Retreats and other camping excursions are time-honored respites used by faith-based groups to unplug for a while. As campgrounds have evolved to cater more to meetings and events, attendees can still turn off their smartphones for a weekend while planners—who need to stay connected at all times—don’t have to pretend they’re not in the 21st century.
Campsites like Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland, have full-fledged conference centers with audiovisual equipment, a convenience store and even transportation to nearby Washington, D.C. It’s akin to getting away from it all—without traveling down a long dirt path to the middle of nowhere.“You don’t even need to camp to go to a meeting at a campground,” says Jennifer Schwartz, vice president of marketing for National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, which represents more than 3,000 sites in the United States.
Then why make the effort? Because it’s impossible to recreate the tranquil environment campgrounds provide, especially compared to a meeting room, Schwartz shares. Rather than boarding a bus to take a break from a meeting, walking into the great outdoors can be more economical—in terms of both budget and time—and more relaxing. It also makes for memorable teambuilding activities.
The camping experience can be far different than pitching a tent and cooking hot dogs on a stick, if that’s what a group is looking for. Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Campland on the Bay in San Diego, California, which both host faith-based groups, take the trees out of the equation with beachfront locations. Residents of San Diego trek to the grounds to eat at the restaurant there, notes Schwartz. “You don’t realize you’re at an RV camping ground,” says Schwartz. “Some of these campgrounds are really resorts.”
Niceties include staying in lodges or cabins with multiple bedrooms and housekeeping service. Such bonuses are still softer on a budget than using hotels. Then there are yurts, which are portable, round structures that somewhat resemble tents, but fit more people and stand up better against inclement conditions. One thing hasn’t changed: You can’t leave home without ingredients for s’mores.
Consider these three places for your next outdoor meeting: