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Our Home Away From Home By: Rebecca and Sean Karlin from www.campfireshenanigans.com

Right before our 3rd child Alexis was born, we decided to buy a travel trailer. At the time we were living in Illinois and decided what a great way to see the country. We could take our house with us and not have to worry about airports, rental cars, eating out all the time, and dealing with expensive hotels with our growing family. (We had rented a class c motor home 8 months prior and stayed at a KOA near Starved Rock State Park and loved the experience.) Shortly after purchasing our travel trailer, we relocated to Arizona and are seeing a different part of the country.

What We Have Learned About Campsites

Make sure that there are activities for kids. In between sightseeing, it is fun for them to take advantage of some of the kid friendly activities that the campground offers like, hayrides, ice cream socials and fossil and rock finding expeditions. Some campgrounds have a stream where you can go fishing.

  • Try and stay away from ones where people live there permanently. It is nice to stay at a place with other tourists and can share a similar experiences and RV travel tips with them.
  • Double check what the amenities are. It is great having a pool and a spa for the kids to go swimming.
  • Check out any restrictions for renting a site. Some examples are age restrictions (55 and up), are campfires allowed? Or does the site require to use jack pads and sewer hose supports.
  • It is a good idea to purchase a Good Sam membership, Passport America membership, or KOA Value card and use them as a guide for checking out RV parks and enjoy the savings they can offer you.

Tips (Trials and Errors)

  • Make sure that you know how to work your RV. At first, we did not know how to disconnect the RV from our tow vehicle (to our defense, it was never brought up in our orientation from the dealer.) It took us several hours to figure out how to successfully back our rig into a storage space and unhitch from the suv. We also did not realize the hot water tank was winterized and would not produce hot water on our first camping trip. The cold showers were not very enjoyable. It cost us a wasted service call to figure this out.

  • Have several rainy day activities for the kids. We love playing board games with them, Clue is one of our favorites, but we also have an rv travel game, cards, puzzles, toys for the younger one, a Wii system, DVD player and DIRECTV to try and keep everyone entertained.
  • Try to have a meal ready when you get to the campsite (kids get hungry during setup time and don’t want to wait a long time for food.)

  • Be Organized (this is still a work in process for us)
  • Be careful of extreme temperatures. Coming from a cold climate we learned about things freezing and the need to winterize. What we didn’t realize was that the excessive heat in the Phoenix summers can cause damage. We had a gallon bottle of water and a large container of pepper spray that could not take the heat and leaked everywhere. Lessoned learned, use caution cleaning this up, as it can be quite painful to those that wear contact lenses.
  • Give the kids a job and let them help. Our eleven-year-old son Simon loves to help with the set up and is in charge of the toaster for breakfast the next day. Our oldest daughter, Shara (the moody almost 13 year old) pretends to not like camping but we think she secretly does but will never admit it. She is in charge of watching our youngest who would love to help but isn’t quite big enough yet.

Fun With Cooking

We don’t have very much counter or refrigerator space so we bought a Keurig. We use it not only for coffee and tea, but kid friendly beverages like lemonade, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider. One of our favorite things to do while camping is to use our BBQ grill (some places will provide one. We even stayed at one that had a grate you could put on the campfire) We always have our two oldest help with the meal plans. We need to be a bit creative since we have a small refrigerator. We also let the kids help prepare the food. We sometimes will use the stove and microwave only when we can’t get the grill to light fast enough. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Breakfast burritos: you can either scramble the eggs on the grill or stovetop. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and let it melt. put bacon (we use turkey bacon) on the grill until crispy. Wrap tortilla (corn or flour) in foil and place onto grill to warm. Assemble with a little salsa and peppers of your choosing.
  • English muffin pizzas: This is a favorite meal for the kids. Take plain or whole wheat English muffin, spread some pizza sauce on and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with your favorite toppings (we like olives, green peppers, pineapple, and mushrooms) Have the kids make their own to their likings. Grill until cheese is melted, careful not to burn them.
  • Shis kabobs: have the kids help with the assembly. We always make an assembly line, alternate with beef (or chicken), pineapple, cherry tomato, mushroom, green pepper, and pearl onion. Grill until meat is thoroughly cooked.
  • At places where campfires are allowed, we use a roasting stick or fork and roast hotdogs. The kids love this and will have a competition to see who can roast the best hotdog.
  • S’mores: S’mores are always a classic camping dessert. There is nothing better than a roasted marshmallow and a square of Hershey chocolate on a graham cracker. The kids have fun roasting marshmallows. A fun alternative to s’mores is a roasted marshmallow strawberry. You take a strawberry and dip it into marshmallow fluff and toast over the campfire.
  • After a hard day of camping, when the kids finally go to bed make some sangria for the adults to enjoy.

