Posts Tagged traveling with kids
Well we’re back from our big holiday two week trip to San Diego. We are back to our every day routine of work and school and all the other activities of every day life.
The trip was a whirlwind of activity. We had multi-day trips to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and LegoLand. Looking at the photos and video from the trip it is great to remember all the fun we had. We kept the kids busy everyday, all day and they loved every minute of it.
The one thing we learned most about this trip, and car traveling with the children, is that they can handle only about four hours of car travel time. Basically the length of two movies and that is it. After that they’ve got to get out and run around and not get back in the car for the rest of the day. For a five year old and an eight year old I think that is pretty good. In the future I think we will be sticking with the four hour travel rule.
That meant that we broke our trip up going down and coming home. Staying both times in Bakersfield along the way. It made the drive less of a grind and we visited friends both stays in B-town.
As for making this trip as economical as possible, I give us a C+ grade. Of our two week trip, we stayed one week at a San Diego county regional park called Sweetwater Regional Park. That saved us about $30 per day. Other than that we probably spent too much on everything from treats to food to souvenirs , but man it was hard not to. We are not sure if we are coming back next Christmas, so we indulged.
It was really great that there were other families staying at the park too. We hosted an impromptu breakfast the day after Christmas. The kids loved it.
The San Diego Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo were spectacular and I think Claire and I enjoyed them the most. The amount and variety of animals at both places is amazing.
The below video is of me feeding Lorikeet birds at the zoo. That was a lot of fun and really cool.
Sea World was ok. About like last year, except they had an ice skating rink the kids really loved. Watch the below video of Ben falling on his butt and then skating over to his mom and sister as she throws a snow ball at him.
We spent new year’s eve at LegoLand. They had a fun new year’s eve party complete with fireworks. We counted down to the new year at 6pm. We were back at our trailer and in bed by 9pm.
My little, or should I say big, Doh (and this is a Homer Simpson, Doh) is that I left my laptop in the car at Sea World and it got stolen. Luckily that is all they got (and it was a five year old laptop, so there thief who ever you are). Lesson learned: don’t leave valuables in a parked car.
Tomorrow we take-off for the longest (by distance and time) of our family RV trips this year. We are going to San Diego for two weeks. My wife is off work and the kids are off school, so we are going for it. I will have to do a little work during the trip, but when you work for yourself your time is never really your own.
photo credit: kwalk628
We are going to try to be as economical as possible. Our trips to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo and Animal Park are already paid for because we bought a year membership to both last year (yes we did this same trip last year).
But unlike last year we are trying to stay at county parks and other more economical places. Last year we stayed a really special RV park, Campland on the Bay. It was a little expensive (but very cool), so this year we are going to be staying at three different campgrounds and they are all under $35 per night.
photo credit: PedroCancion
We only considered doing this again this year if we could keep expenses way down. So we won’t be eating out much and we are really going to watch everything we buy. Needless to say our biggest expense will be gas. And the next biggest expense of course will be food. I will be using every trick I know to keep our fuel use to a minimum and most meals will be at the RV. Also the trip will be one of the kids Christmas presents, as we keep telling them.
I think it will be fun to see how cheap we can be. So I will be tweeting along our trip (twitter username: FamilyRVFun).
Follow our exploits in family fun and economy. I will let you know the nitty-gritty on what we spend on and how much. And also I’ll try to pass along anything we learn on economical RV travel.
Well we just got back from Wrights Lake and boy did we have a good time.
If you don’t know where it is, Wrights Lake is located 30 minutes South of Lake Tahoe in the Eldorado National Forrest. The lake looks up at the majestic rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Desolation Wilderness.
We left early Monday morning from our home in San Jose and were up at the lake by 2pm.
When we saw the Wrights Lake campground sign and then caught a glimpse of the lake, we were beside ourselves to find our camp site and get out on the lake.
This is the place where we caught the RV bug last summer when we tent camped here. We thought, wow this is great but sleeping in a tent and cooking over the campfire is just ok. So one month later we bought our Thor Cal travel trailer and yes the rest is history and being chronicled in this blog.
So we spent a full week at Wrights Lake this year, six nights and seven very full days coming home late Sunday evening. We filled our days canoeing on the lake, playing on the beach and trying our luck at fishing up the filler stream for the lake (no we didn’t catch any fish, but we saw a lot of them). Wrights Lake is a totally non-power boat lake. You can only have canoes, kayaks and sail boats on the lake. So this means the type of people who come to the lake are the more “environmental” types and also the campground is quieter in the evening. If you have a power boat I recommend you go to Icehouse reservoir which is on the road to Wrights Lake (about 10 miles below the lake).
