Full disclosure: Darshan and I are NOT campers. Growing up my family went camping once a year for a family reunion so I always loved the idea of camping, but as I got older I realized that our family’s version of camping was definitely more ‘luxury’ and less traditional. A few months ago out of the blue, Rajan started asking us to take him camping. He wanted bonfires, sleeping bags, the whole nine yards; D and I sort of looked at each other like, “yeah sorry kid, wrong parents.” When KOA (Kampgrounds of America) reached out to me recently for a fall camp trip, I was a little hesitant to set the date and commit to the trip. I haven’t been camping in years and it is not something I have ever led solo as an adult so the idea felt intimidating; that was until KOA sent the information on their campsites and pitched the idea of us staying in one of their on-site cabins. The more I looked into it I realized that maybe, just maybe, we could pull this off.
Luckily for us we were only a few hour drive from location. We took our jeep for easy storage and use while there, but truthfully it wasn’t necessary to have a big car (except for luggage and goods – next time we are taking bikes and scooters) but you would be perfectly find traveling in any size car to the site.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Deluxe cabin at Ventura Ranch KOA Holiday (book here). There are KOA sites all across the US and Canada, but this is known to be on of their most family friendly sites with so many activities to do on location. Ojai Valley is so beautiful, it is more inland so you feel like you are in the mountains but just a close drive to Santa Barbara and so many other vacation destinations.
Where we ate
We did bring groceries with us to eat in the cabin since we knew we would have full kitchen and accommodations. I suggest packing things to make quick and easy meals (think BBQ) and of course snacks and drinks for all. The sites are a quick 5 minute drive to the little town of Santa Paula so there are tons of restaurant to try in the area if you want to sneak out for a meal or two. I definitely think to have the full experience, though, it was fun to cook at the cabin. Don’t forget the s’mores! (also, the front office sells firewood for campfires so if you don’t grab some before coming, you can purchase on site)
What we did
Since it’s camping, just think outdoor fun. Bike riding, scooters, throwing a football around with the kids; Raj took monster trucks and played with them in the rocks, he loved that! Also because we went during a holiday event we had so many fun things planned during our stay (trick or treating, costume parade, etc.). I would check their site when booking to see what events are hosted throughout the year. Also, there is a park, zip lining (currently out of service due to fire damage but they did inform us it should be re-built in the next few months), a pool on site, and even the coolest air cloud for bouncing. The stream along their hiking trails was hands down our favorite!
What to pack:
- comfortable clothes – think gym clothes or athleisure attire for all
- swimsuits (for pool use)
- sneakers that you don’t mind getting dusty
- flip flops/sandals
- bug spray (although we didn’t see a single bug once due to a special ground mulch used on site which keep critters away, which clearly works!)
- Groceries for quick meals/s’mores
- campfire wood (they do sell on site as well)
- first aid kit (we actually helped a little boy clean scrapes from falling on his bike with our kit, this is a MUST with all the outdoor playing)
- bikes, scooters, outdoor fun (not necessary but def a bonus to have on site)
- Extra blankets and towels (even if you are staying in the cabin I recommend bringing extra, they are provided but they don’t have a washer/dryer on site and no housekeeping)
- Folding chairs for around the campfire
Raj was so excited the week leading up to the trip. We had to break it to him that we were not quite ready for tent camping yet, but once we arrived to our cabin and the KOA campsites, we realized that we could still create the same camping experience only so much more user friendly, zero camp experience involved, and with all of the amenities. Our cabin was so incredibly comfortable, with full kitchen and bathroom, and room to fit easily 6-8 people. As modern as the cabin felt the best part of our KOA stay was that it still was just like the good ‘ol classic camping trips of my childhood which I was so incredibly excited to experience with Rajan. In the mornings it was kids riding their bikes around in pajamas, parents sitting on picnic tables with their coffee, dusty faces and nights sitting around the campfire. There is no greater joy than giving your children a weekend of no technology and good classic outdoor fun from morning to night.
We stayed in a Deluxe cabin during our visit but on site they have spaces for tents, RVs, and even ‘deluxe tents’ for rent as well as classic Teepees you can stay in. The teepees looked SO fun, I told D that once we have a little more experience under our belts I would LOVE to try on of those out for weekend! Also on site were so many activities for kids and families: from trails and streams to zip lining and parks, pool, and even this really fun air cloud for kids to jump on (pictured below).
Since we went during the month of October, we were able to experience their Halloween events which take place every Saturday in October. They host a costume parade for kids and families, trick or treating at campsites, campsite decorating contest, and a hayride to the “Haunted Ocracoke Pirate Island” – that was hands down Raj’s favorite!
With such little experience camping on our own, I was so grateful for this opportunity to experience ‘camp life’ with KOA for myself and my family. Darshan and I walked away with an entirely new perspective on camping, more confidence, and now we can’t wait to make this a regular family experience. Camping with KOA doesn’t take a veteran camper but equally if you are one, they make accommodations easy for for any experience level you have. If you are new to the camping life like we are, I highly recommend staying at one of their cabins; it was brainless and easy, but equally the experience of staying in a traditional campsite.
Can’t wait to be back, KOA!
Shop our family’s outfits: