06 Dec

5 Reasons Seasonal Camping Might Be Right For You!

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We got a ton of response after our recent podcast episode on Seasonal Camping, featuring the awesome Jon and Heather Anderson, who signed up for their own seasonal campsite two years ago and absolutely love it.

So we want to make ourselves perfectly clear…if you are thinking about a seasonal spot for next year, NOW is the time to book. If you wait to search for your own perfect getaway until next spring, it might just be too late.

Seasonal camping is when you reserve one campsite for an extended period of time, and you are free to come and go at your own convenience. Seasonal camping rates and schedules vary greatly from one campground to another, so you will have to do a bit of research to find one that suits your family.

Why would any self respecting RV travelers choose to reserve a single campsite at a single campground for an entire year?

Here are five reasons why seasonal camping might be a perfect fit, even if you have an unstoppable urge for adventure…

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20 Oct

RVFTA #111 Seasonal Camping 101 with Jon and Heather Anderson

seasonal-camping-101On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about seasonal camping with some experienced experts, Jon and Heather Anderson. We first met Jon and Heather at the Hershey RV show in 2015 when they purchased their Class A Winnebago Brave. Since then, we have been impressed with how much time and research they put into all their RV decisions.

So we invited them onto the show to teach us the ins and outs of seasonal camping. Why did they decide to take the plunge? Are they happy with their choice? And perhaps most importantly…how much does this cost???
listen-on-itunes-hoverIn the first segment, Jon and Heather walk us through their journey from buying a travel trailer to investing in a seasonal campsite. Then in the second segment, they share five tips for finding the perfect seasonal campground for your family.

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09 Jan

The RVFTA Coloring Contest: A Cure For the Winterization Blues

Travel Trailer Coloring Page

They say that camping is the best kind of therapy. But when you can’t camp, coloring pictures of travel trailers works pretty well, too.

Inspired by a post on our RVFTA forum, Jeremy recently went a little hog wild and bought us three camping coloring books. They were supposed to be for the adults, but the boys jumped on the camper coloring crazy train, and now its a bit of a thing in our house.

Yesterday, I noticed the colored pages were beginning to pile up in various areas of the house. The boys have honestly put so much effort into the project, and I hated the thought of the papers getting crumbled, torn, and eventually thrown out in one of my cleaning furies.

So I went to the Dollar Store and bought of stack of frames. Viola! Playroom wall art. This is as crafty as I get, people.

camper coloring

Now it seems like everyone else wants to join in on the camper coloring fun, so we are announcing our RVFTA Coloring Contest. Here is what you need to do:

  • Get a copy of one of the coloring books listed below.
  • Create your artistic masterpiece.
  • Take a picture and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #RVFTAcoloring

We will pick a favorite picture every week and regram it. Then on March 1st, we will pick from the regrammed finalists to award the RVFTA Camper Coloring Champion. The winner will receive a signed copy of our book, The Idiot’s Guide to RV Vacations, when it comes out in May 2016.

                               

So get yourself a coloring book and a nice cup of tea. Therapist’s orders.

30 Oct

RVFTA #60: Fall Rally Roundup!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about the fun times had by all at the RVFTA 2015 Fall Rally.

We spent last weekend hanging at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA with an awesome group of podcast listeners.

Hayrides, fishing, canoeing, pumpkin painting, trick or treating…and plenty of yummy food! We will touch on all the highlights and get you excited for the 2016 Spring Rally just around the corner.

You will also hear Stephanie interview three fall rally attendees–Chris, Laura, and Phil–who share a few tricks for making your next camping trip a bit more special.

Plus, we will spend a bit of time discussing a recurring topic in our email from listeners. Should we be aiming for a more secluded campground experience? Is boondocking really better? Watch out folks, we are stepping up on the soapbox and opining away.

You might think you can wait until April to join our rally fun. But we here at RVFTA believe in booking campsites early and often. You are listening to Episode #60: RVFTA Fall Rally Roundup!

 

 

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23 Oct

RVFTA #59: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about getting the most bang for your buck by taking advantage of the many rewards and memberships programs available in the campground industry.

We reached out to Jellystone Camp Resorts, Good Sam, Kampgrounds of America, and Thousand Trails and asked them to tell us about the costs and benefits of their company’s programs.

Maybe one of these memberships is the perfect fit for your family. Maybe all four have something to offer your RVing crew. The bottom line is that it depends on where you camp and how often.

Our guests on this episode:

Follow the links above to find out more information about any of these programs.

And listen at the end of the show for a special sneak peak from the RVFTA Podcast Network and our brand new podcast, Girl Camper: Going Places, Doing Things. 

This great new show with Go RVing blogger, Janine Pettit, is full of inspirational stories and practical travel tips. Oh, and we are simply in love with the logo…

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04 Sep

RVFTA #51: Fall Camping Rocks

Fall Camping

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are celebrating the arrival of fall camping season!

Many people get a little bit mopey over Labor Day weekend as they say goodbye to the summer season.

But here at RVFTA, we are focusing on the positive and talking about all the reasons we think the fall just might be our favorite time of the year to hitch up and head out. After writing an article for KOA’s The Greater Outdoors, we were inspired to create a whole segment on the topic. Please chime in and tell us why you love fall camping!

Philadelphia West Chester KOA

Plus for our recommendation of the week, these teachers are giving you one last summer reading assignment and demanding that you head over to Travelswithbirdy.com and read Kerry Cox’s amazing series of posts on Yosemite National Park.

You might have heard our interview with Kerri on Episode #48: Dispatches from Glacier and Yosemite. She gave a great description of her first time at one of America’s most popular national parks. But in her blog posts, Kerri dives a little deeper and talks about the good, the bad and the sublime of her family’s grand trip out west. Put aside a bit of time to dive into some great travel writing this week.

You may be crying into your potato salad about the shortening of the summer days. But here at RVFTA, we are breaking out the sweaters and the dutch oven chili recipe. This is Episode #51: Fall Camping Rocks!

Save the Dates:

We are delighted to have Go RVing as our RVFTA sponsor. Listen for a message from them in our show. To find your AWAY head over to GoRving.com.

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03 Apr

RVFTA #29: 5 Reasons to Camp Close to Home

Camp Close to Home at Timberland Lake Campground

On Episode #29 of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are discussing 5 reasons you really should camp close to home. This is something we tried out for the first time this year, and boy are we happy that we did.

How did this finally happen after five years of RVing? Well, we saw a fun Facebook post about the soup and chili cookoffs happening at a local campgrounds just 30 minutes away. We ended up spending two great weekends at Timberland Lake Campground in Jackson, NJ only 30 minutes away and realized there are a lot of perks to camping near home base.

During the featured segment, we talk about our day trip into downtown Princeton, New Jersey. If you are in the area, you will definitely want to check out Rojo’s Roastery, Mamoun’s Falafel, Labyrinth Books, and the Cotsen Children’s Library on the campus of Princeton University. All told, we couldn’t have imagined a better day in a downtown…both the adults and children were equally pleased.

We will also share some of our listeners’ thoughts about the RV Staycation. It turns out plenty of our readers are very attached to their local camping getaway spot.

To read the original blog post about camping close to home, click here. And to read more about our two weekends at Timberland Lake campground, check out our post on the Good Sam Blog.

What else will you hear on this week’s episode? Well, we have been doing plenty of book reviews for adults, but this week we will shift gears and recommend a great book to read to the kids around the campfire. A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, by Chris Van Dusen, is a charming bedtime story with all the elements of a perfect RV tale: a cute vintage trailer, plenty of marshmallows, and a curious and hungry bear.

We have always read to our boys before bed whether at home or at the campground. Over the last year, story time has moved fireside. This is now one of our favorite parts of everyday—sitting around the campfire in the evening, reading stories to our children. If this isn’t part of your routine, give it a try. You might wind up loving it just as much as the kids do.

Thank to all of our readers and listeners for sending us such great emails and comments. We love to hear your take on all these topics, and we know everyone else does, too. Remember you can post your camping pics on our Facebook Page and you can hashtag #RVFTA on Instagram so we can regram those awesome campground shots from all around the country.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out some of the bloggers that listen to this show and are always providing fun and interesting content. Mandy over at Campfire Travelers heard my resolution about personalized checklists and decided to go ahead and create some. Erin and Dan came up with their own list of camping fails and posted on their InnTown Campground Blog.

Why do you love to camp close to home?

Let us know after listening to Episode #29 of RV Family Travel Atlas: 5 Reasons to Camp Close to Home!

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28 Mar

RVFTA #28: Meet the New American Camper

Meet the New American Camper

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are looking at the 2015 North American Camping Report. This survey, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America, was released last week and offers an interesting (and sometimes surprising) look at campers in North America.

We start off by discussing the very definition of camping itself, which tends to be a hot-button topic in the RV world. Do you have to be sleeping on the ground to call it camping? The group conducting this report doesn’t think so. They say it doesn’t matter whether you are in a tent, a cabin, or a big rig…its the campground that makes the camper. Do you agree?

Then onto the basics: who is camping and where are they going? We found it surprising that most people (about 50%) are taking destination trips, driving to one campground and hanging out for a week or so. This seems to be a shift from the trend of more local weekend trips that the industry was focusing on a couple of years ago.

What did we find most interesting?  Campgrounds are starting to look a little more like our diverse country, with the camping rates among non-whites almost doubling between 2012 and 2014. We love the diversity of age and economic status that we find in campgrounds. It is really good news that ethnic diversity is developing as well.

And of course, no conversation about modern camping would be complete with a little bit of technology talk. Everybody keeps talking about WiFi, but we think that really misses the point. Listen to hear why we believe this will be a non issue in no time at all.

Planning and booking those campsites? Well, you know we have some opinions about that. It looks like a lot of other campers agree, too. They seem to be taking advice from friends and family, and using the ole fashioned call and reserve over any of the new fangled methods. We like it.

We also like all the spring camping resolutions that our listeners and readers sent in over the last week. We wrap up the episode by sharing some of the great goals y’all shared. Keep them coming…we love camping inspiration!

Pull up the report and follow along as we go…we give page numbers so you can keep up. And send us in your thoughts and comments. What did you find surprising? What kind of American camper are you?

2015 camping season is a go, folks! See you at the campground…

The New American Camper

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26 Mar

5 Reasons to Camp Close to Home

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I’ll admit it. For the last five years I have resisted every one of Jeremy’s efforts to camp near our home at the Jersey Shore. It just seemed so silly to me. If I was going to go through the bother of packing up the camper, I wanted to get away. Away, away. Like, a minimum of two hours.

But this season, circumstances conspired and I finally agreed to a local camping trip.

The ironic part? I was already loving the whole ‘local camping trip’ thing before we had even hitched up and pulled out.

Planning, packing, departing, returning home…every step had a relaxed and mellow feel to it that I don’t normally experience during a weekend camping trip.

Between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, I had an epiphany: there really are some benefits to a RV Staycation. (Yup, I said it…)

So even though my favorite part of RVing will always be exploring places away from my home, I’m giving you 5 reasons why staying at a local campground can be a really great experience.

1. Dewinterize the camper in a low-risk environment.

A lot of RV experts recommend season opener trips–short trips near your home to test out the camper systems after a long winter sitting in the driveway. Although Jeremy and I recognize the value of this practice, we have never been able to squeeze in a camping trip prior to our Spring Break vacation.

Well, last year we opened up our RV down in Myrtle Beach only to find out that a pipe had burst. Yeah: big mess, far from home. We couldn’t use the RV kitchen sink for the whole trip. It wasn’t such a big deal doing our dishes at the bathhouse, but it certainly convinced us to make sure everything was working before heading out for a 10 day vacation.

