26 Jul

RVFTA #152 Greetings from Olympic National Park in Washington

Let’s get the important information out of the way first: Olympic National Park is knock-your-socks-off beautiful and has shot to the top of our list for favorite NPS sites. We still love you, Acadia…but you may have slipped to #2.

We visited Olympic National Park on the first stop of our 25-day Pacific Northwest adventure, and it was a pretty epic way to kick off the trip. On this RVFTA podcast episode, we devote the entire episode to sharing all the hiking, boating, and eating recommendations from our visit.

This is one of our paired podcast travel episodes, so to hear a complete review of the campground we stayed at during our visit, Elwah Dam RV Park, listen to Episode #91 of our Campground of the Week Podcast.

Segment One: Planning Your Stay

Olympic National Park is not one of the easiest NPS sites to visit mostly on account of its size. Many National Parks have ‘loop roads’ or ‘scenic drives’ that can give day visitor’s a quick glimpse of the park highlights. Not so with Olympic. The most popular areas of the park are quite dispersed, so planning your stay will involve a bit more research and strategy.

In the first segment of this episode, we give our tips for navigating the park including picking a location for your basecamp. We chose Port Angeles, but there are other spots that may be a better fit for you.

We also chat about…

  • Various Visitor Centers
  • Areas of the Park: Coast, Rainforest, and Alpine regions
  • Planning an itinerary

And we wrap up the segment by sharing the resources that ended up being our favorites, including…

  • Moon Guide Pacific Northwest Trip by Allison Williams
  • Best Easy Day Hikes: Olympic National Park, Falcon Guides by Eric Molvar
  • Olympic National Park: A Natural History by Tim McNulty {Jeremy’s Nerd Pick}

Segment Two: Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge

We decided to use the Port Angeles area as our basecamp and were very happy with the choice. It placed us in close proximity to Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Falls, Crescent Lake, and the Port Angeles downtown area, which offered fun eating and shopping options.

We highly recommend beginning at the main Visitor Center here and chatting with a ranger about your visit. Skip the movie, which unfortunately offers little to no useful or interesting information about the park. You can also stretch your legs by enjoying two short but lovely hikes that leave right from the center: Living Forest Trail (.4) and Peabody Creek Trail (.5).

The Hurricane Hill trail ended up being our favorite hike of the entire trip. About three miles round trip, this ridge hike offers magnificent views for the entire length of the trail. In our opinion, this is a must-do when visiting Olympic National Park.

Our favorite food and drink joints were…

  • Little Devil’s Lunchbox
  • Next Door Gastropub
  • Easy Street Coffee and Tea House
  • BADA NW Coffee Shop
  • Country Aire Natural Foods

And some fun shopping options include…

  • Swains General Store
  • Lefties Team Store

Segment Three: Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park. We did the Sol Duc Falls hike, and had a great time splashing in the smaller falls that you cross on the trail. We combined the hike with a visit to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, which was a HUGE hit with our kids. Beware…the hot springs really just look like pools/hot tubs and they do smell like sulfur. But nonetheless, it was a highlight for our boys who begged to go back every day during our visit.

Other great waterfalls nearby:

  • Marymere Falls
  • Madison Falls

There are a few places to rent boats on Crescent Lake. We felt the most scenic was at the Lake Crescent Log Cabin Resort, which has paddle boat, kayak, SUP, and canoe rentals at reasonable prices. There are lovely Adirondack chairs positioned along the waterfront, and you can buy ice cream and beer in the store to enjoy outside. Our boys took very quick dips in the chilly, but pristine, lake.

Our favorite food picks from nearby:

  • Blackberry Cafe
  • Granny’s Cafe

Segment Four: Ruby Beach and the Hoh Rainforest

Since we stayed near Port Angeles, both Ruby Beach and Hoh Rainforest were a long drive (1.5-2 hours). Based on local recommendations, we decided to combine the two stops and visited Ruby Beach in the morning and then headed out to Hoh Rainforest in the afternoon. You will want to check the tides before planning your day, as the coastal areas are best visited during low tide. Rangers at the visitor centers have tide charts for reference.

