Thanks to Our Guests
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we want to say thanks to our guests.
And as an early Christmas present, thanks to you, we are a top ranked destination on Tripadvisor.com.
Here at Butterfield, we work hard to try and provide the best experience for our guests. Thank you for helping us become a top ranked destination on TripAdvisor.
Holiday Travel Tips
With the holidays fast approaching, we want everyone to remember to stay safe and well this holiday season. With that in mind, we know how hectic and discouraging holiday travel can be, so enjoy our tips for having a safe, hassle-free (or at least hassle-less) holiday season.
Travel Early or Late in the Day
Consider the time of day that you are traveling. Whether you are flying or driving, you will avoid crowds by traveling at odd hours. If driving, just make sure to stay safe by having a back-up driver or being prepared to make a sleep stop if you are driving late at night.
Prepare the Day Before
Have as much as possible ready to go the day before. Get gas. Even if just driving to the airport, crowds at the gas station can put a damper on your travel schedule. Pack up the car. Don’t waste time packing the car in the morning. If you must, leave out one bag for all of your last minute items that can be packed quickly.
Ship Gifts to your Destination
Save space in the car or avoid extra baggage fees by shipping gifts to your destination ahead of time. The same goes with gifts you receive while traveling. Or, save money by doing your holiday shopping after you arrive. If you are flying and must bring gifts with you, use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. It’s not uncommon for wrapped gifts to be opened by security.
Remember, Make Reservations Early
And we’re not just talking about Hotel and Flight reservations here. Even long-term parking facilities and pet kennels fill up fast.
Make sure you have plenty to do while you wait, especially if you are traveling with kids. If flying, bring books, music, cards and other games to keep you busy. If driving, consider audio books in addition to the above to entertain the family together.
Always give yourself more time than you think you will need to reach your destination. The holiday hustle and bustle is crazy enough without the worry that you will miss your flight or be late to your mother-in-laws dinner party.
Bring your Own Food
Remember snacks in the airport or on the road can get expensive. Bring your own to save time and money. But remember, no drinks if you are flying. You’ll have to bite the bucket and purchase that bottle of water after you get through security or wait for the in-flight service.
The easiest way to save time and money is to stay somewhere close to home. Consider spending the holidays with close friends if you can’t make it out to visit the family. Or if you are one for taking a vacation for the holidays, find a great local spot where you can celebrate without breaking the bank.
Whatever your holiday plans, make sure to spend them with the ones you love. From all of us at Butterfield Ranch Resort, have a Wonderful Holiday Season!
10 Car Activities for Kids
Tired of hearing “Are we there yet?” during long car rides on family vacations? Well here is a great list of activities and games that will helped keep the young ones entertained until you get to your destination.
The license plate game
A long-time favorite, players try to find out-of-state license plates and see how many they can collect. You can make it a contest where whoever gets the largest number of states wins.
Give your kids a list of things to find during the car ride. This can include everything from animals, landscape features, types of cars, road signs, and more. This can be modified into a bingo game if you print out bingo cards ahead of the trip.
Play card games
There is a host of card games out there that only require you to bring a deck of cards. Teach your kids to play Old Maid, Go Fish or War. Or, have them make up their own card game that you can enjoy as a family.
Read a Book
Reading a book aloud can really pass the time for both reader and listener. Or, if you don’t think you have the stamina to read aloud for an extended period of time, consider getting an audio book that the whole family would like to listen to.
Play “I Spy”
This game is played by picking an item either in the car or in constant view outside (such as a tree or the sky). One player says “I spy with my little eye something …” and then gives a short descriptor of the item (such as green or furry). The other players then begin attempting to guess what the item is. If they are having trouble, the first player can give additional descriptors as necessary. Take turns between guessing and spying.
Make a map
Have the kids make a map of the area that you are traveling. Everytime you stop or go through a town, tell them the name of the town and have them pick out a distinguishing feature about the area they notice on the way. They draw it on their map and then your kids can navigate on the way back. “Next is the town with the house with the green roof” or “We’ll pass the restaurant with the giant chicken sign.”