2. More flexibility with arrival and departure times.

When we are going away for a weekend, departure and arrival times play a huge role in our planning. Friday rush hour traffic can be a nightmare, but we also worry about arriving too late at the campground. Likewise, Sunday return traffic can be congested, but we always want to get home early enough to get ready for the work week ahead.

Knowing that a campground is only 30 minutes away relieves that travel stress. I don’t have to worry about rush hour, and even if we are running late it is no big deal. This past Sunday, we got home right before dinner and I was still able to run to the grocery store without feeling much of a time crunch.

A little less time on the road turned into a lot less stress in the scheduling department. I was pretty impressed.

3. Test out new sleeping arrangements, schedules, or gear.

Any parent knows…just when you think you have everything down, something will change. We are continually adapting to the changing needs of our little guys and this camping season is no different.

Last weekend we moved Wes from a crib into the back bunkhouse with the big boys. We had no idea how this would go and it was a relief to know we could abandon the whole operation if need be.

Lucky for us, Wes slept like a champ in his bunk with bed rails. Now we can breath a little easier about our longer trip to Myrtle Beach.

4. Don’t miss out on important weekend commitments.

All it takes is one birthday party or t-ball game to keep many families from going on the weekend RV trip. We find that the spring weekends can quickly fill up with communions, graduations, BBQs, and more.

This past weekend helped me realize that we really could have the best of both worlds. Visiting a local campground means that we can have our campfire on Friday night and then drive back into town for a morning t-ball game. Camping close to home is the perfect option if you don’t want a single scheduled event to derail the whole weekend.

5. Be a tourist in your own backyard.

I’ve talked about this before, but its funny how many ‘local attractions’ you miss out on when you live in a place. Something as simple as parking your RV in a local campground can change the way you think about and plan your weekend.

Princeton is less than an hour away from our home, but we have never taken the boys there for a day trip. Last weekend seemed the perfect time to visit the downtown, and we had a wonderful day checking out an independent bookstore, coffee roastery, and children’s library. Now we can’t wait to return.

The bottom line?

After five years of resistance, I now can’t wait for the next time we camp close to home. It is a wonderful way to experience many of the benefits of RVing while avoiding the stress points of family travel.

So what’s your take? Do you camp locally? Tell us about your favorite hometown campground…

 

 

21 Mar

RVFTA #27: Spring Camping Resolutions

Spring Camping Resolutions

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing our Spring Camping Resolutions–five from Stephanie and five from Jeremy.

Although you wouldn’t know it by the weather here in the Northeast, it is the first week of spring, and we are more than ready to kick off a new camping season.

We have been thinking a lot about our goals for this year…what we want to do more of, what we want to do less of, and all the new things we would really like to try. From food to family activities to technology, we have a lot of ground to cover in 2015. Coffee also makes an appearance on the list…of course.

After you listen to our resolutions, head over to one of our social media channels and tell us about your goals for the 2015 camping season.  We would love to share your resolutions on next week’s show!

And speaking about resolutions, we should all resolve to be a little bit safer this year when we travel with our RVs. Walter Cannon is the safety guru at the Recreational Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation. We interviewed him at the Atlantic City RV Show and he gave us some great tips for staying safe while traveling during the upcoming camping season.  This is an important segment and we encourage everyone out there in listener-land to take notes (but not while you are driving)!

Of course we also announce our 2 lucky winners of Trailerama, the great coffee table book by Phil Noyes, who we interviewed on last week’s episode, Meet Mr. Trailerama! We will have more giveaway and product reviews coming up this spring, so stay tuned.

Thanks to everyone who started posting their camping pictures on our Facebook page this week. We love seeing all the beautiful campers and campgrounds out there, so keep them coming. Make sure you tell us where the picture was taken. We take notes on this stuff.

All of this…and so much more on Episode 27 of RV Family Travel Atlas: Spring Camping Resolutions!

