24 Mar

RVFTA #81: Spring Camping Resolutions 2016

Spring Camping Resolutions 2016

Happy Spring, everybody! Here in the Northeast everyone is opening up the RVs and celebrating the beginning of camping season. And at RVFTA, that means it’s also time for our Spring Camping Resolutions.

We started this tradition last year on Episode #27, and it was fun (and a little nerve-wracking) for us to go back and listen to our resolutions from the beginning of camping season in 2015. We scored ourselves on our progress and accomplishments in the first segment of this show.

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16 Dec

We Want to Hear Your 2015 RV Highlight!

What was your top RV highlight of 2015?

Our New Year’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas is just around the corner, and we will be sharing our top RV and travel moments from the year: new experiences, favorite travel destinations, and the family moments that made it all worth it.

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We might also throw in a few of our least favorite moments from 2015…just for good cheer.

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It would be awesome to include some of our readers’ and listeners’ top RV moments of the past year also. We know many of you purchased your first rig, upgraded to more fancy digs, or took your campers farther than ever before in 2015. You saw new places and experienced moments that will be talked about for years to come.

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Tell us about it. Send us an email at rvfamilytravelatlas@gmail.com, use the contact form on our site, or just comment below!

Happy New Year and Happy Trails,

Stephanie + Jeremy

RVFTA Podcast Network-2

31 Jul

RVFTA #46: Reflections from 34 Days on the Road

reflections from 34 days on the road

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are looking back at 34 days on the road. We have never spent that many consecutive nights in our travel trailer, and it was definitely a different experience than a long weekend or one-week vacation.

Four states and seven campgrounds later, we have some thoughts to share. Listen to hear our reflections about campgrounds and family travel. Will RVFTA become a full-time RVing operation? You will have to tune in to find out…

Campground Topics

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Landscaping
  3. Furnishings
  4. Communal Spaces

Family Topics

  1. Chores and Clean Up
  2. Activities and Down Time
  3. Homesickness
  4. Mountains or Sea?

And we are wrapping up our reports from the road by interviewing Running Bear, one of the co-owners of the Jellystone in Marion, North Carolina. They are doing a lot of things right at this campground, and we will talk about the customer service and activities that blew us away.

We are delighted to welcome back Go RVing as our RVFTA sponsor. Listen for a special message from them just a bit later in our show. To find your AWAY head over to Go RVing.

Our epic road trip is over, but maybe yours has just begun. And you are listening to Episode #46: Reflections from 34 Days on the Road.

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21 Dec

RV Family Travel Atlas: 4 Secret Ingredients for Family Fun!

On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing our 4 secret ingredients for family fun. Vacationing with kids can be a bit challenging, and we want to give you some tips for keeping everyone, young old and in between, entertained, and inspired.

We have written about this topic a lot over the years. From botanical gardens to sculpture grounds to fish hatcheries to the benefits of outdoor activities in general, we have found entire genres of destinations that help us enjoy our time traveling with young children.

We are also discussing the type of restaurant to seek out, and when to say yes to those kid-crazy, touristy theme parks.

The mailbag is open on this episode, and we are excited to share our listeners’ thoughts on some previous episodes of RV Family Travel Atlas!

Enjoy and a very, very Happy Holidays to your family from ours.

 

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18 Dec

What’s the Secret to Making Family Travel Fun? (Like actual, real fun…)

Whether you are vacationing in a hotel, renting a house, or staying at a campground, let’s face it–traveling with young children is a challenge. Even it is something you absolutely love to do, you can’t possibly claim it is easy (and keep a straight face). It takes work, and a whole lot of planning, to haul your little ones away from all the comforts of home and ask them to adapt to new environments, different schedules, and unfamiliar foods.

But we keep doing it. Year after year.

Starting in the spring and continuing through the summer and fall, we shop and pack and drive and unpack. Then we repeat the whole process again and again.

Why do we do this when it really would be so much easier to just stay home? I have a theory on this one…we are having fun. And by ‘we’ I mean my husband and me, the parents.

Sometimes when we become parents, we forget that we matter. We slowly but surely change all of our habits and activities to mirror the tastes of our toddlers, cooking bland food for dinner, playing the Wiggles in the car, and spending weekend afternoons at the local palace of inflatables. This tendency can creep into our travel as well, and all the sudden we find ourselves spending our vacation time standing in line at amusement parks, riding with characters on trains, or having expensive tea in a doll store.

Don’t get me wrong–we do that kid stuff a lot. If you read our blog, you know that Santa’s Village was a huge hit for this family. The Sky Wheel in Myrtle Beach? Diver Ed’s Dive in Theater? Sign us up.

But those kid-friendly diversions must be balanced out by things that we, as adults, truly enjoy and love. We have found so many activities that can do double duty–giving our boys the space to be kids, roam and explore, while feeding our curiosity, desire for adventure, and appreciate of natural beauty.

We believe that family fun should not be all about the kids or all about the adults. As parents we shouldn’t have to choose between Sesame Place or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both are fine in small doses, but there is a whole world of activities in between that satisfies everyone’s desire for entertainment and exploration.

So what’s our secret formula? That is what we will be talking about on next week’s episode of our podcast, RV Family Travel Atlas. We will discuss our go to activities that seem to make most of our family happy most of the time.

And when you are talking about a family of five, you know that’s no small feat.

We would love to hear from you, also. How does your family make sure that everyone finds their bliss while traveling? What’s your balance between kid entertainment and adult fun? You can comment below or email us to be featured on the podcast.

 

 

18 Nov

American History for Beginners with the Capitol KOA, Part 2

Our recent trip to Washington D.C. was just a two-night jaunt a mere 4 hours away, but it turned out to be a very important one for our family.

We strongly believe that great family travel means finding that sweet spot…the places where both adults and children can have amazing and memorable experiences at the same time. So over the past four years we have focused on activities that we could enjoy with our very young children: hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, and campground activities such as tie dyeing and hayrides.

We always loved educationally-themed trips, but had put them on hold for the last four years. Sure, we could have strapped the boys into a stroller and brought them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but who would have enjoyed that? Surely not the kids, who are adverse to cooperating in any environment which demands quiet and concentration. Certainly not the parents, who would have been frustrated and distracted. And definitely not the other visitors who would have been looking at us like we got lost on our way to the Central Park Zoo.

But as we talked about in our last post, things have started to change around here. The boys are growing up, and apparently the Presidents are the new superheroes of Kindergarten. We decided to take advantage of this new fascination and plan our first historically-themed family trip. Washington D.C. was the perfect place to start. The Capitol KOA was the perfect place to stay.

If you are looking to give your kids a crash course in American History for Beginners, here are some tips to help you make the grade.

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Arrive early enough (our boys woke up amped and ready to explore at 5:30 am) and you will easily find free parking along the National Mall. There is a three hour limit during the week, but you can park all day on the weekends. We began our adventure near the reflecting pool so that we could explore the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument before the tour buses arrived.

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We took some time to prep Max and Theo about being quiet and respectful in the Lincoln Memorial. Thankfully, they were.  They were also impressed by its grandness, and we were impressed with their curiosity and good behavior.  Apparently Wes was also impressed.  He decided that he wanted to climb over the ropes and up onto Lincoln’s lap, but Mom grabbed him with lightening speed.  Not a single Craisin was spilled in the Memorial. We promise.

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The boys had a lot of questions about the writing on the walls, and we did our best to explain the Second Inaugural Address in terms that our five year olds could understand. “It’s about forgiving someone after you have had a fight with them.” They seemed to get it.

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The walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Smithsonian Museums will take you past the Korean War Memorial, which is an engaging and impressive experience for younger children since they can get so close to the statues. The length of the walk was fine for Max and Theo, but we would recommend a stroller for younger kids.

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Since there are so many Smithsonian Museums, it can be overwhelming to choose which ones you will visit on a short trip. First of all, they are all free. So don’t worry about doing a quick drop in and then jetting out. Or just visit the kid-friendly portion–instead of going inside the Smithsonian Castle, we took a walk in the gardens around back.

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We decided to visit the Air and Space Museum first, because seriously, what five year old boy doesn’t love planes and rockets? There were plenty of hands-on exhibits, but the star of the show was the flight simulator. An additional fee is required for this, but we felt it was worth every penny.

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Our next Smithsonian choice was the Museum of Natural History, where the huge whales and dinosaurs loom large enough to capture the imagination of any child. The boys particularly enjoyed the coral reef exhibit and the insect museum, where the termite tunnel (of course) was the star of the show.

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The butterfly exhibit, which also required a small additional fee, was a must-see stop on the Smithsonian tour. The boys were initially a bit freaked out by the butterflies landing on their clothing. Then they ended up talking about how cool it was for the rest of the day.

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Even though we were thinking about squeezing in another museum, the boys were ready to call it quits and head back to the bounce pillow at the campground. We couldn’t complain. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial, Museum of Air and Space, and the Museum of Natural History form a perfectly acceptable syllabus for American History for Beginners. School was out of session. At least for the day.

So clearly the boys are ready for their next course–and so are we.  Gettysburg KOA here we come?

To hear more about our Washington D.C. adventures, listen to Episode 9 of RV Family Travel Atlas and read this blog post.

We are frequent KOA customers, but this was a sponsored trip.

 

14 Jun

Hey Dad, Thanks for Making Our Lives Super-Duper Special!

Dear Dad,

Five years into this gig and your evaluations are looking pretty stellar.

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We thought about giving you a raise, but decided instead to take you camping next week.

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We are sure you will approve of the unanimous decision.

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We really wanted to insert some inappropriate potty humor, but Mom kept deleting it. We will tell you the jokes when she isn’t around.

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Thanks for deciding that our lives should be really, really fun.

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And thanks for all the ice cream.

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Oh, and lobbying for that family dog. She really will cave one day, so keep up the good efforts.

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Here is to another great year of the whole father/son thing.

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Remember…no slacking. Your next evaluation is just 365 days away.

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Love and tackles,

Theo, Max, and the Wes-Man

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03 Jun

The Classic RV Story: Laura Has One, Do You?

It is probably no surprise to our readers that people tell us their camping stories. What might surprise you is how many people have that one epic RV trip stored away in their childhood memories. I’m not talking about people who grew up traveling from campground to campground in a pop up or travel trailer. I’m talking about our friends who remember that one time their family rented an RV and went to _____.

I really shouldn’t be shocked at all. I know that one of my most vivid vacation memories from childhood is the time my parents borrowed their friends’ pop up camper so that we could go on a camping trip to Cape May. My sisters and I had to stay in a tent while my parents luxuriated in the pop up. It rained a lot. Things got ugly, but I guess that makes for a better story, right?

One of Jeremy’s earliest memories is traveling down to Florida in a motorhome rental. His grandfather loaded seven family members in the camper and drove through the night, surprising everyone with a fantastic vacation at Disney World.

I’ve heard stories from my brother-in-law about the time his family rented an RV and pulled out onto the road without latching the refrigerator, sending a week’s worth of food flying in all directions.

One night my friend Laura started telling me the story about a trip her family took in a rented RV when she was eleven years old. She talked about how she and her sister were allowed to look through the KOA catalog and pick the next stop, how that catalog kept them busy for hours in the car, pouring over campground activities and amenities. She had been on a lot of family vacations, she told me, but that one stood out from the rest.

I love her story. I love the idea of a family trekking across this country on an adventure, not sure of the next destination, but figuring it out together. Many of Laura’s memories were laugh out loud funny:

I was eleven that year and my sister was thirteen.  We were masters at annoying my dad on long car trips, my sister even more so than myself. 

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One time he stopped the car on the side of the road and went to open her door (perhaps to beat her but we still aren’t sure) and she looked right at him and plunked the lock down.  He just walked down the highway until he was a speck on the horizon. 

There were also many versions of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” since he banned it before the refrain.  Our favorite was “Feel Like Making Bread”.  We knew how to push that man’s buttons.

I also love how everyone in the family remembers different aspects of the trip:

I think that the KOA camp guide was a stroke of genius on my Dad’s part.  He gave us the book, told us where he was heading, and put us to work.  We were allowed to pick the campground! I leafed through those flimsy yellow pages with two criteria in mind… 1) horseback riding 2) a body of water.  Horses weren’t always easy to find but a body of water was a must. It could be a river, lake, stream, pool.

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My sister best remembers Chaz our white water rafting guide who was just simply gorgeous. I guess that is the difference between an 11 year old girl and a 13 year old girl. 

My mom remembers horseback riding in Bryce Canyon and staying near Zion National Park. I thought that she would mention the winding mountain roads with no guardrail since she would retreat and hide in the back of the RV.

My dad can remember all of the details especially food related ones.

