Finding Joy in the Journey

Why one family decided to switch their vacations from airplanes to RVs.

Bill Sferrazza's RV parked at a campsite with family enjoying a campfire at night.

As of just a few years ago, my camping experience was limited to two or three trips a year, where I would usually stay in a tent with my daughters (my wife opted to stay home and avoid sleeping on the ground). While I enjoyed these laid-back, slow-paced retreats with my girls, I wanted a way to share this type of vacationing with my whole family. I wanted to take our camping to the next level; do something easier and more comfortable. And by that I mean, I knew I wanted a travel trailer.

Tent camping was never super appealing to my wife, but the disconnected and slower-paced elements of a camping trip were. I knew a beach resort vacation was something I could sell my family on, and I thought staying in an RV would be the perfect compliment. So, before taking the plunge to buy our own, we decided to rent a travel trailer and stay at an RV resort on the beach in Maryland. I knew that I could see myself doing this, but was it right for our family? I worried this particular trip would make or break my RV dreams… And to my surprise (and great delight), those three days forever changed how we wanted to spend the rest of our vacations. My family was hooked.

Up until that fateful weekend in Maryland, most of our family vacations were typical. We’d usually fly somewhere and spend a week at one spot on the map. The focus was always on the destination and how much we could pack into our trip once we got there. But that all changed when we purchased our Jayco White Hawk. Even though it might take longer to travel by RV, the whole experience ends up giving us more time—the time needed to slow down, to be with each other, and to discover more of those hidden, behind the scenes places that we would normally miss if we were flying or staying at a hotel. The space between the take-off and the landing has now become our vacation and it begins as soon as we back out of our driveway.

Now when we plan our trips, we look for places that we typically wouldn’t fly to but that still offer some nature to enjoy. As a landscape photographer, I am always searching for something to capture with my lens. This will often point us towards an incredible destination, but I find so much beauty along the way. A place like Watkins Glen, New York, has some of the most stunning waterfalls and gorges in the Northeast. But it’s also surrounded by charming towns that are filled with quaint restaurants and antique stores. And while many make the trek to see Great Smoky Mountain National Park, we also discovered the beautiful lakeside town of Dandridge, Tennessee. Here we were awarded some of the most serene kayaking on Douglas Lake, with an epic backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains.

When we travel in our RV to places like these, we find ourselves “settling in” at the campground in our rolling home, getting to know the surrounding land, and appreciating the things we discover along the way. We don’t feel rushed to see everything all at once, allowing us to take more time to soak up our surroundings and be in the moment as a family. Even better, my wife is fully on-board with an RV camping trip now.

While my family may be relatively new to the RV lifestyle and RV camping, we’ve picked up a few tips along the way to help you make the most of your travels and truly enjoy the journey.
  1. Do Your Homework. It may sound obvious but research a few different campgrounds to figure out where you want to stay. Look at maps, photos, even social media to try and find out if there is a section of the campground or park that has better views or bigger sites. Google Maps is great for getting a sense of the layout of the campground and if there's a section of it that you would prefer to be in. Don’t rely solely on the internet though—call the campground and speak to someone that can give you first-hand information. 

  2. Everyone Gets A Say. Plan your RV trips as a family. Having input from everyone can go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable. Afterall, you may find yourself planning a trip to somewhere you never would have thought of on your own! My youngest daughter loves music and wants to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Together, we’re planning a trip to Ohio to spend time camping at Cedar Point Amusement Park’s campground, with a day trip planned for the Hall of Fame.

  3. Plan for the Journey and the Destination. As I mentioned, there are so many incredible places you can miss when your method of travel is strictly focused on the final destination. When planning an RV trip, make a point to enjoy the driving days as well. Once you have your route figured out, see if there are any notable places along the way to stop at. Scenic landmarks, state parks, famous eateries and roadside attractions can often be as memorable as your end point. Besides, when else will you get the opportunity to see some of these small places again?

  4. Ask the Locals. Over the last two years of travel, we have found that some of the best recommendations for restaurants, farmer’s markets and general attractions have come from the people who work right at the campground. Whether it’s the campground host, the employees at the registration desk or your fellow campers, they can be a wealth of knowledge and share some off-the-beaten path gems and whereabouts for local fare.

Bill Sferrazza and his family travel in a Jayco White Hawk travel trailer.