Taking Your Family Camping For the First Time
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Taking your family camping for the first time involves a little planning and ingenuity.
Before the Camping Expedition: Preparation
Preparing for what is to be expected can calm some common fears of a family’s first time camping. Find out what fears they have and try to figure out as much as you can about that topic.
There are books and Internet sites that explain the basics of a campout. Use your favorite search engine or ask your librarian at the local library for books about camping and survival in the outdoors.
Decide The Best Place To Go Camping
Most campsites are kid friendly but check out the campsite by calling ahead for information. Have the information sent and read everything that there is to offer. Ask questions. Do you want amenities such as flush toilets or showers? Do you want to “rough it” the whole time you are there?
National parks and state parks generally have activities geared toward families. Check-in with each park’s office to find out which activities are happening. There are many out-of-the-way camping sites that are available. Ask your nearest travel agent for a good camping site near where you live.
Your kids may be anxious about staying in a tent if you are staying in one. A tent does not seem nearly as protected as a house. You can prepare them by setting up the tent, if you can, in your own backyard. You can even let them stay in the tent overnight so they will be prepared for what can happen.
There are a few methods that you can use to camp. Tents are perhaps the most old-fashioned, so to speak. There are many sizes and types of tents. You could buy separate tents for the kids and the adults too.
RV’s or Recreational Vehicles are a popular way to spend the nights and days camping. They are like separate cars really and can cost a lot of money. But if you are looking to spend a long time camping in the next years to come, then investing in an RV is worth it.
Location – Location – Location
Some parks and campsites have cabins in which you can camp out. Some are furnished and some aren’t. Call ahead and make plans. Find out whether they are furnished or not and what comes with each.
A really fun idea is to find a campsite that provides a teepee that you can stay in. Generally, the teepee (sometimes spelled tipi or tipis) has a weather flap that can close in case of bad weather. The teepees are usually pitched ahead of time and on a wooden base.
Some parks have resources for electricity while others do not. If you want electricity or need it to be sure to call ahead to find out if this is available.
What to Pack
Besides the supplies for the tent, there are other necessary supplies that have to be taken on a camping trip. Have the kids help you by listing what they think needs to be taken on the trip. Some supplies depend on what you are planning to do while on the camping trip. If there is a beach nearby then don’t forget the swimming gear. Hiking gear is also important if you plan on doing some hiking in the camping area.
Basic supplies such as first aid kits and medicines that need to be taken are important to gather. Make a list of everything that you will absolutely need first. Then, if time and room permits add on other things.
Always take extra clothes and blankets. Most parks will probably not have laundry rooms and accidents do happen. Don’t forget to remember that camping is usually about getting out of the normal everyday comfort zone and getting outdoors to the grit and grime of nature.
A Guys Gotta Eat
Planning for food and meal times is also something to consider. Most campsites will have grills. Some even have camping equipment to rent such as propane grills and lanterns. You can buy a small propane grill or just take food that can be cooked over an open fire pit. You can look for camping cookware in the camping section of your local supermarket.
Think Beyond the Basics
You can help children by bringing a few comfort items from home such as toys and their favorite stuffed animals or other items. Getting the kids involved in the planning of the trip will probably help calm first-time jitters.
Don’t forget items such as wet wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels. Find out how far the local supermarkets are in case you need to buy certain things. You can save space in the car or vehicle you are traveling in by planning on buying food and such items once you arrive at your destination.
Get the Lay of the Land
Once you arrive at your destination and set up camp, have a look around if it’s still daytime so you can be familiar with the surroundings and activities that are going on in the campsite.
Pick a meeting place in case someone gets lost or where family members will meet if they choose different activities to do.
Prepare for the Unknown
It is hard to prepare for the unknown. But planning for what could happen is possible. Accidents happen. People get lost. The weather turns bad sometimes at a sudden moment. Know the area you are in. Write down the ranger station’s phone number. Keep a cell phone available or at least some change to call from a pay phone.
Have emergency numbers on hand in case they are needed to get a hold of other family members. Keep medical cards and other such items handy in case they are needed as well.
Have a first aid kit and teach your kids how to use it. Basic first aid courses are cheap and sometimes available free of charge through local community resources. Beware of the local wildlife in the area you will camp and any potential dangers that you may come in contact with.
Many parks have playgrounds for kids and walking and hiking trails. Some have nature centers and a place for live shows and some have projector screens for movies. But if the park doesn’t have these or your kids want to do other things here are a few ideas.
A nature hunt could be fun. Make a list of things that could be found in nature and go on a hike to find these things. Make sure your child doesn’t pick the wildflowers or keep anything. In most parks, it is illegal to capture local flora and fauna (plants and animals).
Bring plenty of books to read and activity books such as coloring or puzzle books for the kids to have and use. If you want, you can allow certain technology such as music players or laptop computers.
You can explore outside the park as well. Most towns have some sort of history center or welcome center. Visit local zoos or aquariums. You can explore museums and other sites as well. Check with the local ranger station in the park to see if they have pamphlets or brochures of local events that may be happening while you are there camping.
Packing up to Leave
Don’t forget to pack what you brought and have gained from your trip. Use the waste baskets provided in the park. Bring along your own trash bags for trash and dirty laundry.
The first time camping can be scary and an anxious time. But being prepared can make that time smooth and a very memorable experience.
Did we miss anything you think first-time campers should be aware of? Let us know in the comments!