Thursday, April 27, 2017

Your Family Should Be Seasonal Campers!

Seasonal campsite

Have you heard of seasonal camping?  Have you ever wondered if seasonal camping is right for you and your family?  It is a wonderful experience for my family and me! Here's why I believe you should give it a try:

The Cost Value of Seasonal Camping With a Family
Because, let's face it.  That is one of the most important factors in family vacation decision-making.  So, let's talk about the costs of seasonal camping.  Seasonal camping can run you anywhere from about $1500-$5000 for a seasonal site, including additional costs of electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, and activities.  Naturally, the cost depends on what type of camping you wish to do, which campground you choose, the amenities that are available at the campground, and of course, if there are any available sites in the campground you wish to stay. 

At the outset, that's a lot of money to fork over all at once for a vacation.  And of course, you have to already own a camper in order to be seasonal.  I am not aware of any campgrounds that allow you to be seasonal in a tent...nor do I think most people would wish to be.  After all, we are an industrialized nation of people--used to our creature-comforts.  Wilderness camping might be great for a weekend, maybe a week if you're so inclined, but for an entire season with kids in tow, I don't think so!  In any case, most seasonal campgrounds have specific rules about what they will allow as a seasonal camping trailer.  For example, you aren't usually allowed to be seasonal if you are camping in a pop-up trailer.  And some campgrounds will only allow you to be seasonal if your camper is no older than 10 years old.  But not all campgrounds are quite that strict.  You just have to inquire about their rules as you perform your search.  I will talk more about the campground rules below, though, because it is pretty important to pay attention to them!


So, getting back to the cost...the average yearly family vacation budget is typically between $2,000 and $4,000. Naturally, there are many factors associated with the costs of a family vacation.  And there are so many options for what type of vacation you will take.  But, just for argument's sake, let's take the average and say that your family's vacation budget is $3,000.  What do you usually get for that $3,000?  You get your transportation, hotel or other type of accommodation, a few activities, and your food...for one week.  If you're super thrifty, you may be able to do it for a little less or stay for a few more days.  But ultimately, you have about a week-long respite from the daily grind for your $3,000.

When you are a seasonal camper, though, (at least in my experience in the Northeast) you can have a semi-permanent vacation home from somewhere in the middle of the spring, all the way through the fall.  Some campgrounds are open to seasonal campers from mid-April to mid-October.  Our campground opens up at the beginning of May, but it runs through the middle of October. So as long as you choose a campground close enough to your home, you could conceivably camp every single weekend, all of the major spring and summer holidays, AND your one week vacation for about the same cost as a typical week-long vacay!  And that even includes the activities! Plus...and this is a big one...it's all family-friendly! No worries that you've chosen the wrong destination to bring your children to.  Sure, there may be some partiers at a campsite near you every now and then, but from my experience, most seasonal campgrounds bill themselves as family-friendly and work hard to keep it that way!

Activities for Children
Most campgrounds and RV parks that offer seasonal campgrounds have ongoing daily and weekly activities for children.  Many campgrounds also offer theme weekends, which is super fun for the kiddles!  One of the campgrounds we used to go to frequently, for example, had a western theme on one of the weekends we were there.  During that weekend, they hired a company to bring in ponies for the kids to ride (which was included in the price of camping).  They also had a family dance with a dj and country line dancing lessons.  All of the other activities planned for the weekend were family-friendly games that revolved around the western theme, too.  It was really fun!

seasonal camping
Some of the other typical themes you may find at a campground are Halloween, Christmas, and Super Soaker weekends.  During the Halloween weekends, you will typically see campsites decorated, there's usually trick-or-treating from site-to-site, possibly a costume contest, and maybe even a haunted house...all in the middle of the summer!  The kids have a blast!  This theme and some of the other themes are very popular with families, and as such, book up early!  But when you are a seasonal camper, you are already set for each of those favorite weekends.  So you already know you will get to be there with your children!

Now, not all campgrounds that offer seasonal sites have weekly themes or activities.  Smaller campgrounds may offer activities and themes a few special weekends throughout the season.  The campground we are seasonal at fits more into this category.  There are occasional family dances with a dj, and they do have Halloween and Christmas weekends. There's usually at least a few activities like arts and crafts scheduled each weekend.  But there isn't a non-stop schedule of things for the kids to do...and I, for one, LIKE that! 

Our Campground
We have done all sorts of camping with the kids over the years (except wilderness).  We've gone to the fancy RV Parks with loads of activities, and we've camped at a state campground where the only scheduled activities were the ones you planned yourself.  For me, I prefer to have a mix of both scenarios as a seasonal camper.  I like having the activities for the kids as options to keep them entertained.  I like the community feeling of participating in the activities with the other campers, the kids making friends, and us adults meeting new people.  I like to have a variety of things to do with the children...especially when camping all season, because it can break up the monotony. 

nature at camp
But I also like spending quality time with my family where it's just us.  Hanging out at the campsite, going swimming, hiking, boating, fishing, or whatever strikes our fancy for that day.  Having a whole schedule of activities can be great, but there were times in the past where we went camping at one of the RV resorts and I felt rushed, too scheduled, and then ultimately frustrated because I wanted my kids to be able to participate in all of those fun activities.  I didn't want them to miss out.  But we couldn't always make it to the things we wanted to, for one reason or another. Too, if I was at the campground alone with the kids and my boys were napping as infants/toddlers, it made it challenging for Little Miss.  She wanted to participate in the activities for her age group, but wasn't quite old enough to go off on her own to be able to join in.