Why we chose our Kodiak Express 255BHSL travel trailer

We chose this model because we wanted a bathtub, sleeping for 8 (incase family or friends join us), it was in our price range, and it was light enough to be towed with our full size suv. The floor plan is great because it gives our almost 13 year old her own corner with the bunk beds, our 11 year old utilizes the fold down dinette and we used a pack and play for the baby who is no longer a baby and will hopefully sleep on the pull out sofa bed but most likely we will find her in our bed. It is a great entry-level design for our family.

Favorite Campgrounds

We have the kids help in planning the activities

  • We stayed at the Tucson / Lazy Days KOA – it is limited on activities for kids. There is a good mix of people who stay there. Some of the spaces have a grassy area and citrus trees. It has a great pool and restaurant. We have stayed there twice, once in the summer and once in the winter. It is centrally located to great activities in the Tucson area. Due to the heat in the Arizona summers, some of the local sights have shortened hours or are even closed during the week. Make sure to check local listings before you head out. We took the kids during our first stay over father’s day weekend to a place called Eegees who serves several varieties of frozen fruit drinks. Truly a delight on a hot summer day. The restaurant onsite at the campground was super kid friendly and even made a special order of pancakes for our daughter. We had such a good time there that we both decided that we wanted to go back again during winter break when things in the area would be open. Sean’s mom tagged along with us but she opted to stay at a near by hotel. We sat down with pamphlets that we had collected during our previous trip and mapped out what we were going to do. The kids really enjoyed the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. There is a lot of walking so make sure you are wearing a pair of comfortable shoes. They have a restaurant and snack shop, but we decided to eat somewhere else. Tucson has things for everyone. We were trying to decide between Old Tucson and Tombstone and Tombstone got the vote. We all enjoyed the reenactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral and had lunch at one of the old saloons. The kids were excited to take the old fashioned newspapers of the events to school to share with their friends. (When we got back home we decided to rewatch the Wyatt Earp and Tombstone movies.) We do recommend watching them beforehand though. We did want to go fishing but since it was raining we decided to go to the Pima Air and Space Museum instead. They have quite a collection of old airplanes on display. We decided to walk at our own pace instead of taking the tram. We had ice cream at the snack shop (Simon had a candy bar, since he is not a fan of ice cream.) We were there over New Year’s Eve and the restaurant at the campground had a special New Year’s menu and party for their guests. It was a fun time and we didn’t have to figure out here to go or spend a lot of money.