Spring Camping Resolutions Pinterest

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21 Feb

RVFTA #23: Meet the Girl Campers!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas we interview Go RVing blogger, girl camper, and all around charm school graduate Janine Pettit. She is a girl camping ambassador and world class storyteller who is “incapable of being boring.” Listen to hear how Janine hooked up with Sisters on the Fly, her favorite campground, and her biggest camping fail ever. We would sit around a campfire with this lovely lady any night of the year!

We are also talking about some of the interesting people that we met at the Atlantic City RV Show: from our podcast listeners, to RV safety experts, to representatives from Jayco’s headquarters in Middlebury, Indiana, we made the rounds and made new friends.

And we convinced the nicest RV rep in America, Tom Wylie, to give us a walk-through tour of the 2015 Jayco White Hawk 28DSBH. After talking to Tom we kinda wanna upgrade to a new 2015. It was pretty sweet!

Don’t forget to check out our interview on this week’s episode of Roadtreking, a podcast by journalist Mike Wendland. We chatted with Mike about why we do what we do with our children and some of our recommendations for taking kids and grandkids on the road.

And we are hanging out as guest bloggers over the Camp Jellystone blog! Our post this week is about fun activities in the Luray, Virginia area. Next up? The perfect day in Shenandoah National Park.

All of this and so much more on episode 23 of RV Family Travel Atlas: Meet the Girl Campers.


 

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17 Oct

RV Family Travel Atlas: 8 Tips for Campground Owners

On Episode 5 of Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing 8 tips for campground owners (whether they want them or not). We also discuss those short weekend trips and decide whether they are worth all the work. Our campground review this week takes us to Midcoast Maine, where Moorings Oceanfront RV Resort pretty much knocked our socks off.

As always, we will give you some online recommendations, and let you know what our readers (and listeners) are saying.

We really want to hear from you! If you have an opinion about any of our podcast topics, let us know in the comments below. And make sure to answer our Camping Question Friday on Facebook.

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20 Sep

RV Family Travel Atlas: Our First Podcast!!!

We are so excited to share our first episode of RV Family Travel Atlas. In these podcasts, we will be sharing our thoughts about traveling with kids, talking about our favorite campgrounds and destinations, and answering our readers’ most common questions.

In this episode we talk about how it all started, from the purchase of our first pop up camper to our first campground experiences. We also remember what it was like to get those little campers to sleep in the RV.

Take some time to listen…we would love to know what you think!


 

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18 Jun

How to Camp Happy: Lessons from Four Years of RVing

This article originally appeared in the Jayco Journal.

Isn’t it great when you can look back and laugh at an epic camping fail?

We have all had those trips that did not go exactly as planned, and ours was four years ago on a chilly weekend at Camp Taylor in the Skylands Region of New Jersey. Our family was still new to RVing, and we had only been on three trips with our pop up camper.

Let’s just say our lack of experience was embarrassingly obvious that weekend. From running out of propane in the middle of a 35-degree night, to an epic toddlers’ meltdown during a wolf preserve tour, we had our fair share of ‘moments.’

This past week we returned, and the experience was everything a great camping trip should be, full of playing, hiking, fishing, and lots of great eating.

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So what changed? Mostly us. After spending over 100 nights in our RV, we have learned a few things. Here are the three most important lessons we can share from the past four years…

1. The campsite is everything, so do your homework. 

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It took us a while to realize that no matter how nice the campground is, your personal site must suit your needs as a family. A waterfront site sounds amazing right? Well, it turns into a stressful experience if you have twin two year olds trying to take a swim in the creek every moment of the day.

Our first site at Camp Taylor four years ago was surrounded by a beautiful, rocky landscape. Guess what? Toddlers love two things: climbing on rocks and throwing rocks, so we spent much of the weekend kissing boo boos and telling them no, no, no. Not ideal.

Now we take the time to talk to campground owners about our needs as a family. We are very specific about what we want—close proximity to the playground, little to no through traffic, and a bit of distance from neighbors who may be bothered by our children’s noisy antics. It may take a long phone call and a bit of persistence, but the perfect campsite for your family will change your vacation experience.

This year at Camp Taylor, we had a wooded back-in site with a wonderful open field in front for the kids to run, kick a ball, or play tag.  The kids had fun and the adults relaxed. That is the very definition of a perfect site.

2. Be prepared, but be flexible.

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We do a whole lot of planning before we leave on any vacation. That first trip to Camp Taylor was scheduled from start to finish. So even though our boys were tired from that first cold, sleepless night we tried to stay on schedule and move through the itinerary. Big mistake.

This year we had a general list of possible activities, but were always willing to adjust depending on the family mood. On Saturday the sun came out even though rain had been forecast, so we jumped in the car and headed toward the Delaware Water Gap to hike Mt. Tammany. The next morning we were planning on fishing but saw an advertisement for an Animal Frolic at a nearby farm. This ended up being one of the highlights of our trip, and we still fit in fishing later that day.

It certainly helps to do your research, but don’t get to flustered if you hit a speed bump.  Just adjust the plan and keep having fun.

3. Find your own authentic experience.

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When we first starting RVing, we tried really hard to create that authentic camping experience. We were packing coolers, cooking over the campfire, and gathering kindling from the nearby woods. Many of these ‘camp chores’ can be really difficult and time consuming with little kids underfoot.

It took us a little while to realize we didn’t have to rough it if we didn’t want to. We learned to embrace all the amenities that our travel trailer offered. The air conditioning, heat, refrigerator, and microwave get tons of use on all of our trips. The crockpot supplies many of our camp dinners.

We travel in our RV to find that perfect mix of adventure and relaxation as a family. Whatever helps us raise the fun level and lower the stress level becomes a part of our own personal authentic experience.

What lessons have you learned from years of RVing? Do you do things differently now than you used to? We would love to hear your stories!

05 Apr

Ten Reasons Why Your Family Should Start RVing.

Stephanie and I purchased our first RV four years ago and since then we have spent over 100 nights camping with our children.  The memories have been magical and the travel has transformed our lives in so many ways.

Are you considering taking the plunge and purchasing your first RV?  Here are ten reasons why you should do so this spring.

1. Campgrounds are much cheaper than hotels.  Much.  Cheaper.

2. Campgrounds always have more family-friendly activities than hotels.

3.  You save oodles of money by making your own meals instead of eating out in restaurants three times a day.

4. You can put your kids to bed and hang out around a warm campfire instead of setting up a mini bar in the hotel bathroom.

5.  This winter was crap.  But your family survived.  Reward yourselves.

6.  Your bed in your RV is your bed.  A stranger did not sleep in it the night before, and another one the night before that, and another one the night before that.  You get the point.

7. Closer and easier access to nature: hiking, swimming, surfing, fishing, canoeing–all of God’s creation is waiting outside your door.

8.  It is acceptable for children to run around and scream at a campground–at a hotel? Not so much.

9.  If I can figure out how to back the darn thing up, then you can too.

10.  You will meet other campers.  And campers are happy people.  You will be happy too.

Onward.

 

01 Mar

Wanna Camp with Kiddos and have a good time? Respect the Routine…

We went on our first long road trip with Max and Theo when they were not even three months old. We had no game plan; we did no research. Basically, we threw the boys in the car at 6:30 am and took off on a 13 hour drive. Learning to take care of twins is not an easy transition into parenthood, and the idea of staying home with them all summer seemed more painful than the idea of travel, so away we went.

Ten months later, we bought our first camper and committed ourselves to learning how to explore the world with our children. Now Max and Theo are four years old and they have spent well over 100 nights of their life traveling. They love it; they look forward to it. If you ask them why Mommy and Daddy go to work each day, you may well get the answer that we need money for camping. Yes, that has been said.

No doubt, it has been a learning experience for Jeremy and me. Early on we may have pushed things too hard–tried to fit too much in.  But we are teachers and therefore adaptive learners. We realized very quickly that enjoying travel with your children means respecting their needs and their limitations. When we ignored the boys’ regular schedule, we were rewarded with meltdowns and shenanigans. However if we provided them with enough of the comforts of home to make them feel secure and well-rested, then we could experience more with toddlers than we ever imagined would be possible.

Last summer we were back at square one, traveling with a 3 month old and the twins. We were good students and applied all the lessons learned from our early travels with Max and Theo. It went pretty smoothly considering we spent 31 nights traveling through 6 states with 3 kids under 5.

Here are my top 5 suggestions if you actually want to enjoy that time on the road with your little ones…

1. Keep nap times sacred.

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What? I traveled all the way to _______ and I can’t pack every single second of the day with exciting activities? Exactly. We learned to get out early and do the most important (or demanding) activities in the morning when everyone is fresh and full of energy. We pack our lunch before we leave the campground and know that we have a solid three hours of good hiking/exploring/swimming before someone starts fighting/whining/complaining. We almost always get back to the campground for the religious experience of family napping, which if you haven’t experienced, I’m truly sorry. Join the cult today. Our campsite shuts down between the hours of 1 and 4 pm each and every day. It makes us happy people.

2. Keep the food familiar.

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It is easy to wing it with food while you are traveling. You want to get out on the road; you want to get to the next activity. So you decide you will find a restaurant or pick up food on the way. Just don’t. I found one of the best ways to keep my kids happy on the road was to feed them the same healthy food that I feed them at home. This does not mean I have to cook up a large camp breakfast every morning. Oatmeal or yogurt does us just fine. And we rarely leave for the day without a cooler packed with sandwiches, fruit, snacks, and milk. We also have dinner at the campground almost every night. You want to see meltdowns? Then take your darlings to a restaurant when they are tired after a long day of adventure. I admit, there are times to break this rule…but do so with caution.

3. Keep the bedtime routine cozy.

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No matter where we are, bedtime in our camper looks the same as it does at home. I’m convinced this gives our boys a continuity that they need desperately. They get their bath, their books, their treat, their prayers, and their songs. This past summer was the first time they spent time out at the fire before retiring to bed. Even though it was hard for us to get up and go do the ‘routine’, we always did. I’m pretty convinced it means the world to our boys.

4. Give them treats to look forward to.

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I’m not a big rewards parent. I don’t like bribing and I don’t like ‘extrinsic’ rewards. But we have found that offering our boys that little extra special something for being such flexible adventurers goes a looooong way. Letting them know that there is an ice cream at the camp store waiting for them when they finish that really tough hike works wonders. The bottom line is that little things matter a lot to young children and life is one great negotiation. So embrace it and use it.

5. Remember they are kids and they like kid-centric activities.

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Jeremy and I don’t want to spend our vacation days at theme parks and boardwalks. We want to hike, paddle, and swim. For the most part we have learned to negotiate between adults and youths and find activities that make us all feel fulfilled. Nevertheless, we do try to always find a campground with kid friendly activities like a pool, playground, bounce pillow, crafts, or tie dyeing. This means that after every family nap time, there is simple, kid-friendly fun before dinner. We will pay a bit more to stay at a place where we know the boys will be excited to hang out. This guarantees they will be engaged without being exhausted. Wilderness camping can wait.

As they get older, I know our boys will become more flexible. But for now, we are asking our children to absorb a whole heck of a lot when they spend over 30 nights a summer on the road. We want them to know that home is an idea. It is comforting and safe and we bring it with us wherever we go.

Happy (sane) travels.