At the Hoh Rainforest, there are two loop trails with trail heads right at the Visitor Center: Hall of Moses (.8 miles) and Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). These trails are an awesome way to experience the wonder of the temperate rain forest.

On the way back to basecamp, we ate dinner at Taqueria Santa Ana, a very authentic Mexico joint with delicious food and NO bells and whistles.

Our 5-day trip to Olympic National Park was truly phenomenal, and we are thrilled to share our best tips for visiting this natural treasure. Listen to the episode to hear complete details on all the above destinations, hikes, and restaurants! And don’t forget to check out Campground of the Week to hear our review of Elwah Dam RV Park in Port Angeles, Washington.

Thanks to our sponsors for supporting weekly content for all our RV fools…

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18 Nov

RVFTA #115 Greetings from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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On this episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we have a complete guide to enjoying one of our favorite RV destinations–Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We first visited this area in spring of 2014, and since then we have found ourselves returning again and again.

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Make sure you also listen to Campground of the Week episode #55 to hear our review of the Myrtle Beach KOA, our favorite place to stay when visiting this area.

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Sure, Myrtle Beach has plenty of tourist attractions along the famous Grand Strand, but we have also discovered a world of outdoor adventure and natural beauty. We make time to enjoy both during our visits.

Another reason why Myrtle Beach is such a remarkable RV destination is that you can visit year round. We have been in spring, summer, and fall and though the summer was a bit warm for our taste, we still had a blast every time.

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We split the episode into three distinct segments: On the Strand, Off the Strand, and Good Eats in Myrtle Beach. We will talk about our favorite attractions in each category, and we picked our top places to eat when we visit.

Here are the links to all the attractions, activities, and restaurants mentioned in the episode..

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28 Sep

The Perfect Campsite: 10 Questions to Ask (Go RVing Blog)

 

IMG_9203We are well aware that everyone in the campground industry wants you to book your campsite online. And we are also well aware that many of you do just that.

But our longtime readers and podcast listeners know that we have one thing to say about this trend: Don’t do it.

Seriously.

Pick. Up. The. Phone.

All campgrounds are not created equal, and you would never blindly book an RV park without doing a little research and reading some reviews. So why would you blindly book a campsite, not knowing if it has the space, the views, or the location that you prefer?

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Happy campers know that not all campsites are created equal, so they do their due diligence and research before booking. Happy campers also know what makes them happy, and they book campsites that have the ambiance, amenities, and activities they want.

Want more camping nirvana in your life? Check out our latest blog post for Go RVing where we described 10 questions to ask BEFORE you book your next campsite.

You might have to work a little harder and actually talk to someone on the phone (GASP!), but when you are sitting with a view of the creek and a cocktail while your kids play within sight at the nearby playground, you’ll know it was worth it.

Outside Gear Bar Harbor Acadia

See you at the campground!

Check out our other blog posts on the Scenic Route

GoRVing

25 Aug

RVFTA #103 Greetings from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Greetings from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and telling you all about the amazing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the great state of Michigan.

Voted one of America’s most beautiful places by Good Morning America, this truly is a magical destination that demonstrates why the National Parks might be our country’s greatest idea ever. We will talk about the best drives, hikes, swims, and even shopping in the Sleeping Bear Dunes park.

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This episode goes along with two different Campground of the Week episodes: #41 about Holiday Park in Traverse City and #42 about the Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Both are amazing places to stay while visiting the region. We cover completely different activities and food options in the different episodes, so be sure to listen to all three if you are planning a visit of your own in the future!

Subcribe to Campground of the Week here…

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18 Aug

RVFTA #102 Greetings from the RV Capital of the World!

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On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are heading to the RV Capital of the World: Elkhart County, Indiana. We recently had the opportunity to spend some time visiting the region where 1 out of every 2 RVs is manufactured.