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I remember the KOA that had horseback riding and the make-your-own sundae bar, the one that showed an outdoor movie on a big screen, and the one with the pathetic above ground pool in the middle of the desert.  I remember the parks and the photo ops, but what I really remember was that book and how important it was to me.  I spent hours poring over that book mapping our route and planning our lodging based on my 11 yr old criteria and it was amazing. 

Perhaps my dad knew what he was doing when he gave us that book or maybe he just got lucky.

Laura’s story resonated with me for many reasons.

First of all, her memories of the small details like ice cream sundaes and outdoor movies ring true with what gets my boys so excited about camping. Reward your kids with the simple pleasures of travel and they will remember it for the rest of their lives. Second, give your kids some say in your travel plans and they will be on board for a whole lot more adventure. Lastly, traveling with family can be fun and ridiculous at the same time. Embrace the stressful moments and laugh together at the end of the day.

I really do hope my boys tell stories from these days on the road a few decades from now. I hope they carry with them as many amazing memories of these years as I know I do. But most of all, I hope they remember that we loved exploring with them.

We would love to hear more of your stories! Do you have a great camping story from your childhood? Please share it with us by posting in the comments or emailing us directly.

Happy travels!

18 Jul

What is the Journey About? Jeremy’s Feeling a Bit Sentimental…

When I was in the fourth or fifth grade my grandfather brought our whole family to Disney World for a reunion of sorts–there were 18 or 19 of us.  The trip was supposed to be a surprise (my grandfather loved surprises) but somebody accidentally spilled the beans and I found out months in advance (my family loved to spill the beans).

I looked forward to that trip every day while I was sitting in class and every night as I was laying in bed.  The wild freedom of my childish imagination had kicked into overdrive.  My mind envisioned the Magic Kingdom in epic terms–it was huge–it was fun–it was fast.  The roller coasters reached up into the clouds and then plunged down into the deepest darkest depths.  Inevitably, the actual trip, though excellent in every way, (I even met Joe DiMaggio for goodness sake) fell short of what I had imagined.  The “real” Magic Kingdom was small and crowded, and there were only two roller coasters–neither of them very fast or very scary.

When we spend too much time dreaming about travel we often do ourselves a disservice–better to let the journey work its own magic and then let the imagination refine and mythologize it after the fact.  For me that journey to Disney World was all about thwarted expectations.  I needed to learn to become a better traveller, and eventually I did.  In my late teens and twenties I let the experience of travel come to me without the baggage of expectation.

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But now I am the one planning the trips for my family.  And I spend an awful lot of time day-dreaming about them on cold winter days during the long work-week.  But an interesting change has occurred.  No matter how much time I spend imagining or pre-mythologizing the perfect RV trip with my family–they always end up being even better.  Even with a baby crying for long stretches in the car, and twins  that sometimes whine and misbehave–the trips always end up better than imagined.  So I have been wondering, why is this?  Doesn’t imagination always trump reality?

Not when you have kids.  Travel is even more exciting for me now, and even better than what I can imagine on those dark winter days.  This is because I simply can’t imagine how our boys will act in an exciting new environment, or how they will surprise us, and delight us, and make us laugh as they explore each new place.  First they are shy, then inquisitive, then delighted, as they throw themselves into the thick of each experience.  My boys always surprise me.  Every day.  Every minute. There is an element of spontaneity and joy that children bring to travel that can’t be matched by traveling alone.

Here is the recipe that has worked for Stephanie and me.  The ingredients are simple.  Please follow them if you can.

1. Have Children
2. Buy Camper
3. Travel

After that, the kids will pretty much take care of the rest.

Our last day on the beach at the Cape Hatteras KOA was as lovely as a beach day can be.  The sky was blue and silver and the water was a translucent green straight to the bottom.  The boys played in the waves, and mommy watched all three of them for a while so I could go out and surf.  The waves were peaky and fun and the water was warm.  While I caught a few the boys jumped and splashed and splashed at the ever-shifting edge of the sand.  I think they love the beach as much as Stephanie and I do–and that makes me very happy–because I know we’ll take them back again and again.

Our beach camping trip had been lovely,  but it was time to say goodbye to Cape Hatteras and hello to the next chapter of our North Carolina road trip.  Not so sad really–we live near the beach at the Jersey Shore.

 What is the journey about?  The journey is about them.