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Are you dreaming about purchasing your first RV? Or upgrading to a new one? Or just looking for a something fun to do on a cold winter day?  For about the price of admission to a movie, you can buy a ticket for a full day of seminars, kid-friendly entertainment, and window-shopping at your local RV show.  We recently attended the Atlantic City show and had a blast browsing through family-friendly floorplans and dreaming about the day when we will be flying without the kids in a smaller, sleeker unit.

So after inspecting the best that the industry has to offer here are five great picks for a wide range of travelers–from a sporty Class B for adventurous couples to a cozy fifth wheel with privacy for mom and dad and plenty of room for the kids.

The Winnebago Travato (Class B Gas)

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The first rig that really grabbed our attention was the brand new Winnebago Travato.  Its bold red exterior color and sporty looking bike and kayak racks made us want to hop in and head out for an adventure.  We were not the only ones to feel this way–dozens of shoppers were struck by the same sense of wanderlust.  But we have three little boys, and this Winnebago was clearly not designed with our family in mind.  Could we see ourselves touring the country in a unit like this after the boys head off to college? Possibly. But only if Winnebago found a way to make the bed bigger.  It was just a bit too cozy for us!

The Itasca Reyo 25P (Class A Diesel)

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The Itasca Reyo 25P had both of us dreaming about early retirement and leisurely cross-country road trips without the kids (sorry boys!).  At under 26 feet, the compact size of the Reyo would make it possible to travel without towing a car–and we find that mobility very appealing.  The style and comfort of the Reyo’s interior took our breath away and the size of the bathroom felt incredibly spacious for such a small rig.  Could we see ourselves in a sweet Itasca like this someday? You betchya!

The Itasca Tribute 26A (Class A Gas)

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Is the retro- inspired Itasca Tribute 26A designed for a young family or for an adventurous couple?  Well, with its flexible sleeping options, its actually designed for just about anyone.  We loved the retractable StudioLoft beds (one above the queen and one above the cockpit) that can be stored along the ceiling at the push of the button–perfect for using every night for the kids–or just dropping it down occasionally for the grandkids.  For a rig without a slide we found the 26A to be surprisingly spacious and comfortable–and we loved, loved, loved the retro styling.

The Airstream 30FB Flying Cloud Bunk Model

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We have both always loved the timeless look and quality build of an Airstream.  But we never think we’ll own one.  Why?  Because they never seem spacious enough for our family of five.  But the 30FB Flying Cloud Bunk Model does boast a family-friendly floor plan.  One of the boys would have to convert the dinette into a bed every night–and the top bunk was very tiny.  But if your family values form over function and the Airstream makes your heart skip a beat–then this bunk model may be for you.

The Jayco Eagle 29.5BHDS (Fifth Wheel)

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Do you dream of the luxury and comfort of a fifth wheel?  Do you want some privacy from the kids and cozy bunks to boot?  Then the Jayco Eagle 29.5BHDS may be the right fit for you.  This rig is half ton towable and has space and storage for the whole family and the dog.  The double over double bunks could easily fit four if they had to–and the master bedroom will make mom and dad feel like they have their own private retreat.  If your tow vehicle has the power why not move into a fifth wheel?  They are often called the Cadillacs of the towable world–and for good reason.

As you can see, an RV show provides the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and daydream about your next rig, and your next great adventure!  Here is a list of all of the RV Shows across our great country:

http://www.rvia.org/?esid=rvshows&all=1

We encourage all of our fellow campers to beat the winter blues and head to a show.  There’s no harm in looking, right?

Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi are the co-hosts of the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast, which is available for free in the iTunes store, and on their blog.

Family Fun Shenandoah National Park

By guest bloggers Jeremy & Stephanie Puglisi of RV Family Travel Atlas.

Because of the planned activities and exciting amenities at Jellystone Park Luray, a family could easily spend an awesome weekend there without leaving the property. But that would be a shame, because the magic and beauty of Shenandoah National Park are waiting just five miles away from the campground. Camping near Shenandoah National Park makes it easy and convenient to take in a great hike, experience the majesty of the mountains and scenery, and still make it back in time to partake in other great family activities at Luray Jellystone Park.

When you plan your next trip to Jellystone Park Luray make sure you set aside time to cruise along Skyline Drive, take in a hike or two, and share a family picnic at Big Meadows. Here is a suggested itinerary for a fun family day trip into the park. Who knows, you might just see a few bears and dozens of deer like we did!

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Shenandoah National Park’s epic roadway, Skyline Drive, has 75 scenic overlooks and stretches for over 100 miles before it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since you are camping at Jellystone Park Luray you will want to take route 211 into the park using the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. Once you are in the park, head south and take your time to enjoy the views. Also keep your eyes peeled for bear in the woods on the side of the road. They move faster than you think. The ever-changing beauty of the landscape might tempt you to put the radio on and drive all day, but we recommend that you park the car and take in a hike or two. Adventure waits around every corner.

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At mile 41.7 pull over and park for the adventurous, but family-friendly, 1.6 mile circuit Stony Man Trail. The National Park Service designates this hike as “easiest” but the summit views of the Shenandoah Valley and the town of Luray are nothing short of spectacular. After all, this is the second highest peak in the park. Plan on bringing water and a snack to share at the summit, but we don’t recommend a picnic lunch here. The rocks at the summit are jagged and it can be crowded on a clear summer day. Don’t forget your camera.

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After you’ve conquered Stony Man head south on Skyline Drive towards the Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows. Watch a short film and take in an exhibit on the park ’s history before you visit the gift shop for a vintage park poster or magnet. After you’ve educated yourself and plunked down a few bucks for a souvenir you’ll be good and hungry for a picnic lunch. If you need to grab more cold drinks for your next short hike head into the well-stocked campstore. You may be tempted by the fudge counter on the left. Your call.

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After lunch (and fudge?) burn off some calories with a casual and easy stroll on the Story of the Forest Trail, which begins across the street from the visitor center. Before you leave, grab a scavenger hunt booklet from one of the park rangers. Your kids will enjoy running from blue blaze to blue blaze, searching for large fungi and animal watering holes. Mom and Dad will enjoy learning the names of trees, finding out where witch hazel comes from, and discovering more about the works projects that developed the park. Whitetail Deer sightings are common on this trail, so keep your eyes wide open. We saw more than a few and spotting them was definitely the highlight of our walk.

When you’ve completed this 1.8 mile loop, drive north on Skyline Drive and back home to Jellystone Park. You may still be able to catch story time with Boo Boo. Or just head directly to the Cartoon Cafe for a well-deserved ice cream treat. We recommend the Moose Tracks!

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the podcast RV Family Travel Atlas, available in the iTunes Store, on Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. You can read more about their adventures at www.rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

finding adventure in Luray Virginia

By guest bloggers Jeremy & Stephanie Puglisi of RV Family Travel Atlas.

Jellystone Park Luray, in addition to having wonderful amenities and activities on site, is also located within ten minutes of some pretty fun family adventure opportunities. If you can manage to get your kids off of the bounce pad and out of the pool, we highly recommend the following local attractions.


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Even though we had seen many pictures of these caverns, we were shocked at how truly spectacular it was to see them in person. Our five year olds kept saying how ‘awesome’ it was, and we couldn’t agree more.

The guided tour takes a little over an hour and covers just over a mile on paved walking paths. You can easily bring a stroller if you are willing to carry it down the flight of stairs at the very beginning and then back up again at the end. The tour includes lots of very interesting information, but also plenty of time to independently explore and appreciate the beauty of the caverns. We felt the pacing was perfect—we didn’t feel rushed at all, but it moved quickly enough to keep our young kids engaged.

Your admission ticket ($24 for adults/ $12 for youths/ free for 5 years and under) includes entrance to the Luray Valley Museum, the Car and Carriage Caravan, and Toy Town Junction. We did not feel like our kids had the attention span for these attractions after the guided tour of the caverns, but if your children are older, they might enjoy wandering through them.

Our boys did, however, LOVE the Rope Adventure Park, where you can get strapped into a harness and enjoy one of the three ropes courses available.

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To be honest, this activity did not look like anything super exciting from a distance. It turned out to be a blast, though, with a lot of very engaging challenges and thrills. Max and Theo could have spent hours there, and we had to tear them away for lunch.

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Bottom line? Worth the extra money ($9/ $7 under 48 inches) if you or your kids want to enjoy a wild jungle gym experience.

You can also enjoy the Garden Maze or the Gem Sluice for an additional fee. Although the value of these activities will depend on your children’s age and personal interests, we can say that everything at Luray Caverns was extremely clean, and the staff was friendly and efficient.

Luray Caverns is a huge area attraction and can get very crowded during peak travel times. The tours start at 9 am, and it is worth the effort to get there early. We waited only 10 minutes to start our tour, but as we were leaving, the lines were much longer. One of the employees also told us that it quiets down after 4:30 pm as well.

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As you can tell, there are many fun things to do in Luray, Va. Another attraction is located right next door to Jellystone Park Luray. You can actually walk on a footpath from the campground to Bear Mountain Ziplines. This adventure course has only been open for a few seasons, but it is clearly a local gem. The staff is friendly and accommodating, willing to teach you how to get into your harness and recommend a good place for sandwiches.

The Mama Bear Zipline has seven zips that bring you through the woods and out across a wide open field. This is a good introductory course for those that have not tried zip lining before. The new Baby Bear High Ropes Course is a great challenge for younger kids, and at $20, this is an affordable and fun way for children to try zip lining in a safe and accessible environment.

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The best part about Bear Mountain Ziplines was that it was a quick and low key way to experience this fun activity. Often times zip lining tours can take hours and require you to schedule at least a half day of your vacation around it, with long drives from the offices to the mountain courses. Since Bear Mountain is right next door to the campground, you can easily walk over, zip, and be back in an hour or so.

Hopefully next season Bear Mountain Ziplines will offer a discount for Jellystone Park campers. This would take this from a recommended activity to a “must do” for the family.

The area around Jellystone Park Luray is full of opportunities for adventure, and we already know that our next trip will include tubing, horseback riding, and kayaking. An amazing campground, a national park, and lots of fun things to do in Luray, VA? We will most certainly be back.

Bio

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of RV Family Travel Atlas, a podcast available in the iTunes Store. They spend over 40 nights a year in their RV, traveling with their three young boys Theo, Max, and Wes. You can read more about their adventures at www.rvfamilytravelatlas.com

It’s not exactly the ideal family camping trip, but one group of brave souls will be taking last summer’s “ice bucket challenge” idea to a new extreme, with the same focus on raising awareness for a good cause.

According to a January 19 HTRNews.com article, four men from Manitowoc, WI will be going tent camping for 24 hours at the camp sites at Point Beach State Forest to raise money and awareness for homelessness.

Mark LeGreve, board president of homeless shelter The Haven, decided to take this self-dubbed “Human Icicle Challenge” with three of his friends after seeing the success of other creative fundraisers. Last year, the ice bucket challenge raised an unprecedented amount for ALS research.

While going tent camping for a 24-hour period during the dead of winter may sound like a novelty idea for some, it’s what the homeless have to live with every day, through rain, snow and freezing temperatures.

“There are people who do not have a place to stay who, no matter what the weather is, they worry about where to sleep,” LeGreve explained.

According to HTRNews.com, LeGreve and his friends will complete the Human Icicle Challenge from 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 31 to 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 1. The men are asking for members of the community to either join them or to give pledges and donations to The Haven, an eight-bed shelter for men.

Like many tent camping sites across the country, Point Beach State Forest is open to campers year-round, which not all people are usually aware of. So if you want to get a taste of the great outdoors this winter, there’s no better way to do it than to go camping for a weekend — just remember to stay warm and dry!
What are your thoughts on this story? Have any questions for us about going camping during the winter? Let us know what’s on your mind in the comments below!

Already thinking about camping in Colorado this spring or summer?

If so, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging people to plan their family camping trips early on to ensure that they can reserve a spot at one of Colorado’s highly-popular camp sites.

“Our most popular camping sites fill up six months in advance, so planning now could get vacationers a prime camping spot,” CPW Reservations Coordinator Mercedes Schwall said.

In recent years, camping has become an increasingly-popular activity for American families. About 3 million more people embarked on a camping excursion in 2012 than in 2010. This is especially true for Colorado, one of the best states in the country for experiencing the outdoors.

That’s because camping is one of the best ways for families to spend time around each other without everyday distractions. With a wide variety of things to do outside, from biking to hiking to observing wildlife, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy as well. Who knows — you or your kids could even end up discovering an outdoor activity that you end up enjoying for life!

Camping might even make you healthier, as one recent study from the University of Colorado at Boulder points out. The study found that individuals who spend a week being exposed only to natural light while camping in the Rocky Mountains saw improved syncing of their circadian clocks, the natural 24-hour rhythm of our sleeping and waking cycle. Artificial lighting, especially light from computer screens and televisions, is notorious for disrupting humans’ circadian clocks.

So to ensure that your family gets to take a camping trip this spring or summer, be sure to plan early — that way, you’ll be certain you have your space reserved rather than hoping for a space to open up.

Want more information on reserving a spot at Colorado’s camp sites? Feel free to ask us anything in the comments below.

Few activities offer more family bonding time and exciting outdoor recreation than going camping. That’s why more people are taking their families on camping trips than ever before! In fact, three million more Americans went on a camping excursion in 2012 than they did in 2010, a major increase in popularity.

But each year, countless families will arrive at their camping sites and make a horrifying discovery: they’ve forgotten to pack an important item, and now the camping trip is all but ruined!

Don’t be like these families — always arrive at your camping sites packed and prepared. To make sure you and your family are ready for anything during your family summer camping excursion, we’ve compiled this list of the most essential items to pack:

Accessories

    • Hiking boots

 

    • Sunglasses

 

    • A hat or bandanna

 

    • Backpack

Toiletries

    • Biodegradable soap

 

    • Antibacterial wipes

 

    • Deodorant

 

    • A hairbrush or comb

 

    • A first aid kit

 

    • Sunscreen

 

    • Prescriptions and medicine

 

    • Insect repellent

 

    • Shampoo and conditioner

 

    • Toilet paper

 

    • Toothbrush and toothpaste

 

    • Other various personal hygiene items

 

Clothing

 

    • A light jacket or sweater
    • A pair of gloves or mittens
    • Hiking socks
    • Long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts
    • Underwear
    • A raincoat
    • Pants
    • Moisture-wicking socks and long underwear

Camping gear

    • A tent and related tent equipment
    • Camera and camera accessories
    • A collapsible water bottle
    • A lantern
    • Sleeping bag
    • Matches or a lighter

Food and cooking items

    • A small, portable stove
    • Cooking and eating utensils
    • Food, including plenty of snacks
    • Napkins and paper towels
    • Plates and cups
    • Plastic garbage bags

And for an even smoother camping experience, encourage the kids to pack their own bags — this lets them get involved in the packing process and also allows them to pack their favorite toys, books and other belongings!

Know of any other must-pack items to bring before leaving on a family camping trip? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments below!

We can’t wait to welcome our seventh Texas Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort this spring! The former Port Adventure RV park will become Jellystone Park™ on Lake Livingston in March.

Located on the shores of beautiful Lake Livingston, near the picturesque East Texas town of Trinity, the new park is just 80 miles north of Houston – a perfect weekend getaway to the tranquility of the water and the open countryside. The second largest lake in Texas, Lake Livingston offers 450 miles of shoreline and plenty of room for fishing, skiing, boating and more.

The park is in the midst of making many improvements to its already-welcome facility before it reopens as a member of the Jellystone Park™ family. Currently the park offers 53 RV campsites, waterfront cabins, cabanas, duplexes, and tent sites. A 6500 square-foot pavilion offers a great place for events and gatherings.

Guests will enjoy the swimming pool, paddle boats, miniature golf, badminton, volleyball, and basketball. A game room, ping pong, outdoor theater, and even karaoke round out the family-friendly amenities.

Located at 207 Port Blvd. in Trinity, the campground is taking reservations for spring. Call 936-594-1300.

Every November, the Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resorts team gathers to recognize the very best of the best: parks in our family that have gone above and beyond during the previous camping year. We’re proud and excited to announce this year’s winners; stop in and tell their staff congratulations!

 

Camp-Resort of the Year: Caledonia, WI.

This is our very highest honor, given to the Camp-Resort whose facilities and operators exceed all Jellystone Park™ standards. The winner must achieve strong growth in business, implement sustained improvements, and be known as a leader in the camping industry. Way to go, Caledonia!

 

Entrepreneur of the Year: Canyon Lake, TX; Madison, FL; and Milford, Delaware.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award is presented to Camp-Resorts that showed a strong growth in business over the past year.

 

Operator of the Year 

Rick and Shelly Spear, Estes Park, CO 

Jackie Maguire, North Java, NY

This award recognizes individuals and teams directly responsible for the day-to-day operations of their Camp-Resort. The Spears and Jackie earned their accolades for excellence in management, improved ratings, and growth in business.

 

Maple Leaf Award

Kingston, Nova Scotia

The Maple Leaf Award goes to the Canadian park in recognition of

their strong commitment and dedication to the

Jellystone Park™ family and values.

 

Facility of the Year

Harrisville, PA; and Woodridge, NY

These two parks were recognized for making sustained improvements to their facilities. This includes adding features for guests, building new programs, and more.

 

Dan O’Connell Service Award 

Jim Leaming, Sturbridge, MA

The Dan O’Connell Service Award goes to one person in the

Jellystone Park™  system who has shown tremendous, long-time support and work to improve the campground industry. Jim Leaming’s ongoing leadership and commitment to teamwork made him the perfect choice.

