Friday, July 5, 2019

Campsite Review: Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida

View from the beach walk at Anastasia State Park. 
Not too shabby! 
Where: Located on Anastasia Island it is just a short drive from historic downtown St. Augustine

Cell Service: Great signal with both Verizon and AT&T

Price: $28/night

Hookups: Water and electric with dump station

We loved this campground! It was one of our first stops on our big cross country trip and we felt right at home among the coastal live oaks in the campground. 

Good to Know

Anastasia State Park is very popular year round. While we lucked in to a site about four months out, it is highly recommended that you book as far in advance as possible. The booking window opens 11 months in advance through Reserve America.  There are 139 campsites, with some sites tent only. We saw a few larger rigs here but the sites that will accommodate them are limited.  


We don't typically recommend chain restaurants but Mellow Mushroom is one of our favorite consistently good pizza joints. After a LONG day on the road and a mini-disaster while parking the trailer, happy hour, pizza and bingo really hit the spot. The pretzel bites were particularly good. It is a quick drive or short bike ride from the campground.

The Castillo de San Marcos is full of over 300
years of history. 
Things to Do

There is plenty to do in the park itself. We enjoyed hiking to the coquina outcroppings (these are the shell rocks that were used in the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos), biking, checking out the beach and chilling in the campground. Outside of the park you have plenty to choose from. St. Augustine is full of history and a visit to Castillo de San Marcos is a must. While we didn't get to check it out ourselves (disclaimer!) two close friends highly recommend the Alligator Farm/Zoological Park which is not just a money grab but is an AZA certified conservation based park.

Kid Consensus
The playgrounds were deemed "awesome"
by both the 3 and 6 year old.

The kids enjoyed the beach and exploring the trails. The playgrounds were awesome but both were a long walk from our campsite. Our recommendation would be to camp near the playgrounds for maximum fun. 

Consider This 

We really do not have anything negative to say about this campground... If you go in the summer be sure to plan for hot weather and lots of mosquitos, but even then it is still worth checking out! There is a very popular amphitheater adjacent to the campground that hosts a lot of concerts, which could be a plus or a negative for your trip. It is worth checking the schedule to see if there are concerts during your visit. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Campsite Review: San Elijo State Beach, Cardiff, California

San Elijo State Beach
A campsite overlooking the Pacific Ocean? I'll take it! 

Where: Cardiff, CA (a short drive north of San Diego)

We can't say enough good things about this campground! The sites are located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Need I say more? The vibe was one of the best we have found in a campground... very chill, kids biking through the loops, lots of groups sharing sites and being respectful of others. All around awesome! While many of the campers are surfers, there were definitely a large number of people who just wanted to relax by the shore. 

Cell Service: Yes! Excellent signal with both Verizon and AT&T

Price: Between $30-50

Hookups: Most sites do not have hookups, there are some full hookup sites and a dump station.

Good to know

While there were a few walk up sites available during our stay, sites do book up early, especially those overlooking the ocean and those with hookups. Hookup sites are extremely limited, with 9 oceanfront full hookup sites. Generators can be used during the day and there are restrooms and showers. Check out a full campground map with sites HERE. We stayed at site 151 but I would take any oceanfront site, they were all great. 

Check in time is 2pm and they mean it! We arrived at 1:45 and were told to "drive around" until check in. Save yourself the headache of navigating around Cardiff and Encinitas with your rig and get there after 2pm! 

Your rig must be under 24' for hookup sites and 35' for non hookup sites. During the high season (March-November) there is a 7 night limit on stays. 

There are several flights of stairs leading down to the beach. If anyone in your group needs accessibility, camp toward the south end of the park were there is handicap access to the beach.

Is it normal to dream about tacos? Asking for a friend.


While at San Elijo you will not have a shortage of great food to choose from. Fortunately for us, we have local connections who gave us the details on some amazing food near the campground. If you go, be sure to check out The Taco Stand, home to some of the best tacos we have ever had along with the classic California Burrito. If meat is your jam, you cannot miss the tri tip at Seaside Market. This versatile beef is known as "Cardiff Crack" and after you have it, you'll see why. 

Things to do

Being so close to San Diego there is no shortage of things to do. From hanging with the seals and sea lions in La Jolla to biking through Balboa Park or visiting the zoo. Delicious food, great beer and shopping can be found on every corner. I'll confess, the weather was so perfect and the beach so nice and we really made use of the campground on our trip and only left to do a small amount of sightseeing and to bike to grab tacos. 

Amazing sunsets are free with your campsite fees.

The Kid Consensus

While they didn't make any besties at this campground, they LOVED biking and scootering the loops. That along with the beach made this spot a favorite.

Consider this...

The campground is located directly off of Highway 101. While this makes it really convenient and great for getting around, it does mean noise. The street noise wasn't too bad but it certainly was not quiet. There is also a commuter train along the highway that will let you know when it is time to wake up each day. ; ) That being said, the noise did not bother us but if you are looking for a traditional, quiet campground experience San Elijo may not be for you. 

Let's talk about the showers... If you are new to camping at California State Parks there are some things you need to know. In an effort to conserve water, the showers are fee based. You have to exchange your quarters for tokens and 2 tokens (50 cents) will get you two minutes of hot water. I know, it takes some getting used to. The good news is we have gotten really good at taking a quick shower! We compete to see who can do a shower in 4 minutes. The fact that there is a charge for the showers does help to keep them clean. The bathrooms are another story. It is not that they are dirty, but this is a beach so you can imagine... Sand and water are simply a part of the bathroom that you can't escape. Bring your flops! 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Hiking with Kids

Be sure to bring your hat on a desert hike!
Saguaro National Park
One of the reasons we embarked on this journey was to share our love of the outdoors with our children. While our kids (ages 4 and 7) love being outside, teaching them to enjoy hiking has not been without its challenges. There is nothing like a tantrum when you are miles away from your vehicle to make you reconsider hiking with kids. We have learned as we have walked and would not trade our adventures on the trails for anything. Here are some tips for hiking with little ones:
  • Start them young! We have been hiking with both kiddos since they were born. We love the Ergo carrier for little ones up to around 3 years old. It is easy to take them in and out if they feel like walking for part of the trail.
  • Do the math! To estimate how far your child can hike, author and outdoor adventurer Peter Brown Hoffmeister (Let Them Be Eaten by Bears) recommends taking your child's age and dividing it in half. So your 6 year old should be able to comfortably hike 3 miles initially. 
  • Get prepared! You should always hike with a day pack that includes the following:
    • Water
    • Snacks (almonds, granola, and apples are some of our favorites)
    • Diapers and wipes (if your child needs them) or a set of dry clothes if they are older (especially if there is water along your hike) 
      Don't forget to take a break!
      Big Sur, California
    • Phone (if you want to really get back to nature you can lose the phone but be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return)
    • Map
    • Sunscreen and/or hat
    • Small First Aid Kit (we had fun building our first aid kit with our family- make it a project!) 
  • Plan some fun! You know your kids... are they climbers? Do they love water? Try to incorporate some time for play in a creek or on some rocks. 
  • Get over YOUR fears. As a parent, it is totally normal to worry about your children and their safety, but don't let that stop you from exploring the world. Think about what scares you about venturing outside and take steps to mitigate those fears. Worried that someone will get hurt? Take a first aid course. Concerned about bears? Read up on what to do if you are confronted in the wilderness and teach your family. 
Wildflowers make a hike magical!
Joshua Tree National Park
  • Slow down! You will not be hiking for speed, at least not initially, so relax. Let your child pick up leaves, skip stones or climb a tree. Remember that time spent in nature is good for everyone's physical and mental health. 
  • Turn your hike into an adventure! Maybe your child is a detective, walking through the forest to solve a crime. Perhaps pirates are chasing you up the trail. Making up some fun has saved us many a time on the last mile of a hike. Give it a try!  

What are your tips for enjoying nature as a family?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Where will we sleep tonight?

We loved this FREE boondocking site in Anzo Borrego, CA
Mapping out a year long, cross country trip was intimidating to say the least. We had an idea of the places we wanted to visit but there were so many questions! How long should we plan to stay in each spot? Do we need hookups every night? Should we book campsites in advance or just find places to stay along the way? How long can we boondock? Do we even WANT to boondock? 

While we wanted to remain flexible, we had to face reality: If you want to camp at Yosemite, you can't just show up and expect to find a spot in the park. Campsites must be booked 6 months in advance, and even then there are no guarantees that you will actually get a site. It took us multiple attempts and lots of frustration to score 2 nights in a Yosemite Valley campground. Yikes! 

We listened to the experiences of friends who were on the road and blended their suggestions into a plan that we felt would work for us: We would book sites at places that were "must sees" in advance and reserve other spots 1-3 months in advance as we travelled. We also promised to be willing to change the plan and "tow with the flow" as the trip unfolded. 

Here are some of the sites we booked in advance. They were worth every minute of planning ahead for sure! 

San Elijo State Beach, Encinitas California
Lower Pines Campground, Yosemite
Burlington Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Campground, Redwoods State and National Park
Grant Village Campground, Yellowstone National Park
Fruita Campground, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

If you miss the booking window and the campsite that you want is unavailable, persistence is key. We scored amazing sites in Joshua Tree and Big Sur by checking their websites daily and being ready to book if a site became available. 

Now, what about hookups? For RV campers there are several types of sites that you need to know:
  • Full hookups (water, electric, sewer and sometimes even CABLE!)
  • Partial hookups (usually water and electric)
  • No hookups (you guessed it... just a site). Sites without hookups can range from state and national park campgrounds with access to showers and toilets to boon docking sites with no services whatsoever. 

Being new to RV camping, we were not sure how long we could go without hookups or how difficult it would be not to have water and electricity. We also had to factor in cost- most state and national park campgrounds have no hookups and are around $35/night. Fancy RV Resorts are awesome and often have pools, spas, playgrounds and activities but average $50-60/night with some over $100/night! 

With all of this in mind, we planned our route to never go more than a few days without staying at a campground with hookups or a dump station. So far this has meant a few days at a Harvest Host or in a national or state park followed by a longer stay at an RV park. We have found that we can comfortably go 4-5 days without hookups or having to dump. We have a generator that provides us power when needed which is an absolute must! 

A view of the Pacific from my campsite? I'll take it!
San Elijo State Beach, Encinitas CA

Recently we also joined Thousand Trails, a campground membership that features parks around the country. So far our first few stays have been great with lots of activities for the kids and amenities such as pools and more. 

To find boon docking sites, we use the apps campendium and the dyrt. To make sure we have the PERFECT site, we use How do do you decide where to camp?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Choosing a camper and packing for a year on the road

"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind." -Thoreau

We made the decision to spend a year on the road in February of 2018. Believe it or not we spent nearly a year planning the trip. From which camper to purchase to what to bring and where to go there were tons of decisions to be made. We are not new to camping but are new to RVing so we had a lot to learn on the fly! We were fortunate to be able to rely on the experience of other travel families who shared their experiences online. 

The first order of business was choosing a camper. After hours of research and visiting a few RV retailers we settled on a KZ Connect Lite 211BH. Our main considerations were having space for the everyone to sleep without having to convert a dining table to a bed daily, having a good size fridge and dining space (for work and school) and we wanted to have a "real" bathroom (Can you believe I almost considered doing a pop up trailer with no toilet? What was I thinking??).  We could have gotten something larger for sure but a few factors kept us from going big with the camper. First, it is very important to us to be able to camp in National Parks and there are limitations on the size of campers allowed into those campgrounds (24' is the absolute max for a travel trailer). Also, we wanted it to be relatively easy to tow, and we didn't want to have to buy a diesel truck. Finally, we did not want to sink a ton of money into it. What if we didn't like the lifestyle and turned around after a month or two? All in all it is a good amount of space for us and only feels too small on rainy days or when Nick and I are both using the kitchen space at one time and the kids are at our feet. Truthfully that has been the case in EVERY home we have ever had. ; ) 

Now to what we brought... oh my gosh I feel like we brought everything. Really the only things we didn't bring are furniture, my nice (breakable) dishes and serving platters, family photos/sentimental items and a bunch of unnecessary toys. Those items are all hanging out in my parent's basement. 