If you are an RV enthusiast, this is a fun stop to put on a travel itinerary. We will talk about the RV/MH Hall of Fame, factory tours, and Amish country treats. We will also talk about some camping options that are available in the area.

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04 Mar

RVFTA #78: Camping with Family and Friends

Camping with Family and Friends

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about Camping with Family and Friends. RVs make it much easier to share vacations with loved ones since communal campfire areas and private family spaces would seem to be the perfect combination.

However, things can turn sour if everyone is not on the same page with planning, food, and activities. Listen to hear our top 5 tips for Camping with Family and Friends.

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02 Mar

Trip Planning: 6 Research Tips for Your RV Vacations

We are in serious trip planning mode for the spring season here at RVFTA and if you are a longtime listener and reader, you know that our number one travel tip of all time is to talk to the locals and trust their recommendations.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t do our research ahead of time.

Our current operating method is to arrive at any new destination with an understanding of what it is known for and a list of possible activities that we might enjoy. We also have a loose schedule in our minds since we have discovered it is easy to miss out on great experiences just because you didn’t have a grasp on operating hours or tour times. Our actual itinerary on most trips ends up being a combination of planning and kismet. Finding the sweet spot between these two things is always a work in progress.

So what do we do in advance of any longer RV trip? I recommend using all the usual online tools, then venturing off the beaten path. Here is my general process.

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09 Feb

Tips and Resources for Finding the Perfect Campground and the Ideal Campsite

Cherry Hill RV Park

We cover a ton of information in this week’s podcast, Booking the Perfect Campground, and wanted to place all the suggestions and resources in one spot. For a full discussion of all these points, make sure you listen to the complete episode here. And of course, you can always get your fill of campground reviews on our weekly podcast Campground of the Week.

After researching, visiting, and reviewing hundreds of campgrounds over the last 6 years, we strongly believe that there is no perfect campground. One size definitely does not fit all. However, there is a perfect campground for you…with an individualized set of characteristics that will get your camp mojo humming. The key to finding RV bliss is knowing what look for and how to find it.

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04 Feb

RVFTA #74: Booking the Perfect Campground

Booking the Perfect Campground blog

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are dishing all our tips for finding the perfect campground and booking the perfect campsite. It’s trip planning season and if you want the magic to happen, better make those reservations now. We have given seminars on this topic and written articles, but this is the first time we put in all in one podcast.

And we have a giveaway to help you plan those trips! Good Sam has given us 5 copies of the Travel and Savings Guide (chock full of awesome articles, wink, wink). What do you have to do to win?

  • Head over to our forum, register, and introduce yourself on Roll Call forum thread. Three people with introductions will win copies of the Guide! Don’t fret if you have already said hey. You are in it to win it.
  • Look for a contest photo to be posted this week on Instagram. Like the photo and tag a friend who might think that RV Family Travel Atlas has got it going on.

There are two segments that center on tips for booking your campground reservations. First we talk about picking through the catalogs, apps, ratings, and reviews to find a campground that will suit your style. Then we move on to all of the questions you should ask yourself before booking your campsite.

Do you want every campground to be a #win? It’s gonna take a little work, but the payoff is worth it.

And we don’t completely ignore RV shopping because many of our listeners are right in the thick of it. On this episode, you will also hear a great interview with Jim Waters, the marketing coordinator for Lance Campers. He will share some information about the 50 year old RV company and talk about the newest, lightest Lance truck camper release for 2016. The 650 is built for a half-ton short-bed truck, so it should be of interest to anyone looking for a comfortable camper with a small footprint.

You might think that you have oodles of time to plan those summer vacations. But we know that the best campsites are selling like hotcakes. You are listening to Episode #74: Booking the Perfect Campground!

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29 Jun

Summertime on the Blue Ridge Parkway with the Fancy Gap KOA

It’s been two years since we have travelled on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the National Park Services second most visited “park unit” after the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, but now we’ve finally made it back.  It is easy to see why it is so popular.  It is a magical drive.

