One thing that’s noticeably absent from the 800 posts on this site, the numerous tales of family adventures, is anything to do with camping. While my family loves to bike, hike, and ski and will happily spend the hours from dawn until dusk outside, we’ve never been ones to sleep in the open. Partly it’s because my husband doesn’t like to sleep in a tent. And partly it’s because the gear-and-food-prep aspect of camping has always seemed a little daunting to me. However, I have recently learned that you can easily take food with you that doesn’t need to be cooked or stored in a refrigerator. For more information like this then you can find the easiest camping food ideas no cooking tips here. There are so many tips that you can use to help you have a better camping trip though, so depending on how far or how long your journey is, you should make sure that you find the right things for you. For example, if you are going on a long camping trip, then you might decide that it would be good to have bought a gas powered tankless heater with you, as this can help you stay clean.
That’s why when KOA (also known as Kampgrounds of America) reached out to me this spring and offered me two complimentary nights in one of their deluxe cabins I said an enthusiastic yes. This was it – my chance to check out family camping while keeping a roof over my head. Perfect!
Here’s the thing I discovered about KOA cabins on this trip: They are just rustic enough to offer kids a feeling of adventure while still offering a fair number of creature comforts and not requiring too much planning. I was able to take my 12- and 9-year-old sons on a solo camping trip (my husband had to stay at home for work) without thinking twice.
It’s camping…without the hassle.
Planning a KOA camping trip
I was given the choice of any KOA campground. There are over 485 of them around the United States and Canada offering everything from tent camping to RV sites. We were looking at getting an RV and buying some insurance with goodsam but we have decided to save up a little before we take the plunge! I definitely want an RV though. Just think about how much fun we’ll have in an RV? It will almost feel like we’re glamping (glamorous camping). Although, part of me feels like we won’t be getting the full experience of camping, as part of the enjoyment is finding the best backpacking tent for the trip but as my husband doesn’t like sleeping in a tent, this is definitely out of the equation. Unfortunately. We have so many other things to look forward to though. Since my kids are big history buffs, I decided that a trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 150 miles south of our home in Delaware, would be perfect for our camping experiment. Fredericksburg is the site of George Washington’s boyhood home and also played an important role in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
KOA breaks some of its campgrounds down into three different types, offering different levels of amenities from the more basic “journey” campgrounds for RV campers to “resort” campgrounds that offer restaurants. The Fredericksburg KOA falls in the middle category called “holiday” campgrounds. These are situated in our near destinations that offer lots to do, while the campgrounds themselves offer a mix of more basic campsites and cabins.
It was easy to learn about the area from the KOA website and to reserve and book our cabin online.
A camping concierge
Like many KOA campgrounds, the one in Fredericksburg, Virginia is tucked away on peaceful, verdant country road (I learned later that this is the road down which the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was carried when he was accidentally shot by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorsville. He died nearby). It has the virtue of feeling both remote and rural while also being conveniently accessible from the Interstate.
But here’s what’s nice about a KOA camping experience – yes, you’re in the woods, but you basically have your own concierge. From the minute we arrived in this immaculate little patch of nature we felt very welcome. The staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful, explaining exactly where to park, what to do with our trash, and offering to give us information on local attractions.
It was nice to know that the camp store was there to provide any emergency supplies we might need.
We all loved our little cabin. The boys were thrilled to sleep in bunks. I was thrilled to have a shower.
The cabin also had a well-stocked kitchen, a microwave, an outdoor gas grill, and a fire pit. I didn’t take advantage of any of these cooking tools as it was very hot during our stay. I think this also had to do with the fact that I was flying solo – I just didn’t feel ambitious about making hot meals.
And the nice thing was that I didn’t have to. We enjoyed a sushi feast from the Fredericksburg Wegman’s on our first night and ate out in on our second.
Like I said: Camping + KOA cabins = easy peasy.
Panning for fossils and more KOA fun
Part of the KOA mission is to provide fun for families right at the campground site, regardless of what else is around to do and enjoy. This was certainly true in Fredericksburg.
