Camping Illinois: Best Bets and Sights

August 16, 2016

TherCamp illinoise’s no time like summer to get out and see the country, and camping Illinois is one of the best ways to enjoy both rural wilderness and the vast expanse of the prairies, all in one trip. Campers tend to travel an average of 186.7 miles for their trips, and Illinois has more than 57,900 square miles of land to choose from the next time you feel like exploring.

For family vacations or romantic getaways, there are plenty of places to see and stay in Illinois. Here are a few of our best bets and recommendations for a great trip or vacation.

  • Abraham Lincoln’s Home in Springfield: This national historic site is where our country’s 16th president lived from 1844 to 1861 before moving to the Oval Office. Learn about his legacy and lifestyle as well as some history of the area in this well-preserved 19th century neighborhood.
  • Millennium Park in Chicago: The windy city may be the third most populous area in the country, but it’s only an hour’s drive from our Milbrook Camp-Resort.  While 82% of campers like to spend one or two nights outside, many enjoy taking in the hustle and bustle of the city — if only to remind them of the peace and quiet that comes from camping.
  • Route 66 Scenic Byway: Get your kicks on this famous stretch of road that runs diagonally across the state en route from Chicago to St. Louis. Along the way, you can find some of our campgrounds for cabin camping in Illinois.
  • Shawnee National Forest: No camping Illinois trip would be complete without a visit to this national gem, located in the southern part of the state in the Ozark and Shawnee hills. This park boasts everything from lake beaches to rolling hills and rugged bluffs. Truly a must-see for all nature lovers.

It might be impossible to see all there is to see while camping Illinois in just one visit. But that’s the beauty of this state: Once you’ve visited, you’ll want to come back for more, year after year. The diversity of lands and experiences that Illinois has to offer makes it one of the best spots for camping and adventure, anytime of year.

Country Camping Meets Resort Amenities: Welcome to the Lazy River Jellystone!

August 11, 2016

I was huddled behind an old broken down bus with my sons Max and Theo, along with our new friends and campsite neighbors John and his son Austin.  It was almost dark. We were locked in an intense laser tag battle. The other team had us surrounded. It was time to make a move or lose. I was sweating and exhausted. I was also having an insane amount of fun.  Maybe the most fun I’ve ever had at a campground—and I’ve been to a few.  John made a strong run across the field and we all followed him screaming at the top of our lungs. We repositioned ourselves, finished strong, and won! As we drove our golf cart back to our site Max and Theo couldn’t stop talking about the game and how they couldn’t wait to play again.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect day of camping.

 

Our first impression of the Lazy River Jellystone Park in the Hudson River Valley of New York was of a peaceful country campground with pretty riverside sites and views of the mountains. But that is only half the story. This Yogi Bear campground also has an action packed activity schedule and world-class amenities.  Laser tag may have been the highlight for our crew, but the waterpark, Ga Ga Ball Courts, hayrides with Cindi and Yogi, miniature golf, jumping pillow, and organized arts and crafts were all awesome.  So if your family is looking for a campground that combines natural beauty with resort-like amenities, then this is a pretty tremendous option.

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We spent most of our daylight hours bouncing back and forth between the SplashPad and the heated pool.  These amenities were theme-park quality and our boys couldn’t get enough of the waterslides.  Mom and dad enjoyed ordering delicious sandwiches and wraps (and even a cold beer!) at the Tiki Bar while chatting with other parents around the pool.

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We were also impressed with how friendly and professional the entire staff was—they really helped make our stay terrific.  The general vibe at this campground is totally relaxed and totally friendly from the maintenance staff to the pool attendants to the front desk. Whoever is doing the training here deserves a high five and a big bear hug from Yogi.

 

You could spend your entire vacation at this campground and never come close to getting bored, but we recommend that you check out the surrounding area. It’s beautiful and rich in history.  Lake Minnewaska is pristine and perfect for hiking and swimming. More adventurous spirits might venture to the Shawangunk Mountains, aka “the gunks,” for mountain climbing.  The nearby town of New Paltz is cozy and charming and filled with great options for food, culture and craft roasted coffee at places like the Mudd Puddle café.

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Our favorite day trip was to Hyde Park, a National Historic Site and the former home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Our morning tour with the highly theatrical and knowledgeable “Ranger Dimitri” was fun, informative, and compelling.  We are fascinated with presidential history and this hit a sweet spot for all members of our family. The boys completed a Junior Ranger activity book and earned their badges and mom and dad dropped a few bucks in the gift shop for books and magnets.  This is a must-do day trip if you are camping at Lazy River and is only a forty minute drive through pretty countryside and across the Hudson River.