DSC_0121The Parkway is 469 miles long.  It starts at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and it ends near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The mountain towns that are nestled alongside the parkway, and the parkway itself, provide endless opportunities for sightseeing and family adventure.  For the first leg of our summer trip we decided to camp at the Fancy Gap KOA in Fancy Gap, Virginia.  We have long suspected that this KOA would make a great base camp for a Blue Ridge Parkway adventure.  We were right.

DSC_0166The campground is nestled on a mountainside and is filled with beautiful, shaded back in sites, pull through sites for big rigs, and a mixture of rustic and deluxe cabins.  Many of those sites are surrounded by native flowers and meticulous landscaping. Pride of ownership is evident here.

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We are not dog owners, but we were also impressed with this KOA’s unique and spacious pet friendly sites.  They have a large fenced in area at the rear that easily doubles the overall size of the site.

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We also loved the campground’s club house and its brand new patio area right outside of the camp store. These were great shared spaces for socializing with other campers and relaxing with our boys.  We played checkers there every night.  There was a barbecue dinner Friday night prepared by pitmaster Ben from Blue Ridge BBQ–and it was awesome. The ribs and pulled pork hit the spot after a long day of adventure in the mountains.  There was an ice cream social held in the club house on Saturday night and we did partake of not one, but two scoops each.

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Our evenings at the campground were peaceful and relaxing and allowed us to recharge our batteries for the next day’s adventures.  And with an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway only 200 yards from the campground, adventure is literally waiting around the corner.  On our first day we headed South on the parkway to the Blue Ridge Music Center.  There is free bluegrass there every day from 12-4 and the quality is amazing.  The Center is educational and inspiring, and the musicians give you a delicious taste of the area’s rich musical heritage.  There are rocking chairs set up on the breezeway for listeners–and a few of them even got up and danced to the livelier tunes. If you love pickin’ then this is your place.

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On day two of our Blue Ridge adventure we headed south to Mabry Mill, the most photographed site on the Parkway.  We did a little exploring around the mill and then headed into the restaurant next door for tasty salads and sandwiches served up at a reasonable price with lots of Southern hospitality. After lunch we went on a nearby hike that skirted the ridge of the mountain and weaved in and out of densely wooded forest with the occasional spectacular vista.  Even though we were close to the parkway the woods were filled with deer who were playful and unafraid of our presence. Even when I pulled the camera out.

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If you stay at the Fancy Gap KOA you will be tempted to spend each day enjoying the seemingly never-ending splendor of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  But then you would miss a day trip to Mount Airy, North Carolina, birthplace of Andy Griffith, and inspiration for the town of Mayberry in the legendary Andy Griffith Show.  Missing Mount Airy would be a crying shame.  We had a complete hootenanny of a day there. We enjoyed the famous pork chop sandwich at Snappy Lunch, where Andy ate as a boy.

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Then we visited the town “courthouse” modeled after the one in the television show.  Even though the boys had been on best behavior all day it still felt mighty good to throw them in the clink!

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Don’t worry. They didn’t stay long.  We had to make our 3 o’clock tour of the town in a vintage Ford police car, just like the one on the show.  Our tour guide was informative and funny.  The highlight came when the 1963 Ford broke down right in front of Andy Griffith’s childhood home.  Another tour guide, Melvin, raced from the “courthouse” to pick us up in another police car.  He was also informative and funny. Luckily he was driving a ’67 Ford.  We made it back okay.

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On our way out of Mount Airy I ran into a gift shop and bought season one of the Andy Griffith show. When we got back to the Fancy Gap KOA it was raining and the day was quickly coming to an end.  We put Wesley to bed and then the boys asked if we could watch a few episodes.  So we cuddled up in bed and were transported back in time to Mayberry in the 1960’s.

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Mount Airy had cast a magical spell over all of us.  We didn’t want to leave the Fancy Gap KOA the next morning, but summer was calling us deeper into its arms.  Time to head further south to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have heard that it is pretty nice there too.

We have been frequent customers of KOA over the past 5 years, but this was a sponsored trip. Our opinions are always our own.

To hear more about our stay near the Blue Ridge Parkway and our fun adventures in Fancy Gap and Mount Airy, listen to Episode #42 of our podcast: Greetings from the Blue Ridge Parkway! 

You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store, or click on the button below to stream it. Visit the podcast show notes here.

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12 Jun

RV Breakfast: Smoothie Stock Up List

smoothies at the campground

Sometime during our second year of RVing, we realized that we had been sucked into the vortex of unhealthy breakfast habits. Too many pancakes, too many bagels.

This was truly a puzzle because at home we ate very healthy breakfasts on a daily basis. Yogurt, oatmeal, and eggs were in regular rotation and popular with both kids and adults.

We knew we had to take back breakfast. One of the benefits of having an RV is that it is your home on wheels and you can bring your healthy habits with you on the road. No excuses. We could do quick, easy, AND healthy while we traveled.

I’ve shared some of our favorite healthy RV breakfasts before. But my favorite favorite? My favoritest of the favorites?

The smoothie.

The number one reason the smoothie is such a great option for families with young children is that you can jam it full of fruits, veggies, calcium, and protein and know your kids got a blast of nutrition early in the day.

Then you get to chill out a little on the food front.

So I decided to share my smoothie shopping list with our readers. I generally don’t follow recipes, but instead I stock a bunch of basics that can be combined in different ways to keep things tasty and interesting. I always follow the same basic formula: base liquid, fruits and veggies, something tart to balance the sweet, and a healthy protein or fat.

Smoothie Stock Up List:

The Base:

  • Quarts of Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut water

Fruits and Veggies:

  • bananas
  • apples
  • cucumbers
  • spinach
  • frozen mixed berries (strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • frozen pineapple/ mango

A bit of tartness:

  • 100% cranberry juice
  • lemons
  • limes
  • oranges

Protein/Healthy Fats:

  • Almond butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocados

It might sound like a lot, but the list is easily tailored to the length of your RV trip and your own personal taste. It also includes items stored in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so you should definitely have room for everything.

Here’s your Smoothie Stock-Up Cheat Sheet for Pinning:

Smoothie Stock Up List

 

22 May

RVFTA #36: Pack Up Those Kids!

Pack up those kids!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are tackling one of the trickiest parts of traveling with kids: packing.

We believe that packing is more of an art than a science, and every family has to find their own personal style. So we are going to share 5 of our own packing principles that have helped us reduce the stress of getting out of the house and onto the road. Hopefully they will help your family as well.

Our article on the topic was published this week on the KOA The Greater Outdoors blog, and we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about it on the podcast!

Here is your own personal packing cheat sheet for pinning…

5 packing tips for RV families

 

And we are so pleased to be introducing our newest guest correspondent, Kerri Cox from the Great State of Missouri. Kerri blogs over at Travels with Birdy, and we are smitten with her writing and photos.

We know we have tons of listeners out there in the Heartland and after listening to Kerri’s campground review, you will definitely want to reserve a spot at the Old 86 Campground near Branson, Missouri. Listen to find out why. Then head over to Travel with Birdy’s Facebook page and Instagram account. Kerri’s family is heading out to Yosemite this summer and you will definitely want to follow their adventures.

All of this and so much more on Episode 36 of RV Family Travel Atlas: Pack up those Kids!

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10 Apr

RVFTA #30: “Live” From The Myrtle Beach KOA

Myrtle Beach KOA bounce pillow

It’s camping season and that means RV Family Travel Atlas is podcasting from the road for the very first time ever!

This week we are “Live” from the Myrtle Beach KOA, and we are bringing you some sounds from the Grand Strand.

Live From the Myrtle Beach KOA

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is big and bold and busy, but on our first visit last year we discovered this amazing, wooded camping retreat right in the middle of all the action. Our podcast listeners know we have a special fondness for urban RV parks, and the Myrtle Beach KOA quickly became a family favorite.

This year we couldn’t help but return. Lucky for us, in addition to hanging out in a beautiful area with great weather, we got to spend time with some fabulous people too!