From the minute we arrived at the campground my younger son knew what he wanted to do: Pan for treasure at the Gemstone Creek Mining Company (you can find this activity at other KOA Campgrounds as well). So we headed to the camp store to choose what type of treasure he would look for – Gemstones? Fossils?
He chose the latter, and was given a panning screen. Then the excitement started.
“Mom! Mom! I found a shark’s tooth! I’m rich!”
“Mom! An ammonite! It’s millions of years old!”
Each new discovery brought a chance to run over to the nearby bulletin board and confirm what he had found. It was easily a highlight of the trip for him, and he still keeps all his treasured finds in a specimen bag to show off to anyone who will look and listen.
Both boys also spent hours in the pool each day. In fact, on our second evening the lovely staff at the campground kept it open for an extra half an hour because they saw that the kids were having such a good time.
A small pond next to the pool was stocked with fish; bring your tackle and you can purchase night crawlers for bait (no license needed). The campground also offers paddleboats, bike rentals, and games like ladder golf and cornhole beanbags.
I liked that I didn’t have to bring much for the boys to do – and that they spent so much time outside. I should note that while our cabin had two television sets, we did not turn them on while were there. I’m not sure it even occurred to the kids to do so because after all, we were camping.
Sleeping in cabin comfort
One concession to the fact that we were camping on this trip was that we had to bring our own linens and towels. However, the beds provided were very comfortable. And it was so quiet and peaceful in our little cabin in the woods that the boys slept until the unheard-of hour of almost nine o’clock both mornings.
Does it count as camping if you have air conditioning? I’m not sure. But when the temperature reaches 95 degrees with about 80 percent humidity I’m not going to quibble about little details like that. Had it rained, we also would have been very comfortable. So the cabin makes it possible to take a camping trip without having to worry about the weather.
After our stay at the Fredericksburg, Virginia KOA, I have to say that I’m hooked. The cabins are definitely a great gateway to actual camping or simply an affordable alternative to a family hotel stay. I would certainly look up KOAs as part of future family road trips, and when we get brave enough to try some real tent camping, you can bet I’d be inclined to pitch at one of these family-friendly locations where I know I’ll have lots of help and the kids will have lots of fun.
Win your own KOA getaway
The family travel website Trekaroo has asked me to share a fantastic KOA giveaway they are hosting – you could win one to three nights in a deluxe cabin like the one I stayed in. It’s easy to enter.
Trekaroo also hosted a whole bunch of other bloggers who visited KOAs around the country – check out their stories and tips about how to camp with kids.
I was given two complimentary nights in a KOA deluxe cabin by Kampgrounds of America and am being compensated by Trekaroo for sharing their giveaway. You can always count on me to share when I’ve been compensated and to share my honest opinions.
- The Fredericksburg KOA is convenient to just about anything you need – there are grocery stores and restaurants a few miles away on Route 1. It’s also located about 13 miles south of the Fredericksburg downtown, making it an easy drive to the train station where you can catch an affordable commuter train into Washington, DC, 50 miles away.
- One thing to note about the refrigerator in the cabin is that it is dorm-sized. If you were planning a longer stay and wanted to do most of your eating in, you’d probably want to bring a cooler with you (ice is available at the camp store). You can also get a fire starter set for the fire pit in the camp store as well, if s’mores are on your agenda.
- We visited the Fredericksburg KOA during the week, but had we been there on the weekend we would have been able to participate in some fun campground activities like scavenger hunts, pool games, and craft time.
- The Fredericksburg KOA advertises that it has free wifi, and it does. However, the signal isn’t the strongest and a warning message upon login suggests that you not try to stream video or game content. I think that the Internet is offered as a courtesy and is mostly meant for email. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s just fine given that you are, after all, supposed to be camping.
- Fredericksburg, Virginia offers a wealth of historic attractions include a national park dedicated to the Civil War battle that took place there, the site of George Washington’s boyhood home, and a number of small historical museums. We spent two days exploring and didn’t see everything.