As we drove up Highway 1 last week, my mom reminisced about all of the camping trips we took as a family. On several occasions, we would rent an RV and drive. But most of our camping involved pitching tents, cooking meals on a camping stove, and roasting s’mores over a fire. We plan at least one camping trip per year, and with the need to social distance due to COVID-19, it seemed like the vacation we needed. I still remember our first experience at a KOA. Unlike most campgrounds, we spent our entire vacation onsite enjoying their swimming pool, playground, game room, and other onsite amenities. On this particular trip, we glamped in a Deluxe Cabin at Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Campgrounds. This campground is a KOA Holiday campground, which means you’ll enjoy a number of onsite amenities, RV sites with a KOA patio, Deluxe Cabins, and Premium Tent Sites.
This post was written in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.
Kampgrounds of America
While I’ve camped in a sleeping bag in the back country and in-style inside a cozy RV, my favorite way to camp is inside a Cabin. KOA’s Deluxe Cabins feature the comforts of home, while still allowing families to enjoy activities like roasting s’mores over a campfire and grilling hamburgers.
Most KOA sites are tucked away from the urban life, allowing for a complete “great outdoors” immersion. There are three kinds of KOA sites for every camper:
- KOA Journey: These campgrounds are located near highways across the country and feature Pull-thru RV sites making it the perfect retreat after a long day on the road.
- KOA Holiday: KOA Holiday campgrounds offer a memorable outdoor experience and feature upgraded RV Sites with a KOA Patio and Deluxe Cabins with full baths for camping in comfort. These campgrounds are ideal for families because they feature a diverse selection of amenities that can include a swimming pool, a playground, bike rentals, and more. You could spend your entire vacation onsite without ever having to leave.
- KOA Resort: KOA Resorts offer much in the way of recreation and activities. In addition to offering RV sites with a KOA Patio and Deluxe Cabins, KOA Resorts offer unique amenities which can include a climbing wall, Jumping Pillows, a cafe, an activities director and more. KOA Resorts are designed for families to spend their entire vacation on-site, if desired.
Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA
Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA is located approximately 40 minutes from Monterey and approximately 20 minutes from Santa Cruz. It is ideally situated in between both cities, making it an easy base for those desiring to explore the Central Coast. You’re also 5 minutes from the nearest beach making it the ideal getaway.
We chose camping for a number of reasons, including the desire to get away, while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Our family often travels with my mom, so a destination that supported a multi-generational family was important. I grew up camping with my parents, and while my mom is no stranger to “roughing it,” she definitely prefers some of the common luxuries afforded in KOA’s glamping Deluxe Cabins. Here are my top reasons to camp in a Deluxe Cabin at Kampgrounds of America:
Pack less: Tent camping requires planning and sufficient gear to ensure an enjoyable experience. The result is that we often find that our rental vehicle is jam packed with gear. And the bigger risk is forgetting something essential. When you camp in a Deluxe Cabin, you don’t have to worry about packing a tent, a sleeping bag, air mattresses, or bedding.
Travel year-round: Our decision to camp in Monterey was made last minute so we were grateful to be able to secure a cabin. While it is mid-Summer here in Southern California, Monterey can be cold, particularly at night. KOA’s cabins include heating and AC, which allow for travel off-peak, year-round, when temperatures may be too hot or too cold for conventional tent camping.
Enjoy a more cost-effective vacation: KOA’s Deluxe Cabins include a refrigerator, a microwave, a Keurig, and a gas grill which means you can cook some or all of your meals without having to dine out. You’ll also save money on recreation, particularly if you camp at one of KOA’s Holiday or Resort campgrounds. We spent much of our vacation onsite swimming, riding bikes, roasting s’mores, and enjoying quality time together as a family. If you have forgotten something essential, you can walk down to their Camp Store for everything from firewood to ice cream.
Camping During a Pandemic
Our family has been anxious to get out of our home and away to the great outdoors. And while I know that camping is very low risk (rated a 2 on a scale of 1-10), I did have some reservations prior to learning about KOA’s COVID-19 safety measures.
Masks are required throughout the campground and social distancing is in place inside the camp store, the laundry, and the bike rental shop. Common areas are cleaned twice per day with routine cleaning of high touch surfaces occurring more frequently.
We really enjoyed their remote check-in process. A day before our arrival, we were contacted via text message with instructions for check-in. Upon arrival, we simply picked up our key and headed to our cabin. Throughout our stay, we simply texted any requests to the number provided on check-in. Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA also features a remote grocery list which allows you to order basic items online and have them delivered to your campsite for free.
We were very impressed with the procedures KOA has in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. As I sat around the fire, watching my kids roast s’mores and taking in the nighttime sky, I realized that it was the most normal we have felt in a very long time.
*It should be noted that at this time, certain amenities such as the KOA Jumping Pillow, the KOA Express Fun Train, the playground, and the Coconut Palm Trees are closed. I encourage you to check with the campground prior to your arrival for any changes, as there is much fluidity surrounding our current pandemic.
Traveling with my mom has given my kids experiences they will treasure for a lifetime. KOA makes it convenient for families of all ages to travel together. Family members can vary the way they want to camp, with some opting to tent camp and others glamping in one of their Deluxe Cabins.
- Include everyone in the planning process: Camping as a multi-generational family requires some thought and planning. When I was younger, I’d often set out on a vacation with no plan apart from a place to lay my head. Motherhood has taught me that this does not go well with small children or grandparents who prefer a more structured vacation. For this particular trip, I researched both the campsite and the local area, and put together a list of possible activities. Together, we each selected one or two activities to enjoy together.
- Vary the way you camp: If you are traveling with a big family, try to secure campsites next to each other so that you can enjoy meals and activities together. If some members want to camp in a tent, and others prefer a cabin, KOA makes it easy for families to vary the way they camp, while still making memories together.
- Collaborate on meals: One of my best tips for camping as a multi-generational family is to assign responsibility for specific meals. Each family can take turns cooking for everyone. This is a great way to share traditions surrounding mealtime and camping ,while giving other families a break from cooking every meal.
- Plan a loose agenda: When you travel as a large, multi-generational family, life can alter even the best laid plans. Flexibility is key, as is a back-up plan, in the event that a planned activity or excursion is canceled.
Earlier this year, we added a member to our family! Our little Pug has been a joy, and while we have not traveled with her as of yet, we are always looking for pet-friendly lodging.
KOA’s Kamp K9 provides a spacious, fenced area for your pet to roam off-leash. Clean-up stations and fresh water are available, and some KOA campgrounds include dedicated areas for large and small dogs as well as a dog park.
With no immediate end to our global pandemic, I knew that camping would be our vacation mainstay during this time. KOA offers so much in the way of value that we decided to purchase a KOA Kard when we booked our latest stay.
KOA’s annual loyalty program allows families to camp more, while spending less. For $33, you’ll enjoy the following year-round benefits:
- 10% off daily registration rate all year long at 500 KOA Campgrounds throughout North America.
- Rewards points that accumulate for cash off future KOA camping stays.
- Free night of camping during Value Kard Rewards Appreciation Weekend at participating KOAs.
- Exclusive offers from KOA partners including Geico, Route 66, Family Motor Coach Association, Big4 Holiday Parks, Discovery Parks and more.
- Special discounts from Goodyear Tires, Allstate RV Roadhelp, RV Loan Center by Essex Credit and Dish TV.
Please visit KOA.com/value-kard-rewards for specific questions regarding KOA’s loyalty program.
And for additional information regarding KOA campsites, visit KOA.com.