Think your kids are too old for old-fashioned fun? Take them to a KOA Campground and watch them act like kids again – kids who just might leave their cellphones behind! We stayed in park model RVs (aka cabins) as part of a Go RVing trip – and it was a blast.
My children have sparkly eyes and bright smiles – but I rarely see those features as they hunch over small screens and LOL between Snapchats.
So I took them camping.
And you know what? They loved it so much they left their phones behind!
Ok, it was only for a few hours and the Wi-Fi was spotty, but my 17 year old daughter, and 15 year old son, despite grumbling before we left, had a great time at the Mystic KOA campground.
We were part of a group on a sponsored Go RVing trip, where we stayed in cabins, called park models. These are fully equipped RVs that don’t move but theoretically could. We had electricity, toilets, beds – things you sometimes do without when camping. We also got to see a luxurious RV that had leather appointments, bunkbeds, a gourmet kitchen and the freedom to go anywhere. GoRVing is a non-profit website that provides information to RVers about everything from recipes to packing lists. You will find campground information, RV comparisons, games, instructions on how to set up camp and a blog with personal experiences and advice.
Yay for KOA
KOA campgrounds, which all feature a water element, dog park, playground and giant jumping pillow, are made for family fun. But teens often feel left out – they don’t go to playgrounds anymore and they are too cool for mini golf with parents. But what wowed them was a jumping pillow, like a huge trampoline, that attracted kids, teens and parents and the tie-dye class where they met other kids.
We spent hours jumping and laughing and when I asked for one of the kids to take pictures and they realized that neither of them had their smartphones with them. This from kids who regularly exceed their data plans and try to text during family meals!
Reluctant Campers Turned Converts
When I tell my kids we are going skiing, to a luxury resort on the beach, or overseas, their bags are packed in a jiffy. But they complained bitterly before we left for the drive up the coast in Connecticut. There would be bugs, where would they sleep, I was dragging them to a trailer park, there would be nothing to do. And what the heck did KOA really stand for?
Of course, KOA is Kampgrounds of America, but I think it really means teens become kids on arrival (parents too). My teens were like Pied Pipers with all the little children at the campground following them around – and they loved it.
There were (almost) no bugs and when we lit a fire, any bugs that were there quickly disappeared.
Too hot? No problem in our luxury log cabin – it had air conditioning, along with a full kitchen, comfortable beds for six people and a shower with teen-approved water pressure.
Vacation for Parents, Too
What I loved about staying in the cabin was how little we had to bring. The kitchen was fully equipped, there were towels and sheets and once we made the beds, we didn’t have to do anything. There was even a Keurig coffee maker, so no messing with dirty filters.
We also did not have to pack a ton of food; we had it shipped. Omaha Steaks delivered a huge packet of burgers, sausages and ribs, and my son mowed down everything. My daughter had a veggie burger that she really liked. Shop the website for packages – those are the best deals because they include a variety of meat options, vegetable sides and dessert (they even have ice cream!). Note: get the tartlets! The apple and berry tartlets are delicious and were equally popular among everyone on this trip. Ordering food ahead of your adventure requires attention to timing because it is shipped in dry ice but it’s a great way to lighten the packing/shopping load (that can often get dumped on MOM).
We kept the meals simple. There is a nearby Dunkin Donuts that sponsored breakfast and lunch and we supplemented their egg sandwiches in the morning with artisanal granolaby Henry Hudson Bakery and Greek yogurt. The granola also made a great snack throughout the day. My son said is was so good that he is going to ask our local Whole Foods to carry it. I have to agree; it is special.
Get Out and Explore?
There is a lot to do in Connecticut and we were tempted by Mystic’s signature attractions: the huge Mystic Aquarium and the living history Mystic Seaport, but my kids really just wanted to chill at the campsite, so we stayed there. I think they were drawn in by the happy vibe- it’s like one giant neighborhood at the KOA. There was lots of laughter, but no wild parties, dogs everywhere, but no barking. One of my favorite moments was seeing kids bikes riding at dusk, with no helmets or lights – just old fashioned cycling around, looking for other kids to play with. No scheduling play dates here!
On our way home, however, we made a stop in Mystic for the Sunday brunch buffet at Harbor House. It was really delicious, with plenty for a teen boy. The historic inn has beautiful views and outdoor seats and even though it was raining when we went, the view was still gorgeous and the atmosphere was cozy.
Cocktails, No Driving
As a Kentucky girl, I love my bourbon. We (adults) drank Cabin Fever whiskey, a locally distilled maple infused whiskey that is perfect by the fire. We also had Happy Camper Wine; I’m not a big wine drinker, but it was a fun bottle to have since we were all happy campers.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Go RVing and KOA Campgrounds.