Today's post is from Stephanie Mulac of Mulac Family Marketers. In a few weeks, we will feature an article about Stephanie's favorite Las Vegas RV Park as a follow-up to this article. For those of you looking for places to stay in Vegas, however, there are reviews of Las Vegas RV Parks from other RVParking.com members at the end of this post. Coming up are posts from Wendy of Vintage Aluminum about trailering for women and Cherie Ve Ard of Technomadia about useful iPhone apps for RVers.
A lot of people are under the assumption that Las Vegas is no place for kids, so when we told our family and friends recently that we were going to Vegas to celebrate our daughter’s 10th birthday, that got more than a few chuckles and curious looks.
But to the contrary, our many trips to Las Vegas have allowed us to amass quite a few favorite spots that are not only kid friendly, but in fact were conceived just for kids (or the big kid in all of us!).
SKYZONE: Because this particular trip was to celebrate a birthday, we booked a party for 10 at Skyzone Indoor Trampoline Park. Noted as the creators of the world’s first all trampoline, walled playing field, this was the perfect spot for young and old alike – so whether the party is primarily kids or a mixture of adults and children, this is a venue that can be enjoyed by all who are willing to let their hair down and be a kid for a day from tots, to teens and beyond.
Skyzone has both open jump sessions as well as organized, scheduled activities such as 3-D Dodgeball, crosstraining, SkyRobics and SkyRobics4Kids. We had previously visited Skyzone for an open jump, so when thinking about a great birthday spot, I headed to their website to check out what they had to offer. Having booked many a birthday party, I think at $10/guest, Skyzone’s party package may well be one of the best values in Vegas! The package includes an hour of jump time, a private room with festive decorations and lots of balloons, 2 giant pizzas, unlimited soda, color coordinated napkins, plates, cups and plasticware, and an attendant that setups up, cleans up and takes care of everyone in the party from beginning to end. And even though our group on this particular occasion consisted of many teens and adults who were self sufficient, I’ve been on the receiving end of 20 kids at a party and the value of having a cheerful party hostess tending to everyone’s whim is priceless – not to mention the cleanup afterward being handled while mom & dad simply carry gifts to the car!
As a final bonus, the birthday child gets a free t-shirt and 2 free passes to return again, with no expiration. (An important consideration to those of us traveling full-time, of course.) Our day was amazing, and even those of us who discovered new muscles we hadn’t known about in years concluded it was well worth it for this unique birthday celebration.
OLIVIA’S DOLLHOUSE TEAROOM: For a prior birthday we spent in Las Vegas for our youngest daughter, we discovered what I think is the most charming, memorable locale for a little girl to celebrate a birthday that I’ve ever seen. It’s aptly named, Olivia’s Dollhouse after the founder’s daughter who is now grown up and working with them. It all began back in 1994 when Tom and Jeanie Trikilis were searching for party places for their own daughter and finding the options slim. They saw a need in the market, filled it and 17 years later they’ve grown to 9 locations throughoutCalifornia and Las Vegas. The festivities include the opportunity to pick from a room full of 100 gowns to wear as well as from an eclectic array of hats, shoes, tiaras, purses, jewelry and make up. After making their selections, the girls receive updos, makeup, and nail treatments before proceeding onto the next room to present their fashion show for the adults in attendance.
Then, the princess treatment culminates with a catered “tea” party including sweets, finger sandwiches, a heart shaped cake and party
favors--all in a Victorian dollhouse atmosphere. The birthday child gets to sit at the head of a heart shaped table and is instructed to ring a special bell when party treats run low or her honored guests are in need of more pampering.
Even the adults at our party were captivated by the décor as we strolled from room to room marveling over collectibles and one-of-
a-kind items. "They're all full of animation and interactive features," Tom Trikilis explains. These include moving doll houses, animatronic dolls and interactive art that moves and plays an audio track when a child pushes its button.
In addition to princess parties, (and boys are always welcome and catered to equally) Olivia’s Dollhouse also hosts top model/glam parties, baby/bridal showers, or adult teas. No matter what the occasion, a party at this award winning locale will provide memories to last a lifetime.
Free “Family Friendly” Vegas Tourist Attractions:
In addition to celebration spots, we’ve also discovered other excellent options to pass the time while in Las Vegas with the under 21 crowd, such as:
MGM Grand Lion Habitat – Nestled amongst the bells and whistles of the slot machines, the renowned Lion Habitat provides an up close and personal view of these majestic animals as well as educational events throughout the day.
Silverton Casino & Hotel Aquarium - Named the "Best Free Attraction" in Las Vegas, Silverton Casino's saltwater aquarium is large and impressive. The signature 117,000-gallon reef aquarium will transport you to a tropical oasis where you can admire more than 4,000 tropical fish, and three species each of stingrays and sharks. Interactive feeding shows are scheduled daily at 1:30pm, 4:30pm and 7:30pm.
Rio Casino - Masquerade Show in the Sky - This is one of our all time favorite free shows that immediately transports you to Mardi Gras, complete with beads being thrown by the dancers from gondolas that hang from the ceiling and wind their way around a huge circle above the casino floor. In addition, there is a balcony for viewing with pint sized guests, so no worries about getting grief for standing still on the casino floor with the under 21 family members while watching the show. I also highly recommend the $15/person opportunity to be a part of the show and ride in one of the gondolas and get a backstage view of the performers getting ready to wow the crowds. We did this and it was an amazing opportunity, well worth spending a little extra!
And rounding out any trip to Las Vegas, you’ll usually find us stopping by Dancing Waters - Bellagio Casino; The Fremont Street Experience Light Show - Fremont Street, Downtown Las Vegas; Sirens of TI Pirate Ship Show - Treasure Island Casino; The Volcano outside the Mirage Casino; Ethel M Chocolates Free Chocolate Factory Tour in Henderson, and last but not least, under the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign which now has a convenient pull in location right in front of Mandalay Bay, for photo ops to commemorate your family’s stay.