  • Lake Powell: This was our first real road trip. We stayed at the Wahweap RV Resort and Marina in Page Arizona. The campground is part of the National Park so we had to pay an additional fee to enter. It offered a gorgeous view overlooking Lake Powell. We were excited because there are numerous campgrounds where there is a restriction on campfires, but they had a fire pit at each campsite. As a privilege to their guests we were allowed to use the swimming pool facilities at their hotel. We enjoyed their pizzeria for lunch. Our son Simon helped us plan this trip as part of a Cub Scout requirement. We decided to go to the beach one of the days. It was a long walk from the parking lot so; make sure to take everything you need. We took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. (We were fortunate enough to have our own private tour.) We also visited the Powell Museum in Page and learned about the local history (the kids enjoyed trying to grind corn.) We also took a day trip to Monument Valley, all we can say is “wow.” Just be careful in the summer because Utah is an hour ahead. In Page they have a huge Walmart, which was great for us to buy beach supplies and firewood without having to pay resort prices. The campground has a souvenir shop but some items tend to be on the expensive side but that is to be expected when there are busloads of people rolling in. The area also offers great hiking trails and a boat tour. Unfortunately this time the boat tour was a little too expensive for us. Maybe we will try it next time. There were many people who have their houseboats on the lake. Our recommendation is to make your reservations early. This is a place that we want to go back to so we can take advantage of all of the wonderful things to see and it is only 4 1/2 hours from home.

West Africa is an ideal destination for safari lovers and brave adventurers, but visiting this wild land with kids onboard is quite different than exploring it on your own. Before heading out for the trip, you need to research health precautions and necessary immunizations, educate both yourself and your kids about the destination, decide which sites to include in the tour, and which activities your family can engage in without risk. Here are a few basic considerations and suggestions which you should bear in mind when planning your trip to Africa’s western regions.

  • Safety first

When traveling to West Africa with children, you should warn your kids to avoid touching bugs and feeding animals. This is probably the toughest lesson to get through to them, but it is extremely important because you never know what infection they may contract on the go. Also, washing hands regularly is a must for both kids and adults, as is sticking to bottled instead of tap water. When packing for the trip, assemble a first-aid kit with antibiotics, band aids, bandages, sterile strips, gauze, tweezers, scissors, thermometer, insect repellent, prescription drugs, antihistamines, allergy medications, broad-spectrum sunscreen with high SPF, rash ointments, and fever remedies.

  • Necessary immunizations

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advise parents visiting Africa to have themselves and their little ones immunized at least six weeks before the trip. The list of pre-trip vaccines varies based on destination country, but as a general rule, immunizations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, meningitis, polio, malaria, ebola, and yellow fever are required in most West African countries. For more information on required vaccines, consult the family physician or check CDC immunization guidelines for individual West Africa countries.

  • Food and drink

As for West Africa food and drink precautions, parents should be very cautious about the local menu as certain dishes contain zesty spices that may cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or vomiting in kids. If possible, do not eat heavily seasoned and fried foods, and wash groceries thoroughly before cooking them. Although food off street stalls does taste great, try to avoid it as cooking conditions in this part of the world are not always compliant with Western food safety standards.

  • Children’s books on West Africa

To help your little ones get a better idea about the destination before arrival, bring along a few West Africa-themed books to keep their minds busy during the flight.

Children’s books on West Africa

Children’s books on West Africa

Here are a few cool books that are both fun and informative about the ways of West Africa.

  1. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale, by Verna Aardema (age 4-8)
  2. The Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales, by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst (age 4-8)
  3. The Fire Children: A West African Folk Tale, by Eric Maddern (age 4-8)
  4. Sundiata: The Lion King of Mali, by David Wisniewski (age 4-8)
  5. The Hatseller and the Monkeys, by Baba Wague Diakite (age 4-8)
  6. Traditional Stories from West Africa, by Robert Hull (age 7-11)
  7. Indigenous Peoples of Africa – West Africa, by Tony Zurlo (age 9-12)
  8. The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories, by Harold Courlander (age 9-12)
  9. Ancient West African Kingdoms: Ghana, Mali and Songhai, by Mary Quigley (age 10-14)
  10. Tales from West Africa, by Martin Bennett (mixed ages)

Places to see

West Africa is a paradise for kids, so you will not have any major problems picking a destination that offers family-friendly leisure programs. Here are just a few suggestions as to which sites you and your kids may want to see during your exploration of West Africa.