 

At the end of our stay at the Lazy River Jellystone our boys DID NOT want to leave.  We said good-bye to our new friends and took down phone numbers and email addresses.  We have heard that this campground does awesome thematic weekends in the fall and we promised to meet up again in September or October. Halloween Zombies Weekend anyone?  Sound too scary?  We would be just as happy to meet up at Celtic Weekend. Who doesn’t love a pipe band marching across the campground on a crisp fall day? We will see you there!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

8 Great Instagram Accounts Every RV Owner Should Follow!

August 4, 2016

Have you joined in on the Instagram craze yet? We think it’s the perfect social media hub for the RV enthusiast. Even if you can’t RV 24/7, looking at campers in pretty locations is almost as good.

 

Signing up for Instagram is easy, but finding great accounts to follow can be tricky. Here are our favorite Instagram accounts for folks that love RVing.

Go RVing (@gorving)

When it comes to great pictures of RVs in magnificent locations from coastal Maine to Southern California, GO RVing’s Instagram account is the mother ship.  Their gallery provides daily inspiration for your next great road trip.

 

Go Parks (@goparks)

For stunning photographs that celebrate the beauty and historical significance of our National Parks, National Seashores, and National Historic sites there is no better gallery.  From sunrises glowing through Mesa Arch in Utah to black and white photos of John Muir in Yosemite, this account will help you find your park!

 

Vintage Camper Trailers (@vintagecampertrailers)

Can’t get enough of fun photos of vintage trailers from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s?  Then this gallery is for you! Vintage Camper Trailers features teardrops and canned hams and every historical oddity in-between! The classic cars that are often matched as tow vehicles are just the icing on the cake!

 

Hip Camp (@hipcamp)

Those of you who like to wander off the beaten track and park your rigs in more adventurous places like “farms, vineyards, and nature preserves” will find much information and inspiration in Hip Camp’s gallery.

 

Monica Bennett (@j5mm_blog) We love Monica Bennett’s RV-centric photography of the Pacific Northwest so much that we asked her to provide the cover image for our book, The Idiot’s Guide to RV Vacations.   Monica’s photos are filled with romance, wanderlust, and perhaps most importantly, the delicious local foods that she cooks while camping.

 

Mandy Lea (@mandyleaphoto)

 We started following Mandy Lea after hearing a great interview with her on the Girl Camper podcast in iTunes.  She describes herself as a “Full time teardropper, full time photographer, and full time adventurer” and her gallery has the dazzling photos to prove it.  Her feed is jam packed with waterfalls, mountains, and deserts. Take us there!

 

Jonathan Irish (@jonathan_irish)

This National Geographic contributor has a dream—traveling to, and photographing, all 59 U.S. National Parks during the 2016 centennial.  His pictures, like the parks themselves, are magnificent and breathtaking. We hope a coffee table book is in the works.

 

Peter Holcombe (@peterholcombe)

 Peter Holcombe is a professional photographer and kayaker who travels full time with his family in a Class B RV.  For beautiful photos of mountains and rivers with an emphasis on kayaking there is no better account.  His wife and daughter also crush rapids on the kayak and they are featured in many of the photographs!

 

As RV enthusiasts, Instagram is our favorite social media platform since we can enjoy beautiful images of camping even when we can’t be out in the RV. Follow these eight great Instagram accounts for your daily dose of RV therapy!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

3 Simple Recipes for Your Next Family Camping Trip

August 1, 2016

When it comes to family vacations, there are so many fun activities to choose from. For Americans, however, camping is at the top of the list.

In 2010, approximately 40 million people took a camping trip, for a total of 515 million outings. Fast forward to 2014 – the American Camper Report revealed that 40.1 million Americans, or 14% of the U.S. population over the age of six, camped in 2013. As many as 99% of those surveyed in the report said that they were “likely” or “very likely” to camp again during the next year.

So, yes, some families prefer lounging on the beach or riding roller coasters at an amusement park, but the experience of tent and cabin camping is alive and well in the 21st century.

One aspect of camping is that some campers may struggle with cooking. Most of our cabins have all of the essentials you need for helping you make a fun meal, but if you are tent camping, then we have some easy camping recipes and delicious suggestions to help you enjoy the most of your family camping time!