Stephanie Mulac along with husband Greg and daughters Marina & Morgan are known as the Mulac Family Marketers. They hit the road full-time in April of 2008 along 2 cats and a contagious zest for life. With an established online Internet-based business model that allows them to work from anywhere & set their own schedule, they currently divide their days between roadschooling their daughters, coaching, speaking at events & workshops and enjoying abundant quality time as a family to explore and absorb all that the Universe brings their way. Stephanie thrives on the gratification she gets from teaching others to "monetize their passions" - learn more about their journey at http://www.mulacfamilymarketers.com.
RVParking.com Picks for Las Vegas
Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort - "Great park located close to freeways and the south end of the strip. We have found the east side of the park to be very quiet, family friendly, and plenty of room between RVs."
"Very nice park with many amenities and casino shuttle service." Read more.
Sam's Town RV Park - "Sam’s Town is convenient in that it has a great shuttle with 2 drop off points... The park itself is basically a parking lot, but nice, stays full. We had a somewhat secluded spot off to the back, this was nice just because we had fewer campers around us, a little more room to spread out." Read more.
Today's post comes from Vesna of the blog Mudakiller. For those who don't know Muda (無駄) is a traditional Japanese term for an activity that is wasteful and doesn’t add value or is unproductive. So, instead of wasting time on things that aren't important to them on a deep level, Vesna and her family took to the road to spend their time on the relationships and experiences that matter to them.
We are a nomadic family of 5. We started this new life in January, 2011 after a two year awakening to what is important to us in life. We came to the conclusion that the mortgage, and all the ‘things’ piling up in our home, were not what mattered to us on a deep level. What matters to us, more than anything, is relationships and experiences. Since our career is in software, and we have the ability to work remotely, we eventually came to the conclusion that we could travel to where the people we love and the places we want to visit are. And so our journey began in January in a pop up trailer after selling everything we own (including the house... the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere in adulthood 4 ½ years!). We will be purchasing a C or A class later this year, but the pop up was to get us started traveling across the southern States for the winter/spring. Upon our return to the Toronto area in May, we’ll be heading out to Europe for the remainder of the year until we come back to travel the southern state circuit again.
Snowbirding Season Challenges
After spending over a month in California, we moved on to travel across the desert. Finding places to stay in California was pretty easy and reasonably priced. We started meeting people our age with and without kids who had just come from east to west across the desert. The stories about finding camping were not good. There were age restrictions, and just plain not-so-great camping places. The great places we were told about, Big Bend in Texas, etc. were places we had every intention of going to. But, with our work, and not having satellite internet, or a gray water tank or bathroom, we really needed to stick to RV parks more than state parks. Next year’s circuit will include a *lot* of state parks!
As soon as we hit Arizona, park after park after park was for age 55+. And if the age restriction wasn’t there, they were not accepting pop ups. And if they were accepting pop ups, they weren’t accepting the add-a-room we have. This wasn’t particularly a big deal, but it makes for a difficult longer stay.
Tombstone, AZ - One Gem of a Find
We did find a decent park just outside of Tombstone, called Cochise RV park. We stayed there for one night. The view in the morning was breathtaking with mountains all over. It was a nice park, but in a suburban setting and even without the age restrictions, it was quite obviously not for the non-retired. Not that they were unfriendly, but we did get a few eye brows raised. We spent the next day exploring the town of Tombstone and the site of the OK Coral. We read all about the town and founder online (thanks Wikipedia!) before checking it out for the day. The kids had a blast at the Boothill Cemetery and in the town of Tombstone itself. We learned about the 30 second long gun fight, the founder, and the silver mine he built the town around. We went down into the mine on a tour and is was quite fascinating! Great history for the kids!
We were off towards the Carlsbad Caverns we’d heard so much about in New Mexico. However, the drive was too long, so we tried to find a place in the first part of New Mexico. We don’t like showing up and setting up too late at night – especially for one nighters. But, we found a place online called the Hidden Valley Ranch RV park. From the descriptions online, it looked nice and far from any town. 10 miles away from anything all around to be exact. Since we weren’t ready to travel too far off the trail with the pop up, this place looked pretty good. And it had wifi! Even though we have an air card, it’s still good to have park wifi as a backup.
We were a little late getting there, so we turned off the main road in Deming quite a bit after sunset. Pretty soon the road turned to gravel...and then dirt. The comforting city/town lights were dimming quickly, and the GPS was having a hard time figuring out where we were and finally quit. As did our air card. The road was bumpy and dark and there were signs about an ‘open range’. The kids started wondering and getting nervous. As the trailer bounced behind us, I too was getting nervous. I had thoughts of flat tires (we’ve had a total of 5 on this three month trip alone!) in the middle of nowhere. The 10 miles of slow driving seemed to take forever. We entered a valley with what looked like hills around us and finally saw a single light in the distance. We rolled up to the gates just when I was about to give up. I was so relieved at the gates that I did not see the “Welcome to an adult community” sign that Mike seemed to be focussed on. We sat there idling in front of the gate and pondered. There were definitely campers inside the gate, but everything looked all dark and closed up. I didn’t want to have to drive all the way back out and look for somewhere else (for there was nowhere else....a hotel perhaps??) this late at night. We decided we were setting up no matter what. We found info about after hours set ups. The next morning we found out that it was indeed ok that the kids were with us. The adult part was for the long-term campers. WHEW! With the star filled nights, the road runners, the hiking up the hills, and the complete silence of the desert, we stayed there two more nights for a total of three. There wasn’t a pool or playground, or anything else of the sort, but it was a wonderful experience to be away from everything.
We then headed out to the Carlsbad Caverns area at the Carlsbad RV Park. Great place for kids – amazing playground, indoor pool, game room, etc. and of course the Caverns nearby. There, we met up with another nomadic family we had met on Twitter. We stayed longer than expected and enjoyed their company. The Caverns were incredible! It was quite a trek to walk around the entire area, but it was amazing! The kids got their junior rangers there as well. Unfortunately, we were too early for the bats. That really sounds like it’s an amazing experience and we do hope to catch that at some point in the future. Prior to visiting the Caverns, we learned about the boy who had stumbled upon them and explored them with a friend.
A Rough Texan Start
From there, we headed to Texas. After deciding to skip Big Bend (which we will catch the next time!), we drove straight to San Antonio. The intention was to stay a few days at the Travelers World RV Resort right in town and see San Antonio, the Alamo, etc. We did not get a good feeling from that park. It seemed nice and clean enough, but there was a gut feeling about safety that we did not like. It was raining the first day and was so humid in the trailer (especially after the dry desert) – everything was wet. We just wanted to move on along. So, we left early the next day and completely missed the Alamo, but will definitely return the next time around.
We drove to an amazing state park in Corpus Christie – Mustang State Park. The wifi was sketchy, as was our air card, but it was enough for a week. It was a complete relief to be on the coast again after being in the desert so long. We got the surf board out, did some surfing, camp fires on the beach, and just enjoyed being steps away from the water. We hadn’t camped that close to the water the entire trip! March break was starting and kids were starting to show up, so the boys had friends to play with. It was a wonderful week!
The next stop was a wonderful RV resort called the Jamaica Beach RV resort. It was just across the street from the Gulf of Mexico, had mini putt, pool, hot tub, horse back riding, etc. all on site. We stayed about a week there as well. Surfing on the beach, went horse back riding, and lots of spring break friends coming through for the boys. It was another fantastic week at a fantastic park!
Since then we stayed for an extended 3 week stay in Titusville, Florida, and are currently heading up the east coast before heading to Europe for the remainder of the year. Next January through April, we intend on taking our time through the desert and hitting quite a bit more state parks, as well as staying at some of the RV parks we’ve already been to. We’re very much looking forward to going back!
Vesna's RV Parking Picks
Cochise Terrace RV Resort, Benson, AZ
"If I was a senior who wanted to be around seniors and not have a ton of kids running around, I'd rate it a 5." Read more.
Hidden Valley Ranch RV Resort, Deming, NM
"This park was awesome... It's nice and small and we stayed there for a few days before we hit the road again."
Carlsbad RV Park & Campground, Carlsbad, NM
"Clean, great laundry, indoor pool (avoiding the wind/dust of the desert), awesome game room for the kids and an amazing playground." Read the rest of this review plus two others.
Traveler's World RV Resort, San Antonio, TX
"It was clean and right in the city, but the area of town seemed sketchy and we were warned about keeping stuff locked up at the park." Read more.
Mustang State Park, Port Aransas, TX
"Very small and pretty much right on the beach." Read more.
Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston, TX
"Great wifi, great laundry - BEST BATHROOMS EVER!!" Read more.
Stay tuned for another "RVing with Kids" series post next week. Stephanie Mulac of Mulac Family Marketers will share celebration spots and free attractions in Las Vegas.
Today's guest blog post about Corpus Christi comes from Stephanie Golden from the Golden Gang. Stay tuned for another guest blog post from Vesna of Mudakiller about her trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (including Corpus Christi).
It was our first excursion in our RV as a new, full-time family on the road. Where would we go? Well, after a lot of thought, we chose to start south, and head north! We chose to visit Corpus Christi, Texas. Corpus Christi is an interesting place to visit, not only because of the location, warm weather, friendly culture or many attractions, but it also has a National Seashore that is really informative. At the National Seashore, the kids were able to earn their first Jr. Ranger badges, as well as, a "Clean the Beach" patch.
While we were at Corpus Christi, we stayed at this RV Park:
***This RV park is our first RV experience, and I have to say that it was a great experience.
Facilities: Very Accomodating- Laundry, pool, rec-hall, very clean shower house/restrooms
Staff: Wonderful! Very friendly and helpful. They were more than willing to help us and answer any questions. They guide you to your spot, and help leave, if you need help getting around tight corners. When Tanner offered to work in any way available, they actually allowed him to earn a little money for raking!
Area: This location was very close to all the attractions. (20 min. or less)
Price: For our family of 7, it was $193/week.
Overall: I would recommend this RV park to a family, or older couple. Everyone was so sweet. We even hung out and played BINGO one evening, and everyone made us feel welcome.
Corpus Christi has a lot to discover, along with many attractions! I already mentioned the National Seashore which is on the beach, but there are also many museums to visit as well. The Art Museum, which gave us a nice perspective on all kinds and types of art, was appreciated. The Surf Museum was also pretty interesting, showing the different shapes and sizes of surf boards.
But, it was the History & Science Museum that truly astounded! Not only is there a wealth of Science and History artifacts, including huge specimans of animals and sea creatures, but also many interesting documents, and a great indoor play center. Outside, was a fabulous, guided tour onto the replica ships of the Nina and Santa Maria that Columbus had sailed on when he discovered America! Too cool!
But if you decide to travel down south to Corpus Christi, make sure that you visit the USS Lexington Aircraft Carrier Museum on the bay. It is a retired vessel that is out of this world! It has a breath-taking view from the top of the ship, where you can observe many planes of all designs, but you also have the privilege of touring the inside compartments. To be able to visualize and walk through the halls where so many of our sailors lived for months on end, truly gives a new appreciation of the sacrifice our military lives by on a daily basis.
I am thankful to have visited Corpus Christi, TX. I want to encourage you and your family of all ages and backgrounds to explore and enjoy this enjoyable city in our great nation.
Stephanie is a homeschooling mother of five from Spring, TX. She and her husband made the decision to sell or give away many of their posessions to travel America, and learn first-hand about all the beauty and culture and history there is to discover, while living full-time in a motorhome! Life is an adventure, and curiosity abounds! Follow their travels on her blog: goldengangusa.blogspot.com
Our family loves the freedom that RVing together gives us. We enjoy the time we get to spend with one anther, the wonderful and varied places in creation that we get to visit, and the incredible learning opportunities that we are offered along the way. One of the best learning activities that we have found on our travels has been the National Park Service's Jr. Ranger program. Offered at many of the over 390 National Parks, the Jr. Ranger program is an interactive learning opportunity that is hands on, age appropriate, and always interesting!
If your family intends on visiting very many national parks, I would highly recommend purchasing a National Access pass; for $80 per year, it will admit your vehicle, with it's occupants, into into most National Parks. We have one for each vehicle since sometimes we will take in the truck and RV to camp within the park, in addition to the van. Once we have arrived at the National Park, our first stop is always the visitor's center. Here, we stop by the information desk, watch an introductory movie if one is available, and the kids pick up Jr. Ranger booklets from the ranger there. The program is almost always free. So far in our travels, we have come across only 2 parks where there was a fee for the books - those parks were Zion, which charged $1 for each book, and Jamestown, whose booklets were $1.75.
Each park's ranger books are different, but they usually include at least half a dozen activities for the kids to complete; some parks even have different booklets for different ages of kids. For many parks, the worksheets are directly related to what the kids will learn in the visitor's center and while touring the park. Many of the booklets contain crossword puzzles, word finds, fill in the blanks, drawing pictures, and identifying activities. The booklets are an easy and fun way to learn about the new location that we are in, and we have often found out interesting facts about that specific park that we would have never learned about without the Jr. Ranger program.
Some of our favorite Jr. Ranger programs have been:
Grand Canyon (AZ) - not because of the booklets themselves, but because we were required to attend a Ranger-led talk. We enjoyed the first talk so much that we attended several others. If you get a chance to visit the Grand Canyon, be sure to go to the talk about legends of the G.C. - Emma still remembers the mystery surrounding the Hydes and how there has not been 'hyde' nor hair of them seen since they set off to float the caynon.
Fort Fredrica (GA) - the program at Fort Fredrica is subsidized by a private grant, and their Jr. Ranger booklets are very well done. Their booklets are in color, have pop-ups and removable map and letters. Here the kids got to check out haversacks full of items to help them complete the booklets, and borrowed tri-cornered hats and mob caps! Fort Fredrica also has a fun visitor's center, which includes costumes for the kids to dress up in, and period toys.
Saguaro National Park (AZ) - the kids liked Saguaro's program because they were able to check out a Jr. Ranger backpack full of items to help them complete their booklets, items like a magnifying glass, an animal track identification sheet, binoculars...
Generally, our kids 9 and up can complete the booklets without help, and the younger ones need a bit of assistance with spelling. After the kids have completed the required number of activities in their booklets, we return to the visitor's center and find a ranger! Generally, the ranger will ask the kids a few questions about the park, and look through their booklets at what they have accomplished. The ranger will then lead the kids through the ranger pledge promising to help care for the park system (varies slightly from park to park), and the kids receive a plastic badge that looks much like the rangers uniform badge; each badge has the name of the park, and a different logo in the center. There are a few parks that give out embroidered patches instead; the kids are always tickled to receive these colorful patches, which we sew onto their Jr. Ranger vests. We have received patches from Fort Clatsop (OR), Fort Davis (TX), Big Bend (TX), Amistad NRA (TX), Gettysburg (PA), and Carlsbad Caverns (NM). The badges make great souvenirs! The kids also get to keep the booklets - we sometimes make them go back and complete all the activities as part of their schoolwork.
You can find out online if a park offers a Jr. Ranger program simply by going to http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm - choose a state, then a park - once you're on a parks page, look for a tab on the left that says 'for kids' - clicking will lead you to a page that tells you what that park offers for kids. Sometimes you can even print out the booklet at home, and the kids can then work on it on the drive to the park!
We have also found, that for some parks, you don't have to actually go there to become a Jr. Ranger. This past week, our family went to Palo Alto National Battlefield in Brownsville, TX (clear down in the southern tip). While we did the booklet onsite, we also noticed that you can download their Jr. Ranger booklet and print it. Once the kids have completed the booklet, you can mail it to the address provided, and a ranger will send you back a Palo Alto Jr. Ranger badge!
Another great educational program that the National Park Service offers along the same lines as the Jr. Ranger program, is the Web Rangers program! This is an online Jr. Ranger program that offers over 50 different activities to complete about national parks and nature! Once you have completed a set number of activities, you will be emailed a link to fill in your name and address, and the National Park Service will snail mail you an embroidered Web Ranger patch! Makes a great addition to those Jr. Ranger vests . While both the Jr. Ranger and Web Ranger programs are targeted towards children, they are offered to anyone, of any age, that would like to participate!
My children retain so much more knowledge when the information is presented in engaging, hands-on, multi-sensory form - and they have learned, and retained, so much from the Jr. Ranger program. Our goal, as a family, is to collect Jr. Ranger badges/patches from every National Park in the country that offers them! Along the way, we will be learning much about this incredible country that we live in, and having a great time making memories that will last a lifetime! Check out the Jr. Ranger program and see if your family would enjoy it also!
Dana is blessed to be able to full-time RV with her hubby and 10 of their 11 children. They enjoy roadschooling as they travel the country; one of their goals is to earn Jr. Ranger badges from every National Park that offers the program. You can check in on their progress, and follow their travels as they chronicle the journey at: http://ticknortribe.blogspot.com/
Since several of you have requested RV destination posts that are written with the family in mind, today we bring you a post about family RVing in Quartzsite by Erin Provost, a mother of three who blogs at Provost Recess. We have many blog posts to come including another post in the RVing with Kids series about the National Parks Jr. Ranger program, reviews of the new Eddie Bauer Airstream from four RV bloggers with Airstreams, a post about RVing in Hot Springs Arkansas and more. Since we've added an RSS feed button to the blog, so it will be easier to keep track of the great things to come.
When the price to park on 500 square feet of asphalt starts rivaling a perfectly decent hotel room it gives one pause. After all, with an RV we bring everything we need with us.
To us, one of the great joys of RVing is boondocking. A free place to park is a welcome perk. (Think great justification for a dinner out sometime.) So, it is no surprise that we love Quartzsite, Arizona: arguably the boondocking capital of the world.
We have not visited during the main season, we prefer the off-season lack of crowd thing, but if you like flea markets Quartzsite’s reputation is unsurpassed.
There are different areas with different options. Knowing how long you will be staying and what amenities you will need can help you choose what works best for you. We have always been passing through and have planned to be completely self sufficient allowing for more seclusion. Therefore, we have always opted for the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land.
Our last visit we did have a hard time finding a place to dump when we were leaving town. In retrospect, we might opt for paying a $40 fee to one of the gated parks which would give us access to their dump for up to two weeks and still used the BLM camping area.
There are 5 BLM areas; we use the Roadrunner area which is on the 95, 5 miles south of Quartzsite at mile marker 99. It is on the west side of the 95.
When you pull off you enter a web of primitive roads, I uses the term road loosely here, that go in all directions. It can be daunting, at first, and I recommend arriving before sunset. Something we failed to do on our first visit. It turns out my husband finds it easier to avoid cactus, yucca, rocks and deep ruts when he can see.
Deciding where to park is a big decision. One certainly doesn’t want to park on top of another camper, but people’s space bubbles are all unique. Our loose rule of thumb is we want to be far enough away that we could leave our curtains open and not be observed. We don’t actually do this, but we like to know we could. No one wants to be on the wrong side of a fish bowl.
We find a place to park, not too close to any neighbors, and before we cool the engine the kids are out the door, running in a large circle hooting and hollering. Why? Because they can, and really, how often does this opportunity present itself anymore? Nobody is pulling into a KOA and behaving like this…. well, we certainly don’t allow it so the kids relish this opportunity!
Quartzsite is back to camping basics. Our perfect evening proceeds with dinner, a desert sunset (providing you have followed my prior advice,) a campfire (with your favorite associated activities,) and star-gazing (though not pitch black, compared to any city the stargazing is breathtaking. Our kids now understand why our galaxy is called the Milky Way.)
Board games, good books, long conversations, baking, long intricate games of pretend, there are so many ways to spend time when there is no where to rush off to. These make for the kinds of evenings memories are made of.
Fresh desert air and quiet cool nights make for good sound sleeping which in turn allows for my favorite aspect of Quartzsite; the desert sunrise. My daughter may rival me as the family’s biggest fan and the budding photographer and her trusty assistant were brave enough to be out in robes to capture the magnificent spectacle. Even my sleep-loving husband couldn’t resist the kids’ enthusiasm and braved the morning chill to get their pictures. After I provided the hats, mittens, and warm pumpkin tea of course.
I kindly volunteered to stay with our sleepyhead little one (you know, under the down comforter) and take my view from the window. She joined me eventually.
You can get your magic in so many ways and we found a little piece in Quartzsite.
Erin Provost is a wife and mommy to three. After living at the same address for 6 years, longer than she has ever lived at any single address her entire life, she decided it was time for a break, a recess if you will. As gypsies do attract, her crazy husband and kids completely agreed. They sold everything, fixed up a 1975 Newell and set off. You can follow their adventure at www.provostrecess.blogspot.com.
Today's guest blog post comes from Melanie Toast of Travel Toast who has a lot of great ideas about free and inexpensive ways to entertain kids on the road. Some things to come are a post about the Eddie Bauer Airstream from the point of view of Airstreamers and a post about where to park your rig for the Oaklawn races.
Let’s face it: RVing isn’t always the cheapest way to get around. Once you pay for gas, RV parks and propane, you might not have a lot left in your budget for entertaining the kids. The good news is that you’re RVing to show them something other than a video game or the latest Toy Story movie. You have the whole world on your doorstep and you want to create memories experiencing it with them! And with some creativity and planning, you can take advantage of it without going broke.
Here are some ideas we implement regularly to keep our crew of four kids adequately amused during our long treks across the U.S.
When You’re Stuck in the Car
When the kids are stuck in their seats traveling for several hours, it might be tempting to buy up the latest DVDs to keep them amused during the drive. You don’t have to buy out the store for fear the kids will get bored. We try to give homage to the traditional activities families used to engage in, like singing songs, pointing out interesting views and topography, reading books (individually) and sketching pictures. After driving around 30,000 miles so far this past year, we have yet to watch a movie in the truck. I do understand that there are times when you may want everyone to zone out. If that’s the case, we reach for an audio book. We have turned to audio books many times, listening to classics like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Heidi and Alice in Wonderland. It’s entertaining and educational. Best of all, the best books are completely free to download to your iTunes or as an MP3 file. Here’s my favorite free audio book download site: www.booksshouldbefree.com
You will most likely be close to a National Park no matter where you are in the U.S. If you buy the year pass (around $80 for the whole family) you can save a bundle and go as often as you like. When we visited Yellowstone, we drove in and out several times during a week. Just that trip alone saved us money. You can buy the membership here or at the entrance to any National Park.
Our other favorite membership is an annual membership to the North Carolina Zoo and Aquarium. For less than $80 bucks, you can access almost every zoo and aquarium (and some science centers) in the U.S. for free or at a big discount. If you’re not on the road fulltime, check out the benefits of joining your local zoo and see if a membership will give you the same benefits. Otherwise, you can easily joining the NC Zoo at this link. You can check out the local wildlife which is an excellent way to get to know a state.
Bigger cities may offer “free days” for their major museums downtown. For example, Chicago has several museums with free days, usually on a Thursday. If you’re near a city, call the local tourism bureau and ask about freebies.
Libraries are Everywhere!
You may not be able to get a membership if you’re just passing through, but you can still have plenty of fun at the local library of the town you’re visiting. Many libraries offer free puppet shows and craft events that do not require a membership. Plus you can get in some reading time to boot! Go online and do a search for “library” plus the name of your city. Many post calendars with upcoming events.
Sports and Fun at the Local Park
We always travel with our tennis rackets and tennis balls looking for an opportunity to check out the local courts. It’s great to have a family sport that you all enjoy. You could keep a basketball with you or a soccer ball as well.
Aside from sports, local parks are fun to check out, and many have free treasures you won’t want to miss. We just spent some time in Nashville where we saw the replica of the Greek Parthenon at the city park. We didn’t pay for the ticket to go inside, but walking and climbing around the grand building was great fun in itself!
Bikes & Scooters are a Must
Kids love their bikes and scooters. Bring them with you and let them ride around the RV park and bring back stories of all the wild things they see. (Once my son came back shouting, “Dad, I saw a trailer dump its sewage all over the road!”) For some reason, if your kids are on a bike, it’s more thrilling to them than just walking around. Plus, if you bring your own, you can find a local bike path and have a family outing.
Games That Don’t Involve Staring at a Television or Computer
I’m talking Monopoly, Risk, Sorry and even Texas Hold ‘em. Our six-year-old is so good at Poker now, I’m thinking of taking her to Las Vegas when she turns 21 so she can pay for a new fifth wheel (after she and her siblings destroy our current one!). Games are fun, especially when you’re looking back at each other from across a table. You can find a bunch at garage sales or eBay for next to nothing. Plan a game night once a week and try to stick to one game at a time until everyone masters it. It’s an investment, but so
worth the memories. (Plus it’s free!)
Okay, Watching a Movie Once in a While Is Not a Sin
Especially if it’s cheap! Since you’re on the road, renting movies from Red Box is a great convenience and very reasonable at only $1 per night. You can find them at most Wal-Marts, Wal-Greens, and many McDonald’s, and you don’t need a membership. If you really want to save a buck, sign up with them online for freebies and you can get a code emailed to you each week, good for a free rental. You can also use their website to locate a Red Box near you and even reserve a movie at a specific location. Check them out here: www.redbox.com
For more tricks and tips, or to see what we’re up to, check out our website at www.TravelToast.com
Since snowbirding season is still in full swing, we bring you another snowbirding post. This time, Marty and Patsy Martin from Napkin Dreams tell us about snowbirding from a family perspective and give advice to other RVing parents trying to navigate their way through snowbirding season. We have several great blog posts coming up, including a post about the junior ranger program mentioned in this post.
When the average 40 year old thinks of RVing in Arizona in the winter, he probably conjures up thoughts of retirement and the golden years. You know, traveling around to the south with a little bitty dog and plenty of free time. That would be the normal picture.
Our family has never chosen the normal route.
We didn’t want to wait for our retirement years to travel this great country. We wanted to make memories with our kids. We wanted to enhance their education by living history and experiencing science. We wanted to enjoy traveling today because there are no guarantees for tomorrow. So with the ability to work from anywhere, we loaded up our newly christened RV Howard, laid out a rough travel plan and headed out on a two year adventure with our five boys and python snake.
That’s right, five boys, dad, mom and a snake in a 32-foot recreational vehicle! Some may call us loony, but we actually like each other and like being together, so it’s working out pretty good four months into the venture. Naturally part of the plan was spending the winter months in the warm states and the summer months up north. This fall went fairly smooth as we visited Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas. The campgrounds and parks were quiet during the weekdays and full of activity during the weekends.
Then we moved a little farther south and hit snowbird time and territory. We have spent the last two months in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. All in all we have had a very positive experience mingling with the retired set. There have been some pitfalls but numerous good points of RVing during the height of Snowbird season. And I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, we have enjoyed it. But we have had to make a few adjustments.
First the challenges: The biggest challenge is finding an RV park that accepts children.
Actually many parks say 55+, so even my wife and I don’t fit the criteria. And often, it is hard to identify the parks that only accept seniors. There is nothing more embarrassing than driving into a park, registering, and then be told we can’t stay once they find out we have children. Some areas are far more difficult to find RV parks that accept families than others. By far the most difficult locality to find a place to stay that we have encountered is the Phoenix and Tucson areas. We found southeast Texas parks to be very inclusive of families. In fact, we didn’t find any RV parks that had a problem with children. It was a little surprising to us to find ourselves having such a hard time in New Mexico and even worse in Arizona.
Now I understand why some parks and also their patrons want this type of exclusivity. There has been a time or two when we have been parked next to a pile of obnoxious kids who were loud, bullies, destructive or in short just plain and simple problem children. Most families do a good job of keeping their kids in hand, but the frightful few hurt the rest of us. Of course even the best behaved kids can have bad days and melt downs, so I could never guarantee that my own five wouldn’t be disruptive in these quiet little RV parks. So far though, we have had no complaints!
In light of this issue we have boondocked in a few places, but this leads to another issue. Several places along the road we have found Wal-Marts that posted signs reading “No overnight parking.” I wonder if this is because of pressure from local RV parks? So what is a family to do? Unwelcome in the RV park and at Wal-Mart? Research has been our answer. For this internet access is a must. We have been able to find family-friendly RV parks in most major towns after a lot of research on websites.
Our second challenge – cost.
Many parks that can easily fill up during snowbird season, do not accept the half-priced club we belong to, so we have paid quite a bit more in staying at these parks then we were accustomed too. I suppose if we had decided to winter up in the north we wouldn’t have this problem, but aren’t willing to make quite that much of a concession for a saving a few bucks.
Our third small challenge (which hasn’t been a big deal for us) is dining out.
When staying in Branson, at the beginning of our adventure, we spoke with a nice retired gentleman who gave us some helpful hints. One of his hints involved the “Blue Hairs” as he called his flock. “When you are in Mesa and other such points this winter, wait to go out to dinner until about 6:30. Us "Blue Hairs" like to eat at 4:00 pm and you’ll never get a seat for a big family until later.” Since we don’t frequent restaurants all that often this hasn’t proved to be a huge issue for us. But it is definitely something to think about when you are planning to eat out.
Now, the benefits of RVing during the winter season are almost as numerous as the challenges.
Benefit - Our kids seem to find foster grandparents everywhere
We have thoroughly enjoyed hobnobbing with the snowbirds. The biggest benefit is that our kids seem to find foster grandparents everywhere. While we were in Corpus Christi over Christmas, our kids were fussed over and even given special gifts.
On Christmas Eve we all went to a Christmas Karaoke being held at the RV Park’s Community Hall. All of our kids were asked to come up front and sing along with the microphones. Then they were given roaring applause and hugs from the retirees in attendance. Even our teenager enjoyed the attention and gave some bows, hamming it up as usual.
One of the retired couples told our boys that if they were really good on Christmas Eve, Santa could make it snow sand dollars. It was with wonder-filled eyes that our sons opened the blinds on Christmas morning and found sand dollars hanging all over our tented dining area outside the RV. Those sand dollars are now a cherished Christmas ornament and will probably be a memory that we will re-tell every year throughout our son’s lives.
Our children are always greeting and meeting the four-legged “children” of the snowbirds, which is usually fun for both ends of the generational spectrum! Even on tours and sites, the retirees have been very friendly and effusive in their attention to our kids, making them feel welcome and special.
Benefit - Offseason travel leads to relative lack of crowds
One of the other benefits of visiting sites like the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi or Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico during offseason is the relative lack of crowds. It’s been wonderful to roam around sites like these and be able to learn about them without crowds pushing and jostling each other to get a better view. There are even fewer crowds at activities like the junior ranger programs and swimming at the beach! Most of the park rangers at national parks have given our kids an amazing amount of personal attention, answering all their questions and sharing their knowledge with our kids. In fact, we have tried to make sure that we take our sons to most of these places when other families have their children in school.
Benefit - Escaping cold weather reports
Of course, the biggest benefit of RVing in the south during Snowbird season is that we can sit back and smile as we listen to all the reports of cold weather, snowstorms and icy roads. It’s quite possible that our senior southern travelers have understood this all along. Once again, we find ourselves learning from our elders.
Today, we are featuring another guest blog post in our RVing with Kids series, this time from Margie Lundy of the Lundy 5. Margie and her family just hit the six month milestone. I'm sure that you will be able to relate to her reasons for RVing. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about Christmas RV park events. Interested in writing for the blog? Check out this page with our list of the types of posts we are looking for.
It's hard to believe we've been on the road for six months already! Some days it feels like we've always been nomads, yet other days it feels like we've just left. We're very comfortable with our traveling life and have seen so much of the country. At the same time though, we now realize just how much more there is to see. We're not worried though. We have plenty of time and desire to see more, and the growing understanding that we'll never be able to see it all.
As we started talking about living on the road fulltime, the main question we heard was "Why?" Of course our answer was simply "Why not?" Now that we're on the road, people we meet along the way just ask "How?" As in how can they do it too? Our answer to that is "However you can!" Whether you save for a short time or simplify for a lifetime, we certainly recommend doing whatever it takes to take your family on the road. Our kids (ages 8, 10, and 10) love fulltiming and we're so thankful for this time together.
In terms of quality time, and certainly quantity time, you can't get much closer as a family than living and traveling in a 400 square foot RV. And despite the close quarters, we rarely feel crowded. We chose an RV with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen table that would seat all five of us, so that our home on wheels would really feel like home. And it does! We love our home and the convenience of taking it anywhere we want to go. We have plenty of room and all the comforts of home, wherever we are.
As for education, the kids (and adults!) are learning first hand about this country's geography, geology, history, and culture. Since we are roadschooling, those subjects as well as math, science, reading, and writing are part of life. My husband Allen and I are now fascinated by things I'm sure we heard in school, but forgot because they didn't seem relevant. Our kids now learn about the Oregon Trail while they are walking on it, about volcanoes while they are climbing them, and about bear and bison while taking pictures of them, instead of looking at pictures in a book.
We spend much of our time exploring our beautiful national parks. We highly recommend their Jr. Ranger program as it combines fun and education. The kids earn badges while learning about each park's features, wildlife, activities, history, and preservation. They glean so much information from helpful park rangers, and currently all three want to be rangers when they're old enough. We all enjoy the exhibits, visitor centers, scenic drives, and trails. Camping in the parks is sometimes very convenient and affordable too. For only $80, we purchased an annual pass to all the parks, and after only a few months it had already paid for itself.
Along the way, we've met so many friendly and interesting people at campgrounds, churches, picnics, parks, gas stations, and on the side of the road. A couple is walking across America, with their pig. A man who's played guitar for 60 years gave us an awesome lesson in musical history. A truck driver took the time to explain the proper technique for climbing up, and more importantly down, mountains to save our brakes. Our kids are very outgoing and love to hear these stories, and tell their own of course. They do look for RVs with bunkhouse windows (a sure sign of kids inside), but they're just as happy finding a retiree with a good story, or a willing ear.
Flexibility and simplicity have now replaced schedules and stress in our life. Our plan is to have no plan and so far, that's worked out very well. We're free to leave early if we're bored, hot, cold, there's no cell coverage, it's raining too often, or certainly if we see snow. Or we might stay longer if we really enjoy a park, meet another family on the road, have super fast wifi, or need to finish a work project. With no calendars to fill or schedules to work around, life moves slowly and peacefully. We simply leave when we're ready and arrive when we get there.
We're fortunate to be able to work on the road. With laptops, air cards, routers, smart phones, and wifi available at most campgrounds, we're able to stay connected and work remotely. It can be challenging working at home with three children (as it was before we left). We've learned to work at night, or when the kids are outside playing or inside reading, or while one of us takes the kids on an adventure leaving the other in peace and quiet.
We have a supportive staff and a wonderful community at Digital Scrapbook Place, which is my workplace, but also my online home. Digital scrapbooking is a fun and meaningful hobby, and it's also very convenient for RVers with little storage space (you just need a laptop)! To meet more of that community, we began an official digital scrapbooking tour. As we travel, we hold laptop crops across the country for Scrap the Map. We always have a great time scrapbooking and chatting with old friends and new. It's wonderful to have such a fun and mobile job!
So we live, learn, play, and work together and love every bit of it. None of us can imagine stopping anytime soon. We love our ever-changing back yard and the anticipation of where we'll go next. Looking back, we have only one regret about leaving everything for our fulltime life on the road: We left our dog behind. So after six months and twenty-one states, and much to the kids' delight, we came back and picked up Jack, who is now RVing with us. It's not as convenient and we may have to skip a few trails, but Jack's family. And as our family motto says, Family Sticks Together.
Margie is traveling the USA fulltime in an RV with her husband and three young children. Owning Digital Scrapbook Place, Inc. allows them to work remotely and hold events all over the country. Learn more about the laptop crops as they Scrap the Map. Follow their family adventures, RVing, roadschooling, and more on Lundy5.com.
Continuing our series on RVing with kids, Tonya Prater of Live the Adventure tells us what to look for when choosing a campground for your family.
When it comes to selecting the perfect campground for your family, chances are we won’t be looking for the same amenities even though we both have children. As a mother of teenagers, a campground with a playground and scheduled activities is no longer an option we consider important. Give my kids good cell phone reception and Wi-Fi access so they can brag on Facebook about what a great time they are having roasting marshmallows over the open fire and they’re pretty content.
Setting the age of our children aside, selecting a campground really boils down to preference. Personally, I prefer to stay at campgrounds that offer large sites, clean bathrooms and friendly campers. What I don’t want is to arrive at our site for what we hope is a relaxing weekend and find ourselves right smack in the middle of a major drink fest with obnoxious neighbors loudly proclaiming obscenities and staggering around the camp until they pass out on their picnic table. Unless you are that person, chances are that’s not your idea of fun either.
