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Top 5 Tips for Planning a Family Camping Vacation

Updated on June 15, 2013

Why camping?

Campfires . . . s'mores . . . wildlife . . . stars in the night sky . . .

I've loved camping since I was a Girl Scout. Camping as a family can be a blast. Here are my top five reasons to go on a family camping vacation.

#1 - Inexpensive

Camping can be a very inexpensive vacation option. If you're just starting out it may be a good idea to borrow a tent or a camper from a friend to see if you like it before investing money in it.

Camping expenses, in general, are a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. Primitive sites with no water or electrical hook-ups can be found for FREE or for less than $20.00 a night. Sites with power and water can run up to about $30.00 a night or so. There are campgrounds that are known as "resorts" with every imaginable amenity. More amenities equal more money.

If you choose to cook some of your own meals, it costs even less. If you don't feel like cooking, bring along some simple items that require little preparation like cereal, spaghetti or sandwiches.

Note that breakfast cooked over an open fire tastes sooooo much better than any cooked inside. Tthere are also many simple recipes for one-pot meals for camping. We like to cook burgers, ham steaks and beef steaks on the grill.


#2 - Rough it or Relax?

One of the delightful things about camping is that you can choose how you want to camp - tent, pop-up camper or decked-out RV. All are fun - just in different ways.

Camping in a tent is a unique experience and is definitely not for everyone. It can also be challenging and time-consuming to maintain. There is a tent to assemble on a suitably flat site, with bedding, food and utensils to consider. However, tent camping is also closer to nature, which is what I love about it. Families must work together to set up and keep the tent clean. It's also quite an experience to tent camp in the rain.

A pop-up camper is a great next step up. The advantage of the pop-up is that it is 1/2 tent and 1/2 camper. It is up off the ground and less likely to leak in the rain. Most include a tiny kitchen and toilet/shower combination, as well as heating and air conditioning. Items that are used on every camping trip can be stored in the pop-up for whenever you need them so that when planning a trip, all you need to pack are food and clothing. A pop-up will need to be pulled behind your vehicle. Pop-up camping is definitely easier than tent camping while still providing some of the "next to nature" sleeping arrangements.

A wide variety of travel trailers and RVs are available. Ours is 19-foot with a queen bed and single bunk and a kitchen table that folds into a single bed. There is a microwave, stove, refrigerator and sink, toilet and small tub with a shower. It's very comfortable for three people and a big dog. There are also huge RVs out there - as big as 40 feet or more with every amenity you can imagine, including surround-sound stereo systems, flat screen TVs and fireplaces.

What I really love about carrying my accomodation with me when camping is that it is all MY stuff. I'm not sleeping in sheets or beds that others use and there are no worries about bedbugs. Mosquitoes are another matter, however. It doesn't matter where you camp or what kind of sleeping arrangements there are, mosquitoes will find you anywhere. Insect repellent is a definite must.


#3 - Location, Location, Location

When you start looking, you'll find campgrounds everywhere. There are fancy, rustic and primitive campgrounds. Some are close to the city and others are far from everything. Pick what appeals to you and your family. We sometimes enjoy being close to the action in a city or town and sometimes we just like the quiet.

A wide variety of amenities may be offered. There may be a game room, hot showers, swimming in a pool and/or other body of water, boating, hiking, park ranger programs, horseback riding, a nature center and so much more.

Some campground sites offer a concrete pad for your vehicle, a picnic table and grill. Others have dirt and gravel. It's your choice. You can be situated in the middle of the woods or on the beach just a few feet from the ocean. Your view can be the mountains or wide-open fields. You choose.

#4 - Pets

Our family enjoys taking our dog with us on trips in our camper. She enjoys it as much as we do.

I always check with the campground first regarding their rules about pets. Most allow them with certain restrictions. Pets must usually be on a leash when outside, their poop must be picked up and excessive barking is not permitted.

By taking our dog, we don't have to pay someone to come and dog sit or take her to a kennel where we could spend a small fortune in nightly fees.


#5 - Family Time

My favorite thing about camping as a family is the time spent together. Is it all fun and happiness? Definitely not. However, creating memories that can be shared for a lifetime is more important. Involving everyone in setting up camp, planning and cooking meals, exploring the campground and surrounding areas and having new experiences are things to be treasured.

Some of our most vivid memories are times that were not as fun as others: a leaking tent, a raccoon who ate our delicious restaurant leftovers, burning socks on a heater, the wind knocking the tent down on top of us in the middle of the night, among others. What makes these times special is that we spend them together.

How do you feel about a family camping vacation?

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Do Your Research

If you think camping may be right for your family, do a little research first. Pick somewhere close to home (or even the backyard) for an initial adventure. Borrow or rent equipment and ask for advice from friends experienced in camping.

It's a great way to spend a fun family weekend!


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