Family Camping Tips – Ensuring Your Kids Are Happy Campers

Wanted: Affordable, fun summer getaway for busy family. We are busy, fun-loving parents with a zest for life and active young children.  We love to occasionally “unplug” and  would like to nurture a life-long love of nature in our children.  We seek family-friendly mini-vacations that are local, affordable and offer something for everybody.
If the above description describes your family, then read on.  This summer, consider camping!Camping is one of the most fun, affordable and family-friendly recreational options around.   There are thousands of public and private campgrounds in the United States. Chances are, there’s a campground within an hour’s drive that offers fresh air, starlit nights and miles of hiking trails at less than $30 per night. What’s more, kids love it. Scientific studies confirm what kids know instinctively – enjoying nature is good for your brain and your body, leading to reduced stress levels, better health and happiness. Perhaps you’ve never been camping before. Perhaps it’s been ages since you went with your parents.  
No worries. If you are ready to give camping a try, congratulations!  Here are planning tips from experienced campers who have walked this path before you and are, indeed, happy campers.·         Keep it simple.   For your first trip, plan to go car camping (where everything you’ve brought from home can be at your campsite) vs. backpacking (where you’ve got to carry everything with you). Book a site at a local campground and plan to stay just two nights. Bring easy-to-prepare foods and plenty of snacks. 
·         Hitch up with experienced campers. Invite friends who are experienced campers to join you for your camping debut. You’ll be glad for the company; they’ll be gratified to show you the ropes. In fact, campers are by and large a generous lot, and will enthusiastically share favorite camping recipes, stories and advice on everything from buying camping equipment to choosing the choicest campsites. Plus, your camping mentors will likely already have all the right camping gear and will help you set up your tent. 
·         What’s your adult to kid ratio? Traveling with extra adults always makes traveling with kids easier. Even if adults are outnumbered by kids, your chances of grabbing some “downtime” will be much improved when there are more adults to share the responsibilities and pleasures of camping. On one of my family’s best camping trips, we were joined by four other families. While one energetic adult and a teenager adored by the younger kids led the gang on a creek-walking adventure, one couple prepared an afternoon snack for everyone, another took a nap, one mom relaxed with a good book, while another enjoyed peacefully swinging in a hammock. Two dads sat chatting. With more adults in your camping group, there will be more opportunity for everyone to be as relaxed or energetic as he or she wants-and ensure the kids are taken care of, too. 
·         Bring comfort food. Life’s a picnic when you’re camping!   Sharing food brings a family together, and is something everyone can enjoy.   You’ll find:
Camping stimulates appetites.Everything tastes better when you’re camping.Kids often find other people’s food more appealing than their own, so if you’re traveling with others, bring enough to share. It’s fun to try new or different foods while camping.Bring comfort food that the whole family will appreciate, that’s simple to prepare, and doesn’t easily spoil.Snacking is a pleasure. Everyone loves to gather around a campsite and snack. Even if your family doesn’t normally snack, consider making your camping trip a special occasion. 
·         Keep the peace between older siblings. Like most kids past the toddler stage, mine tend to bicker. One of the best ways I know of keeping the peace between siblings is to invite friends to join us. The result? Kids love the opportunity for an extended playdate and find ways to occupy themselves. Depending on the age spread between siblings, siblings will either be too busy playing with their similar-age friend(s) to bother with a sibling, or everyone will play together in a more harmonious group.
·         Gather round the campsite. A highlight of any camping trip is gathering around the campfire and toasting marshmallows. Other time-tested techniques for some downtime around the campsite are to bring books, a ball, deck of cards, games. 
·         Water, anyone?  “Don’t get wet,” you tell your kids. Minutes later, they’re…wet. Water draws kids like a magnet, offering hours of entertainment. Whenever possible, we look for campgrounds that offer a beach, lake or creek for water play and exploration. 
·         Go on a night walk. There’s something about walking in the quiet of night, under a starlit sky, that is good for the soul (and exciting for kids). If it’s a full moon, you won’t even need a flashlight. Bring flashlights, headlamps and glowsticks with you, and your children are sure to want to lead the way.
·         You can’t beat the weather. Good (and bad) weather makes a world of difference when camping. Enough said.
·         Scouts’ motto: Be Prepared. Basic comfort and safety is essential to enjoying camping. (Note: reference to checklist). Make sure your sleeping arrangements are comfortable (thanks to a good tent and sleeping pad/air mattress), you bring the right clothing (layers provide the most flexibility; bring warm clothes for chilly evenings and mornings), your stomach is full (don’t skimp on food and drink), and you’re well protected (bring plenty of sunscreen and bug repellent if needed. Make reservations for a campsite in advance. Make a packing list and check it twice.
Ready to go? Give camping a try. You’ll be glad you did.
There are plenty of resources available on the web for planning your camping trip -campground reviews, online campsite reservations, recipes, packing lists, gear reviews and online communities where you can give and receive tips from other campers. For a list of some of the best of these online resources, please visit