So, how can you be confident that you are selecting a campground that will be free from such annoyances? If at all possible, talk to someone who has stayed there. What was their experience like? Read a campground review. Call the campground directly and ask them about their facilities and policies.
The first thing I ask is if the campground is family friendly; meaning, are families welcome? It’s a bit uncomfortable to show up ready to camp and realize that the camp caters towards an older clientele or doesn’t discourage a party atmosphere.
Since my children are my most beloved possessions and I watch too many horror flicks, I always ask about security and will choose a campground with 24- hour security over one without.
I also prefer to stay at a campground with a firm lights out policy. Though the majority of campers we’ve encountered are more than courteous, if the campers next to me are blaring their radio at 1 in the morning, I want to know that someone will tell them it’s time to go to sleep. I like campgrounds that are clean and well maintained. They don’t necessarily have to be the newest campgrounds or have the most up to date facilities, but they do need to be well cared for. I’m not a clean freak or anything but, I have been known to take a couple cleansers along with me just in case. God bless the inventor of Clorox disinfecting wipes!
I wouldn’t have thought to ask until we learned the hard way, but I now confirm that campfires are permitted at our site and ask if firewood is available for sale or if we can bring our own. There’s nothing worse than making a run to the grocery store for hot dogs and ingredients for S’mores only to find out that open fires are prohibited. After all, it’s not really camping without a campfire is it?
What type of activities, if any, is offered? Is there a pool, fishing, disc golf, bike or hiking trails nearby or on site? Are pets welcome? Can you make advance reservations or is the campground first come, first served. If so, is there anything going on in the area at the time you plan to visit that would make it hard for you to get a spot? Do you have young children? Are sites available near the restrooms or playground?
By spending just a little bit of extra planning, whether you’ll be staying one night or one month, it is possible to find just the right campground for your family. So before you embark on your next camping adventure why not spend a few minutes talking to a representative from the campground? It could save you a lot of disappointment later.
Tonya Prater and has spent the better part of the last five years traveling with her husband’s job while roadschooling their three teenagers. After living in their RV for the past 18 months they have finally settled down in a stick home once again. Though they now live in a home with no wheels, they dream of traveling once again. You’ll find Tonya blogging about their experiences at www.thetravelingpraters.com.
Today's post in our series about RVing with children comes from Kara Lynn Becker of JoKars Wild. Since she lives in a trailer with her husband and eight children, she knows all about the joys of RVing with children.
My family and I moved into a 29 foot travel trailer with 8 kids last May. Yeah, I know… crazy! But we have loved it. We are now in a stick house for a season, but we long to be on the road again. While it wasn’t always easy, there are so many benefits to RVing with kids! Whether you live full-time, are vacationing, or bringing your grandkids along for the adventure, you, too, can reap the rewards of RVing with children.
Do you have an aloof teen that has long stopped snuggling with you on the couch? Get a good rainy day stuck in the RV, and try watching a movie on a little TV screen. With only a 3 person couch, pretty soon even the “coolest” teen will be snuggled up at your feet.
Do you find that even if you rent a house for a vacation, or even on your weekends, you spend all your time doing housework and not much relaxing? It takes literally minutes to clean an RV from head to toe and even less if you have those little ones help you. Also the kids come in handy for reaching into those nooks and crannies so common in RVs.
Maybe you aren’t feeling as agile as you used to. Try filling up your RV with sleeping children and teens sprawled out on the floor, and then walk from one end to the other to get your morning coffee while not stepping on them. If you want to enjoy the peaceful quiet of the morning, you will quickly become quite adept at anticipating their movements and leaping over their limbs.
Do you feel like you have to spend days upon days planning your wardrobe when staying at hotels? With an RV, it is easy to keep clothes stored in there all the time, so all you need to do is grab a few things and go. And did you know that while camping, it is perfectly acceptable to wear the same jeans two days in a row? Standard camping attire is just jeans/shorts and a tee-shirt. Grab a sweat shirt and your set to go. Don’t sweat it though!
Do you long to run in the ocean waves, roast marshmallows in the fire, or sing silly campfire songs? Without kids you feel a little silly making s’mores or digging giant holes in the sand. Do you want to go on the bumper cars or ride the carousel? Take those kids along. No one will even bat an eye! With kids you can eat the most marshmallows, sing the loudest, or crash into 5-year-olds with bumper cars! And nobody thinks your weird…well, except your own kids.
After living in Ohio for ten years our kids never had the opportunity to see the ocean in real life. They based their impressions of the ocean off of movies and books. My daughter had developed a fear of the ocean since she believed it was teeming with fish waiting to nibble on her toes. With our travels, we were able to take our kids to see the ocean for the first time. What a joyful experience!
We have also given them a greater understanding of the States and geography. They have seen monuments and read plaques. History is coming alive for them! They have also learned to read signs and maps. See what new places you can discover and history you can learn with your kids.
With our crazy lives and schedules, it can leave no time for family time. My eldest daughter said to me one day, “It has been forever since I’ve been really home. I feel like home is just a hotel…eat and then sleep.” RVing with children forces you to spend time together whether they or you like it or not. And after the initial shock of the close quarters, I think you will definitely like it. Take the time to invest in relationships with your kids or grandkids. Really listen to them. Find out what they like and don’t like. Explore your world with kids, and you will soon be rewarded with the joys of RVing with kids!
Kara Lynn Becker aka Mama K is the mother of 8 kids, and the wife to one extraordinary husband, Papa Joe. Her oldest child is 16 and her youngest will soon be a year old. All together they call themselves, JoKars Wild.
Over two years ago, her husband lost his job. This has sent the family on a tail spinning adventure. While losing their home, they had to figure out how to have a home for 10 people that cost little to no money. After much research, they decided to buy a 29 foot travel trailer to live and play in together. Recently someone has blessed them with a free house to live in, but the trailer is still considered home. Kara has taken to writing about the family’s trials and adventures on the family’s blog, JoKars Wild.
Join Mama K as she writes about JoKars Wild while continuing to homeschool four boys and four girls. It’s an adventure based on faith and love, but most of all a commitment of being in relationship with one another.