Give your kids a job
Have your kids help you in planning the trip, by having them build an itinerary of activities or let them choose where you stop for breaks. Make sure to give them strict guidelines for this, for example, you can only take a rest stop every 2 hours or more. You don’t want to have to make a stop every 5 minutes.
These inexpensive books are good for all ages. Young kids will love coloring books or dot-to-dot with a box of crayons. Older kids enjoy word searches, crossword puzzles or sudoku. If you don’t want to spend the money on a printed activity book, you can find free coloring and activity sheets online and print them from home.
Create a travel journal
Encourage your kids to write about their trip and include small mementos they pick up along the way, such as post cards, (clean) napkins from visited restaurants, hotel key cards, or just have them draw pictures. This is a great souvenir that your kids will remember for years to come.
As suggested in our camping with kids article, create stories together with your kids. Have one person start the story off with a few lines, and then pass it around, with each person adding their own tidbits to the story.
Whether your car ride is 1 hour or 3 days, hopefully this article gave you some useful tips for making the trip an enjoyable one.
Top RVing Websites
Where do you go to find out more about RVing? We thought that we would share a few of our favorites and tell you a little bit more about the wealth of information out there for camping enthusiasts.
This is a great site for the first time RVer, or someone who is considering RVing and looking for more information. This interactive website has the scoop on the different types of RVs, so you can understand the different options available to you. You can further search for an RV dealer and rental location near you. GoRVing explains the benefits and affordability of RV travel, and also offers a great list of camping recipes to keep you and your family happy.
Arguably one of the best and most thorough RV camping publications, Woodall’s maintains an very user friendly and search-able website of RV campgrounds. The site also includes numerous articles on camping, campgrounds and activities. The forums are a great place to connect with other campers and share ideas, stories, tips and suggestions. Woodall’s also invites guest bloggers to post about their own experiences.
RV-Camping.org includes great camping tips and a large body of information on Boondocking (or camping without hook-ups). They have a set of articles on public lands that are a must read for the RV enthusiast, as they include need to know information about these areas. One of the best aspects of this site is the large listing of RV clubs and links, so you can find the club that’s right for you.
Go Camping America
Along with being a great campground listing, Go Camping America is unique in it’s state and region specific event calendars to keep you up to date on the goings-on at your camping destination. The kids corner offers great safety information for little ones, as well as outdoor games and recipes that will have them ready for the next camping adventure. With a helpful tips section to assist in planning the trip and beyond, you’ll find a wealth of camping know-how.
While Camp-California is local to the California and Nevada areas (unlike the sites listed above which are nation wide), the thing that we like best about it is that all campgrounds listed here are camper reviewed. What better way to find out about a campground than from people like you?
So if you are new to RVing or just looking for a great place to camp, these sites have everything you need, and more. Didn’t find your favorite RV or camping site here? Make sure to tell us about it at on facebook.
Butterfield Ranch on TV
Check out Butterfield Ranch Resort on NBC!
Camping with Kids
Arguably, the best part of camping is spending quality time with your family. But, how do you keep the kids from “getting bored” during those relaxing camping trips? Here are some ideas of simple and inexpensive camping activities.
Camping is a great excuse to get out and enjoy being active. Visit campgrounds where you can hike, swim, bike, or participate in an outdoor sport. Not only is this kind of activity great for the mind and body, it’s a great way to enjoy the environment you’re camping in. Also, physical activities are going to help draw some of that excess energy from the kids and allow them to enjoy more calm and relaxing activities later.
There are tons of outdoor crafts that kids will love that cost little or no money. Consider making nature bookmarks by placing natural items that have fallen from nearby flora (such as leaves, flowers and the like) between pieces of clear contact paper. Purchase some disposable cameras and let your children go on a photo expedition. Then, secure loose twigs together with twine or crafty glue to make a nature photo frame. Or, paint the landscape with some white construction paper and watercolors.
Think up some great snacks that you and the kids can make together. Ants on a log is a perfect example, as kids not only enjoy making the fun and nutritious treat, they love eating them too! Have the kids help put together a fruit salad by pealing oranges or picking grapes off the stems. Consider making trail mix out of your kids favorite cereals, dried fruits and nuts. But what about the chocolate chips? Drizzle your trail mix with melted chocolate and allow it to cool so everything is stuck together (this ensures kids eat the healthy stuff with the sweet stuff).
