ACTON, Calif. — It’s taken more than three years to get the entire family together, but Kecia Estavan was finally able to get her nine children, two step children, their spouses, and her ten grandchildren together for a camping trip at the KOA Holiday campgrounds in Acton.
“To have the grandkids and all of us out in this open space is a relief. It’s a relief to just fellowship with my whole entire family," she said.
After canceling the trip twice in the last month, Estavan finally said enough is enough, and insisted that her family do it this past weekend. The short 19-mile drive from her home in Palmdale to the campgrounds in Acton was an easy trek, and made this local family staycation a perfect pandemic option. “These are all my babies and finally made it together,” she said.
The rules at the campground are at a new level during the pandemic, such as social distancing between groups, and masks must be worn when inside the camp office and the store. That just made the option of camping for her family even more appealing to Estavan.
All of the organized activities have been canceled, but families are welcome to play games and do things like hiking, biking, and volleyball on their own. There are grills provided all around the property, but Estavan’s family brought their own - and plenty of food to cook on them.
“Half of us are vegan and half of us aren't," she said. "So we're gonna have a competition today between the carnivores and herbivores!”
While hotels and resorts are challenged with social distancing protocols, there is plenty of space at a campground for groups to have their own areas. Estavan signed up for a one-hour slot at the pool, and her family filled the COVID policy of 20 people maximum, so no one else was allowed in.
At the beginning of the summer, the camping industry was at a standstill. But now, many campgrounds in Southern California are at capacity on the weekend.
“They come out here and they all tell us the same story - they've been couped up for too long," said KOA Acton general manager Joseph Shin. "The kids are driving them crazy. They all need to get out and go do something. So they come out here and they're able to social distance and have a good safe place to recreate.”
The average cost per night for a campsite in most campgrounds is from $12 to $55 each night, depending on if you're using a basic site with a fire pit or one that has full utilities.
At the KOA Acton campsite, it’s $20 per person, or $120 per campsite for up to 6 people. At camp sites within state parks, fees run from $12 to $45.
Having the opportunity to get some fresh air and have the family together is a memorable moment for Estavan during these difficult times.
“Look at us... we are enjoying ourselves! All my family. I get emotional, sorry,” she said.
She was moved to tears at the thought of having her family together, but they are tears of joy that this staycation is a way for them all to stay together, safely.