Three Simple Meals for Campers

    1. Foil Packet Breakfast: Foil packets are great for cooking on a camping trip. All you have to do is toss it on the grill or over the campfire. For this meal, add your choice of breakfast goodies. For example, we recommend sausage, eggs, potatoes, and onions. You’ll need to par-cook the potatoes a little bit — or throw in the leftover veggies from last night’s grilling adventure.
    2. Hobo Dinner: Like the previous meal, all you need to do is throw some ingredients in a foil packet. Your hobo dinner can consist of beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Fish filets are another great candidate for this low-maintenance meal, since the foil will keep it from drying out or falling apart — two problems that tend to occur when you’re grilling fish.
    3. Orange Peel Blueberry Muffins: This one is super creative. Pour your muffin ingredients inside a hollowed out orange peel to keep them moist, and add extra flavor, while they cook over the fire.

Those were just a few to get you started as there are so many more creative ways to craft delicious meals with minimal tools and ingredients.

Living the Good Life at Jellystone Quarryville!

August 1, 2016

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Quarryville, Pennsylvania is one of the most impressive resort-style campgrounds in the Northeast.  If your family is looking for a camping experience with off-the-hook amenities and non-stop activities then this is the place.  We pulled in on a Friday afternoon and didn’t leave the campground until checkout on Monday morning. Our three-day weekend was like a journey into a magical and adventurous kingdom made for families.

 

The first thing that impressed us was the size and quality of our site on Boo Boo Circle. It was much larger than the sites that you typically see at a private resort campground.  The RVs on either side were not directly lined up with ours so we weren’t looking at sewer hookups while sitting around our campfire.  This is a fatal flaw at so many private campgrounds—but not here.

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During our stay we walked around and saw that the vast majority of sites were just as nice as ours.  We also noticed a lot of “buddy site” options.  These allow you to camp with friends and have your awnings facing each other so you can create a large, private space in the middle.  Many of these “buddy sites” were also located next to cabins—making this campground a near perfect place for a vacation with friends and family in small or large groups.

 

We met up with friends at Jellystone Quarryville, and all of our kids had non-stop fun. Our three-year-old son loved that there was a flat, mellow “jump pad” next to the more adventurous “bounce pillow.”  This allowed him to jump with kids his own age instead of the older kids that gravitated towards the pillow.  All of the campground amenities had a similar feel—something for the little kids and something for the older kids.  There were teenagers playing a competitive basketball game right around the corner from toddlers having a blast at the large, modern playground.   There were also “Hey” rides at 4pm and 9pm—so you could choose based on your kids’ bedtime schedule. Our boys range from 3-7 years old and Jellystone Quarryville was perfect for them. But we could also bring them back as teenagers and have just as much fun.

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The resort style amenities and optional add-ons also make this Jellystone a particularly luxurious campground if you want to splurge and treat your family. We decided to rent a golf cart, and we all loved driving around the campground from one activity to the next.  The cart also made it easier to get the whole crew from our campsite to the pool.  Jellystone Quarryville takes things way over the top, actually renting out hot tubs and delivering them to your site. We were tempted to rent one for a day, because our boys would have totally flipped out, but they were sold out for the weekend. Hopefully next time!

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The weather was warm during our stay and we spent hours and hours at the pool each day, so we opted to rent a private poolside cabana and share it with friends on Saturday. This allowed all of us to take relaxing, shaded breaks between trips to the pool, hot tubs, and water slides, which were all super fun and world class. We also bought a surprisingly tasty lunch from Yogi’s “Pic-A-Nic Basket.”  I ordered a turkey club, mom got a wrap, and the boys all got cheeseburgers.  We also bought delicious homemade Amish bake goods one morning.  The quality of the amenities and food really made us feel like we were staying at a luxurious resort hotel—but we weren’t!  Our comfortable and cozy RV was right around the corner.

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On our last morning at the campground I took a golf cart drive around the campground with my friend Bill.  We wrote down the numbers of some of our favorite sites for a return trip. Dutch Country is beautiful in the fall and this Yogi is open for business.   Hopefully they rent those hot tubs in October. If so we’ll treat our crew to another special weekend that they will remember forever!

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Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

How to Choose the Right Tent for Your Camping Vacation

June 24, 2016

So, you want to go camping. It is a wonderful idea really — camping is an affordable, easy, and extremely enjoyable way to enjoy the great outdoors, your time off, and your family and friends. Indeed, in 2010 alone, approximately 40 million people went camping for a total of 515 million outings.

Once you’ve made your decision to go camping, it’s time to figure out exactly what that means. For some, it means roughing it along the trails, and for others, it means staying at a camp resort with many modern amenities. Most camping — about 70% — is done in public campgrounds, but there is still a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing where and how you will camp. If you forgo cabin camping and instead opt for tent camping, keep these things in mind when looking for your new tent and tent sites for camping!

Sleeping Capacity

How many people are you camping with and what will your sleeping arrangements be? If you have small children, it might be best to get a large tent that can sleep the whole family, whereas with older kids, it might be nice to have a kid tent and an adult tent. Make sure to use this as your guiding standard when looking at the many tent options out there.

Seasonality

Early spring or early fall camping trips are different than camping trips in the middle of the summer. Make sure to note what seasons your tent was designed for, and purchase accordingly. Regardless of when you go camping, it is a good idea to bring sleeping pads or easily inflated air mattress so that you don’t get too much contact with the ground — it can be chilly at night all year long.

Doors

You’ll want a tent with well-designed entrances and exits, especially if you end up doing a lot of going in and out. Make sure that there at least two, so no one has to do complicated maneuvers to get out to go to the bathroom at night.

More than one in 10 adult participants (12%) first went camping with their immediate family. Take the opportunity to teach your children to love the great outdoors and tent camping.

8 Great Gifts for the RV Dad

June 3, 2016

It’s almost Father’s Day, and the last thing your dad needs is another tie. But what to get for the guy who has everything? We have compiled a list of great gear for the RV dad or granddad in your life. Read on to find that gadget that Pop can’t live without…

 

  1. Truma LevelCheck, $69.99. Want to save dad the hassle of lifting and shaking the propane tank to guess how much gas is left? A quick swipe with the Truma LevelCheck will show exactly how much propane is still in the tank.

 

  1. TastePure 25’ Heated Drinking Water Hose, $67.50. Give your dad the gift of an extended camping season with this heated hose. Even if the temperatures dip below freezing, the water will still keep flowing into the RV.

 

  1. RV Lock 4.0, $239.99. Let’s face it…the standard RV door lock doesn’t provide the security we all want for our precious cargo. This RV lock fits all standard travel trailer and 5th wheel doors, plus comes with keyless entry and remote fob.

 

  1. Weber Q1000 Grill, $169.00. This is an RV dream grill since it’s small enough to fit in the storage bin, and big enough to cook steaks for the whole family.

 

  1. Bristle Free Grill Brush, $16.95. You may think your dad has all the grill accessories he needs. But if he’s still using a bristle brush, it’s time for an upgrade. A bristle free brush will guarantee the only thing added to that burger is awesome flavor.

 

  1. Anderson Camper Levelers, $39.99. Do you hear your dad huffing and puffing as he piles up the wood in an attempt to level the RV? That means it’s time for levelers, which magically take the stress out of this frustrating task.

 

  1. Igloo Freestanding Ice Machine, $139.00. No one said that dad has to rough it when traveling in the RV. There’s nothing like a cold drink after setting up camp, and this ice machine will help him chill out and relax.

 

  1. Camelback Forge 16 oz. Travel Mug, $29.99. This is a serious travel mug for a serious coffee drinker. It will keep your beverage hot for hours, whether you are taking a morning hike, or swinging the hours away in a hammock.

 

  1. Estwing 4 lb Special Edition Fireside Friend Wood Splitting Axe, $50.00. The campfire just got a bit more authentic with this beautifully crafted axe, perfectly for splitting up big logs and getting that flame roaring.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful camping dads out there. We hope you are lucky enough to unwrap a new RV gadget this month!

5 Easy Ways to Personalize Your RV

May 20, 2016

Many new RVs are decorated in a neutral color palette, making it simple to add your own personal style highlights. But where do you start? We recommend some easy and affordable additions that will make your RV truly feel like a home away from home.

  1. Pick a single pop or highlight color and then use it throughout the RV. Choose a color that you love and one that blends with the textiles already in the RV. Maybe blues help you feel relaxed and peaceful. Or perhaps reds bring you excitement and energy. Whatever highlight color you decide on, use it in every room to make the space feel roomier and unified.
  2. Splurge on bedding. A good night’s sleep is so important when traveling in your RV, so don’t overlook the bedroom. A mattress topper, quality sheets, and a fluffy comforter will make sure you get your beauty rest, even when you are on the road.
  3. Add some pillows and throw blankets. Using your chosen highlight color, find some patterned throw pillows for the couch and dinette. A couple of cozy throw blankets will also go a long way to making your RV feel like your own personal happy place.
  4. Put up some custom wall hangings. You do not have to put any holes in your RV walls to display treasured family photos or collected prints. Adhesive squares and sticky Velcro will hold up great if attached properly. Some RVers create a feature wall by framing and hanging postcards from their travels.
  5. Only introduce items you love. A new RV is clutter free, and keeping it that way will ensure that you enjoy all the time you spend in your home on wheels. Choose every item that you add with care, and at the end of every trip, remove items you didn’t use.

