It is probably no surprise to our readers that people tell us their camping stories. What might surprise you is how many people have that one epic RV trip stored away in their childhood memories. I’m not talking about people who grew up traveling from campground to campground in a pop up or travel trailer. I’m talking about our friends who remember that one time their family rented an RV and went to _____.
I really shouldn’t be shocked at all. I know that one of my most vivid vacation memories from childhood is the time my parents borrowed their friends’ pop up camper so that we could go on a camping trip to Cape May. My sisters and I had to stay in a tent while my parents luxuriated in the pop up. It rained a lot. Things got ugly, but I guess that makes for a better story, right?
One of Jeremy’s earliest memories is traveling down to Florida in a motorhome rental. His grandfather loaded seven family members in the camper and drove through the night, surprising everyone with a fantastic vacation at Disney World.
I’ve heard stories from my brother-in-law about the time his family rented an RV and pulled out onto the road without latching the refrigerator, sending a week’s worth of food flying in all directions.
One night my friend Laura started telling me the story about a trip her family took in a rented RV when she was eleven years old. She talked about how she and her sister were allowed to look through the KOA catalog and pick the next stop, how that catalog kept them busy for hours in the car, pouring over campground activities and amenities. She had been on a lot of family vacations, she told me, but that one stood out from the rest.
I love her story. I love the idea of a family trekking across this country on an adventure, not sure of the next destination, but figuring it out together. Many of Laura’s memories were laugh out loud funny:
I was eleven that year and my sister was thirteen. We were masters at annoying my dad on long car trips, my sister even more so than myself.
One time he stopped the car on the side of the road and went to open her door (perhaps to beat her but we still aren’t sure) and she looked right at him and plunked the lock down. He just walked down the highway until he was a speck on the horizon.
There were also many versions of Bad Company’s “Feel Like Making Love” since he banned it before the refrain. Our favorite was “Feel Like Making Bread”. We knew how to push that man’s buttons.
I also love how everyone in the family remembers different aspects of the trip:
I think that the KOA camp guide was a stroke of genius on my Dad’s part. He gave us the book, told us where he was heading, and put us to work. We were allowed to pick the campground! I leafed through those flimsy yellow pages with two criteria in mind… 1) horseback riding 2) a body of water. Horses weren’t always easy to find but a body of water was a must. It could be a river, lake, stream, pool.
My sister best remembers Chaz our white water rafting guide who was just simply gorgeous. I guess that is the difference between an 11 year old girl and a 13 year old girl.
My mom remembers horseback riding in Bryce Canyon and staying near Zion National Park. I thought that she would mention the winding mountain roads with no guardrail since she would retreat and hide in the back of the RV.
My dad can remember all of the details especially food related ones.
I remember the KOA that had horseback riding and the make-your-own sundae bar, the one that showed an outdoor movie on a big screen, and the one with the pathetic above ground pool in the middle of the desert. I remember the parks and the photo ops, but what I really remember was that book and how important it was to me. I spent hours poring over that book mapping our route and planning our lodging based on my 11 yr old criteria and it was amazing.
Perhaps my dad knew what he was doing when he gave us that book or maybe he just got lucky.
Laura’s story resonated with me for many reasons.
First of all, her memories of the small details like ice cream sundaes and outdoor movies ring true with what gets my boys so excited about camping. Reward your kids with the simple pleasures of travel and they will remember it for the rest of their lives. Second, give your kids some say in your travel plans and they will be on board for a whole lot more adventure. Lastly, traveling with family can be fun and ridiculous at the same time. Embrace the stressful moments and laugh together at the end of the day.
I really do hope my boys tell stories from these days on the road a few decades from now. I hope they carry with them as many amazing memories of these years as I know I do. But most of all, I hope they remember that we loved exploring with them.
We would love to hear more of your stories! Do you have a great camping story from your childhood? Please share it with us by posting in the comments or emailing us directly.