RV Travel Tips
Tips for Family Camping and RVing Fun
Camping trips are the perfect time for families to spend quality time together. Spark everyone’s creativity and share the wonders of the great outdoors with these fun, family-friendly activities – a perfect way to while away a perfect camping day.
Buds are bursting, temperatures are warming and families are making plans for the best-ever camping/RVing trips. Whether it’s a trip to a new “favorite” place or an old standby, family camping trips are what life’s memories are made of. Spend time together with these nifty family camping activities…
Take a hike – Exploring the big beautiful outdoors with your children can be an adventure and an education.
• Prepare a hiking kit for each kid including a magnifying glass, note book and fun writing utensils, a bug, flora and/or fauna identifier or anything else that may help pique their interest.
• Wrap wide masking tape, sticky side out, around everyone’s wrist as a bracelet for collecting flowers, leaves, etc. along the trail.
• Devise a scavenger hunt. Provide each kid a list of several items that are likely to be found on a nature hike, for example, a small brown rock, a leaf at least one inch long, a pine cone, a yellow flower, etc., a pencil, and a large ziploc bag. At the end of the hike check off the items found and give a small treat or prize to all participants.
Build a bird feeder and marvel at your new visitors. You’ll need a large pine cone, peanut butter, bird seed, a long string, a plastic knife or popsicle stick, and a paper plate. Tie a loop with the string around the “stem” of the pine cone making it long enough to hang from a nearby tree branch. Using the plastic knife or stick, coat the pine cone with peanut butter, pour bird seed on the paper plate and roll the coated pine cone in the bird seed. Well done! Hang your bird feeder in a quiet place and enjoy the show!
Bring home a new “pet” – a pet rock that is. This is an easy craft that will continue to deliver memories long after the trip is complete. From home you’ll need a supply of colorful permanent markers, small wiggly eyes, and glue (or small glue dots no larger than the eyes). Find a medium-sized, smooth rock, clean it up and based on its shape, imagine what type of animal it is (think lady bug, frog, beaver, etc.). Using the markers, color/decorate the rock and then glue eyes on “him” or “her”.
And lastly, we can’t leave out that old standby…find a grassy meadow, sandy beach or other comfortable surface, lay down side-by-side and gaze up at the clouds, imagining all the unusual or day-to-day things their forms represent.
Ahhh, it doesn’t get any better than this!
Tips for RVing With Pets
I’m always amazed at the variety and number of pets I see at campgrounds around the country. It’s not at all unusual to see 2, 3, or more dogs pile out of any size rig these days. It’s obvious that today’s camping vacations are not complete without Fido, Fluffy or Tweety. I’ve even seen ferrets, geckos, and yes, snakes!! Let’s face it, your pet – four legged or a belly crawler - is a member of the family and likely loves to camp as much as you do. Most private RV parks and campgrounds welcome your pet; however, some parks may restrict certain breeds and/or sizes of dogs or set a maximum number of pets allowed per campsite. Many state and national parks do not allow pets. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to make sure your non-human family member (however human they may seem) will be a welcome guest.
A recent campground amenity you’ll find in many private RV parks is a pet run. Sometimes this is a fenced area, other times it’s a big open space. The idea behind the pet run is to allow your animal to run leash-free (if fenced) and play with you or other pets in the run. Again, check the campground’s website or inquire via telephone or email if this is of interest to you.
It’s crucial that you follow the pet rules set by the campground. I hate it when 1 or 2 careless people spoil it for everyone else. Walk you pet in the designated pet area only, pick up after them, don’t leave them barking their little heads off inside the rig while you enjoy a day out, and be courteous to your fellow campers.
In order to make your trip pleasant for everyone, consider these easy, useful ideas and tips. Print this checklist out and keep it with your camping and RVing gear so you never miss a beat.
_____ Before leaving make sure your pet’s medical needs (shots, medication, etc.) are up to date
_____ Carry your pet’s health certificate with you just in case it’s needed
_____ Make sure your pet has up to date ID tags – consider temporary tags indicating the name and phone number of where you’re camping
_____ Bring baggies for scooping (a must!!) and use the designated pet walk if provided
_____ Bring tick/flea collars or other repellants to combat unwanted “hitchhikers”
_____ Pack your pet’s bag with his/her old familiars - blanket, favorite toy(s), food and water bowls and favorite snacks
_____ Bring along a pet carrier, pet tent or other type of outdoor pet shelter
_____ Take frequent breaks while traveling to stretch, exercise, and walk your pet
_____ Don’t forget the leash (usually required) for getting out and about
_____ Never leave your pet in a hot, non-ventilated vehicle – a car or RV – it takes only minutes for the heat to overcome your pet
_____ Once you’ve arrived please be courteous to your human neighbors (and away from pesky and dangerous critters such as skunks, porcupines, etc.) - keep your pet leashed and well behaved
_____ Be aware of your pet’s fitness level and avoid pushing them beyond their abilities
_____ Don’t leave pet food outside or chances are you’ll have some uninvited “pets”
_____ Never let your pet spend the night outside - one never knows what hungry predators lurk
_____ Physically check your pet daily for anything unusual – limping, excessive scratching, biting of any body part, loss of appetite, excessive water consumption, etc.
With a bit of planning, a well deserved camping vacation can make memories that last a lifetime - a great time had by all!!
Tips for RVing Travel to US National Parks
“Quick, name your top 3 National Parks or Monuments”, my husband said as we descended the trailhead to Vernal Falls in Yosemite. It was a pristine mid-September day – a halcyon sky, temps in the low 80’s, and very few people.
Its days like those that I thank my lucky stars for conservationists and outdoors people such as Stephen T. Mather – regarded as the father of the National Park system. The story goes that after Mr. Mather returned from a 1914 visit to Sequoia (CA) and Yosemite he wrote about his disappointment in how the parks were being managed to a college buddy - Secretary Franklin Lane. Lane responded, “Dear Steve: If you don’t like the way the national parks are run, why don’t you come on down to Washington and run them yourself.” And he did. Since then 390 National Parks and at last count 160 National Monuments – not to mention National Seashores, National Recreation Areas, National Historic Sites, Memorial Parkways, etc. - have met rigid standards to become our national treasures.
Many parks, such as Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, NM are small gems – offering a distinct attraction - in this case, ancestral Pueblo dwellings. Andersonville in Andersonville, GA is the site of the National Prisoner of War Museum and the preserves the site of Camp Sumter – an infamous civil war prison. Larger parks offer a wealth and variety of natural wonders – Glacier in MT, Big Bend in TX, and Acadia in ME come to mind. San Antonio Missions, TX offers fascinating self or guided tours of four well preserved 18th century missions. Find your ideal National Park here - http://www.nps.gov/parks.html.
If you plan to visit several of these national wonders consider purchasing a money saving America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. For a mere $80 this card will allow you entry into any National Park, National Monument or Federal recreation site – including entry into sites managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management – that charges an entry fee for one year. Park entry fees range from a few bucks to $25 at some of the larger, more popular parks.
America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass ($10.00) and America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Access Pass (free) are available to people over 62 or disabled, respectively, and must be obtained in person. These special cards not only offer entrance into parks but also give the card holder a 50% discount on camping, parking, interpretive services, and more. Learn more about the park passes here - http://www.nps.gov/parks/passes_fees.htm
153 of the parks in the system offer camping. Usually they don’t offer RV hookups but the campgrounds can accommodate RVs – sometimes up to 35+ feet long. Staying there allows you to get a full day of enjoyment from the park and RV in the most amazingly beautiful surroundings. You’ll have the option of attending the Ranger Campfire Programs, stargazing parties, or spotting wildlife at dusk or dawn – without every really leaving home.
Whether you fancy history or driving adventures, glaciers, dinosaurs or coral reefs, the scenic splendors of our National Park System will astound and astonish you with their beauty, diversity, and accessibility.
As for my husband’s challenge, out of the 82 parks we visited I have my favorites…but as I look through old brochures I realize that choosing 3 is a near impossibility.
Tips for RVing with Your Grandchildren
It’s every grandparents dream, to have uninterrupted quality time with your grandkids, exploring new places and sharing new experiences. Today more than ever grandparents are taking advantage of the freedom of RVing to connect with their grandkids. But truth be told, many of us no longer have the energy of a 10 year old. So what to do? Careful planning makes a grand vacation well, grand.
Prior to hitting the road ask your grandkid(s) what they’d like to see and do. Plan your trip accordingly. Are you off on a National Parks tour? Itching to see the world’s biggest ball of string? Looking to attend sporting events? Be prepared by purchasing tickets and/or learning operating times in advance.
Whatever your fancy, research parks on your route that are kid-friendly. Do they have a swimming pool or other water feature that the kids will love? How about planned activities? Do they have a kid-friendly movie selection or show movies outdoors? As much as possible, make reservations at those parks along the way.
Pack all the essentials including coloring books, legos or any other activity to keep them occupied during the drives. Peruse websites such as Mom’s Minivan (www.momsminivan.com) for car trip games and other ideas. Make sure you bring along any favorite foods and plan meals to their liking.
Consider giving them a journal or notebook to record their travels in, have new friends sign or press leaves or flowers. Bring along a travel pack complete with binoculars, a kid-friendly guide book, maps and some healthy snacks. Cameras, either disposable or digital, are essential.
Routines work well with kids. Make sure you discuss the particulars of the trip – including what’s expected of them – and other specifics such as mealtimes and bedtimes. Will they have spending money and what are the rules that go along with that responsibility? How frequently will they check in with Mom and Dad and what’s the policy on cell phones and video games? The more clear you are upfront, the better prepared they will be to enjoy their time with you.
Once on the road take advantage of the kid-friendly parks. Head out to the pool. Participate in group games, etc. Allow your grandkids to interact with others their age, running about and having a ball! Do some fun and unusual things with them such as “slime time” - guaranteed to make you the coolest grandparents around (click on the link to learn how easy and fun it is to make). Or customize a a one-of-a-kind tour around a favorite activity, color, sport, cartoon character anything you and the grandkids can imagine. Let them make decisions about what to do together or whether to make s’mores or doughboys around the evening’s campfire.
No matter where you choose to go or what you choose to do, an RV trip with your grandkids will build strong bonds between you and create memories to last a lifetime.
Tips for Sharing RV Vacation Photos From the Road
You had an amazing time, your RV vacation was fantastic and the sights breathtaking, the family behaved splendidly – and you captured it all on film. Now it’s time to take your friends on a stroll down your very own memory lane with on-line photo sharing. Whether you use a digital camera and download your photos to your computer or have your film developed and a CD created, you have several options in sharing your pictures.
One of my favorite sites is the Kodak Easyshare Gallery. Sign up on this easy to use site and you can create albums to send to friends and family. FYI – recipients do not need to be KodakGallery members to view your pictures – just make sure you un-check the box that requires login. KodakGallery also sells all sorts of products with your photos on them such as mugs, calendars, etc. Prints can be ordered by you or the viewer (they must then have an account) and are a very good quality.
My girlfriend has made photo magic on another free site called PhotoShow. This nifty website allows you turn your photos into a musical slideshow complete with captions. Just like KodakGallery, you can send viewing invitations to friends and family and they do not need to be members to enjoy your snaps. PhotoShow also offers an expanded version of their product for a fee (but reviews have not been overwhelmingly positive).
Perhaps creating an album or slide show is more than you have the time for or interest in but you still want to share some of your vacation memories. Send them via email but remember a few important rules:
• Some ISPs limit the amount of data allowed in an email to 2MB with an account max of 10MB. Big pix could quickly clog an email box.
• Some folks are still on dial-up with large files taking an hour or more to download. That could make your friends a little cranky!!
Choose the pictures to send carefully and make sure you resize them appropriately to avoid the above issues.
Then there’s the old fashioned sharing method – sending prints via snail mail. While you can print them on photo paper using your printer, a more economical choice may be taking your digital card to any photo processing outlet and having prints made.
There are almost unlimited options for sharing your vacation pictures – I’ve simply shared a few of my favorites for your consideration. No matter what photo sharing path you take, passing along your best shots is a pleasure for the sender as well as the recipient.
Check out these suggestions to save yourself some camping cash:
• Keep your tires properly inflated. Not only is it safer, deters tire failure, and maximizes tire life it can save you at the pump. Proper inflation can save you up to 3% on your fuel mileage. Consider purchasing a heavy duty, reliable tire gauge, use the manufacturer’s recommendation for tire pressure, and check tires when they are “cold” (road friction heats tires).
• Almost always you’ll find less expensive fuel “in town” as opposed to the highway-side stations. If you can, venture into town to save on a fill-up.
• Pack plenty of tasty and filling snacks and beverages to enjoy on during your travels. Not only will this save you time from stopping and searching for a suitable snack spot, you’ll eat healthier and save money, too!
• Prepare some (or all) of your meals in your RV. Coffee and rolls outside the camper or a full breakfast on the campfire make for a relaxing morning. Make sandwiches to take on hikes, to the beach or other mid-day adventures. Create a delicious dinner at the camp and dine al fresco, fireside, at the picnic table.
• Take advantage of park activities. Chances are the campground has a swimming pools, sport courts, walking trails – maybe even planned activities such as crafts and games.
• Purchase items such as batteries prior to leaving home. Most likely tourist areas will have those items at a higher price.
Plan ahead and perhaps you’ll have extra money to spend on other goodies. Can’t beat that!!