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Spring Break RV Adventure 2015

As you might remember from some of my previous posts, for Spring Break this year Aaron and I decided to plan a week-long RV adventure with all five of the kids. 

We survived. 

We started with grand plans - Utah, Grand Canyon, California - and then scaled back as we considered some of the basics such as this being our first time renting a RV, not knowing how it was all going to go, etc. We spent a bunch of time talking about closer places to go here in Oregon and ended up deciding on spending half of our week at Sunset Bay State Park and half at Jessie M. Honeyman State Park. Our thought process was that we would drive to the one that was farther away first (Sunset Bay) and then have a quicker drive home at the end of the week (in a car it takes about an hour and a half or so to get from Eugene to Honeyman - just outside of Florence - depending on traffic). We reserved our campsites in advance online through Reserve America

We rented the RV from a local RV dealership - Guaranty - and it was a pretty easy process all around. We chose the 2015 Itasca Spirit 31H because it included enough sleeping spots that each of the five kids could have their own space at night. It was a really good choice for this group. 

I loved the suggestions that many of you gave for our trip in the comments this post. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. 

Aaron and I picked up the RV on Friday afternoon and brought it over to my house and started loading it up before the kids were picked up and dropped off. The dealership had actually asked us to pick it up on Friday (our reservation technically started on Saturday) because it was going to help them with the scheduling and walk-throughs with other renters. Picking it up the day before we left made it really easy to pack (it still took a few hours) and make sure we had everything before we took off on Saturday morning. 

Before we left, I jotted down a few of the things I was looking forward to on the Notes app on my phone: 

  • Taking photos
  • Hanging lights outside the RV
  • Being together // connecting
  • Hiking // walking // being outside
  • Disconnecting 

The photos I'm sharing in this post are a mix of iPhone and Canon 5D.

Of course I had to do a camera-on-the-dash-self-timer-shot before Aaron started driving. 

And as you can see, Simon and all the kids were pretty darn excited about embarking on this adventure. 

It took 4 hours or so to get from my house to Sunset Bay (we stopped for lunch along the way). 

Here's a look at our campsite at Sunset Bay State Park. This is close to my parents house and we had them go check out a spot for us that was close to the showers and bathrooms. They did a great job picking a spot that fit what we were looking for this time. 

Keep in mind, this is spring in western Oregon. Spring Break for us never means sunshine necessarily and it most often includes rain. It's how everything stays green of course. We knew this going into the adventure so we were ready for it to rain or be sunny (or a crazy mix of both as it turned out).

We were pretty happy to see the sun when we pulled into our spot. 

As soon as we started unloading the kids were off to explore on their bikes. I'm so glad we decided to bring the bikes. We went back and forth a bit and ended up renting the bike carrier attachment for the back of the RV and then stored the girls bikes underneath in some of the storage areas. Next time it will be more awesome for Anna because she will be done with those training wheels. 

The first thing Simon did was get a map so he could explore the entire campground. 

Walkie-talkies came in super handy to keep track of these guys. 

We brought along a bag of coloring books for the girls as well as a basket of books and some Playmobil people. 

These two are quite the pair actually. They are just a little over a month apart (both 6) and they really enjoy each others company most of the time. We intervened a few times for little arguments here and there but for the most part they were just so darn happy to play with each other for six days straight. 

We did choose to bring along electronics, mainly for the mornings.

We did have one day where it rained buckets and buckets and we stayed in the RV the entire day. 

I'm not going to lie, that day was rough. 

But we all made it through and the next day was overcast and warmer - which was much, much better than pouring down rain.

We're Oregonians, we make it through. 

This is a beach that Simon has been to many times before with my parents. I love watching him explore.  

After a couple nights at Sunset Bay we packed up and drove the short distance to my parents house before making our way to Honeyman. My parents were actually in Seattle visiting my new niece Olive so we missed getting the chance to see them but we did take advantages of their hot showers, wifi, and awesome stairs down to the beach. 

As you can see, the blue sky appeared again. 

I love how kids don't really care how cold it actually is outside. 

Grandma and Grandpa have cool stuff to explore. 

Audrey and Anna wrote a note to my parents while we were visiting their house: 

After we finished up a load of wash, showered and had lunch we started the drive to Honeyman. It's about a 2-hour drive between the two in a RV. 

Aaron and I had picked out our spot at Honeyman on that weekend we stayed at Washburne State Park around Valentine's Day. At Honeyman we wanted a spot close to the showers/bathrooms, close to one of the trails to the sand dunes and close to the playground. This spot also worked out great. 

Honeyman is the second largest overnight camp in Oregon and is located basically right next to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area - 40 miles of wind-sculpted, shifting sand dunes. 

Really it's just an awesome place to run and jump and get your photo taken and then roll down giant sand hills. 

Not everyone could fit at the table at the same time so when the weather was nice some ate outside or we did it in shifts. 

We did end up planning out our meals which definitely made things simple. I brought the crock pot for chili and for meatball sandwiches. We did grilled cheese (or tuna & cheese for some) one night and burritos another night and hot dogs on another night of course. We did bring a little more food than we ended up needing, but it wasn't too crazy over the top. We did sandwiches most of the days for lunch and cereal or oatmeal (or toast for Simon) for breakfast.  

I ordered a tube of glow stick bracelets and brought them out one evening. For the win. 

The weather kept getting better as the days went by. Honeyman is on a lake which makes for some fun swimming spots - especially in the summer when it really gets warm enough. 

Of course, the kids didn't seem to mind. 

These four played and played and played. Simon explored and then sat down to chat with me and Aaron. 

One of my favorite memories from this trip will be reading Harry Potter (Goblet Of Fire) out loud to the kids a couple evenings. 

Aaron's oldest son Isaac (just turned 10) has read them all multiple times so he and I engaged in some fun trivia - including Simon when he was interested. 

On Friday morning we packed up and drove home, getting back in time for the other adults in the kids lives to come pick them up. We spent the next couple of hours unpacking and then cleaning the RV before driving it back over to Guaranty and then falling into my bed after a very full, fun week.  

On Saturday we drove up to Portland to celebrate Aaron's sister's birthday (check out this awesome Tiki Bar called Hale Pele next time you are in town). We also celebrated making it through the RV adventure. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I'm someone that already likes camping and will definitely sleep in a tent again in my lifetime. But add in a warm, dry place to cook and sleep that's not a tent - I'm totally sold. 

As with any vacation (or life experience, ha) there were some challenges. Personalities colliding. Agitations. Fairness stuff. Discussions about this and that and he said and she said. Tears shed. Escalations. I had a few moments where I lost my cool and needed a break. I think we all had a few of those moments. Lots and lots of sweeping (even with a shoes off in the RV policy). Moments where we felt like all we were doing was cleaning up from one meal and starting on the next. Moments that tested communication abilities all around. 

Real life stuff comes along on vacation too

There was also a lot of laughter and silliness and exploration and independence building and fresh air. There were smores and glow bracelets and bike rides and new friends at the park and jumps off the dunes. There were two families coming together, in all our imperfections, figuring it out one moment at a time. Expanding hearts bit by bit. 

PS | Don't forget that the Spring Sale is happening now with 40% off my digital products and 25% off all alphabet stickers. Shop the sale here. Also don't forget to sign up for my new 12-week online workshop Type - signing up before April 6th gets you 20% off the full price

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31 thoughts

  1. Maxpuppy says…
    03/31/2015

    "There were two families coming together, in all our imperfections, figuring it out one moment at a time. Expanding hearts bit by bit." ... so happy that it worked out well, on the whole,for you! Love the shot of Simon sitting on the beach and the note Anna wrote for her grandparents.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. jclemmer says…
    03/31/2015

    5 kids in 1 RV for an entire rainy day? Gosh you have guts girl........hehehe....ROUGH is not the word:)

    Looks like you guys had some very awesome cool adventures Ali!! Great excitement happening on the dunes...how cool is that?

    LOVE the GLOW STICK BRACELETS..........FAB IDEA Ali!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. jclemmer says…
    03/31/2015

    Very glad you survived by the way! :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. abragg79 says…
    03/31/2015

    What a wonderful adventure - for you, Aaron and the kids!

    I agree - challenges are part of any trip or experience but the great thing? The kids are probably not going to remember those little thing but rather the entire experience as a wonderful memory. The fun memories always win out.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. natalieweber10 says…
    03/31/2015

    I love this Ali! Merging two families is never easy and being in close quarters for that long can really test your limits! I love this story because I feel like I went through similar experiences vacationing with my kids (12 & 9) and my husbands kids (11 & 10). It was especially tough when they were younger but now we've got our groove and lots of great memories :) Thanks for sharing!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. ScrappinMyHeartOut says…
    03/31/2015

    You captured some awesome slices of life on this vacation! Love the photos! Guess what? Next year and for the years to come, the kids will be talking about the fun, not the feuds. That's what they will remember. And those memories will be glorious!