On this episode we are interviewing Jeremiah Drew, the campground manager here at the Myrtle Beach KOA. We pretty much feel they should make a clone of Jeremiah for campgrounds all across the country…he’s just that good. We will talk to him about what makes this city–and this campground–the perfect pick for a vacationing family.

Jeremiah also shares his picks for the best breakfast spot (Victoria’s) on the Grand Strand and his favorite seafood joint (The Noizy Oyster). If you get really lucky, he just might take you on a golf outing to Whispering Pines. We saved him the heartache of taking us out on the green, but if we keep coming back to Myrtle Beach, we just might have to give this golf thing a try.

On this episode, we will also interview a family that fled the chilly weather of the Northeast and just spent a week at the Myrtle Beach KOA. Hector and Laura are podcast listeners and now, after spending some time around the dinner table and campfire together, we are lucky to call them friends. Their kids are a bit older than ours, so we will get another perspective on family fun in Myrtle Beach.

Don’t worry…a full Adventure Guide to Myrtle Beach will be dropping on the podcast in a few short weeks. We will give you the skinny on the best outdoor activities, boardwalk fun, and a complete campground review.

But if you are anxious to read a little more about how our family rolls down here in Myrtle Beach, check out some of our posts from this past week and even our ones from last year, when we first fell in love with this fun and fascinating destination…

Shaking Off Winter: Black River Outdoors Cyprus Swamp Tour

6 Amazing Family Activities at Brookgreen Gardens

Alligators, Architecture, and the Atlantic Ocean: Huntington Beach State Park

Rainy Day? These Campers Still Play! SkyWheel, Myrtle Beach 

How We Roll When A Campground Rocks: Myrtle Beach KOA

Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as we travel with our rowdy crew and find amazing family fun in and around the campground. Post your best campground and RV photos on our Facebook page and hashtag #RVFTA on Instagram.

See you at the campground!

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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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26 Mar

5 Reasons to Camp Close to Home

camping in snow

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…

 

 

17 Jan

RV Family Travel Atlas #18: Adventure Guide to the White Mountains of New Hampshire

This week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas is a special Adventure Guide to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We traveled to the Granite State last summer and spent an amazing two weeks exploring the rugged White Mountains.

We will be talking about the all hiking, kayaking, swimming and amusement parking that this great region has to offer. We start off in Franconia Notch and then move on to Crawford Notch.

Plus we review two campgrounds, the Lincoln/Woodstock KOA and the Twin Mountain KOA, that we stayed at during our visit, white knuckle driving on the Mount Washington AutoRoad, and the beautiful scenery of the Kancamagus Highway.

To read all of the posts and find more specific information about any of the places mentioned, visit the New Hampshire tag in the sidebar.

All of this on Episode 18 of RV Family Travel Atlas: White Mountains, New Hampshire Adventure Guide!


 

Play
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.

 

Play
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.

 

 

07 Sep

A Perfect Day in Belfast, Maine: Exploring the MidCoast of Vacationland

This post originally appeared on The Jayco Journal. On our last trip to the MidCoast region of Maine, we explored Camden, Rockland, Lincolnville, and Boothbay. This time we ventured a bit farther north to Belfast. Boy, are we glad we did…

Over the last four years, we have had many wonderful days of camping, and a handful of perfect ones.  Our first full day of vacation in Belfast, Maine was stunning from beginning to end.  A perfect summer day if we’ve ever had one.

So here is our set of instructions for enjoying your own amazing day in Belfast, Maine.

1. Wake up early at the oceanfront Moorings RV Resort, drink in the view, and do your morning stretches.

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2. Head down to the rocky beach and do some exploring.

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3. Launch your kayak from the beach and enjoy the quiet, picturesque scenery of the Penobscot Bay. If you give your kids the camera, this will keep them entertained spotting loons, lobster traps, sailboats, and fish. Some of their pictures might even be pretty cool. Can you figure out which photo Theo took?