A few years prior to our trip I completely decluttered our home and became a certified KonMari consultant. The fact that we had already thoughtfully curated our belongings along with my professional organizing experience made moving in to a 160 square foot space MUCH easier. 

Between the storage within the trailer and the storage we have in the back of the truck (we have a camper shell on the truck as well) we were able to fit every thing we needed and most of what we wanted. From bikes, clothes for all seasons, toys, camp chairs, books, you name it. We even brought a few luxury items... a "real" coffeemaker (although we have a french press too for off grid camping), my Vitamix (I make smoothies daily so it was a must), a milk frother (I know, I know a bit indulgent but it is a tiny little battery operated hand held one and it makes the almond milk in my coffee just as good as cream), and a globe. Yes a globe. You know, for school. 

So far there is only one thing that we didn't bring that I wish we had- our Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner. I know it sounds nuts, especially since we only have about 10 square feet of carpet, but really how do you clean carpet without a vacuum?? We totally had space for it too. Oh well. 

Surprisingly, space has not been a major issue so far. It is mildly annoying to access some of our storage- for example, much of our storage is under the seating around the dining table so there is an extra step of removing a cushion to get to what you need- but we were very thoughtful about what could be stored for longer periods of time (items we need once a week or less) and items that need to be accessible on a daily basis. 

Camper friends and tiny home friends: What was most difficult for you about moving in to a small space? What were the benefits?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

St. Augustine and Anastasia State Park

We had a great stay at Anastasia State Park in Florida. Located across the bridge from St. Augustine it was a perfect spot for exploring the area. Plus, there was so much to do in the park itself. There were multiple trails for biking and hiking along with beach access. Our favorite hike was over to the Coquina Quarry, where coquina rock was mined by the Spanish to build the Castillo de San Marcos. For our homeschooling lesson we learned about coquina, how it is made over time and why it was such a great material for construction. We also discussed the lives of the Native Americans and enslaved Africans who were responsible for digging up the rock and transporting it across the bay to build the fort.

After some time exploring the park, we headed over the bridge to St. Augustine and Castillo de San Marcos. We were super excited to purchase our National Parks Annual Pass and check out the fort. Zinn was really into the cannons and loved the fact that the fort has never been taken in battle. Asa enjoyed checking out the various rooms including the old prison. The fort was in use for over 300 years so there is a lot of history to take in during a visit.

Next, we headed over to the old town and wandered down several streets, checked out America's Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse (just as unimpressive as it sounds), grabbed some ice cream and Dole Whip for the boys and went to Project Swing Park. We love a good park and this one was only a block from the historic district so it was a winner.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams"

And we're off! We left for the big trip on January 28, racing to get away from the Polar Vortex. Keep in mind guys, we have LIMITED experience with the camper. We bought it in March, took it out for a couple of long weekends and spent a few months packing it up before leaving. Most people would have probably waited until they were more experienced before setting out on a 10 month journey but not us! We like to keep interesting... And hey, so far we've only got one dent on the truck and one on the camper so we're doing alright.

On day one we were still in the driveway when we noticed some water leaking underneath the camper. We were 99.9% sure we just overfilled the water tank but decided to head to the nearest camper service center to make sure. Good news- we were right. Moving on...

Our first stop was Gypsy Wind Farms, a Harvest Hosts location in Blair, South Carolina. Harvest Hosts is an absolutely phenomenal program that connects campers with local farmers, wineries, museums, etc. for a free place to stay. The basic idea is we get free camping from our host and in turn we support their business by purchasing their farm products during our stay. Since we already try to support local farmers this is really great for us. We enjoyed meeting the animals, feeding them and wandering around the farm.

From there, we moved on to Mays Hill Alpacas in Perkins, Georgia. It was there that the Polar Vortex caught up to us with a low of 26 degrees that night. Whoa! We were cozy in the camper though. Fortunately, it was warm enough during the day for us to visit with Glen Mays and his sweet alpacas. How often do you really get to meet locals when you are traveling? We always do our best to meet people but it takes effort! With Harvest Hosts it is really easy and truly adds to the journey!

If you are interested in joining Harvest Hosts, click HERE to learn more and save 15% on your membership. Our membership paid for itself with these two stays alone!