 

Watch the Jellystone Park™ Journal for more on each of these winners in the coming months. In the meantime, be sure to tell them GREAT JOB!

During the winter, tent, RV or cabin camping life can be an incredibly unique and rewarding experience. But that’s only if you don’t go it alone — camping by yourself in the winter isn’t fun for anyone involved.

The idea of camping in tents or cabins, however, isn’t something many people are thinking about doing during the winter months. That’s why you’re going to have to convince your friends to go camping with you if you want to experience the thrill of the great outdoors this season!

To get your friends on board for a wintertime camping trip, here are three great ways you can convince them:

Ask that crazy, risk-taking friend you have

We all have that friend — the one who lives on the thrill of taking risks and walking away from near-death experiences unscathed. We don’t know how they do it, but we do know that they’re almost always willing to go on a winter camping trip. With another person by your side, convincing your other, less-than-willing friends will become incredibly easy.

Get your friends on board by playing up the novelty

There’s no way you’ll convince anyone to go on a winter camping trip with you if you don’t make the experience sound like a life-changing novelty. Remind your friends that everything looks better covered in snow; that all their favorite trails will be completely empty; that the campsites will be pristine and trash-free during the off-season. Best of all? You get to wear snowshoes!

Take advantage of better campsites

During the summer, it’s almost impossible to secure a camping spot at the most in-demand sites. However, the winter opens up a much wider availability of much nicer camping spots, which can even include cabins with all the essentials and amenities if your friends aren’t interested in entering survival mode. When your friends know all that the outdoors has to offer during the winter, you’ll have no trouble getting a group together to experience it!

Want to know more about going cabin camping or RV camping this winter? Ask us anything in the comments below!

Getting away from the TV screens and video games that can dominate life at home can make camping a rewarding bonding experience for families. And since there’s cabin camping, RV camping and even yurt camping widely available now, tent camping isn’t the only option.

 

But even if you do decide on old-fashioned tent camping, you’re not limited to granola bars, sandwiches and hot dogs in terms of your camping cuisine. Using what’s provided in almost all camp sites — a dedicated fire ring and a picnic table — you can create a wide variety of tasty meals. Kids, especially, can enjoy trying out these campfire cooking and no-cook food prep methods (just be sure you provide adequate supervision around the fire):

  1. Breakfast: Ziploc Omelets

Especially in autumn and winter, a hot breakfast is the perfect way to start the morning in camping life. Beat some eggs in a large bowl, and then pour individual servings into quart-sized plastic bags. Each person can add cheese, veggies or sausage as desired. Boil some water over the fire and pop in the sealed bags for a few minutes, and each person will have a personalized omelet. Plus, the washing-up water will already be hot.

 

  1. Lunch: Walking Tacos

Since so many camp sites these days offer activities and amenities, you probably don’t want lunch to be a sit-down affair that takes up the whole afternoon. You can combine all the classic taco or taco salad ingredients in individual bags of corn chips, shake and eat right out of the bag.

 

  1. Snack: Ice Cream in a Bag

Heading into winter, ice cream might seem like a strange choice. But making this delicious snack is so fun that kids are sure to enjoy it in any season. Simply combine milk, sugar and vanilla in a quart-sized plastic bag and seal it tightly, place that bag into a gallon-size bag, and fill the outer bag with salt and ice. Five to eight minutes of rolling, shaking, massaging and tossing later, the inner bag will contain ice cream. If you think your kids might get rambunctious, consider double-bagging the ice cream mixture before placing in the outer bag.

 

  1. Dinner: Tin Foil Stew

This one is a camping classic. Use aluminum foil to create a bowl shape or packet (there’s big controversy among campers regarding the ideal folding method), and then fill with all the normal stew ingredients. Place the foil pouches in hot coals to cook, and in about an hour the beef will be cooked through and the veggies will be tender. Eat straight out of the foil to minimize cleanup.

 

  1. Dessert: Monkey Bread

This warm, gooey dessert is the perfect end to a night spent around the campfire. Simply tear off pieces of biscuit dough and shake in a plastic bag filled with cinnamon-sugar until well coated. Then, toss all the pieces into pre-heated Dutch oven. Put the oven in the coals (piling a few coals on top of the lid, as well), and wait about a half hour. Soon, the bread will be puffy and easily pulled apart into bite-sized pieces.

 

 

How else can you cook delicious meals in the comfort of simple camp sites? Share your recipe ideas in the comments!

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