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4. Clean up and head into town to check out the beautiful playground at Belfast City Park.  With water views and a design that ties into the landscape, this place will be appreciated by the whole family. Chat with the very friendly local parents and you will know exactly what to do with the rest of your stay in Belfast.

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5. Eat lunch at the Belfast Co-op Cafe to experience great food and local culture. The soups, sandwiches, and quesadillas were phenomenal. With everything from pizza to hotdogs to vegan burritos, there is something on the menu for everyone.

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6. Walk off lunch by strolling along the Harbor Walk. This path takes you through working shipyards and across the bay on a wonderful footbridge.

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7. Shop Downtown Belfast where you can visit an olive oil tasting room, a gourmet cheese shop, the oldest shoe store in the country, or one of the well-curated book stores.

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8. Return to the campground, where just a short stroll up the hill will land you at one of the best restaurants in this area. Papa J’s has all of the standard fare you might be looking for on your trip to the Maine Coast—whole lobster, lobster rolls, and a long list of seafood options. However, this place also offers so much more. The steaks are perfectly seasoned and cooked, and we could eat the scallops appetizer every day for the rest of our lives. Our waitress told us that the lobster pizza is a runaway favorite. We will have to return to try it. An added bonus is that all campers get a 5% discount. Thank you very much.

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9. Take an evening walk on the beach and watch the moon rise over the bay.

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10. Pile on the layers for stories around the campfire. S’mores will work just fine, too.

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11 Aug

Oops. I forgot to plan our trip to the Finger Lakes…

Keuka Lake State Park

Jeremy and I have a well-established division of labor when it comes to our camping trips. He obsesses for months and months over campgrounds and reservations and traveling itineraries while I pointedly ignore any specific questions, offering up irritating shoulder shrugs and grunts in response to his frequent overtures.

I’m pretty sure I know why I do this. As a working mom, my life is full of schedules and to-do lists. I have very little daily mental ‘down-time’ and I guard it jealously. I just can’t think about an enjoyable family activity that might take place a month from now when I am furiously trying to figure out how I am going to get  the boys to their doctor’s appointment on time when they just scheduled a late meeting at work.

Jeremy puts up with my recalcitrant attitude because of this one fact: about a week before we leave on any trip, I kick into rabid vacation planning mode. I search high and low for the best of the best in the region that we are visiting. I find off-the-beaten-trail activities that are just the right blend of fun and kid-friendly. By the time we leave on a trip, my husband and our camping buddies are always confident that I have assembled a daily itinerary that will keep everyone happy.

Except this time I didn’t. For a variety of reasons, the weeks leading up to our 14-day New York State Excursion were jam-packed for me. It was all I could do to get the clothes packed in time for our departure. We left on our trip with exactly one activity planned: a day would most certainly be spent at Niagara Falls. The rest was a bit fuzzy.

Lucky for us, we have gotten pretty good at this game. On our first morning in the Finger Lakes’ Region, we knew that we wanted to spend the day relaxing, swimming, and kayaking so we headed to Keuka Lake State Park, about 30 minutes from where we were camping. The drive to the park was gorgeous, leading us up along the west side of Keuka Lake and giving us a glimpse of the many beautiful houses perched right on the side of the hills and looking like they were about to tumble into the lake.

The state park was perfect: easily accessible with a great recreation area and sparkling clean facilities. The boys spent the day wandering back and forth between the playground and the lake…

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…while the adults swam, kayaked, and kicked back.

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Jeremy and I found a place to stash the kayak and took a quiet swim far away from the ‘crowds’.

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It was here that I finally hatched my plan for the trip. I decided that all of our vacation days must be just like this one. We had paid the daily entry fee when we arrived, but on our way out of the park at the end of the day, we stopped at the ranger station and bought an Empire Pass.  For 65 dollars, this pass would get us into all of the New York State Parks and Recreation Areas for an entire year. We planned on recreating this first day of vacation as we travelled across the state.

And that is exactly what we did. Brilliant planning on my part, don’t you think?