  • Accra, Ghana

The capital of Ghana, Accra is one of the most colorful cities in West Africa, and families visiting the area should definitely check out local beaches such as Labadi, Bojo, and Kokrobite. Little adventure lovers will appreciate a trip to Aburi Botanical Gardens, Wheel Story House, and James Town Lighthouse, and if you decide to take them shopping, try Accra Mall, Marina Mall (which has its own playground!), and Makola Market. If you cannot find decent family accommodation in Accra, you can always rent a house in Spintex: the neighborhood is close to the Accra Mall, and it features a few playgrounds so your little ones will always be safe and in your eyes’ reach.

 

Accra, Ghana with children

Accra, Ghana with children

  • Makasutu Culture Forest, The Gambia

A private woodland reserve in the heart of Kombo Central District, Makasutu Culture Forest extends across 1,000 square kilometers of riparian forest, mangroves, and savannah. Makasutu is a perfect place to join a wild safari and see various lizard and bird species, baboons, colobus moneys, mongoose, and crocs. Dedicated to ecotourism and preservation of biodiversity, the reserve features whole-family tours and numerous programs for children, so your kids will never feel bored during the holiday.

 

Makasutu Culture Forest

Makasutu Culture Forest – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/aAJY6m

  • Zoo Nationale d’Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Do not miss a chance to visit the zoo during your visit to the Ivory Coast! In Zoo Nationale d’Abidjan, your family can see elephants, lions, monkeys, crocodiles, chimpanzees, leopards, civets, hyenas, turtles, ostriches, and other wild creatures native to the region.

 

Zoo Nationale d'Abidjan

Zoo Nationale d’Abidjan – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/qZ7g6X

  • Mauritania Sahara, Mauritania

Mauritania is a great place to embark on a daring safari of the Sahara Desert with your family. Here, your kids can ride a camel, visit local schools, try delicacies with dates and exotic jams, and explore sand dunes and desert forts during a guided tour.

 

Mauritania Sahara, Mauritania

Mauritania Sahara, Mauritania – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/ePJXpP

  • Gurara Water Falls, Nigeria

An impressive waterfall perched in the midst of the North-Central Nigeria, Gurara Falls looks its finest after heavy rains. In the rainy season, the two main river streams rush down across the 30 meter-high cliffs face spanning across 200 meters, giving off a misty curtain of water drops. The waterfall is also a great spot for bird-watching, but if you want to dip in the pool below the falls, try visiting the area in January, when the water levels are low.

 

Gurara Water Falls, Nigeria

Gurara Water Falls, Nigeria – https://flic.kr/p/5y2RNw

Are you ready for your West African adventure? Prepare well ahead of the trip, make sure your family follows basic safety standards, and take a bold plunge in the lap of Mother Nature. Your kids will never forget the trip, and neither will you: just sit back and enjoy the view!

Post kids, it becomes obvious that you select holiday destinations keeping them in mind. In fact, they dominate all your travel decisions and preparations.

Dubai is a well known family destination and is visited by families for a memorable vacation all through the year.

But why do parents choose Dubai as a place to visit? It’s because keeping kids entertained is very difficult and Dubai does a fabulous job in it. There are a lot of things to do in Dubai with kids and the countless United Arab Emirates vacation packages you can find online offer endless opportunities for a great family vacation. From castle making at the beach to enjoy at the amazing underwater zoo, kids have a lot to do here and pack a bag full of cherished memories before their school reopens post-holidays.

So, getting straight to the best of the list, here are the cool things to do with your kids in Dubai.

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Keep your cameras ready to capture the jaw- dropping expressions of your child when he watches a gigantic sheet of acrylic showing off the mighty sharks in one of the world’s biggest aquarium. Dubai aquarium is a 10 million liter water tank and is sure to keep your kids glued to it for quite some time.

Dubai Aquarium

Dubai Aquarium

Further continuing the water and sea creatures wonder; take them to the underwater zoo- the amazing underwater tunnel housing thousands of rare species of water animals including the mighty 40 year old giant crocodile weighing around 750 kgs. It’s a bet you haven’t seen anything like this before and will enjoy it like your child too.

