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Camping isn't really their thing. Really, it wasn't our thing either. We had gone on family camping trips with friends in the past and loved all the time we spent outdoors but camping at Campland on the Bay in Mission Beach, California isn't what you'd think of if someone said the word "camping." Campland on the Bay is closer to taking a beach resort vacation than a tent and mud one.
We invited the grandparents to meet us at Campland on the Bay on Mission Bay in San Diego as the first stop of our cross-country RV trip during distance learning. We had bought and figured out how to set up our new-to-us travel trailer since we suddenly had all this free time on our hands and it was the perfect socially distant vacation. So, after 7 months of hunkering down, the grandparents decided to venture out of their home too and meet us for their first camping trip. At that point, I'm sure, anything taking place outdoors sounded incredible to them as it did for us.
I was also looking forward to seeing San Diego again since I have loved it since going to college there.
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DON'T MISS ANY OF THESE HELPFUL ARTICLES! Before Campland on the Bay, we started off our inaugural 3-week family camping trip by learning how to set up our new-to-us trailer. Our first trip included Pismo Coast Village RV Resort, Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort and El Capitan State Beach, all for three nights each. Click on either of the two glamping resorts or El Capitan State Park to read about our experiences there and learn all you need to know about each location!
But first! Watch what happened when we went!
Renting an RV
Of course, the grandparents didn't own an RV. Why would they? We had just gotten one recently ourselves and it was the combination of remote learning and lack of sports games and practices that freed up our lives to use it. There are RV rental companies authorized to deliver and set up RVs at Campland on the Bay. It's so easy. They can provide you with everything you need and set it all up for your so it's waiting when you arrive. Plus, they'll dismantle it all again after you leave. We used Travel Time RV Rentals and they were great.
The grandparents arrived and immediately, the boys wanted to see inside their trailer. Because Knox was so little when the grandparents lived in the same city as us, he never really got the chance to spend the night over at their house because their apartment wasn't baby-proofed, the stairs and separation anxiety. But now that we were all camping together he took the first opportunity possible to sleep in his grandparent's trailer. He called dibs on the first night sleeping on their pullout couch. As usual, a sibling battle ensued but we gave it to Knox.
Things to do at Campland on the Bay
Camping in San Diego is as close to a perfect destination for coastal camping as you can get. I went to college in San Diego so I used to see signs for Campland on the Bay as I drove east of Mission Beach. Our friends had told us that camping in Mission Beach at Campland on the Bay was one of their favorite family experiences. They described tons of daily activities that made them feel like they were at a family summer camp.
Because we went during COVID, the San Diego RV resort was only taking reservations for California residents, and all the regular group activities were canceled and most of their public facilities closed. There weren't any of those fun things for us to experience so we had to have a regular, old-fashioned camping trip without the rainbows and pixie dust normally available at Campland on the Bay. I did notice their website promised a return to the old normal on June 15, 2021.
So, the old-fashioned way included the boys biking around the concrete pathways connecting the campsites, campfires, and taking lots of bay walks with the grandparents. In fact, my boys made friends with three brothers from another camping family and they all got in old-fashioned trouble for trying to sneak into the campground skatepark, which was also closed due to COVID but is now reopened. But how cool is it that the campground has a skatepark!? Crazy cool!
I did also notice as a side note that the reopening schedule includes Yoga at a decent hour (10 am). Kudos to that. I don't know why so many resorts insist on waking up a vacationing mom to watch the sunrise on her yoga mat. I may want to watch the sunrise on occasion but I also like to sleep.
We are water people and are happiest when we are around it. We took many walks with the grandparents around the bay which has a marina with boat slips and a nice sandy beach. It was the second nicest activity that we did with the grandparents on the trip.
Campers can rent boats and catamarans. They can water ski or wakeboard. Kayaks are available as well as paddle boats and these huge wheeled hydro bikes.
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For us, this is what camping is all about. Sure, there's all the exploration and bonding that results from it but the type of connection you get from undistracted conversations and laughter around a mesmerizing pile of burning logs is our favorite camping activity.
Every campsite includes a fire pit and picnic table.
There is a most excellent 12-mile-loop bike path that goes all the way around Mission Bay. Seriously, this is the ultimate for moms who want to pump in some gentle waves of endorphins to soothe their aching brains, with no kids, in a serene water setting. Or, bring the kids another time! It's flat and fairly easy with plenty of spots for breaks and bursts of mayhem. There are playgrounds and bridges and all kinds of cool things to stop and see. If you don't want to schlepp your bike, Campland on the Bay rents them too! You can even just go for the ride without the workout if you rent one of the electric bikes.
We always bring bicycles, scooters, and skateboards whenever we camp because you cannot have too many ways to wear out your kids. After all, we have our sights set for the kids-free portion of the campfire, and depending on the day, it sometimes can't come soon enough. Bring (or rent) the bikes!
Open Air Study Hall
During COVID and distance learning, Campland on the Bay set up a large tented area for students overlooking Mission Bay with strong WiFi and tables set 6 feet apart. The idea was to get the kids outside while they were confined to Zoom school. I bet they keep a version of this for homeschooling families.
Next door to the skatepark is the basketball court. We didn't get any pictures because it too was closed for COVID.
Pools and Hot Tubs
There are two pools and two hot tubs at Campland on the Bay. For some reason, guests could use the pool during the COVID restrictions but not the hot tub. The hot tub looked very inviting. One is shaped like a giant C! Next time!
Amphitheater and Central Park
Across from the Marina is a large grassy area in which they must have activities when there isn't a pandemic. There is also a huge stage. The website says that is where live musicians play nights and also that there is a regular lineup starting back up on June 15! Live music sounds like heaven! What a treat to have it available while camping with the family!
Sick of cooking on the campfire? Come in for a margarita, chips, and salsa! Closed, of course, while we were there. So, we went into Mission Beach and had dinner at the Catamaran where dancers performed exotic hula dances. The food was fab and the show a treat!
I didn't even tell my boys they had a video game room while we were there. After we left I told them it existed and we could go next time we visited. I didn't want to break their hearts that they couldn't go because it was closed for COVID while we were there. It's still closed and doesn't list a date when they plan to reopen.
The market was open so we made a few stops there to round out the few things we'd forgotten. There are cool camping games to buy and RV essentials so no worries if you forget your stuff too. It's very well stocked and you can even buy Campland on the Bay souvenirs. They also serve coffee here and it was good and much needed!
Ice Cream Parlor
Something every campground needs is an ice cream shop! Especially in San Diego, which has the perfect temperature year-round to enjoy the sweet, creamy dessert. But, you guessed it. Closed during our visit so we must try and report back when we return!
Things To Do Outside of Campland on the Bay
A family interested in using Campland on the Bay as its headquarters for exploration could easily use the centrally located campground to explore the many attractions around it. Minutes from the freeway, Campland on the Bay is close to Sea World, Legoland, and The San Diego Zoo that has its awesome safari park where animals roam uncaged. There's the Gaslamp District in Downtown with a unique craft beer scene and boutique restaurants.
Camping is great but glamping is better. A complete review of Campland on the Bay, where glamping reaches new heights.
Mission Beach Boardwalk and Belmont Park
The bike path accessible from Campland on the Bay, as I mentioned above, takes you into Mission Bay close enough to stop and cross the street to get to the Mission Beach Boardwalk. The Mission Beach Boardwalk connects South Mission and North Mission, as locals refer to the two sections of Mission Beach (South Mission is a bit fancier) and in between is Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park.
In Belmont Park, you can ride a rollercoaster, play games of skill or rent surfboards to jump in the ocean. We rented bikes here because that too wasn't available during the time we visited the campground. The boys already had theirs so we joined them as I rode down memory lane with them, pointing out the various apartments that I had lived in or visited with friends when I lived here when I was in college. It was a super fun day and I even reached out to my college friend, Laura, who still lives in the area and she rode down for a quick hello.
When You Go
The warm, breezy summers and moderate winters give San Diego weather a Mediterranean climate. The coldest month is in February but temps don't usually dip below 50. The straightest route from Downtown Los Angeles to Campland on the Bay is about 115 miles and takes about two and a half hours to arrive but you know LA traffic so check your favorite traffic app before you head out and remember if you're towing a multi-ton trailer it'll take longer because you can't speed like you normally might.
Campland on the Bay Rates
When we went, we stayed at one of the bay view sites and walked around to see where we wanted to stay the next time we got to glamp there. Here's a map of the campground. As you can see, site numbers J01, K01, L01 & L38, M36, N01 & N32 are beachfront and the ones we decided we had to try for the next time we visited. But everyone has their own preferences so you can see where you'd like to be when you go.
Campland on the Bay Map
Like all accommodations, costs depend on when you want to visit. Check out the rate sheet for all possible stay options and available amenities (like golf cart rentals). You can tent camp or bring your RV smaller than 45 feet. There are 18 dry sites and those vary between $55 and $80 per night. RV sites with only water and electric hook ups (150 sites) start at $71 during low season and can go up to $147 between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Plush, full-hook-up, beachfront sites (start at $164 and can go up to $401. There are other site options in between those two plus a super site which is a bit crazy because it comes with your own hot tub, private gated entry, and laundry facilities. The super site runs between $252 and $473 per night (that is not a typo). Obviously, it's adjacent to the water and highly coveted. You can also bring your boat and rent a slip.
The grandparents drove off with giant smiles on their faces. Camping was not like they expected when it involved a cozy bed and access to a bathroom and shower steps away from anywhere they happened to be in the trailer or around outside. Getting outside their homes, being comfortable at night and being around the boys during an unhurried and undistracted time of their lives was precious. Even without the COVID restrictions, camping in a resort like Campland on the Bay gives a grandparent everything they could hope for when visiting with their grandkids: undistracted interactions, the clean outdoor air and water activities to soothe the spirit. And it gives the grandkids a chance to see their grandparents in a more relaxed setting as well, getting to know a side of them they otherwise wouldn't see.