Either before you leave or when you reach your destination, pick up some information about the area. Read about the area’s history or see if you can work together to identify local plants or animals. If you’re near a lake bed, there is nothing like an early morning search for animal tracks to see what was happening while you were sleeping. Take this time away from the city to do some stargazing. Pick up a star chart and try to identify the constellations in the night sky.
Camping is a great way to exercise the imagination. Make up silly songs or tell campfire stories. Create stories together by having each member of the family add on a little bit of the story before passing it off to the next person. You might be surprised where the story ends up going! Go on a scavenger hunt for natural materials or play “I spy.” Cloud watch or put on a shadow puppet show with flashlights. The possibilities are endless, especially with a child’s imagination.
Whether you are ready to fully emerge yourself in the natural environment or just want a relaxing vacation away from home, there are plenty of activities to keep the family happy, safe and enthusiastic. Don’t forget, to be on the look out for campgrounds that offer family activities and crafts to help take the planning off your hands.
Tent Camping Tips
When planning for a camping trip, you can never be too prepared. Here are some tips and tricks to help make your next Tent Camping adventure a pleasant one.
Beware of Critters
Depending on your camping destination, your campground may be home to many critters large and small. Make sure to protect yourself and your food as best possible. No food should be kept in your tent…ever. Insects can get through those crevices and screens quicker than you’d imagine. In dry/hot areas, be especially careful of ants, as they will even go after the water residue on a used toothbrush (trust me, it’s happened)!
Consider keeping all food in your vehicle when it’s not being used. If your in a location that tends towards bigger critters (such as bears), campsites will often have metal containers in which to store your food. If your in this type of environment, it is best to store all your food and toiletries (yes, your toothpaste and deodorant do smell tasty) in the metal containers, as bears have been known to tear open vehicles in which they see or smell something good. Even your trash should be quickly disposed of or locked away so as not to attract unwanted attention.
Biting pests, like mosquitoes, can be protected against with the use of insect repellent or citronella candles. It’s also helpful to use unscented toiletries (soap, shampoo, lotion and deodorant), as scents often attract these types of insects. And, while this seems obvious, be sure to keep your tent zipped up to keep insects and critters out.
Create a packing list ahead of your trip, or you can pick one up from various online sources. There are certain things that are very easy to forget, like can openers and pot holders. While campgrounds like Butterfield have a general store for your last minute needs, it’s always helpful to build of list of what you know you will need ahead of time. Here is a list of some of those items that people don’t always think about, but are always necessary on a camping trip.
- Flashlight and Extra Batteries
- Matches or Lighter for Campfires and Stoves
- Utensils like a can opener, bottle opener, pot holders, and tongs.
- Other cooking necessities like tin foil, cooking spray and ziplock baggies.
- Sunscreen, even if you don’t think you’re going to need it.
- Dishwashing materials: soap, wash buckets, and sponges or scrub brushes.
- First aid kit and band-aids.
- Toilet paper (just in case!)
- Duct Tape – useful as a quick fix for just about anything.
Keep your Tent Clean & Dry
This is the place that your are going to be sleeping and is your only escape from the great outdoors during your trip. Make sure to keep your tent clean and dry to make your camping experience a comfortable one. Try to keep the tent as a no shoes zone, either leaving your shoes outside of the tent, or taking them off right before you go in, and then placing the shoes (after brushing them off) in an out-of-the-way corner. Have a small tarp that you can place outside the door to your tent as an area to take shoes off easily before going inside.
Try to keep yourself and your belongings away from the sides of the tent. Condensation can form on the inside of your tent during the night and cause you to wake up with some wet clothes if you’re not careful.
Be Prepared for Fire Building
Not every place you visit is going to have the necessities for fire-building immediately available, so you may have to bring your own. Firewood can be purchased at many campground stores, but without one you may have to bring your own. Make sure you have matches or your up for a cold night. Consider making some homemade fire starters out of egg cartons, dryer lint and wax to make sure you can get the fire going quickly without a lot of hassle.
