Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Camping With Kids | Our Trip To Jellystone Park, Maryland

A special thanks to Jellystone Maryland for hosting our stay and providing
us with a lifetime's worth of memories from our very first family camping trip.

A few weeks ago I reached out to our readers on Facebook and asked them to hit me with their best tips for family camping. We were gearing up to take our three boys, ages 3, 5 and 7, cabin camping for the first time at Jellystone Park in Hagerstown, Maryland and while I initially thought I was fully prepared for the adventure, once the tips and tricks started rolling in, I realized I had a lot to learn about executing a successful camping trip!

After spending 4 days and 3 nights "roughing it," in a three room cabin out in Western Maryland, I think the greatest piece of advice I can offer is just to keep it simple. I'm so glad we chose Jellystone as the location for our foray into camping. I think it's unanimous that we as a family are no where near ready to live off the grid which is why our rustic accommodations that boasted running water and a small kitchenette were just perfect for this family of first-timers. Not to mention the hoards of exciting kid's activities that greeted us around every turn. 

Jellystone is a great place to visit with your family for a fun-filled weekend of camping and with a variety of ways to stay and enjoy the park, including cabins, campsites, RV hook-ups and even unique tiny houses, there's definitely something for everyone! To learn more about the numerous packages available when booking your stay, head here.

Each day of your stay begins with the salutation of the flag and fun, energizing exercise regime with Yogi and Boo-Boo. At check-in you are provided with that week's custom itinerary which includes tons of both free and add-on activities available to you throughout the day. The staff on-site do an excellent job of involving the kids and interacting with them during activities. 

I would say roughly 75% of the kid-friendly activities are free to enjoy at no additional cost of the camper. These free activities include meet and greets with the characters, guided nature hikes, wagon rides, miniature golf, sunset movie shows, bouncy pillow fun, Gaga ball pits, horseshoes, basketball and volleyball courts as well as several awesome and well-maintained playgrounds throughout the park. 

For an additional nominal fee, campers can enjoy add-on a la carte activities such as zip-lining, gem mining, laser tag, ice cream social events with the characters, an arcade full of games and prizes, arts and crafts as well as a ninja warrior course. Whether you choose to partake in these activities is solely a personal decision but I will say that my boys loved (L O V E D) the zip line, gem mining, ninja warrior course and our special invitation to enjoy an ice cream sundae with Boo-Boo bear.

Our Accommodations

Our luxury cabin was the perfect amount of "roughing it" and "glamping" combined. It comfortably slept our family of five with its full size bed and two sets of twin size bunk beds. Personally I don't think we would've survived without the full bathroom, toilet and shower included. While I'm all for the belief that a swim in the pool doubles as a bath, it was nice to throw the boys into a warm shower after a particularly sweaty day at camp. 

The cabin also included a gas fireplace, small kitchenette, dinette, loveseat, fire ring, picnic table and charcoal grill. As I mentioned earlier, part of keeping it simple meant no extravagant meals. For 4 days our family subsisted on hot dogs, grilled barbecue drumsticks, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, boxed macaroni and cheese, cereal, pop tarts, s'mores, pancakes, grilled pizza, fresh fruits and veggies. This no-frills approach to cooking meals that we knew everyone would enjoy made for happy campers and full bellies at every meal.   

Stay and Play

There truly wasn't a single dull moment during our camping adventure and truth be told, our daily routine didn't stray much from what we're used to doing each day at home. The boys would wake up between 7 and 7:30am and while we encouraged them to play outside the cabin (jumping rocks, going on scavenger hunts, safely exploring the woods behind our cabin) my husband and I would cook breakfast in peace. After enjoying our meal together on our porch or picnic table, it was back inside to check out the itinerary and make plans for the day. Most activities started between the 8 and 9am hours and continued long into the evening, often culminating with an outdoor movie at 9pm. 

When a little down time was needed between activities, we would venture back to the cabin for a little quiet time that included drawing, reading, a board game or two and yes, even some television. (Even we as parents needed a little peace and quiet, too!) Don't forget the S'mores making each night!)

Tips For Your Next Visit

  • There is a Starbucks and an Olive Garden within a 10 minute ride from camp, just in case things get dire. 
  • There is also a camp store on site where you can buy a hot cup of coffee, groceries, RV supplies, wood, charcoal, snacks, souvenirs and more! This is great for moments when you might have forgotten to pack the graham crackers for S'mores!
  • No matter where you stay, bring a cheap floor mat for right inside your accommodations. While we pretty quickly got into the habit of leaving our shoes right outside the door of our cabin, I wish we'd brought a cheap, small door mat for directly inside our front door. This way dirty, damp, muddy feet wouldn't traipse throughout the cabin!
  • Golf Cart rentals are completely worth it. Our cabin was located at the far side of the campground which meant we would've had quite the trek to enjoy most of activities. Little kids and tons of walking don't always go hand in hand so it was nice to be able to conveniently zip from one part of the park to the other. 
  • Tons of families brought their kids' bikes to camp! While there isn't a ton of paved access-ways (most paths are rocky gravel), we watched tons of families travel to and fro on bicycles. 

Will We Return?

Absolutely! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in our luxury cabin. The amenities were top notch, our campsite was beautifully secluded and well-maintained and the boys really enjoyed all that the park had to offer. Even with their varying ages, all three of them found things to entertain themselves at every turn. 

We've already started looking into a Fall weekend getaway with some of our friends! While this was a far cry from our typical family vacation, it was the perfect way to unplug and spend some time with the boys before school starts back up. We all woke up each morning eager and excited to explore and try activities that I never thought in a million years the boys, specifically, would entertain the thought of doing. I think I'm most proud of the big boys for the incredibly big leap they took, both figuratively and literally, as they jumped from the platform of the zip-line. It was so fun to watch our youngest bust out some pretty amazing ninja warrior moves during Boo-Boo's Bootcamp and above all else, there are just no words to describe how much it meant to our family to make these memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime! 
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