about 5 years ago, and had an amazing family vacation at the Luray Jellystone in Virginia. Since then, we have seen the franchise grow and many of the campgrounds invest in resort-like amenities. Jellystone knows it’s customer and is doing all the right things to make family camping a more fun experience for the young and, ahem, not so young.

So what are some of our favorite things trending within the Jellystone system?

  1. Planned Group Recreation–kids love good old fashioned summer camp activities like relay races and water balloon fights. Jellystone Parks are putting more organized sports recreation on the activities calendar and we love it.
  2. Limiting Additional Add On Expenses–we think the trend is toward including more, not less, in the cost of your campsite. We hate being nickel and dimed on paying for extra activities within a campground, especially after you have paid a premium cost for your site. Many of the Jellystones are including mini golf, paddle boats, pedal carts, and water slides with your stay. This is how we think it should be.
  3. Upping the game for teens and tweens– Jellystone Parks are paying attention to the teen and tween crowd, adding large water features, zip lines, ninja training courses, and teen-only laser tag. These are the types of thing your big kid will beg to do over and over again.
  4. Customer service training— We are continually impressed by the young staffers at many Jellystones Parks. These teenagers and college students are friendly and engaging, bringing just the right amount of ‘cool’ to rule enforcement. They are everything you want in a camp counselor, so we know they are being trained well by management.
  5. Upgrading the campsite experience–Many ‘resort campgrounds’ put a ton of money into amenities, but scrimp on site maintenance and landscaping. Jellystone Parks are developing resort-style campsites with concrete pads, upgraded fire pits, and space to spread out.

5 Fun Facts about Yogi Bear and Jellystone Parks

Where did these Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts come from anyway? We dug into some historical Americana, and learned more about the history of Yogi Bear and his namesake campgrounds. Did you know…

  1. Yogi made his debut in 1958 as a supporting character in the Huckleberry Hound Show, and didn’t get his own show until 1961.
  2. Yogi’s personality and mannerisms are said to be based on Art Carney’s Ed Norton character on The Honeymooners.
  3. Yogi Berra sued Hannah Barbera for defamation, but later dropped his suit when the studio claimed the name similarity was merely a coincidence.
  4. Animation historians link Yogi Bear and his antics to social unrest in the 60’s. They say Yogi represents a figure bucking against what society expects from him.
  5. Doug Haag, the founder of the first Jellystone Park, also considered Paul Bunyan, Pocahontas, and Robin Hood as recognizable figures to brand his campground around. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out how he landed on Yogi Bear…

What’s New with Camp Jellystone?

Michele Wisher, the Vice President of Promotions and Marketing for Leisure Systems, had a lot of news to share on this podcast episode. And as a mom of three, she spend a lot of time giving tips on how to save some dough. Here are links to the promotions and deals that we discussed:

  1. S’more Deals
  2. Yogi Rewards
  3. 2017 Great American CampOut 
  4. Jellystone Park Tiny Home RV Tour

More Jellystone Content

Want to hear more abut the Yogi experience? We paired this episode with a Campground of the Week review of our recent stay at the Hagerstown Jellystone in Maryland. Check out Campground of the Week episode #83 to hear all the details about this amazing park.

You can also check out Jellystone podcast episodes from years past…

A big thanks to our sponsors for supporting weekly content for all our camping and RV fools:

See you at the campground!

Stephanie + Jeremy

Play
10 Jul

RVFTA #43: Greetings from The Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

North Carolina Great Smoky Mountains

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about the first stop on our Great Smoky Mountains Summer Tour. We started our explorations at the Cherokee KOA, on the North Carolina side of our country’s most visited national park.

Listen to hear about our favorite park attractions and hikes that are easily accessed from the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. We will talk about…

  • The Oconaluftee Visitor Center
  • The Mountain Farm Community
  • The Oconaluftee River Trail
  • The Three Waterfalls Trail at Deep Creek Campground and Picnic Area (outside of Bryson City)
  • The Kephart Prong Trail (in the running for favorite family hike ever!)

We also talk about all the things that make Great Smoky Mountains National Park a great place for hiking with young kids.

And we give a complete review of the Cherokee KOA, which offers resort-like amenities with 360-degree views of the beautiful Smokies. It was a challenge to drag our boys away for even a short time from the pool, hot tub, water slide, tubing, and bounce pillow. It is a miracle we even made it into the National Park!

We are on the RVFTA Summer Road Trip and you are listening to Episode #43: Greetings from the Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina!

 

Play
09 Jul

Great Smoky Mountains Shakedown (Part Two) With the Townsend KOA

After three full days of exploring the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains, we were in no rush to leave. I was getting used to putting the boys to bed each night then soaking in the indoor hot tub at the Cherokee KOA. But there was so much more to do and see.  So it was onward to the Tennessee side of America’s most visited national park.

We chose the Townsend/Great Smokies KOA because of its great online reviews, its proximity to Cades Cove and the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and its close (but not too close) proximity to the zaniness of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

We had reserved a deluxe patio site back in January, and when I booked the site it was one of two left in the campground for the fourth of July weekend.  It was in the front of the campground near the playground, the pool, and the camp store.  It was busy and bustling in our area, but the proximity to the playground and pool were good for our kids.  If you want peace and quiet, the sites by the river would be better. These deluxe sites are lovely, particularly the large stone fire pits and attractive landscaping.

The playground was designed by the folks who design playgrounds for Disney. It quickly became kid headquarters each afternoon when we returned from our adventures in the park.

The pool was also a perfect place for a refreshing post-hike dip.

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If you want to book a riverfront site at the Townsend KOA we advise that you book VERY early.  This is a popular campground and we spoke to several families who have been coming here for decades.  This friendly couple booked their riverfront site well over a year in advance.

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The campground also has a packed schedule of activities.  We didn’t make the apple pie eating contest, but you better believe that we made the super soaker hayride.  General Manager Mark Chipperfield rallied the troops and explained that he had high expectations for our performance in battle.

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Mark was one of the friendliest general managers that we have met in our travels, so we didn’t let him down. We would head into battle with this guy any day. As long as he provides the hayride and the buckets of water.P1140386

 

There are great adventures to be had both on the campground and in the mountains around it.  The 11 mile, one way loop road around Cades Cove is one of the park’s most famous attractions. It provides a magical window into the region’s agricultural past, and its beauty is breathtaking.  There are many stops along the way, some with spectacular views and some with historical homes, mills, churches, and graveyards. This flat valley area surrounded by mountains is also a great place for spotting deer, foxes, and bears.

In spring and summer the road is closed to automobiles every Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10 a.m. so that hikers and bikers can enjoy its natural beauty without traffic.

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The Townsend KOA is also close to dozens of world-class family hikes. We left early one morning for the North Fork Auto Road and hopped on the Trillium Gap Trail. Destination? 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back to Grotto Falls.  This hike is unique because you get to walk behind a waterfall.

We went on July 4th, and the falls were very crowded.  But all of the hikers were happy to be out in the fresh air celebrating their freedom.  Hiking in one of America’s greatest National Parks was a perfect way to spend Independence Day.

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The campground is also a fairly short drive to Newfound Gap Road (which cuts through the park and crosses state lines) and all of its magnificent attractions.  We drove the long and winding road to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park,  for the short but vigorous hike up to the observation deck.  It was a bit of a bust. We were socked in by the fog.

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So we decided to head back down to earth where the weather was dramatically different. We ended up enjoying a delicious and adventurous lunch at Chimneys Picnic Area, which was highly recommended by our Missouri podcast correspondent, Kerri Cox.  We loved Chimneys. Thanks Kerri. We owe you a picnic lunch!

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Our family adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been amazing.  But our boys always love their time at the campground best.  We spent each afternoon and evening back at the KOA enjoying activities at the pavilion…

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tubing on the Little River…

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listening to impromptu jam sessions by our neighbors.

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and we also indulged at the campground’s very own bakery/ice cream/fudge shop.  I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but they offer free samples of the fudge. Try to control yourself.

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The Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is blessed with many good campgrounds.  But some of them are great. The Townsend KOA is one of the great ones.  Maybe it’s because of its location on the river, or its proximity to Cades Cove, or its great managers and team.

If you are looking for a campground that is close to all of the action, but also peaceful and relaxing, you couldn’t make a better choice than the Townsend KOA.

We have been frequent KOA customers over the last five years, but this was a sponsored trip.  Our opinions are always are own.

02 Jun

RVFTA 1st Annual Rally Roundup!

family camping

We did it.

An actual RV Family Travel Atlas Rally took place this past weekend at Lake-in-Wood Camping Resort in Narvon, Pennsylvania. Here are the 10 most important facts to report:

1. We have the nicest listeners and readers ever. Seriously. In the privacy of our own RV, we continuously marveled at that fact that all of our attendees ended up being super, duper cool.

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2. Campfires and games create instant community. Everywhere and all the time.

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4. Potluck dinners stand the test of time.

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5. Everyone wants to win prizes.

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6. RVers talk about their rigs and their future rigs. A lot.

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7. The only thing kids really want in life is an off-the-hook pool.

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8. A giant field can effectively disseminate the noise of dozens of children.

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9. A schedule doesn’t mean a whole lot when you have little kids. And that’s okay.

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10. We will do this again. Soon.

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One of the highlights for us was the diversity of experience represented at our rally.

From babies to retirees…

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From tents to Class As…

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From modern to vintage…

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a liner

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It means so much to us that all these great people find our podcast both enjoyable and useful.

We look forward to making many more episodes, hosting many more rallies, and meeting many listeners.

See you at the campground.

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29 May

RVFTA #37: Greetings from Camp Jellystone!

Camp Jellystone Yogi Bear

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are taking an in-depth look at the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts franchise. There are over 80 of these campgrounds across the US, and they are a great option for many RVing families.

Camp Jellystone Yogi Bear

We will talk about the activities and amenities that are available at many Jellystone Parks. From pools and water slides to hay rides and jump pilows, some of these parks are super tricked out for the kids.

However, every Jellystone franchise park is independently operated, so it is important to do your research before making a reservation. The company’s internal ratings system can help you choose the right campground for your family vacation, and we will discuss the ins and outs of navigating the reviews.

For our campground review this week, we will talk about our recent visit to Yogi at Shangri-La, a Jellystone campground in Milton, Pennsylvania. The enclosed play area, pool, playground, and arcade could have kept our boys entertained for the entire weekend. Add in hayrides with the bears, dance parties, and wild water fights…kid nirvana!

This campground has so many of the activities and amenities that make Jellystones family friendly. But there is a huge variety of sites, so listen to our podcast review for recommendations on finding your perfect campground.

And we couldn’t resist throwing in a review of the Yogi Bear classic cartoon box set and the more recent Yogi Bear feature film. These DVDs are fun to watch before, during, and after your visit to a Jellystone. The best part is that the adults and the kids can enjoy them together.

Yogi Bear Show Cartoon

To read about more of our Jellystone camping experiences, check out our articles about our time at the Jellystone Luray, an amazing campground resort in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

And keep an eye on those pic-a-nic baskets, folks.

Play
13 Apr

Is Summer Calling Your Name? 8 Great Reasons to Camp at the Myrtle Beach KOA

Pull Through Campsite Myrtle Beach KOA

Are you looking for a beach getaway this summer?  Or would you prefer a wooded retreat where you can relax while the kids run free?  Why not have both at the Myrtle Beach KOA?

It took our family awhile to find this magical spot, but now that we have we will go back again and again.  We just returned from our second straight spring break at this unique camping destination and are already talking about heading back in July.  We suspect if you take your next family vacation here, it might be the beginning of a family tradition.  Here are eight reasons why.

1. A Wooded Retreat in the Heart of the City

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Myrtle Beach is big and bold and busy, but the Myrtle Beach KOA is quiet, and fun, and family friendly.  The campground is located right in the heart of the city, but it feels like it’s miles away.  It has all the perfect elements for a family vacation.  Your days can be filled with adventurous activities like zip lining and kayaking, and your nights can be filled with walks on the beach and quiet campfires.

2. Steps from the Beach and Boardwalk

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You can walk right from the campground to a huge miniature golf course less than a block away.  Stroll just one more block and you’ll find yourself at the beach.  Not up for walking?  Just hop on the campground’s beach shuttle and let the staff know when to pick you up.  They will be there waiting. The wild and zany boardwalk with rides, water parks, and go carts is just a few more blocks north.

3. A Jumping Pillow with a View

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As parents with three young children, we spend a lot of our campground time at playgrounds and jumping pillows. So we appreciate a nice view every now and then.  The setting of the jumping pillow at the Myrtle Beach KOA is like something out of a storybook.  Just an FYI–mom and dad did more than just watch the boys on the pillow. We hopped on too.  We don’t believe in the fountain of youth–but this comes pretty darn close.

4.  A Tale of Two Pools (and a Splash Pad)

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After working up a sweat at the jumping pillow, we recommend heading over to one of the two pools or the splash pad.  There is plenty of comfortable seating–so set up camp and jump right in like Max did! On second thought, you might want to use the ladder or stairs.  Not everyone has superpowers like he does, but how you enter the pool doesn’t really matter as long as you get wet!

5. Large Pull Through Sites

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We love the large, staggered,  and semi-private pull through sites.  There was plenty of room for the truck, our 33 foot travel trailer and a play area for the boys.  The sites allowed for socializing with neighbors, but we didn’t feel like we were invading their privacy. Myrtle Beach has many private campgrounds–but you would be hard pressed to find such large shaded sites at any of them.  You would have to head to one of South Carolina’s lovely state parks to find so much wiggle room.

6. Quiet Paved Roads for Scooting and Playing

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The roads at the Myrtle Beach KOA are long and paved.  They are also one way streets with little traffic and safe and conscientious drivers.  Our boys loved to ride their scooters and run up and down the rows–and we felt comfortable letting them.  The best campgrounds we find on our travels allow our children to spread their wings in a safe environment.  Here, Wesley gets ready to take flight.

7. Helpful and Friendly Yellow Shirts

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Let’s keep this simple:  Nicest. Campground. Staff. Ever.

8. Sharing Music, Food, and Fun with Friends

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Strong management, friendly staff, and a beautiful setting adds up to a welcoming and comfortable campground culture. This in turn adds up to a lot of happy campers.  Happy campers who want to meet new people and spend time with old friends.  Happy campers who want to share meals together around a picnic table and break out the corn hole. Happy campers who want to open up their banjo cases and start plucking some Doc Watson or Ralph Stanley as the sun comes down on another day.

Now if you camp at the Myrtle Beach KOA we can’t guarantee that Toby will still be there filling up the evening air with the summery sounds of live bluegrass. But we can guarantee that you’ll meet some great new people.  They’ll probably even ask you to pull up a chair and stay for a while. And you will be happy to oblige.

***

We have been customers of the Myrtle Beach KOA before, and we will be again.  This trip, however, was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.  Our opinions are always our own. For more information about this campground check out this week’s RVFTA podcast for free in the iTunes store or on our blog.  We interview the general manager, Jeremiah Drew, along with some very happy campers.

Stay tuned for two more great posts about outdoor activities and crazy boardwalk fun right near the campground!

21 Oct

Happy Halloween, From the Philadelphia/ West Chester KOA

Our friends often ask us if we really think weekend RV trips are worth the work. We tell them that getting on the road on a Friday afternoon may require some extra effort, but it is worth it every time.  Why?  Because of magical weekends like the one we just spent at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Weekends that are filled with action and adventure and relaxation.  Weekends that bring our family closer together, and leave us dreaming about our next trip.

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Over the last four years, the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA has become one of our family’s favorite places for a weekend getaway.  The campground is less than two hours from home, but it feels like it’s a world away.  It is nestled among gently rolling hills in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley.  In the past we have always visited in the spring, when the countryside is bright green and in full bloom.  But this fall we decided to join owners Gary and Lori Levesque for one of their popular, activity-filled Halloween weekends.  Between the spectacular fall foliage and the campground Trick or Treating, we may have just discovered our next great family tradition.

The fun started right away on Friday night with a flashlight hayride.

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And continued all day Saturday with pumpkin painting in the Liberty Lodge.

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We really enjoyed watching the boys take their time and craft their individual pumpkin masterpieces. Even Wesley, our 18 month old, joined in on the action.  But the real magic happened when the pumpkins were placed together to dry for that evening’s festive Halloween party.

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The highlight of the weekend for our twin five year old boys, Max and Theo, was Trick or Treating around the campground. The cabins and RV’s were decorated with lights, pumpkins, cobwebs, ghosts, and skeletons, and it was so easy for the boys to collect their buckets of loot as we meandered through the campground at sunset during a perfect fall evening.

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After the boys filled their buckets with candy we all headed to the Liberty Lodge for pumpkin pie and spooktacular live music.  The band played ghoulish party hits like the Monster Mash and Werewolves of London, then a rousing version of the Hokey Pokey that had everyone on the dance floor.  When we returned to the camper the boys were exhausted and fell asleep the second their heads hit their pillows.  Then it was date night for mom and dad around the campfire.  For us, weekends don’t get much better than this.

But it wasn’t all Halloween all of the time. This KOA is located along the banks of the Brandywine River and it is a perfect place for families to fish, kayak, or canoe.  The campground rents canoes at a reasonable price, but this time we brought our own kayak and the adults took turns enjoying the quiet beauty of an autumn afternoon.

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Yes, the campground is beautiful, but one of the reasons we love this destination so much is its close proximity to wonderful, family-friendly attractions like Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, two amazing trips guaranteed to delight no matter your age.

Longwood Gardens is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. Although the Flower Garden Walk is always spectacular, the highlight for us is the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many whimsical fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  If you go, make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids! Also bring a picnic lunch to eat while you watch the Open Air Theater Fountain Show just outside the Conservatory.

Longwood Gardens

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Winterthur was founded by Henry Francis du Pont and is filled with rolling meadows, sparkling green woodlands, and secret gardens that will surprise and delight your entire family.  No signs saying “keep off the grass” found here.  Only room to run free. Again, there is plenty of horticultural interest, but our boys spent most of their time in the Enchanted Woods where fairy houses, tea rooms, mushroom gardens, and giant birds’ nests kept them spellbound for hours. An added bonus is that the gourmet cafeteria is actually very kid-friendly and affordable, offering delicious comfort foods that will please everyone.

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So as you can see, we love our weekend adventures.  But are they worth it for your family?  We encourage you to hit the road and find out.

***

To learn more about the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA tune in to the upcoming episode of our podcast RV FAMILY TRAVEL ATLAS, available here on the blog and on iTunes.

We are repeat customers of this campground, but this trip was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.  As always, all opinions expressed are our own.

15 Apr

How We Roll When a Campground Rocks! (Myrtle Beach KOA)

When we pulled into the Myrtle Beach KOA and saw families lounging by the pool and kids romping through the spray ground my son Max asked, “can we always come back here?”  Both of the boys were still buckled up in their car seats but they knew that this campground was going to be special–and they were so right.

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We had just pulled in, but it was quickly becoming apparent that we had discovered one of our new favorite places on planet earth.  We had also finally put the long, cold New Jersey winter somewhere far, far behind us. The sweet smell of Wisteria was filling the air and the warm South Carolina sun felt luxurious on our bare arms.

I could pretty much just write a three word review of the Myrtle Beach KOA–THIS PLACE ROCKS!–and call it a day.  But I want to take a minute to tell you, and show you, why this campground has got these campers so excited.

Jeremiah, the manager, is warm and welcoming, and every single member of his team has been friendly and helpful.  When we reserved our site a few months ago I asked to be close to the playground, but not too close.  Viola–no problem!  He placed us on a perfectly positioned full hook-up pull through.  Just as requested.

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The site is also surprisingly spacious and private.  Our 33 foot White Hawk fit with extra room to spare for setting up a comfortable base camp.

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The playground, which is set along the banks of a shady lake, has been perfect for Max and Theo–and for Wes, who is becoming quite the ambitious little explorer.  He practically walked to the pool by himself yesterday!

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And who wouldn’t love the two wooden bears on a tree stump right in front of the playground–just one of the many small touches that make this entire campground feel cared for and visually appealing.

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Wesley was also pretty excited to feed the ducks–and the purchase price of the duck food goes directly to KOA’s awesome Care Camps charity for kids with cancer.  Definition of a win-win, right?

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Did I mention the bounce pillow with lake view?  If you’re camping with kids this place is simply over the top my friends!

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For the boys the best thing about the Myrtle Beach KOA may just be the sprayground, pool, and kiddie pool complex–and the fact that South Carolina is warm enough for swimming in April.  THIS is why Stephanie really wanted to drive here for our spring break.  Little did she know that Wes would take such great joy in splashing her during our first family swim of the season.

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In my opinion, the best thing about the Myrtle Beach KOA is its incredibly lovely and unique location.  The campground is one block from the main drag in town, and two blocks from one of the East Coast’s most popular beaches. But the location is secluded, deeply wooded, and filled with tall trees. The word “oasis” comes to mind.  The lake that cuts through the middle of the campground also gives this KOA a charming and rustic feel.

I can only think of one major problem with this campground.  They also have the same problem at the Cape Hatteras KOA.

It’s just crawling with pirates.

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Captain Max says “its time to walk the plank!”

But I say, welcome to spring! And welcome to Season 5 of Lively Little Campers!

Onward.

 

 

06 Apr

Campground Sticker Shock? Unpacking the Value of a Cabin

Jeremy and I realized recently that a certain scenario keeps repeating itself. Friends of ours will express interest in coming along with us on a trip. If they are not interested in tent camping, we enthusiastically recommend cabins as a great way to experience a campground without the gear and prep that goes hand in hand with roughing it. Our friends love the idea until we go to make reservations. Then BAM! Sticker shock and retreat.

It turns out that most people assume cabins will be significantly cheaper than a hotel room. The truth is, cabins are not necessarily a cheaper way to travel; they are a different way to travel. Just like there is a wide variety of hotel experiences out there, cabins range from the rustic to the luxurious and are priced accordingly. We have stayed in cabins with nothing but  two beds and a dresser, but we have also stayed in ones with complete kitchens, bathrooms, and separate sleeping areas.

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So the real question is…why would you stay in a cabin when you could just stay in a hotel for the same price? Here are the reasons why we choose a cabin every time we travel without our RV…

1. You are not only getting  a room. You are getting land. Along with your cabin rental comes access to grass and dirt, two things that your kids need to experience after a long day in the car. There is nothing better than relaxing in a zero gravity chair while your kids run around like lunatics in a nearby field or scoot up and down the path in front of you. It sure beats chasing them down a hotel hallway or yelling at them as they press every button in the elevator and set off emergency alarms.

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2. You don’t have to leave to find activities. They are right there at the campground. I know some hotels have pools, but many campgrounds have them in addition to playgrounds and volleyball nets and fishing holes and mini golf courses. I love the fact that when we spend the night in a cabin, that experience turns into a memorable part of the journey, not just a stopover on the way to a destination.

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3. People aren’t above you. People aren’t below you. No one cares more about sleep than parents, and no one makes more noise than kids. This means we get ticked off when people are loud after we put our babies to bed. Then we get stressed out when our cherubs are up screaming at the crack of dawn. In cabins there are no loud TVs on the other side of the wall, no yelling in the hallways. The great outdoors lets every family keep their own brand of crazy to themselves.

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4. You can actually party (visualize air quotes) after the kids go to bed. My husband and I have set up mini bars in hotel bathrooms and watched a movie on a laptop with shared earphones while the boys slept. Completely pathetic. At a campground, you put the kids to bed and then hang out around a campfire with friends, drinks, food, and music. What’s the contest?

5. If you have to clean up puke, cabins have outside hoses and clothes lines. I know…TMI. And that is usually not my style. But it is a really important factor when measuring the value of a cabin vs. hotel room. A few years ago while driving through Virginia, both of my boys got carsick and spewed strawberry smoothie all over the backseat of the Suburu. Luckily we had reservations at a cabin that night. The car seats and covers got hosed down and hung out to dry (along with Max and Theo). I can’t even imagine what we would have done if we were staying at the Comfort Suites.

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Cabins give you more than just a room to stay in; they give you access to an entire campground. If you pick the right place, you will get more out of your stay than most hotels can offer. We used to rent houses down in Cape Hatteras and now we can’t imagine not staying at the KOA when we head down in the summer. We could never find a house rental that would come with pools, hot tubs, bounce pillows, mini golf, train rides, and outdoor movie showings.

So we know we are getting a pretty good deal. Maybe one day we will convince our friends…

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14 Jul

They Float Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease….

This afternoon, after a quality nap, and some quiet time in the camper, we headed back to the welcome center at the Cape Hatteras KOA for the “tie dye extravaganza.”  We did this last year as well and the shirts made for great souvenirs that the boys still wear–so call it a new summer tradition.  You could bring your own shirt or pay five bucks and buy one from the staff–they had a variety of sizes laid out on a table in the stage room next to the pool.

After we bought our shirts the summershiners (younger summer staffers) helped us bunch them up with rubber bands before we headed back outside to the buckets of dye.  The boys took their color selections very seriously…

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Of course, mommy did help…

Then, to celebrate our awesome new t-shirts, we decided to take one last swim before dinner and do a spontaneous aerial show…

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Wes watched from the shade on the side of the pool, only mildly amused by his brothers’ hijinx.   He sees this stuff at home all day long…

After our cool dip we were all ravenously hungry.  So we headed back to our site and Stephanie rocked out a delicious chicken caesar salad.  Then we all gathered around and shared a nice meal and talked about the day…

And drank some cold milk…
And played some cards on the carpet…
It was my favorite day of summer so far.  And this road trip is just getting started.
Onward.
01 Jul

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Seashore Campsites, Cape May NJ.