Too, I find that kids these days are so over-scheduled, and also so used to getting so much.  They get treats and enjoy special activities on a regular basis.  I think it makes it harder for them to appreciate those special moments that we create for them (like a family vacation) because they have come to expect all of these activities and treats we give them so often.  Sometimes you just need to take a step back and say enough is enough. So I LIKE that our seasonal campground doesn't have a bazillion way-over-the-top things to do...like blown-up waterslides, for instance.  Our campground has a lake with a beach, a couple of playgrounds, tons of hiking trails, a stream, a camp store, a pavilion, some theme weekends and activities, and the great outdoors.  It's perfect for getting the kids to play outside ALL day, make new friends, explore nature, and experience a childhood unplugged (at least when it's not raining, that is!).  And, yes, our campground does have electricity, running water, and WIFI!

Just as a side note to give you some perspective, our campground is on the lower end for seasonal fees.  We are actually less than $2,000 per season and that includes the electricity and WIFI.  So it really is a great value for the money.  Plus, you don't have to pay it all up front.  Usually you place a deposit down in the fall for your next year's seasonal site.  Then later in the winter or early spring, you have to pay the rest of your fee before the season actually begins. So that spreads out the total cost and it gives you some time to save up for the rest!

Bring Your Dog Camping
Another great thing about seasonal camping is that it is dog-friendly!  This is especially important since you will be away from home much more frequently.  It's one thing to hire a dog-watcher or kennel your furry friend(s) for a weekend or a week, but every weekend and many other days added in there could be hard on your pet...and EXPENSIVE!  But at a seasonal campground, Rover is welcome to join you!  We bring Kallie with us and she LOVES it!  She gets so much exercise and attention, how could she not?!  She gets to go on hikes, go swimming, be outside, and be with her family!  She's a happy little camper!

golden retriever by campfire

New Friends at Camp
One of the best parts of being a seasonal camper is that you get to know other people at your campground.  You see the same people at the beach or pool, at the rec hall/pavilion, during the scheduled activities, and at pot-luck suppers.  You meet your neighbors near you (especially when your kids run over to pet their adorable dogs all day long), and you begin to develop that sense of community.  These people become your weekend family.  And you can be as involved with other seasonal campers as you'd like (or just be a recluse sitting by your campfire...alone...every night if you wish).  It's totally up to you!  But most campers are a friendly sort of bunch and are also there for the social aspect of it.  They enjoy meeting other people, too!  Otherwise they probably wouldn't be there! 

As a mom of three little ones, I have always appreciated this aspect of seasonal camping, too.  Because as you frequent a campground or become seasonal and get to know some of the other families, you don't feel quite so alone.  Whenever we have camped in a long-term type of situation, it is usually within an hour's drive of Prince Charming's work.  Typically that means that I am at the campground all day or for several days as a solo parent with the three kids while he is at work and then he joins me when he can.  Believe me, this is not an easy feat!  And throw in a dog or two--it can become overwhelming!  Yet, wherever we have been at a camp in this situation, people have been friendly and helpful.  And that makes it much better for me. Even if it just means I have another adult to chat with for a few minutes, those few minutes of kindness provide me with the energy I need to keep going until it's bedtime! 

Seasonal Camping Rules
Each campground has a separate set of rules for their seasonal campers.  Usually you receive a handout of all of the rules when you sign the contract for your site or at the beginning of the season.  The rules at each campground can be very different, so be sure to ask about them in advance.  You definitely want to know what you can and cannot do on your site before you jump in with both feet!  Some campgrounds, for instance, allow you to build permanent decks and other structures for your site, while some only allow for temporary structures.  Additionally, some seasonal campgrounds allow you to store your camper on your site all year long, while some (like ours) require you to remove your camper at the end of the season.  Some campgrounds also allow or limit the number of "buildings" or similar structures (think: gazebos, sheds, etc. here) you may have on your site.  There are all sorts of rules you will need to know about your seasonal site at your campground...so make sure you read through them thoroughly.  Any violations of the rules can get you kicked out of the campground (or not allowed to return the following year).

But do you know what's cool?  Most campgrounds do allow you to decorate your seasonal site.  Many will let you do some landscaping, and improve your site the way you see fit (as long as it doesn't break the rules or impinge on any other camper's experience there).  The kids and I always enjoy checking out other people's camp set-ups and decorations.  We love to see the cute garden gnomes and flamingos during the daylight and the lighted palm trees in the night.  We are actually going with a theme for our camp decorations this year...tropical!  Flamingos, palm trees, flip-flops, grass skirting on the tables, flamingo lights, and hibiscus and tiki decorations...super fun!  I can't wait until it is all set up!  I will post a YouTube video of a tour of our campsite when it's done! 

So that's a quick breakdown of why I believe seasonal camping is an awesome experience and an incredible value for your vacation dollars!  Feel free to ask me any questions you may have about seasonal camping in the comments below!

Yours in camping,
Marathon Momma

This Mother's Day, tell your Mom she's a Superhero because she's a Marathon Momma!

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