Must-Have RV Accessories List

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OMG, I just bought a brand new RV! What do I need?

If you have this question running through your mind right now, rest assured you are not alone. Every new traveler will be suddenly overcome by the worry about what exactly they need to use their new RV or travel trailer.

Unfortunately, your new RV isn’t going to come with the accessories you need for it to function. From hookups to hoses to every type of camping supply, there is a long list of items that you’ll need to acquire if you want to make the best use of your new rig. Some are non-negotiable, while others are simply nice to have.

Learn from my and others’ experiences and go through this list to grab everything you need for the most stress-free experience you can imagine. No matter what type of RV you have – motorhome, fifth wheel, travel trailer, camper, pop up, etc, here are the basics for every new traveler.

RV BASIC ACCESSORIES

Surge Protector/EMS

This is definitely the most important thing you should NOT skip when buying RV accessories. In the event of an electricity problem in a campground, these can save you time, money and hassle. Electric issues are way more common that you’d believe. And anything from an improperly wired pedestal, a power surge or even a brown-out can damage your trailer irreparably. In fact, I’ve seen entire RVs be written off due to power surges.

The point is, make sure you buy this item. You can go for a hard-wired version that you install inside your rig. Or go for the portable version, which is what most will opt for. An EMS provides more protection than a surge protector.

Water Pressure Regulator

Have you ever had a pipe break in your home or seen it in an office building? The damage can be catastrophic. If this happens in your RV, get ready to spend big bucks on costly repairs.

The simple solution is a water pressure regulator. It keeps the water pressure even so you never get big bursts or little trickles.

Water Hose

While at a campground, you’re going to need a dedicated drinking water hose, which you will use to fill your fresh water holding tank or to connect to city water. They come in various lengths, which is great because there are times when the spigot is farther away that you’d like. Usually 25 feet of hose is enough, but you may want to have two, just in case.

RV Water Filter

Sometimes when you’re traveling in your RV, the water supply around you can be rather iffy. A lot of time it is fine, but others it’s just plain gross. Using an RV water filter helps to keep the yucky crud out of your RV water pump AND out of your body.

Power Cord (50amp or 30amp)

Believe it or not, some RVs don’t come with a power cord. If that’s the case with you, then you definitely need one. Not only that, but it’s always a good idea to grab one for ease of use when your power is too far for your power cord to reach.

NEVER use a regular home extension cord, as this can cause a fire and/or fry your whole system. Instead, check which amperage you need and buy the right one for your rig.

Electrical Adapter

If you want to connect your RV to your home electric, you are going to be disappointed. The amperage in your home electricity isn’t going to work. This inexpensive adapter allows you to hookup to your campground’s power pedestal or a standard 15-amp outlet at home, adapting the connection to fit your 30-amp RV.

Sewer Hose

The least fun part of RV travel is emptying your sewer tank. But it’s a necessary evil (unless of course you have a composting toilet). You’ll need a sewer hose to hook up and release all that nasty gunk into the sewer.

Toilet Paper

DO NOT USE REGULAR TP IN AN RV OR TRAVEL TRAILER.

Seriously, if you are going to use your RV toilet, you need to be sure to use toilet paper that is made for RVs or is septic-safe. There are many different brands, and it’s pretty simple to find in your grocery store or RV supply store. Whatever you do, just make sure not to grab the regular stuff.

Levelers

You might think you can cope with your RV being slightly skewed, and maybe you can. But most people don’t want to sleep on an angle.

But more importantly that comfort, having a level RV is imperative if you have an absorption fridge, which most do. If your RV is not level, it can damage your fridge, and then you’ll need to replace it. More money down the drain!

Getting levelers is extremely important.

Chocks

Chocks keep your RV from rolling away when you park it. These are especially important for travel trailers and fifth wheels, which don’t have automatic brakes.

Chocks are a necessity and should not be skipped. Make sure you buy them before heading out on your first adventure.

Holding Tank Treatment

There’s nothing worse than a stinky RV. These treatments deodorize and keep your rig from smelling like poo. More importantly, though, it also helps break down what’s in the holding tank, preventing clogs and helping keep things working well.

Disposable Gloves

Look, there’s nothing worse than getting sewage on your hands while dumping out your sewage. Wear gloves and keep yourself from having a very unpleasant experience. ‘Nuff said.

RV KITCHEN ACCESSORIES

Kid-Friendly Plates

You may or may not have children running around, but even if you don’t, having durable, reusable and microwave-safe plates are a must. These ones are beautiful and perfect for RV life.

Kid-Friendly Bowls

As above, bowls are also great to have on hand for campfire soups, beans, breakfast cereal, and other liquid food.

Kid-Friendly Cups

You’ll definitely be wanting to keep hydrated on your travels, and these cups are durable and just the right size.

Buy all three as a set of 6 if you don’t want to do it separately.

Silicone Ice Trays With Lid

RV refrigerators are often VERY small. These trays are small enough to fit in there without taking up all that precious freezer real estate. The silicone makes it simple to remove the ice, and with a lid, you don’t have to worry about spillage while traveling

Countertop Ice Maker

Have you ever been out in the hot desert in summertime and just wanted some ice in your drink or to rub over your sweaty bod? This countertop ice maker is worth the counterspace it takes up. Make tons of ice very quickly, then put it in bags in your freezer. Never run out of ice again.

Stemless Wine Glasses

These are perfect for RV life as they won’t break when stored. They have silicone sleeves that make them easier to grip and less likely to slip off surfaces.

Collapsible Kitchen Bowls

These bowls are oven, microwave and dishwasher safe, and they collapse down while not in use to save on storage space! You’ve gotta love them!

Refrigerator Fan

Most RVs come with a fairly inefficient absorption fridge. But if you add a battery-powered fan, it will keep the air circulated and the temperature consistent so your fridge doesn’t have to work quite as hard to stay cold. It’s especially good when traveling to areas with hot climates.

Instant Pot

There’s never a bad time to have an Instant Pot on hand. It makes great food quick, and it’s perfect for meals on the go. It can replace a ton of cooking accessories, which is great when you’re traveling and forget something you need.

Extra Fire Extinguisher

Safety is always a top concern when traveling. Your rig should have come with a fire extinguisher, but it’s never a bad idea to have extra. Keep one in each closed off room (like the bathroom or bedrooms) as well as common areas.

Picnic Table Cover

Campground picnic tables can be really disgusting. Having a cover means a much more sanitary experience. Don’t forget some clamps to hold it in place!

Family Enjoying Camping Holiday In Camper Van

BASIC RV TOOLS

Hitch Lock For Travel Trailers

The Mega Hitch Lock is the very best and most foolproof hitch lock. It makes it hard for anyone to drive away with your trailer, which would be absolutely awful. Other versions can be hacked, which means this one is worth the price you pay for it.

Replacement Fuses

Every rig should have a selection of replacement fuses for those times when you blow one. they are definitely an essential item.

Tool Set

Look, having a good toolset is just smart. You will never know what might break, bend or unscrew while you’re on the road. Stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to fix what’s broken is no way to live. Get a good set of tools and keep it in your rig.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

It hasn’t happened to us yet, but I know others who have found themselves with a flat tire in their travel trailer or fifth wheel who had to keep going with no way to fix it. What a nightmare!

The truth is, this isn’t a cheap accessory, but it’s HUGELY important for safety. Keeping an eye on tire pressure is really important so you can know ahead of time you are losing pressure BEFORE it becomes a big problem. Ignore at your peril.

Air Compressor

In addition to a tire pressure monitor, you’re going to want to invest in a good air compressor. Keeping your tires at the perfect level will help prevent a blow out, and believe me when I say, you DO NOT want that.

Walkie Talkies

Walkie Talkies have a variety of uses when traveling. From talking to one another between cars when caravanning to helping guide someone into a parking spot, these are a good inexpensive option.

Battery Jumper

If your battery dies when camping, and no one is around to help give you a jump, what do you do? If you’re smart, you’ll buy one of these to make it easy to give yourself a charge up.

Torque Wrench

A torque wrench is really important for checking the torque of your trailer or RV’s tires regularly. You’ll need to make sure you get one that is strong enough (about double what you need) so that you aren’t using it at the highest or lowest settings.

OUTDOOR ACCESSORIES FOR YOUR RV

Outdoor Mat

A nice outdoor mat just makes for a more inviting outdoor space and keeps dirt from making its way into your RV. I love this one, as it’s way less expensive than a lot of others, and it is cute!

Camping Chairs

You’re not going to want to spend all day inside when camping. Grab yourself some comfy camping chairs so you can relax and enjoy the scenery.

Camping Table

There are a few different types of tables you may want to consider when traveling. Side tables are great for holding food and drink. Food prep tables can help keep you organized and efficient when feeding a crowd. And even a travel picnic table can be great so you’re not stuck inside eating.

Motion Security Lights

Keeping yourself and your family safe is important – especially when boondocking. These lights don’t use power, as they have solar rechargeable batteries. They help to give good peace of mind.

Conclusion

There are a ton of other RV accessories you may want to get as well, but these camping must-haves will get you started. Remember not to get too stressed out. And always do a test run first, close to home so you can grab whatever you inevitably forgot.

What to Look for When Buying Your First Tent

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Is your family planning on going on a few camping trips this summer? If so, you might be looking at buying your first tent.

While tent shopping isn’t the hardest thing you will ever do, it is something you will want to take seriously. Buy the wrong one and you could find yourself sleeping with a child’s foot in your mouth or soaking wet from rain. Buy the right one, and it should last for years to come.

There are certain things you will want to look for when buying your first tent. Start with this list then move onto any personal requirements or customizations that your family personally needs.

This post may contain affiliate links.

What type of tent are you looking for?

There are a lot of different types of tents available on the market today. From the simple backpacking tent to dome tents and even cabin tents. You’ll need to decide which one(s) you want to look at before you go shopping. For a family, a cabin tent or something along those lines tend to be the best option since they are typically large enough to fit your entire family.

Is it big enough? 

Obviously you’ll need something that is large enough to fit your entire family, but what about sleeping bags, pillows, clothing and the rest of the “luggage” that comes along with having kids? Ideally, a 4-6 person tent would sleep 4-6 people and their gear. Unfortunately, you’ll find that this isn’t always the case. Consider upping the size of your tent to allow for room to move around, all of that gear and of course, keep that foot from ending up in your mouth.

Is it 3 season? 

There is such a thing as an extended season tent and 4 season tents, but the average family will do just fine with a tent that is made to withstand 3 seasons. These types of tents usually do pretty well in heavy rains (provided the rainfly is pulled taut) and are equipped with mesh “windows” to allow airflow while keeping out critters. There is one thing I would highly advise you do before you sleep in your tent for the first time. Your tent may say it is waterproof but do yourself a favor and verify that. If not, you can waterproof it yourself for very little money. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 3 a.m. soaking wet from a leaky tent.

Is from a reputable manufacturer?

This one is iffy but if you want your tent to last for a few years, it is one that you’ll need to pay attention to. Cheaply made tents simply don’t last. They can have cheap poles that snap easier, seams that aren’t sewn properly and other problems. By going with a reputable tent maker, you’re more likely to buy a product that is quality and made to last.

Camping should be fun for both you and your kids, but a bad tent can ruin the whole experience. Make sure that yours is ready to go and fits all of your needs before you head out to Mother Nature next. You’ll be grateful that you spent the time because it really is time well spent.

If you’re looking for the best camping gear, check out my post about the Coleman® Tenaya Lake™ Fast Pitch™ 8-Person Cabin with Closet Tent! It has been used for the last year on many camping trips, and it has stood up beautifully!

Tips for Camping With Young Children

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Truth time: I hate camping with kids

Now to be clear, I don’t hate the entire camping experience. I enjoy campfires. I’m a big fan of s’mores. There’s always something magical about laying back and staring up at the stars, which can be hard to do in the city with too many lights. Often there’s swimming involved, and I’m always down for swimming.

There’s beautiful scenery outside, and I appreciate it. In fact, I’m (mostly) good right up until it’s time to sleep on the ground. I cannot sleep on the ground. It’s uncomfortable, and frankly I don’t understand it. We’ve evolved beyond this. We have beds now, and I like my bed.

It’s good for kids…

That’s why I do it; my family enjoys it. It’s healthy for them to break their routines, to explore and learn in a different environment. It’s good for them to step away from the technology and get out into nature. Now admittedly, last time we went camping, it was at a maintained campground with a pool, a waterslide, and a lodge…and I may have spent $5 for their Wi-Fi, which I may have used to shop for leggings on a live Facebook sale while lounging in a chair poolside. But I swear, that was only for like 2 hours out of the trip.

And kids are adaptable…

Now, I know this doesn’t apply to all kids. If your kid is on the spectrum, that’s obviously different. But most kids are perfectly happy cooking hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick over a campfire. I personally buy telescopic metal camping forks made for campfire cooking. They’re easier to deal with than wooden sticks. Just trust me on this.

Kids also don’t mind sleeping on the ground. They can sleep anywhere.

But it does take planning…

Make a list of supplies you’ll need, and make it as far in advance as possible. Chances are, you won’t think of everything you’ll need at first, but things will randomly pop into your head at the dumbest times possible. Hopefully those ridiculous moments will be before you’re on the road. It’s truly amazing how many epiphanies you have while you’re peeing. Or maybe that’s just me? It can’t just be me…

Sleep items are a given. You know what you need for bedtime. Take more blankets and sleeping bags than you think you’ll need. It never hurts to be over-prepared. Don’t get too extravagant on foods. Make sure you have enough food and drinks (water bottles, water bottles, water bottles!).

But, I personally think pans are a pain in the ass while camping. If you have to have a pan, try to stick to one, well-seasoned cast iron skillet. For the most part, stick to things you can cook on metal camping skewers or in foil.

Take first aid items…

You can buy a premade first aid kit at pretty much any department store. You can put together your own, but it’s honestly worth the money to buy a pre-assembled one to make sure you have everything you might need for minor injuries.

two brothers on a camping trip

Plan activities, but don’t over plan…

Part of the relaxation in camping comes from just being able to be in nature. Disconnecting can give you time to reset and clear your head. It’s meant to be peaceful. It’s meant to be less structured than the day to day craziness of life.

That being said, let’s face it, kids get bored. They may not be as keen on being disconnected as you are (says the person who paid for Wi-Fi and was shopping poolside…). So, make sure you have some ideas in your head should you see the fidgeting and sighing setting in. You can make them nature related, or not. That kind of depends on your kids and what you know they’ll react to best.

I personally like caves. Just make sure they’re maintained and preferably supervised—as in, there’s a station to check into so someone will come looking for you if trouble arises. Scout out waterfalls, springs, or ponds. But, be prepared for the fact that they may need to reconnect to some of their regular activities. Hopefully not all of those activities require electronics because, well, trees don’t have power outlets.

Take books, art supplies, Legos…hell, let them have their stupid fidget spinners if it helps them keep their cool so they don’t ruin the trip for everyone.

You will likely forget things…

If you manage to actually go camping fully prepared, kudos to you. Personally? I make sure there’s a town not too far away with stores for forgotten items. Lord have mercy if you’re ill-prepared while camping with kids.

And while we’re being honest, I totally hit the nearby coffee shop for a Milky Way flavored coffee and a warm cinnamon roll before everyone woke up. Priorities, right?

Do you enjoy camping? What’s your favorite part? Least favorite? I’d love to know!

Our Backyard Camping Plans Were Ruined by Rain

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My very first camping trip was when I was four years old. My dad had a tradition of taking each of his kids camping with him in the middle of the woods once they reached a certain age, and I’d been looking forward to my turn for a long while. Out in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest, we set up camp with a nice tent and a crackling fire. My dad had warned me that there were going to be strange noises in the woods and that I shouldn’t be scared. But I was a nervous wreck anyway. In fact, it was only a few hours in before I began to cry and made him to take me home.

We never tried again.

So when my kiddos started begging a couple of years ago to go camping, I was nervous. Not only had  never been camping since my disastrous trip with my dad, but I so didn’t want to go through the effort of buying camping supplies, hiking out to the woods, setting up camp with little kids and then having to pack it all up again when they got scared.

So I kept putting it off until very recently when Dexter came to me and asked me once again to go camping. That’s when I made a decision – if they could make it through one night camping out in the back yard, I’d consent to going on a REAL camping trip.

I began by doing my research about the best camping gear. I called my dad and asked his opinion, and I looked around online to see what the experts had to say. One brand kept coming up again and again – Coleman. It was a name I recognized, as we already owned many Coleman products, and I knew my dad did, too. I found a sale, and I ended up ordering a ton of new supplies!

a large pile of camping supplies

Everything from a new tent (which is AH-MAZING!) and sleeping bags to camping chairs, portable picnic table, a portable grill and kitchen, and even potable water carrier! I got it all from Kohl’s.

And then it was time to set it all up…

My husband had promised to help, but three days had gone by, and the kids were getting antsy. So I decided to do it myself.

series of four pictures unpacking a tent

I began with our Coleman® Tenaya Lake™ Fast Pitch™ 8-Person Cabin with Closet tent! It came in a perfect little carrying case with the instructions sewn right onto the lid! I’ll admit, it did take me a bit of time to set up.

a deflated tent waiting to be erected

Getting everything placed the correct way was a little daunting, but I managed to figure it out.

a partially constructed tent

In the end, it took me a little more time than it would have if I’d ever set up a tent before, but I still managed to do it all by myself in less than 30 minutes. I call that a win!

a fully constructed Coleman® Tenaya Lake™ Fast Pitch™ 8-Person Cabin with Closet Tent

The kids were SO excited. They loved exploring inside, unzipping the windows and staring out the ceiling at the sky and trees overhead.

little boys inside of a tent
View from inside a tent

We set up our new Coleman Comfort Cloud Memory Foam Sleeping Bags and tested them out. Dex and DJ shared one because they share EVERYTHING.

two young boys sharing a sleeping bag

We had the necessities ready for our backyard camp out, so it was time to set up the rest of our “camp site.”

This included a couple of Coleman Oversize Quad Chairs with Coolers, a foldable picnic table with umbrella, a Coleman Pack Away Camp Kitchen, and a Coleman PerfectFlow InstantStart Portable Gas Grill!

a large blue tent set up in the back yard with two camping chairs
children sitting at a small camping picnic table
camping scene with mini kitchen and two young boys

It seemed to me like we were ready for anything! We made plans to sleep outside at the weekend, and we counted down the hours. But when the weekend arrived, it brought RAIN!

So our little backyard camp out has been postponed for a while. Our tent is still set up in the yard, and we spend a ton of time in in just pretending at camping, and I love the my kids remain so excited about it! I can’t wait until we can do it for real. And dare I say, I’m even excited to go for a REAL camping trip out in the woods!

* This post originally appeared on amotherthing.com

Memorial Day Weekend at Zion National Park

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What did you get up to Memorial Day weekend? Normally our clan wouldn’t really do anything special. Possibly we would barbecue or visit friends. If I was back home in Pennsylvania I might visit a few graves, but here in Utah I’ve not got any loved ones to see.

Mark and I had been talking for ages about visiting one of Utah’s five national parks, and we really wanted to get down to Zion National Park before the weather got too hot. So when I saw a Groupon for 60% off a stay at a hotel in St George, I hopped on and booked us two nights so we could take the kids on a mini vacation.

We had planned to head out first thing Saturday morning (it’s a five hour drive without stops), but I’d totally forgotten that Mark and I had signed up to run Color Me Rad 5k that day. So we adjusted our plans a little bit so that we’d leave a little later in the morning. Then, in a further change of plans we invited my mother in law to come with us, and she was happy to tag along. All this to say that we didn’t end up leaving Salt Lake until later in the day Saturday. Ah well.

It turned out the hotel we had booked was not exactly what I imagined. It had been advertised as an award winning hotel near the red bluffs. But it was actually a motel. It also advertised being a double queen room with a pull out couch (so could easily accommodate the three kids, mother in law and us), but it turned out the couch was just a couch. When I inquired they said Groupon rates didn’t include the pullout. That first night was… frustrating to say the least! But we dealt with it. They were fully booked so we couldn’t even get a second room until the next day. Them’s the breaks!

Sunday we got a later start than we wanted, but we were in time to drop my mother in law at church in Springdale. We planned to get up to the canyon with the kids and she’d take the shuttle up when church was finished. So off we headed, but it was a little stressful as traffic going in was queued up for miles! Parking was limited, so it took us over an hour to get into the park and find a spot to leave the car. We got the kids out and into carriers and began trying to figure out where to go.

How cool is this?! Day 1 vs Day 2 seeing this amazing formation.

As you can imagine, hiking with three small kids is a bit difficult. Not to mention that I am nursing double heel injuries which meant I was limping pretty badly. And to top it off I am also incredibly unfit – more so than I’d imagined, so I was struggling to keep up how I wanted to.

Still, we took the tram halfway up the canyon to Zion Lodge and hiked up a trail to visit the Lower Emerald Pool, featuring an amazingly beautiful waterfall. It was about a mile round trip with a change of elevation of about 69 feet. Not too strenuous normally but carrying a baby and toddlers made it a bit difficult. Plus it was a pretty overcast and rainy day, which made for slow going and slippery paths – though the sun shining through the misty clouds above the mountains were spectacular to see.

We did have to stop and take a break close to the top because the baby needed feeding. I found a nice little rock to brace against so I could nurse him while the kids had fun climbing and sliding down a sheer cliff face.

Once we had finished our hike, we met up with Mark’s mom, about three and a half hours after we’d left her. She was waiting at Zion Lodge, and we decided to have lunch at the Red Rock Grill. The adults opted for the taco bar, and the kids decided to waste money by ordering expensive meals that they didn’t bother eating. Ah, the joys of kids, eh?

By this point Dan was becoming severely unruly as he was so exhausted, and we knew if he didn’t get a nap we would have trouble on our hands. We decided to head back down to the car and drive through the canyons for a while to let the kids sleep.

What an amazing experience. Going slowly up the winding mountain roads, seeing the natural beauty of the rocks. Imagining how these stones looked 100 or 1000 years ago. We saw stunning vistas of vermilion, pink and white, and we stopped several times to photograph the majesty around us. We drove through a mile long tunnel punctuated by small windows every few hundred feet that looked out into the vast forever of the Park.

It was indescribable.

By the end of our drive, we were getting hungry again, and it was later in the day than we had imagined, so we headed back to St George. We stopped at IHOP for dinner and then Mark took the kids to the swimming pool so I could get some work done. We headed to bed early.

On Monday we were determined to get to the park early and make the most of the day since we would have to leave by three in order to get back home before too late.  We did better than on Saturday but we were still later than we had planned. I think that most folk were taking advantage of the holiday weekend to visit the park, so it was slightly less busy than it had been the day before, but I heard our driver say there were 42000 people there! By 10 am!

This time we headed straight up to the top of the canyon to the Temple of Sinawava. This is where hardcore hikers go to test their mettle at The Narrows, but we were there to do the Riverside Trail, which is a two mile round trip and mostly paved. But once again plans were scuppered by kids. Dex decided he was starving (he’d refused his waffle at breakfast), and we realized that we had left our food packs in the car. D’oh! We urged them forward anyway, and we found a small little sandbar along the Virgin River, and we sat down to feed the baby and let the older boys play. We spent about an hour exploring the area and watching them throw rocks into the river over and over. It was actually quite cute. We tried to urge them back onto the trail to go for our planned hike, but they weren’t having it. They only wanted to play. 

Eventually we talked them into going for food, so we headed once again to Zion Lodge to order up some quick food. We threw ourselves down on the sprawling lawn outside the Lodge and had an impromptu picnic. The kids ran around, enjoying the sunshine and green grass. It was adorable to watch them.

We were hoping to get in another trail since our first had been a fail, but unfortunately we knew we had a deadline when we’d have to leave the park so we could get home before too late, and it was fast approaching that time. Everything takes so much longer with kids! In the end, I was actually glad we left when we did, as the buses back down to the Visitor’s Center were SUPER crowded, and we had to wait for AGES to find one we could actually board. By the time we got back to the car, it was our original time to leave anyway!

At the end of the day, we could have spent a whole week at Zion and still not got to do everything we wanted. But we had an amazing time anyway, and the kids haven’t stopped talking about it since! They really and truly loved going there and seeing the “big rocks” and “beach.”

Mark and I would love to have the chance to go back without the kids in tow so we could try some of the harder hikes. If you’ve ever seen photos of Zion National Park, you’ll know there are some INCREDIBLE vistas to be experienced if you’re willing to put in the effort to get there. My bucket list got a little longer since we went, and I am determined to make it to Observation Point and Angels Landing at some point.

I can see us returning as a family again soon, and I think I may book Mark and I a weekend down there at some point for some quality bonding time.

Have you ever been to Zion? What’s your favorite National Park?

* This post originally appeared on amotherthing.com