Whether you are camping at an all amenities included resort or on a back-country adventure, make sure that you come fully prepared to make your trip fun and worry-free.
Top Desert Destinations
Where should you go when you’re not visiting Butterfield Ranch Resort? There are so many places to visit in California, we find it impossible to just highlight a few. So, expect more from us as we build our lists of top camping destinations. We thought we’d start out with something close to home. Desert Camping, here we come!
Anza Borrego State Park
Very close to home for Butterfield, Anza Borrego is a beautiful desert landscape. As the largest state park in California, it has hundreds of miles of dirt roads and hiking trails. It is a great destination for off-roading, hiking, biking and horse-back riding. Additionally, it’s yearly wildflower bloom provides a spectacular display of colors you wouldn’t expect from the arid landscape. While enjoying the desert vegetation, you can also visit the sandstone windcaves near Split Mountain or the Arroyo Tapiado mud caves. If you want to venture a little outside the park, you can visit Agua Caliente and relax in the natural hot springs.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is marked as the hottest, driest and lowest spot in the United States. Spanning both California and Nevada, this part of the larger Mojave Desert features everything from the towering snow capped Telescope Peak, to rolling Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, to the sprawling salt water flats of the Badwater Basin (over 250 feet below sea level). Don’t miss Scotty’s Castle, the elaborate Spanish-style Mansion built in the 1920s. You can explore California’s geological past and visit the gaping Uberhebe Crater, the beautifully patterned structure of Mosaic Canyon or the colorful deposits on Artist’s Drive. You can cool down at Darwin Falls, a natural spring-fed waterfall, or visit mining remnants at the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. Regardless of your favorite desert activities, you will find it in Death Valley.
Mojave Desert National Preserve
The Mojave National preserve is a 4-wheelers paradise. Much of the million acres of the preserve are only available to trail blazers and off-roaders. In fact, nearly half of the preserve is designated as a “wilderness” area and is protected from any kind of development. Exploring this wilderness will bring you to such wonders as extinct volcanoes at Cinder Cones Lava Beds, a white fir forest at the base of Clark Mountain, and the sandy stretches of The Devil’s Playground. The preserve is a great place for horseback riders, as they have open access to all areas of the preserve.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree is unique in allowing you to experience both “high” and “low” desert in the same park. The western “high” desert portion is home to the hallmark Joshua trees that give the park its name, while the eastern “low” desert portion is home to more arid brush and cacti. At Joshua Tree you can enjoy 250 miles of horse trails, dirt roads for mountain biking, and over 400 rock climbing locations. You can take a tour of Keys Ranch, a remnant of frontier life, or you can catch a look at the infamous San Andreas Fault in Coachella Valley.
Palm Springs Desert
If you’re looking for a more urban location, Palm Springs is a great desert destination. With tons of golf clubs, shopping, and arts attractions, Palm Springs has something for everyone. There are several museums for the history buff, the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens for the family, aerial tour options for a bird’s eye view of desert’s natural wonders, and Hot Springs for a relaxing soak.
Whatever your vacation preferences may be, there is a desert destination for you. If you didn’t find it here, www.californiadesert.gov lists just about every desert destination California has to offer. So, why not make your next camping trip a desert vacation?
The Right Campground
When you have so many choices to pick from, how do you know that a campground is right for you? Take a look at our list of considerations to help you plan your next camping adventure.
Camp Site Options
One of the first aspects to look at when choosing a campground is to determine what camp site amenities you want. When RV camping, sites can range from completely primitive to including full-hookups. If you are planning an extended trip, full-hookups are usually preferable, allowing you access to power, water and sewer. If you are interested in a more remote locale, primitive camping may be all that’s available. For tent camping, consider the ground cover that you will be camping on (a manicured lawn is most comfortable). Make sure the camp sites are dry and relatively flat, as you don’t want puddles forming under the tent if it rains and flat ground is usually much more comfortable than sleeping on lumps. Make sure you know what restroom facilities are available as well, as these can range from porta-potties, to pit toilets, to full bathrooms with sinks and showers. Some tent sites may have other offerings, such as electrical outlets for charging equipment or small shelters for storing goods. If you’re looking for a little more luxury, some campgrounds have cabins available for rent with a varying degree of furnishings.
Regardless of the mode in which you are camping, there are other aspects to a camp site. Examine the kinds of cooking options available at each campground. Find out if the camp site has a fire pit, and if not, whether you are allowed to have campfires. Some campgrounds will have charcoal grills available at each site, while others might have first-come, first-serve gas grills for camper use. Take a look at the amount of space each site gives you, some campgrounds will pack people together like sardines with little room to spread out. If you’re camping with a group, take a look at the options they have for group camping. Some campgrounds will have set-aside areas specifically for groups camping together.
Along with the camp site amenities, you have to look at the whole campground. Amenities can vary a lot among campgrounds. Some campgrounds may simply be a group of sites with no other amenities. Others will have swimming pools and hot tubs (which are great after a long day of hiking), restaurants, game rooms and lounges, general stores for purchasing supplies, and laundry facilities. Some campgrounds will also have recreational equipment available for rental such as bicycles and sports equipment.
Location and Attractions
So, before you pick your campground, you have to think about what you want to do while you’re camping. Determine the type of area you want to camp at: a beach or lake, the forest, the desert, the mountains. The type of area you camp in can have a lot of impact on the activities available in that area. Maybe you are looking to camp near a specific attraction, like a national park or landmark or an amusement park. On the other hand, maybe you just want to sit back and relax and enjoy nature. Then you might want to look for a more remote locale, away from tourist attractions.
Take a look at the campground’s rules and regulations to give you an idea of the ‘feel’ of the campground. Some campgrounds have quiet hours that are great for campers who want to get a good nights rest, but not so good for those that want to spend a late night singing and joking around the campfire. The size and popularity of your campground can have a lot to do with the environment as well, so choose wisely. A small campground could mean more isolation and less disruptions, or if it’s a popular campground, being crammed in closer to other people. A large campground could mean campsites that are more spread apart, or large crowds.
An important aspect for when you are camping with kids is the activities are offered right there at the campground. Some locations will offer activities such as nature talks, guided hikes, arts & crafts, movie nights, or junior ranger programs. These can be great pastimes that don’t require you to travel and can potentially grab you a few hours away from the kids.
With just a little bit of research you can ensure that your next camping trip is near the attractions you want, has the amenities and fun you need, encompasses the environment that suits your mood, and guarantees you an overall great vacation. Happy Camping!
Camping Food Tips
Sometimes you don’t have the convenience of the Butterfield General Store while camping, so here are some quick and easy suggestions for a weekend menu.
Camp Cooking Tips
Before we launch into our menu suggestions, lets talk a little bit about your cooking options. There is a vast range of cooking possibilities available to you, depending on how you are camping and what you bring with you. In an RV, you’ll often have a refrigerator, stove and microwave. If you’re tent camping, you may have a propane stove, or just a campfire pit, and a cooler. So, depending on what you are bringing with you, you will need to plan your meals accordingly. Have you ever tried to cook pancakes over a campfire? I guarantee you, it’s not a rewarding experience.
So for this article, we are going to stick with the least of these circumstances, a fire pit and a cooler. Even with a cooler, you have to worry about foods that spoil easily, so no milk and no raw meat (unless you plan on eating them right away).
Preparing for Campfire Cooking
When you are cooking all your foods over an open flame a few items will help you a lot in the process. First of all, you will need to have a grate to place over the fire to cook food on. A lot of camp grounds will have them built into their fire pits, but not all of them, so check before you go. If they don’t have one, you can purchase one made specifically for fire pits for about $30 (or you can bring the rack out of your oven and four old coffee cans to hold it up). You’ll also need to make sure you bring grilling tools (long handled ones — that fire gets hot!), a ladle, pot holders, matches, a large pot for boiling water, a heavy skillet, heavy duty aluminum foil and cooking spray.
If you have some time for prep work, try cooking some of your meats in advance and freezing them, allowing them to keep longer (and help keep other food cold). Also, fill empty milk cartons with water and freeze them as a great substitute for purchasing ice on the road (it also helps prevent the mess from melting water).
