It means many different things to many different people. Do you RV or trailer? Hard shell or tent trailer? Are you the type who loads up the car with the entire Canadian Tire summer section, or the rugged type who pares everything down to one backpack and hikes for miles before setting up camp? No matter what kind of camper you are, the best part is going somewhere and enjoying a marvellous summer, right?
Well, I finally discovered what kind of camping I enjoy. Cabins. I enjoy staying in cabins. It turns out I just needed to tweak my personal definition of “camping”!
On a recent road trip through the US Western States (8 of them, giving a new poignancy to family togetherness) I became more acquainted with KOA (Kampgrounds of America). KOA Campgrounds, while not quite as popular in Canada, especially Western Canada, are prolific in the States. But more to the point, they have cabins!
We were planning our trip for April, not a month revered for its great camping in Canada. Apparently, it’s also not a month revered for its camping in some of the places we visited, if the locals’ reaction to us was any indication. As we researched our trip, we quickly realised that tenting wasn’t going to be a comfortable possibility, even as far south as Arizona, and especially through the still snowy and rainy northern States. We don’t own a trailer or RV, and we like the idea of being a little more flexible on the road, anyway. With three kids and a tight budget, hotels every night weren’t an option.
Here’s where you find the brilliance of the KOA Cabins.
1. Budget Considerations
KOA is not the cheapest campground, to be sure. Yes, their cabins are quite a bit more expensive than regular campsites. They are, however, cheaper than a hotel, so they fit that middle ground perfectly for us. Plus, if you are planning on staying at a KOA for multiple nights, you can purchase a Value Kard that will save you money. For $30, the card will give you 10% off daily registration, plus reward points and other savings.
2. KOA and its Many Amenities
While the KOA campgrounds all maintain their own unique character, there are certain things you can always count on. They’re easily accessible and convenient to the area’s attractions. They have a general store and usually some sort of indoor recreation space, which is a great solution on a rainy afternoon. They’ll often have an outdoor pool and playground, as well, although many pools weren’t open for the season in April. One KOA we stayed at near San Francisco had banana bikes for rent and even had a climbing wall, a jumping pillow, and a petting zoo. Some have trading libraries and sometimes, besides cabins, you can sleep in some unique places. One night in Arizona we slept in a tepee; the kids were overjoyed. (Unfortunately, that was the night the temperature was forecasted to drop to minus four.) Most importantly, they have flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities!
That leads me to comfort, a critical vacation component for me. Heat, beds, and a way to make coffee are all great things. Nearly all of the cabins we stayed in had heat. When we spent a night in the tepee in literally freezing conditions, the campground supplied us with a couple of space heaters and an extension cord to reach the power hookups, so we didn’t actually freeze. The cabins themselves have one or two rooms and beds (usually a double and one or two sets of bunks). Of course, it’s nice to have walls helping keep bugs and noise out! The cabins we visited had electricity (those ubiquitous devices the kids had needed regular charging), and it was great to use a kettle for an easy morning coffee. Some of them even had a small fridge and a TV.
We were 28 days on the road. To be sure, we spent almost a third of our nights in a hotel, but that still would have been a lot of nights sleeping cold on the ground.
4. Loving Life in the Great Outdoors
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of camping, there are some enjoyable things, right? Despite staying in a cabin, you can still appreciate the great outdoors. We stayed at campgrounds on a river, on a lake, near the ocean, and often surrounded by trees. The cabins have a porch swing where you can relax and a place to have a campfire. The best part for me? Seeing the sweep of stars overhead.
5. Press the Easy Button
One of the things I hate about tenting is how long it takes to set up and tear down camp. When you’re on the road every day or two, that time can really add up. When you stay in a cabin, it’s so much easier. You bring your own linens, but that’s all you need. Within a few days, we had it down to a science. In only a handful of minutes, the van was emptied, and the beds were ready. That left more time for relaxing, exploring, and let’s be honest, laundry.
I have to admit, after 28 days it was nice to be home in my own bed and using my own shower. But we had an amazing adventure, and it was partly made possible because of KOA camping cabins. With the combination of convenience and comfort, we discovered you could get addicted to life on the road.
KOA campgrounds are located in most states and provinces, although they are harder to find in Canada. With camping options from tenting, to RV sites, to cabins, you’ll find something to suit your family somewhere you want to go!