Ski Dubai

Visiting Ski Dubai is a must to make your kids enjoy the snow in a completely different way. We promise you will capture some of the best shots of your kids playing here. Ski Dubai is located at the gigantic Mall of Emirates and is no less than a wonder in the desert of Dubai. This faux winter wonderland is full of real ice sculptures, five ski runs with the longest run being 400 meters long, a small toboggan run, a freestyle exciting zone with rails along with real penguins to amaze your kids.

 

Ski Dubai

Ski Dubai – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/7rrTYF

Dolphin Bay

Take your kids out with the sweetest bottlenose marine creatures- the Dolphins on a day out at the Dolphin Bay. Offering a range of exciting experiences that range from watching them dance and play to swimming with them in shallow waters, and getting to play with them too; Dolphin bay is one of the most sophisticated dolphin habitats in the world. Although, animal welfare activists oppose keeping and using the innocent dolphins for entertainment purposes, while it is available do give your kids and yourself this once in a lifetime experience.

 

Dolphin Bay Dobai

Dolphin Bay Dobai – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/b7Thzv

Visit the parks of Dubai

Dubai is known for some of the most beautiful and well maintained parks in the world. Take your kids on a fun day picnic in any one of the famous Dubai parks like the Safa Park or the Mushrif Park to play, run, jump and laugh their heart out. With acres of greenery, kids play areas, large trees to sit in the shadow, and recreational activities; spending a day in the park may look a bit simple but will pack tons of happy memories of the quality time spent with your children.

 

Dubai Parks

Dubai Parks

The Jumeirah beach

Kids can never get tired from building sand castles and playing with the beach waves. So, take them out at the Jumeirah beach overlooking the mighty Burj Al Arab and spend a day soaking in the beauty of the crystal white sands, pristine waters and the vast shoreline of Dubai’s Jumeirah beach.

 

Jumeirah beach Dubai

Jumeirah beach Dubai – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/pR188M

It is noteworthy that Dubai beaches are different than the other beaches in the world and people here expect you to wear decent clothing without too much of skin show even at the beach. So while kids can wear any kind of swimsuits, buy yourself a piece with the least or no skin show. Don’t be shocked; swim suits with no skin show at all are available in Dubai.

Wild Wadi Water park

If the adventure of water thrills your kids, we bet you can’t stay away from one of the most visited water parks in the world- the Wild Wadi Water Park. While the lazy river and small water ground with play slides are apt for the little toddlers, your kids over a 110cm height can soak in the enjoyment of some of the world’s most enthralling rides and bodysurf huge artificial waves. The amazing slides include a 59ft waterfall that goes off every 10 minutes. From Jebel lookout to Falaj Fury, each slide not only gives a great time to your kids but also takes you back into your childhood too.

 

Wild Wadi Water park Dubai

Wild Wadi Water park Dubai – Image source: https://flic.kr/p/4LbHT5

Kidzania

What a better way to spend a creative day with your little wonder than being with him and watching him practice his future passion profession today. Whether he wants to be a doctor, a firefighter, a teacher or an engineer; at Kidszania children gets to enjoy a whole new world of creativity and learning in a unique way. Kidzania is your chance to step into their shoes and take a glimpse in to their imagination, let them spread their wings and enjoy their artistic side.

Sega Republic

Another way of enjoy carefree shopping spree at the Dubai mall is to let your kids enjoy at the Sega Republic theme park. This indoor amusement park has over 170 Bing, booing, beep, zap arcade games, and 15 mildly thrilling rides for the early teens looking to test their guts.     From a free-fall tower, to a small roller coaster, a mechanical tornado to a number of entertaining and enjoyable rides; Sega republic is a fun place to be for kids and adults alike.

While you would like to think you are going to all these kid friendly places for your little ones, you won’t help but realize how much fun you are having yourself. With no dearth of amazing and exciting places for kids in Dubai, you are sure to come back home full of happy and cherished memories. So wait no more and reach this city of exceptional fun today.