As I said, unless you have a stove, pancakes are absolutely out. If you’re going for a fast meal, instant oatmeal is great because all you’ve got to do is get that water boiling and you can use it for your instant coffee too (and hot cocoa for the kids). Whenever you are boiling water for a meal, make sure that the pot of water is the first thing you put on the fire as it will take a little while to boil. After it’s boiling, you can just move it to the side, and use a ladle to pull out the water as you need it. As long as you keep it near the fire, it will stay warm. In fact, use the same pot of water for the hole weekend, just keep it in the fire pit and reheat it when it gets close to meal time.
If you have a little more time for breakfast, eggs are a great because they will cook pretty fast in a skillet over the flame, or you can make a zip-lock omelet. Just place whipped eggs, shredded cheese, precooked bacon or sausage, and chopped veggies into a plastic baggy, drop it in boiling water for 5-10 minutes and serve right out of the bag (remember to leave some room in the bag for the food to expand). It is quick and easy, and you don’t have a lot of dishes to clean up (just make sure you use a separate pot from the water you’re using in your cooking).
If you’re up for the leisured meal, you can bake coffee cake or biscuits in a cast-iron dutch oven by placing it right in the fire (really, bury it underneath the wood or coals). Make sure to spray the pan with cooking spray first so it doesn’t stick too much, and I like to put a layer of foil in between the lid and the pan so you don’t get ashes in the food. Dutch ovens are great for desserts as well, cakes and tarts cook up great.
If you just want something fast, then cereal, granola, or protein bars can make for a quick and simple breakfast. This is not the heartiest of meals though, so make sure to bring something else with you too.
I don’t always want to cook my lunches, since I’m usually busy midday with other activities. Tuna fish is great for this (make sure you have a can opener), and you can get ketchup, mustard, mayo & relish packets that will stay for an extended period. Add a few slices of bread and you have a quick sandwich. You can also use the bread for other sandwiches, but just remember than sliced deli meat won’t stay good for long. Fruits and veggies will usually keep for at least a few days and make a great addition to lunch. Bring a tomato, lettuce, and a few pork rinds and you can have a makeshift BLT.
For a hot meal, soups are great because you can just heat them up right in the can (make sure to open the top to vent steam). Cups of dried noodles, and noodle packets are also good for this. Hot dogs and hamburgers are a great favorite for camping because they are easy to cook right on the grate and you can freeze them to last longer. You can also cook your hot dogs using a long fork or campfire skewer right in the open flame. You can always make a makeshift skewer out of a stick fallen from a nearby tree, just cover the end in tin foil. This can double as a marshmallow stick for s’mores later on.
Perhaps one of my favorite campfire meals is foil or “hobo” dinners. Make packets out of tin foil and spray the inside with cooking spray. Inside place your favorite precooked meats, chopped veggies, shredded cheese and sauces (I like cream of mushroom soup), then fold it up tight. Throw it directly in the fire for 5-10 minutes till everything’s heated up and the veggies are lightly steamed. It’s just like making stir-fry, but with about half the work. If you’d like rice to go with, get instant rice and use chicken broth instead of water for extra flavor.
Tacos or burritos are another quick and great campfire meal. Precooked and seasoned ground beef can be heated up quickly in a skillet. Refried beans can be heated up right over the fire and still in the can (just make sure to cut the top off and stir carefully from time to time). Then just add your taco shells or tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.
If you are planning a long camping trip camping stores sell ‘astronaut food’ that is sealed and meant to last for a long time. Most of these freeze-dried meals just need hot water added to them – sometimes they also need flavor added, so be sure to bring a few extra seasonings (Hot sauce, anyone?).
Remember to pack enough food for everyone to get you through the trip. If you are heading out on Friday evening and coming back Sunday night, you’ll need two dinners (Friday and Saturday), Two Breakfasts (Saturday and Sunday), and two or three lunches (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
Here are a few more tips to remember:
- Pack extra snacks (one to two per day) if three meals in a day won’t be enough.
- It is always better to bring more food than you need than to bring too little.
- Plan the meals at the beginning of the trip to include the foods that will spoil faster. And the meals at the end of the trip to be foods that don’t spoil or are frozen.