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Falling in love with family fall camping

by on October 28, 2015

Imagine driving down a tree-lined country road where the traffic is light, the weather is mild, and the leaves are five varying hues of orange. Your car windows are down, inviting the crisp air in as you fill your lungs with the breath of nature.

It’s fall. My favorite time of year to travel. Prices are lower, the summer crowds have gone home, and country landscapes are picture perfect.

And it’s the surprisingly ideal time to go camping.

Photos by Tawanna Browne Smith

Photos by Tawanna Browne Smith

Understanding your travel style

Now, I’m no camping aficionado, in fact, if you ask any of my closest friends if they can imagine me camping, you’d get a unanimous “no.” And they’re not lying. I’m just not a pitch-a-tent type of girl.

I can’t function in the cold. I have a phobia of bugs. My allergies are, at times, debilitating. I watched too many scary movies growing up. I’m the quintessential city girl. And most of all, I enjoy my creature comforts.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to camp. And an ideal season to go: fall.

A deluxe cabin in the woods is one of many ways you can go camping.

A deluxe cabin in the woods is one of many ways you can go camping.

The great camping debate
Last weekend I posted photos to my Facebook profile of my first-time foray into camping. Within minutes I was confronted with almost two dozen objections to what I considered camping to be.

The camping “experts” (about 20 of whom will remain anonymous) were out for blood, armed with their torches and pitchforks:
“That’s not camping. That’s ‘glamping’.”
“That is called renting a house in another town and state for the weekend.”
“That is hardly roughing it.”
“Where is the tent?”
“Enjoy your ‘clearly not camping’ trip.”

Are you kidding me, people? Open your minds. Thankfully for those of us who need a little outdoors hand-holding, camping is not just about a tent.

What is considered camping

The definition of camping has evolved over the years. Traditionally, camping in its most simplistic forms meant “recreationally living in the outdoors,” either in the open air or under a tent.

This sculpted bear blended in well with the scenery.

This sculpted bear blended in well with the scenery.

A more refined definition from Wikipedia states that “camping is an elective outdoor recreational activity. Generally held, participants leave developed areas to spend time outdoors in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. Camping may involve sheltering in the open air, attendance, caravan, motorhome, or primitive structure.”

Furthermore the definition states that “there is no universally held definition of what is and what is not camping. Fundamentally, it reflects a combination of intent and the nature of activities involved.”

Who knew my camping trip would become a philosophical debate?

Three styles of camping

Thank goodness for campgrounds like the Williamsburg KOA that make camping (or its intent) accessible to different types of travelers.

Cabin camping
For those looking for a “comfy camping” experience, cabins are a convenient option. Cabins can range from basic one-room rudimentary shacks to more deluxe accommodations, complete with bathroom, a half-kitchen, linens, television, and a deck.

Outside of our cabin, we enjoyed a nature walk and making s'mores on an open fire.

Outside of our cabin, we enjoyed a nature walk and making s’mores on an open fire.

Caravan or motor-home camping
Then there’s motor-home camping. Our campground was filled with more motor homes than cabins and tents combined.

These homes on wheels, which come in all sorts of sizes, are the perfect complement to camping. Travelers on the campground set up tables and chairs for meals and relaxation while they grilled and socialized with their neighbors. Many decorate their spaces with house plants and seasonal paraphernalia.

Tent camping
Ironically, despite all the online trash-talking, I didn’t see all that many tents pitched on our camping trip. Walking along two of the campground’s beautiful nature trails, I counted no more than five families emerging from tent sites. It was a testimony to the changing face of camping.

Things to do away from the campsite  

Camping is fun, but some days you need to get away from your home away from home. We chose a campground minutes away from a historical area so we’d have the opportunity to do more on our fall camping trip than just sit around a campfire.

There are campsites all around the country, many close to amazing things to visit. We opted to camp near Williamsburg’s historic triangle; rich with early colonial history, reenactment sites, restaurants, museums, shops, and hotels.

A water fountain sculpture outside the Jamestown Settlement Visitors Center

A water fountain sculpture outside the Jamestown Settlement Visitors Center

We spent a day in Historic Jamestown and learned all about America’s first permanent English settlement. As we walked through the original 1607 James Fort site, we had a chance to explore what life was like for the Africans, English, and Powhatan Indians who lived here.

The James River was almost irresistible.

The James River was almost irresistible.

The James River provided a scenic backdrop to this archaeological site where our imaginations ran wild just thinking of the trade and activity that took place on its banks over 400 years ago.

Nearby Jamestown Island Loop Drive is a five-mile, self-guided driving tour that explores the natural environment and history of the island. We drove at our leisure stopping and reading site markers for homes and trails that once occupied the loop.

An artisan makes hand-blown glass pieces for sale.

An artisan makes hand-blown glass pieces for sale.

After stopping at the Glasshouse of 1608 and observing traditional glass making from one of the period-dressed artisans, we grabbed a tasty bite at Anna’s Brick Oven pizza. The 16″ thin crust cheese pizza was a welcome treat after an afternoon of touring.

It was a great trip, and I might well be a camping convert. Especially since it doesn’t matter if you pitch a tent, hook up an RV, or relax in a cabin. Camping in the fall is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors and surrounding activities with the family.

This post was written by Tawanna Browne Smith, a consultant and Editor-in-Chief at Mom’s Guide To Travel where she shares travel planning tips while helping caregivers and moms plan and strategize how they can make travel an integral part of their lives for transformation, enjoyment, and respite. You can find more of her notemaps on Findery.

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