We also met a lot of friendly people. And many of them with children the same age as our kids. Our last night we were invited to dinner with a family who were having a sort of family reunion. The grandfather has been going to Wrights Lake since the 1940s!
Camping Recommendations for Wrights Lake
If you are passing through Placerville on your way to the lake (and your a Safeway shopper), I highly recommend you stop at the Palcerville Safeway (at the Missouri Flats off-ramp). Buy your food there and then fill-up at the Safeway gas station. You can save up to 60 cents a gallon.
Check-in at the campground isn’t until 2pm, so plan a late afternoon arrival.
There are two campgrounds. The one closest to the lake is for tent campers only (sites 1-19). The campground for sites 20 -68 inlcude spaces for RV camping (though no power or water hookup. It’s dry camping only).
One note about water: It isn’t allowed to hook a hose up to the facet to fill your water tank. So bring a large water bucket to fill you tank (I bought a six gallon jug for future trips).
The best spaces for RVs are on the side of the campground of sites 38 – 68 . The campground road is wider and easier to maneuver.
The picture on the right is of a tree on the side of the campground with the narrow road. As you can see many an RV has made its mark.
So we had a great time and will be back next year. And next year we plan to do some hiking up in the hills above the lake. There are many small alpine lakes nestled up among the granite cliffs.
- CALL 1-877-444-6777, four days to six months in
advance of your first night’s stay.
- WEBSITE: www.Recreation.gov
The campground is generally open between late June and mid-October. These dates are affected by snow conditions. The campground is at about 7,000’ elevation.
Location: 23 miles east of Placerville on Highway 50, 11 miles north on Ice House Road (Forest Road 3), 9 miles east on Forest Road 32 (Wrights Lake Tie Road), and 2 miles north on Forest Road 4 (Wrights Lake Rd).
My family and I spend the long weekend (from 6/19- 21/09) at Calavaeras Big Trees Stat Park. It is located 10 minutes above Arnold, CA in the Southern Sierra Nevada. Below is the account of our stay and some tips on how to make your stay there more enjoyable.
Getting to the Campground – No Wide Turns
Upon driving into the park, we were so stunned by the beauty of the forrest that we missed our turn for the campsite and we ended up on a dead-end road, which once had been the RV dump station area (now not in service). However, that was blocked off by some very heavy logs, yes, we did try to move them but couldn’t, because making a U-turn was impossible.
As we worked on trying to turn our travel trailer around in the dead-end road, we attracted the attention of a state park ranger who came to assist us in backing out of our mess (which was about 5 car lengths out with cars parked on either side). It was a real nail biter and we were tired of driving so it just added to the frustration of being at the camp and not yet at the campsite. We made it though and the Ranger followed us in and helped us back into our wide and expansive site. He was great! Thank you Barry!
About the Sites
The sites at Big Trees are expansive and that is a plus, however, many are close to Highway 4 so they suffer from highway traffic noise (not what you want to hear at a high sierra camp site). We have done a bit of legwork and we’ll recommend the sites we think you should look for when you go.
What we didn’t expect was a spigot that wasn’t set up to accept a regular water hose. So while there is water…you have to find a way to actually get it into the RV. We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy fix. On the second day we did buy an extra water hose and we cut off one end in order to make it larger to fit over the spigot. That helped us out but we weren’t able to really cut off all the water from spraying out all over. We will keep this modified hose and a few clasps within our trailer in case this happens again.
We didn’t have electricity and were a little concerned if we could make the two days on the battery power we have with the trailer. We also did not have a sewer hook up at the site and had to conserve water and how we used our bathroom. We decided it was only for those nighttime, and early morning nature calls and that by no means would we ever be doing number 2 there. We used the nice bathrooms that were there at the campgrounds. We did great! We washed our dishes outside with a collapsible plastic side-by-side sinks and used our outdoor shower to clean up under so that our water usage did wash way into the ground…versus into our tank. We left with only 1/3 full tanks and drove all the way to where we store the trailer where we can use their dump station.
All the Fun
Big Trees State Park has a wonderful camper activity program. On Friday night we took in a sing along at the campfire area. It was quite good. The two who were leading the sing along seemed to be regulars and had strong voices. They did a lot to involve the children in the audience and had a round of jokes, which both our little hams (Ben 7 and Sam 4) had to participate in twice! Though we still can’t quite figure out their jokes, they both thought they were hilarious! The evening finished off with marshmallows over the campfire! We made smore’s as we always have to do at least once on our trips!
On Saturday morning the kids took in the Jr. Ranger programs and they were great! Ben got to explore and find bones of little creatures that were eaten by owls and Sam learned all about butterflies and made a butterfly kite. In the afternoon we took out our new Rockport Old Town Canoe and had fun on a small man made like called White Pine Lake, which is just a few miles from the park. This was fun and we enjoyed breaking in the canoe and finding a nice beach to picnic on. On our way back we went ahead and drove up to the Stanislaus River and sat along the riverbank where the kids could throw in rocks and just enjoy the sound of the rushing water.
Though not all of us got to go on hikes, I did manage to get in a walk and was amazed by the Big Trees for which this park is named. The trees are over 2000 years old and massive giants. It was very peaceful and tranquil and would be an enjoyable 1-mile hike for any family.
On our trip the campsites were full of families enjoying the first few weeks off of school. Our neighbors all had kids and that is where our kids chose to spend their time, playing with the other kids and that really what camping is all about for the kids… meeting new friends who are enjoying the great outdoors as well.
When we go to Big Trees again….
We’ll be sure to turn into the campgrounds….very important.
We’ll also try to go to one of the campsites 4-12 (See North Grove Campground map below). They are far enough away from the traffic noise, but close to activity areas. If you want to get really away from it, you can stay at the Oak Hollow Campground in the park. It is a few miles into the park through a narrow paved road. Though if you have a large RV (28’ plus) I wouldn’t recommend it.
We’ll seek out more hiking, be sure to take in the Campfire singing on Friday nights, go canoeing, maybe at another lake (Alpine and Spicer Lakes are close by). Be prepared with the modified hose contraption. We know our battery power can handle a 2-day trip, we only used 1/3 of our battery power. All in all….we’ll be ready to have a nice, relaxing time at Big Trees again!
You are itching to go and your RV is gassed-up and ready to roll. You’ve reserved and you’re excited to experience the new campground you read so much about in the travel directory. Your ready for the open road.
This is all fine and good but – what about the kids. You know they aren’t going to be angels for the multi-plus hours drive to your RV adventure. So what do you do to keep the kids occupied while you tool down the road?
Below are my ideas on how to reduce the stress and tension when traveling in your RV with the kids.
First some basic travel planning will go a very long way in making the drive time much less stressful:
1. Learn about your travel route as much as possible. Look through the route in a road atlas if you have one. If you have a GPS, program it with the correct address (Confirm the address online or by calling the destination. You don’t want the GPS to sending you to the wrong place. Believe me it happens.)
2. Plug-in your trip destination in Google Maps or another online mapping service. Print it out and have it with you. It is useful as a last resort.
3. Buy the book “the next exit.” It provides exit services info for every exit on the major US Interstates.
So now let’s look at keeping the kids occupied:
1. First the obvious. Have an on-board DVD player for the kids to watch movies. Many vehicles have them built-in these days but if you don’t have one, buy a portable DVD player with a cigarette lighter adaptor. And have a variety of movies on hand so each kid has his/her favorite available.
2. If you are open to it have video games available for the kids to enjoy. This can include LeapFrog system games so they are educational as well. But if you have “tweeners” Nintendo DS or Sony PSP will be your options.
3. Plan craft projects for the kids to do on the road. This can be done safely by having a small portable table for each kid (there are a number of them available. Do a Google search for “kids travel table.”).
4. Reading to your kids isn’t only for bed time. Maybe on a long drive the non-driving adult can read a few stories.
5. Lead road games with the kids. “I spy” is a favorite one of ours. Another one is “who can spot the most out of state license plates.”
6. Potty breaks are an important part of travel. Beside pee breaks kids need to get up and move around during long trips. We usually try to stop every two-to-four hours for a potty and stretch break.
This is a great video that demonstrates how special family RV camping is.
KCRA a Sacramento TV station interviews RV blogger Brad Herzog about his (and his wife and two boys’) summer adventures RVing throughout the United Sates. Watching this video I had a few pangs of jealousy as he talked about their travels throughout the US.
One great idea they talked about was having the kids put together a travel calendar. The kids wrote down where they would be on what dates and what they planned to see, complete with pictures and notes.
We haven’t had a changes to do any multi-location trip longer that one week. But possibly in 2010 when Claire (my wife) has a sabbatical scheduled.