06 Aug

Can We Still Call it Camping? The Trailer Upgrade of 2012

I earned my camping stripes early on as the daughter of an Eagle Scout. Every piece of equipment our family owned was Army issued. My sisters and I slept in an eight-man green canvas tent that seemed to weigh hundreds of pounds. In inclement weather the three of us girls would huddle in the middle, repeating our mantra over and over…don’t touch the sides, don’t touch the sides. 
One time, when I was about eight, my father refused to cancel a scheduled trip to Assateague Island despite an approaching hurricane. The State Park ended up shutting down but that didn’t deter my father; we just stayed at Chincoteague, which for some unaccountable reason was still open for business. He encouraged us to look on the positive side–despite the lack of any services whatsoever, we had the whole place to ourselves! Imagine that.
So you can see why, when Jeremy and I decided to buy a pop-up camper four years ago, I really felt like I was purchasing a luxury good. I thought, I will never suffer again. This has everything a girl could want and more.
Except it didn’t. We have mutually declared the pop-up both the best and worst decision we have made in our short time as parents. It was the best in that it changed the way we interact as a family, bringing adventure, joy, and flexibility into our boys’ everyday experiences. It was the worst in that we were unable to go on a single trip without something going wrong. Every single time we set up or broke down we could count on the hot water heater not lighting or the roof not rising, or the door not snapping in correctly or…you get the picture.
Throw a couple of infants in the mix and it becomes a bit of a challenge to stay cheery, you know?
So when my husband began researching the next big thing, I put up my usual fight. But my heart wasn’t really in it. I was ready for a bit of the good life. I had seen plenty of RVs in our travels and I was ready for the real deal. And now I have it.
It is with some reluctance that I admit to not missing the pop-up even a little. I acknowledge the value it added to our lives, and I even cried a little when we left it at the dealership as a trade-in. But seriously, good riddance: Mama has a stove now.  And an outdoor kitchen. It is not even a contest. 
So now we still get to have all the adventure and joy with just a little less flexibility required. Down the road a bit, if I feel the boys are getting too soft, I’ll just throw them into an army tent outside the camper in the middle of a good storm. Then they will learn to appreciate the luxury of our trailer as much as I do.

 

15 May

Why We Love Campgrounds and Hate Hotels (A Manifesto by Jeremy)

Picture this: you have been waiting for weeks to get away with your family and have booked a nice hotel room in an exciting location.  You leave work early on Friday and drive for 2 hours and arrive just in time for a fast-food dinner near the hotel (bedtime is rapidly approaching!).  The town is charming and the spring air is warm and invigorating.  You would love to walk around and soak it all in, BUT… the kids are getting tired and cranky and it’s time to check in at the hotel and lug all 32 bags up to your room.  You and your wife complete the bedtime rituals SWAT team style, in record time! You set up the Pack N Plays, rush through story-time (one book, not two), sing the songs more quickly than usual, say a prayer, and put the kids to bed.  Congratulations! You now have three options:

1.  You can go out on the town by yourself while the wife stays with the kids (bad for marriage?)
2.  You and your wife can turn on the light in the bathroom, get comfortable, and read a book.  You read on the toilet while she reads in the empty tub. You can’t run the water because the kids are asleep.  (also bad for marriage??)
3.  You can both go directly, and silently, to bed. (not bad or good for marriage, normal???)

Now imagine that instead of booking a hotel room you had reserved a campsite, or a cabin, in a beautiful, sylvan location.  Instead of shoveling down the fast-food you unpack the cooler and share sandwiches and a salad around the picnic table. One of your children may even decide to stand on the picnic table to eat.  And that’s okay. After dinner your kids romp across a grassy lawn for ten or twenty minutes to stretch their legs after the long drive.  Once they are good and tired you round them up into your tent, RV, or cabin and begin the bedtime ritual.  After you put the lively little campers to bed you step outside into the fresh air and glory in the view of lakes, mountains, streams, rivers, etc…depending on where you are camping.  If you are staying at Camp Taylor the wolves might be howling up in the hills at the Lakota Wolf Preserve. If you are staying at the Cape Hatteras KOA the waves will be crashing just over the dunes.

You stretch your legs and get the campfire going.  You pour two drinks.  Some neighbors drop by and say hello, ask where you’re from and how old your kids are (camping families are notoriously friendly!).  You strike up a nice conversation and get some recommendations about the area.  You say goodnight and after a long week at work you finally get some alone-time together.  Your kids are sleeping safely and soundly just a few feet away. The air is cooling down but the fire is warm.  The stars are beginning to fill up the night sky.  You are so glad you skipped the hotel.  Your wife hates it when you read on the toilet anyway.