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My wife and I put a lot of advance planning into each of the camping trips that we take.  This research has paid off for us big-time because we have stayed at many great places since we bought the pop-up camper.

Last weekend we returned to Seashore Campsites in Cape May, New Jersey–and I think that it is officially my favorite campsite for the following ten reasons:

1.   They have the best hybrid kiddy pool/adult pool that we have seen at a campground.  One end is a two foot deep kiddy pool with fountains and the other end is a fairly spacious adult pool.  You can move from one end to another in a flash.  Our lively little campers decided that running and jumping into the pool would optimize the danger and therefore optimize their fun.  We gave each of the boys several timeouts before we coerced them into holding our hands while jumping.  Two older ladies nearby, after being told that the boys had just turned two, were horrified, and one of them suggested that they “might not make it to three.” For some reason this comment upset my wife.   She also asked if I was ” a Canadian.” This comment did not upset me but I explained that I was a “New Jerseyian” who was born and raised in Asbury Park.  She looked confused, mumbled something about me having a Canadian accent, mumbled something else about Bruce Springsteen and the 1970’s, and then returned to her cocktail.

2.  The man-made fresh water swimming lake is also awesome (see top right).  There is plenty of room to spread out and no concrete in site–just sand and water.  The boys also decided that running and face-planting into the lake was a good option.  There were outbursts of tears quickly followed by more face-plants.  The tears eventually subsided.  The face-plants did not.

3. The Cape May Point State Park, which is right on the beach, is about ten minutes away and it is free.  There was plenty of room to park our camper there–though one of the rangers asked us to move it into a special location once a large group of tour buses moved out.  I asked him if I could park it there now so that I would not have to come up from the beach later. He looked at me like I was stupid and asked me if I spoke Korean.  About an hour later he cruised down to the beach on his ATV to tell us that the “Korean buses” had not moved and I didn’t need to move the camper—yet! He told me to relax and we stared at the ocean together.  There were dolphins swimming by and the sun was twinkling across the water.  After a few seconds of quiet cross generation man-time he asked me if we were having a nice day and then introduced himself to our boys.

4.  The campground offers free tractor rides at 7 pm every night.  After our group of 25-30 parents and kids got rolling another group of about 10 kids on bikes and 10 adults on golf carts followed us around the campground caravan style. We honked and waved at all of the campers around us grilling up their dinners.  They honked and waved back. For many of them it was clearly Miller Time. We were also followed by an older security guard on a golf cart who pulled over at one point and gave an old-fashioned tongue lashing to a young boy for cursing at us as we drove by.  I felt like I was in a Frank Capra movie.  I love Frank Capra movies…

5.  A friendly campground worker helped me back my camper in on Friday and another friendly worker helped us get out on Sunday morning (I normally don’t need help getting in and out, this spot was tight!).  There is a large staff at Seashore Campsites and every single one of them was kind, courteous and welcoming during both of our stays.

6.  There is a Starbucks nearby for 6 AM Saturday morning coffee and hot tea runs with the boys.

7.  There is also a ridiculously nice snack bar by the pool that sold a value meal called the happy camper.  The meal comes in a bright plastic beach pale with shovel.  We did not order one but did not hesitate to eat some serious family style ice cream!

8. Close proximity to the previously blogged about Cape May Zoo.  Can you say lions?  Can you say giraffes?  Can you say FREE?

9.  Top notch playgrounds located in many locations around the campground–which is really more like a camping village.

10.  There is a Starbucks nearby for 6 am Sunday morning coffee and hot tea runs with the boys!

If your looking for a fun family weekend that will not break the bank Seashore Campsites is the place for your lively little campers.  The Cape May Point State Park is nearby and it is free.  The Cape May County Zoo is nearby and it is free.  And the campground is so darn cute and nice that once you get settled you might not want to leave. There is enough fun to be had right there on site! There were times throughout the weekend when I was so happy that I felt like singing “God Bless America,”  or “American Pie” or “Free Bird.”

Just make sure that you bring the bug spray and that you leave your potty-mouth at home.