So you want to explore the great outdoors, but you’d rather not leave behind the comforts of home?

By Erin Newman

You want to tumble out of bed and breathe in the freshness of pine trees in the morning sun. Still, you hate starting the day without a decent shower. And when Mother Nature waters her fields, you’d rather be cozy inside, playing cards with the kids, safe and dry, listening to the patter of rain on the roof.
You love telling stories around the campfire, roasting marshmallows on wire coat hangers and counting the millions of stars overhead, but when it’s time to sleep, you want to crawl into a soft bed.
Road Trip!

top Photo Courtesy of GO RVing and bottom Photo BILL ESTES

Traveling in a recreational vehicle can be a great getaway for all kinds of families. With an RV, the journey is part of the fun. You can stop along the way whenever and wherever you want, and you have all the comforts of home—your own belongings, your food, even your pets.
RV road tripping is perfect for uninterrupted family time. Jeana Esler of Simi Valley says that RVing provides a great way to make memories.
“Camping really gets us away from the everyday grind. It’s a chance for us to reconnect and focus on what is important: family. We can park our motorhome near the peaceful waves of the beach or among the redwoods in the forest. For more adventure, we take our dirt bikes to the desert or tow our boat to a lakefront spot for some wakeboarding fun.”
The adventure can begin long before your departure date. Planning a trip together gets everyone on board and sets the anticipation in motion. Once you’re on the road, there are lots of benefits to RV travel. Kids are free to explore and discover new things in a less structured setting than with other types of travel. A campground is also a great place to congregate with other families. You can reserve a group site or a few sites situated near each other—maybe make it an annual tradition.
Marty Estes of Westlake Village often travels in his RV with other families.

camping
“Camping as a group gives us a chance to reconnect with family and friends. My kids love playing outdoors with their cousins and buddies, and the adults have a chance to relax and enjoy some good conversation and downtime around the campfire.”

Get going

If you want to give it a try, begin by renting an RV for a weekend adventure to see if the experience works for you. The RV will provide everything—yes, even the proverbial kitchen sink—a refrigerator, microwave, bathroom/shower, TV/DVD player and sleeping accommodations for at least four. It’s usually wider and longer than a car but is not difficult to drive after a short get-acquainted period.
A rental agency can help you choose the type of RV suited for your needs and show you how to operate it. RV rentals may be motorhomes, truck-based campers, or trailers, the most popular of which is the Type C motorhome, an RV body built on a heavy-duty van chassis. They’re relatively easy to maneuver. Or choose a campground that features a pre-parked RV, probably a travel trailer, which is set up and waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.
And there’s no problem finding those destinations. California offers a great diversity of beaches, deserts and mountains.
Campgrounds range from the primitive to the luxurious. RVs are designed for a certain level of self-containment, the ability to function without connections to utilities, or “hookups.” Temporarily living “off the grid” can be an interesting experience in public agency campgrounds such as those managed by the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and state parks. Many of those sites do not offer hookups, while some provide the basics: just water and electricity.
The payoff is that they are often close to streams, lakes, hiking trails, stunning scenery and opportunities for fishing, hiking, snow sports, bicycling and off-road recreation. Campgrounds in those areas can put you at the doorstep of America’s great outdoors and its natural wonders.
In contrast, RV resorts have full hookups, manicured sites, Wi-Fi and many other amenities.
Some are destinations in themselves, with attractions like on-site fishing ponds, bike paths, pools, splash pads, mini water parks, miniature golf or game rooms. Some have organized activities like movie night and ice cream sundae night. Wine and espresso bars, boutiques and spas can be found at some RV resorts for those who prefer “glamping,” the affectionate term for glamorous camping.

Swimming

RVs are ideal for traveling to football games or NASCAR races around the country, where you can tailgate in style.
They also come in handy for transporting the whole clan to visit relatives, other cities and tourist destinations. Those trips usually are a whole lot cheaper when you travel by RV.
A road trip by car typically involves hotel and restaurant expenses, and flying usually means renting a car once you’re arrived. When you RV, you can cross those expenses off the list. The RV rental fee, types of campgrounds you choose and the amount of fuel used will determine the cost of your trip. Preparing your own meals saves a lot of money and is part of the fun when you’re outdoors.
Some people make RVing a lifestyle. Full-timers pare down their belongings and make an RV their home, which can be an affordable and adventurous way to live, especially for seniors. Cost may not even be the main factor. Traveling in a rolling condo may be the lifestyle of choice for those whose goal it is to enjoy a broad variety of destinations while maintaining independence and family togetherness.

WHERE TO RENT OR BUY

101 RV Rentals 850 W. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley (805) 210-7391 www.101rvrentals.com

Conejo Wholesale Auto and RV (sales) 299 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Thousand Oaks (805) 496-8700 www.conejowholesaleauto.com

Expedition Motor Homes (rentals) 23981 Craftsman Road, Calabasas (818) 225-8239 www.expeditionmotorhomes.com

Road Bear RV Rentals and Sales 28404 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills (818) 865-2925 www.roadbearrv.com

Simi RV Sales 1568 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley (805) 522-1221 www.simi-rv.com

RESOURCES www.gorving.com www.recreation.gov www.reserveamerica.com www.parks.ca.gov www.koa.com

LOCAL CAMPING

Lake Casitas 11311 Santa Ana Road, Ventura (805) 649-2233 www.casitaswater.org

Leo Carrillo State Park 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu (818) 880-0350 www.parks.ca.gov

Malibu Creek State Park 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas (818) 880-0350 www.parks.ca.gov

Ventura Ranch KOA 7400 Pine Grove Road, Santa Paula (805) 933-3200 koa.com/campgrounds/ventura-ranch

PRE-PARKED RVs

Camping Adventures (various locations) (805) 797-7460 www.campingadventuresrentals.com

Santa Barbara Auto Camp 2717 De La Vina St., Santa Barbara (888) 405-7553 www.autocamp.com

 Don’t forget to pack the marshmallows

Here’s a new twist on the s’more classic crowd pleaser that goes great with stories under the stars.

ice creamCAMPFIRE CONE

1 ice cream cone
20 mini
marshmallows
20 chocolate chips Aluminum foil

Place a marshmallow in the bottom of the cone. Follow with a few chips. Continue layering marshmallows and chips in the cone until full to slightly brimming.
Wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
Heat in campfire 3 to 5 minutes or
until contents are melted and gooey. Enjoy! Lick sticky fingers. Repeat as needed
to ensure sweet dreams under the stars.

GET CREATIVE:
Try updating the classic s’more by adding:

Andes chocolate mints
Crumbled Oreo cookies
Colored sprinkles
Nutella or peanut butter
Banana or strawberry slices
Whole caramel or caramel spread

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