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. achristian says…
    03/31/2015

    Note to self, when I plan my first family RV trip, have local fun to spot to go as a back up plan just in case it rains all day. :) Love the photos of the sand dunes. And Simon is seriously getting tall!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. AndiWalsh says…
    03/31/2015

    Loved reading this. I took my two on a four day road-trip for our spring break adventure. Seven hour drive to our major destination (downtown Seattle) along with side trips (Bainbridge Is, Bremerton). Mine are 17 and soon to be 16. This was our BEST road-trip ever! And, it was the first time mine actually got along as friends the entire time, (well, a few little moments). I will have to add a 'stay at the coast' trip to our bucket list. And, I love the giant cocktail shot. That would be my 'we didn't kill each other' shot!

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  9. mtercha says…
    03/31/2015

    Your photos, so beautiful. Your writing, even more so if that's even possible. I love how you are in it for the whole, if I'm saying that right. I'm tending to back away right now, even from those few closest, and you're reminding me to get back in there. Looks like it was pretty awesome for the most part. That's great. And thanks again for your awesome sale. I had so much fun printing out my stuff last night (it doesn't take much, but when you're so inexperienced and still need help from your kids it's a win). :) Michelle t

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  10. lhbarefoot says…
    03/31/2015

    I just love how you are so transparent. You always tell the story- good, bad and all the above. I really need to be more like this. I tend to leave out the things that are not always good, but they are a reality and this is LIFE! Really happy for you and this great adventure! Keep these stories coming.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. angelzmom says…
    03/31/2015

    What an adventure! You totally rocked the week! I enjoyed the pics immensely but must admit I got a bit teary when I read Anna's letter to your parents. Those kids will cherish these memories for a lifetime. :-)

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. stkong7 says…
    03/31/2015

    Awesome post Ali! You are the real deal. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. carriecolbert says…
    03/31/2015

    Awesome adventure. Simon in particular looks like he loved it.

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. suethoenes says…
    03/31/2015

    Ali, you are pure awesome!!! I would not have done this for $1,000,000, BUT your blog is worth millions!!! Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. mary_rogers says…
    03/31/2015

    We really thought about renting an RV next Spring break and driving to Florida. That is a way I think Madison could handle the travel aspect. I am glad you and Aaron are figuring it out along the way, blended families can be challenging, but also so loving and rewarding. Good for you!

    ps. thanks for the Spring sale - I had some digital stuff in my cart for too long!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. jemi says…
    03/31/2015

    Man! When I first saw the photo of the RV, I thought "Well, if Ali's business venture doesn't work out, she and Aaron could do long-haul trucking!". What precious cargo!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. chp97 says…
    03/31/2015

    Wow. These are the moments. Bet there was lots of magic lol. I loved the adventures of camping when I was a child with my family. So many stories. Thank you to both you and Aaron for sharing your family with your readers so openly. Beautiful moments and scenery. I went to an outdoor music festival last fall that made me want to camp again. It was held in the beautiful Sandbanks Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. Love reading your words Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. nitanelle says…
    03/31/2015

    The whole last paragraph...so perfect. I love the photos and the story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. jchurch2 says…
    03/31/2015

    So glad you had an awesome trip. I was thinking about you last week and hoping the weather was good. You guys sure did your homework and it paid off. (For the win). Thanks for sharing your great adventure.

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. minkaclark says…
    03/31/2015

    Beautifully captured in all its imperfections. That's real life. Not glossed over Instagrammed depictions of the 'perfect' holiday. Loved it, and why I am a follower of your life/blog. (I was going to say 'fan' but that sounds a bit creepy!).

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Debg says…
    03/31/2015

    Love this! We were spring breaking last week as well, 3500 miles...two teenage sons and 8 yr old daughter in a mini van. We certainly had our imperfect moments and our good memories that we are already laughing about. I was anxious to know how yours went. Thanks for keeping it real...not everyone does. Love that! Just the usual awesome Ali!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Bellaa75 says…
    03/31/2015

    Awesome Ali, thanks for sharing all the imperfections aswell.

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. anniebeagle says…
    04/01/2015

    Wonderful story and photos! I love getting a glimpse of how your family is doing life right now. I'm guessing the kids will remember this trip for a lifetime. I had a flashback moment when you showed the sand hills. Were your kids ever into The Wiggles? "Rolling down the sand hills, rolling down the sand hills, ooh, ahh, wee!" :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bARYBSfXq1s --Jenny B.

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  24. scraplea says…
    04/01/2015

    Love this! I'm alittle late to the party because we took the kids camping to Yosemite in our trailer over spring break and it's fun, and it's work and it's cleaning, etc, but so, so worth it. Your kids will have these memories forever. Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful photos and great family time. Can't wait for your next adventure. Have a fabulous week!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Borcherding says…
    04/01/2015

    Man... now I want to go camping! :) Loved reading this Ali!

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