22 May

The RV Weekend Warrior: 10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Short Weekend Getaways

So many RV owners want to squeeze in more camping trips…but it sure is tough to figure out how to do that! Between work responsibilities and busy activity calendars, finding time to get away can feel like an impossible feat.

Plus, let’s face it: not many of us can find an extra week each year where we can say bye-bye to the boss and head out on the open road.

Don’t despair! There is a way to achieve that campground mojo more often. The secret is in becoming a RV Weekend Warrior.

What’s that, you say? Weekend trips are too short and too stressful? We feel you on that one. If they aren’t done correctly, weekend trips can leave you feeling exhausted and unprepared for the week ahead.

However, if you follow our Weekend Warrior training, you should return from the campground rested and refreshed. Here are our tips for getting the most out of weekend RV trips…

(Watch the Facebook Live post from Jayco’s page to see us talk about more indepth about these tips!)

#1 Take a Friday or Monday off of work.

Yeah, we know it’s hard to take time off of work. But more than 50% of Americans don’t use up all their vacations days, and a lot of doctors are telling us that’s no good for our health. Can’t take a full day? Try for a half day at least. This will get you to the campground early and the cares of the week will melt away by the warmth of the campfire.

#2 Reduce the driving distance.

The more time you spend in the car, the less time you spend at the campground, so keep the driving distance under two hours. Pay attention to traffic patterns, and try to avoid heavily trafficked areas to maximize relaxation and minimize stress.

#3 Camp close to home on busy weekends.

Can’t find a free weekend between sports games, baby showers, and birthday parties? Find a campground that is close to home, and head there even when a prior commitment is on the calendar. We found a nice county park just 20 minutes from our home where we camp even if the boys have a baseball game on Saturday. Why waste an entire weekend because of a 2-hour event?

#4 Reserve a seasonal RV site.

Seasonal camping is becoming more popular every year, and it’s easy to see why. When your fully-stocked RV is all set up and ready to enjoy at a campground, short weekend getaways are a breeze. Prices vary tremendously depending on location and amenities, so don’t assume a seasonal is out of your price range.

#5 Prepare incrementally throughout the week.

If you try to pack for your weekend getaway at the last minute, stress might be high by the time you hitch up and head out. We spend about 20 minutes every weeknight leading up to the trip, packing just one thing at a time: clothing, toiletries, bedding, food. On Friday you are all ready to go and your blood pressure hasn’t spiked. Win/win.

#6 Splurge for a late checkout on Sunday.

Many campgrounds will offer you a late check out if no one is coming into your site later that day. Sometimes it won’t cost you anything, but we have paid between $5-$20 to stay until late Sunday. It never hurts to ask, and having that whole extra day of downtime is might sweet.

#7 Enforce SWAT team Sunday.

We have a system in place where everyone (kids, too!!!!) helps unpack the RV when we get home on Sunday. No one sits in front of the TV until the camper is unloaded, laundry is running, and the food is restocked in the fridge. When we all pitch in, it really takes no time at all. Plus, we feel ready for the busy week ahead.

#8 Have a set weekend menu and shopping list.

Don’t feel like you have to be the king or queen of campfire cooking on a short weekend trip. A set weekend menu will mean that you spend zero brain power on food prep the week before your getaway. We do bagels and oatmeal for breakfast, PB&J or cold cuts for lunch, and a classic weenie roast on Saturday night. I could shop in my sleep for our weekend camping food, and you should be able to also.

#9 Grocery shop on Thursday for the weekend AND week ahead.

The worst thing ever is to come back from a weekend RV vacation and have to run out to the grocery store for the work week ahead. Plan in advance and shop for the whole week when you stock up for the weekend trip. Keep it simple for yourself, also. A post-camping trip week means tacos, pasta, and hamburgers around our house.

#10 Order out for Friday supper at the campground.

Getting to the campground, setting up, and then preparing dinner can set some folks over the edge…especially if you have kids that act like they haven’t eaten in seven days. Take that stress off the table by ordering something to go for Friday’s dinner. We like to pick up sub sandwiches from our local deli on Friday afternoon. Another option is getting pizza delivered to the campground. Call the campground office and ask who delivers directly to campsites. Place your order when you are just 15 or 20 minutes away.

It took us a few camping seasons to figure out how to make weekend RV trips relaxing and fun, instead of stressful and overwhelming. Now that we have been through our weekend warrior training, we look forward to escaping to the campground…even if it’s for just a few precious days.

