Camping is one of the most traditional types of family holiday, offering you the chance to spend time together in the great outdoors without many of today’s distractions.
Here in the USA, we’re blessed with a beautiful country filled with countless fantastic camping spots, perfect to satisfy experienced trippers and first-timers alike. However, choosing a site that suits your own preferences may well be totally different to finding one that works for your whole family.
If you want to create a holiday that you all remember for the right reasons, take a look at our ideas for planning a family camping trip …
Schedule a Short Trip
For your first family camping trip, it’s best not to trek halfway across the country for three weeks at a time.
Why? Well, if your kids discover they just can’t stand sleeping outdoors or living without the modern conveniences they love, you’ll all be stranded in a tough situation for a long time.
Start with a short trip, perhaps just a few days, without going too far from your home. As you and your family get more familiar with camping, you can then look farther afield.
Pay Attention to the Facilities
You don’t want to take teenagers at their most self-conscious on a camping trip without any showers or mirrors. Likewise, you don’t want to take young kids to a luxurious site with a wealth of facilities they’ll never use.
Look at the range of toilets, bathrooms, and local amenities. Does it offer a choice of food, drink, and supplies if needed?
You may like the thought of getting away from it all, but being within range of a convenience store or small town isn’t a bad idea for your first family camping trip.
Take Plenty of Entertainment
Make sure you take board games, books, magazines, and other entertainment options to pass those rainy afternoons or cozy nights. While sitting together and talking is a key part of the bonding experience on camping breaks, you’ll all need a little distracting now and then.
Travel versions of board games are ideal for playing inside a tent, while full-sized boards are a must if you have a bigger tent or an RV. Take games you all love and know how to play.
It’s also a great time to experiment with new games, such as challenging card classics (poker, for example).
You might also want to take some sports equipment, like baseballs and bats, or soccer balls. It’s better to take too much gear with you rather than not enough.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Hate planning your trips? Simply loading up the car and heading off into the great outdoors is a nice experience for seasoned campers, but for first-time families?
Planning is key.
Look into the local attractions, hiking trails, facilities, and more. Write loose itineraries for each day, so you create some direction without chaining yourself to a strict schedule.
You can always change your plans according to shifts in weather conditions or your family’s mood. Planning just avoids having days where you don’t know what to do with yourself and end up wasting precious hours.
Taking the right camping gear is vital, wherever you go. Make sure you all have waterproof coats, waterproof backpacks, first-aid kits, and more. You might also want to take bikes, to explore your camping site and its surroundings on wheels.
Most importantly, remember to have fun!
If you love hiking, of course you’ll want your kids to love it too.
Still, getting children excited about any activity they don’t already love can be tricky. Many of today’s kids thrive on video games, movies, and apps – but there’s no reason you can’t give them a hiking trip they’ll never forget.
With a little creative thinking and planning, you can inspire your kids to embrace the world of hiking …
Start Simple, Start Small
When you take your child or children on their first hike, avoid the temptation to inflict your favorite trail upon them if it’s unsuitable.
Yes, you may love that 10-mile trek across uneven terrain, but you need to consider your kids’ experience. Will it be too much for them?
Choose a hike that can be completed in a short time, and that has lots to look at. A trail with lakes, waterfalls, and grazing wildlife is more likely to keep them engaged than less interesting settings.
Encourage them to Interact with Nature
Rather than simply walking without a break, take time to get your kids involved. Pack a pair of binoculars and ask them to pick out landmarks or spots that catch their eye. Hand them a magnifying glass and explore the activities of ants or other bugs.
By teaching them to engage with their surroundings, you stand greater chance of opening their eyes to its wonders.
Take Regular Breaks
Experienced hikers can walk for hours without getting bored or exhausted. Kids, especially those on their first trail, are less patient.
Pushing your children to walk for too long without a break will tire them out – and how do you think their mood will change with fatigue? You’re likely to face crying, shouting, and a general refusal to keep going.
Understandably, this stands to disrupt the hike for everyone. Make stops every 20 minutes or so, to catch a drink, snack, or take in your surroundings.
You may even want to pack a game or two, such as Top Trumps or a deck or cards. Just be sure to pack these in a waterproof backpack if rain looks likely.
Be Willing to Try Again
You take your family on a hike. For reasons beyond your control, your child or children don’t have a good time. Do you let this put you off ever trying to interest them in your favorite outdoors hobby again?
No. Try again!
Pick another trail you feel might be exciting or fun. Look at the previous hike, and try to identify why it didn’t work. Did your kids get too exhausted, but will be more likely to enjoy a shorter trail instead? Did your child start to get a headache or cut themselves, but you had no tablets or band-aids with you?
Both of these possibilities have simple solutions. Don’t let one negative experience prevent you trying to show your family just how exciting, relaxing, eye-opening, and ultimately rewarding a good hike can be.