Your RV is your home away from home, and you can to feel as comfortable and relaxed while traveling as you do in your sticks and bricks. These five tips will help you personalize your RV in a simple and affordable way so you can focus on the fun part…the amazing adventures ahead.

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

Planning a Family Vacation in the Empire State? Experience the Endless Excitement of Cabin Camping in NY

May 5, 2016

Many people think about tall skyscrapers and busy streets when they imagine New York, but the truth is that there’s a lot more to this eclectic state than just The Big Apple. New York is actually one of the most popular camping destinations in the country, and thousands of families trek to The Empire State every year for an annual camping trip.

Cabin camping in NY is so unique because it blends the excitement of NYC with the pure serenity of the great outdoors. Families travel an average distance of 186.7 miles for camping trips, and most of these families come to NY from states like Florida and Georgia. The scenery of cabin camping in NY is truly incomparable, but there are tons of exciting opportunities and amenities for your family to enjoy as well.

There are few vacation destinations that can combine fast-paced excitement with relaxation, but NY is certainly one. Here are just a few of the many reasons why so many families have made cabin camping in NY an annual tradition:

 

    • Award-winning campgrounds. Of all the family cabin camping parks in the U.S., NY campgrounds are among the most celebrated in the camping community. In fact, the Woodridge-Ellenville location in the Catskill Mountains was honored as the Jellystone Park of the Year in 2008. About 80% of campers like to participate in multiple outdoor activities, which is part of the reason why families flock to NY. This campground offers a fun-filled Water Zone for the kids, and it’s just a stone’s throw away from attractions like the Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway.

 

    • Ideal location. Campers spend an average of 14.9 days on cabin camping trips, but your family may want to prolong its stay after learning about all of the campgrounds in the greater NY area. There are four incredible campgrounds within 100 miles of each other in NY and its surrounding areas, and they each offer something unique. For example, Yogi Bear at Tall Pines Resort is technically located in NJ, but it’s just 30 miles away from the award-winning Woodridge-Ellenville campground. This campground is located near the famous Cape May, where your family can watch majestic whales swim in the ocean.

 

    • Start a new family tradition. Above all else, you should be looking to create a new family tradition every time you take a vacation. Cabin camping in NY is one of the best ways to bring the family back together without smartphones or laptops. Before you know it, your kids will be teaching your grandchildren about the best places to hike while camping in NY.

 

If you’re looking for the perfect place to take your family on your next vacation, look no further than cabin camping in NY. It’s exciting, relaxing, and so fun that you’ll never want to leave.

What to Expect When Cabin Camping

April 28, 2016

NewJerseyCabinsTo most, cabin camping sounds more luxurious and relaxing than tent camping, but the truth is that the two are very similar. In fact, it might even help you to think about cabin camping as roughing it in a hard-shelled tent. Cabin camping is a great introduction to camping for beginners, and for more seasoned adventurers, it can be a welcome change of pace. You get all the benefits of a traditional camping experience, but without the trouble of setting up and taking down a tent, or worrying much about the weather.

No matter, it is still important to come prepared in mind and body. Here’s what you should expect from your cabin camping experience:

Campgrounds with cabins can have accommodations that range in size and quality from basic, four-walled structures with cots and bunks, to deluxe accommodations including kitchen appliances and air conditions. Some cabin sites, like tent sites, will come with a picnic table and a fire pit. These two ingredients are often all you need to have a great time at the campsite in between outdoor adventures — 87% of campers participated in multiple outdoor activities during their stay, which is why it’s a great idea to have a comfy campsite ready to go.

Bedding will be just as important in the cabin as without for all family vacations — it can get chilly at night, even in the summer! Make sure you know what the accommodations are in the cabin — you may need to bring sleeping bags and pillows and some extra blankets.

One thing you now have room for in your cabin, as opposed to the old tent, is full sized towels! They will be a luxury after a day on the lake, or after a big rain.

Speaking of rain — now that you have a dry area to enjoy for those rainy days, come prepared with games for a family vacation like cards and board games to occupy the time until the sun shines again. Of course, all the standard camping amenities should not be forsaken — coolers, warm clothes, fire starting gear, cooking and cleaning gear, and food are a given! Jellystone Parks have great planned activities in all types of weather, so bring different types of layered clothing.

Camping is well loved. In 2010 alone, approximately 40 million people went camping for a total of 515 million outings, and American families, in particular, spent 534.9 million days camping altogether in 2011, but make sure you come prepared for your vacation cabins and enjoy!

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