Are you a seasoned weekend warrior? We would love to hear your tips in the comments below. And for more advice on making weekend trips worth it, check out our RVFTA Facebook Group!

You can also listen to our podcast episodes Becoming a Weekend Warrior, Part One and Becoming a Weekend Warrior, Part Two.

See you at the campground!

 

14 Apr

RVFTA #84 Becoming a Weekend Warrior, Part Two with Fireside Provisions

Becoming A Weekend WarriorPart Two-2

On this week’s episode we are giving you even more tools to become a fierce RV Weekend Warrior. Our listeners are constantly telling us that they want to camp more. Last week on Episode #83, we gave you 7 ways you could fit in more camping with as little fuss as possible.

Well, this week we are talking about the food. It can be the most time consuming part of a quick weekend trip, but we have ways you can eat well without slaving over a camp stove. First, we will share our 5 tips for making food prep easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy on quick weekend trips.

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Then we have a fantastic interview with Kip Clifton, Founder and CEO of Fireside Provisions, a food delivery service for campers like you who want to make a fast getaway on a Friday afternoon and still eat well at the campground. We are in love with this company, and can’t wait to share an awesome resource for Weekend Warriors.

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07 Apr

RVFTA #83: Becoming a Weekend Warrior, Part One

RV Weekend Warriors

On Episode #83 we are giving you the tools to become a fierce RV Weekend Warrior. Our listeners are constantly telling us that they want to camp more. So this week we are sharing our best tips for spending weekends at the campground with as little fuss as possible.

Read More

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!

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 Oct

Happy Halloween, From the Philadelphia/ West Chester KOA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Longwood Gardens

longwood gardens

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

Winterthur

Wintertur

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

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

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

18 Oct

Getting Back to Real Life (yeah, we work and stuff)

Before we left for Sussex a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about the upcoming trip. As I was describing some activity we were anticipating, she cut me off to ask a very fair and very pertinent question. She couldn’t have cared less about the hike I was trying to sell her. What she wanted to know was how I got all the weekend chores done and was able to go back to work on the Monday after a trip without the whole house being in a state of chaos.This is such a mom perspective. I remember one of our first weekend trips began with just a bit of tension when I returned home from work on a Friday afternoon and Jeremy proudly proclaimed that we were all set to go. My eyes whirled around in my head moving from the mugs in the sink to the crumbs under the dining room table to the full recycling bin. I was sputtering, huffing, and banging my way around the house cleaning up while Jeremy looked on in a state of total bewilderment. He honestly could not understand what the big deal was. If we weren’t there, who cared if the house was a little messy?Well, I did and I still do. And God love him, he has come a long way on this one. He now knows that the camper isn’t pulling out of the driveway if there is any food debris whatsoever in the kitchen sink strainer. He loves our weekend trips enough not to fight city hall on this one.Another strategy for making these short trips manageable is that we never get home late on Sundays. We always drive back during afternoon nap and usually pull in around 3:30 or so. This gives us a good two hours before dinner to pull things together around the house. I am inside unpacking and doing laundry, Jeremy is outside hosing out the truck and mowing the lawn, and the boys are revisiting every toy that they missed over that long 48 hours. It sounds like we are doing our best to fulfill every suburban family stereotype out there…

So we have our routine down, and it usually goes pretty smoothly. The only thing I really struggle with every time is Sunday dinner. I never have a lot in the fridge since I try to use everything up before we go away. And I always want something very quick and simple since I am also trying to get all those chores done.

Last week I came up with the perfect solution: sweet potato risotto. I chopped up an onion and some garlic and two great, big sweet potatoes and sauteed them for about five minutes. Then I added two cups of risotto and sauteed it for another five minutes. I had a box of chicken stock in the pantry and I just kept adding it to the rice (about a half a cup at a time) until the risotto was soft and creamy (al dente is over-rated with toddlers in the house). A handful of Parmesan, a side of arugula salad, and dinner was served. You can get pretty precious with risotto, and it can be a time consuming dish if you are really particular about the results. Lucky for me, this wasn’t an episode of Chopped, and my boys–all three of them–gobbled it up.

My extra special bonus: there was plenty left over for everyone’s lunch the next day. Clean up was a snap, the boys were in bed, and I was on the couch watching The Amazing Race by eight that evening. The perfect end to a perfect weekend.