Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids Camping

Memorial Weekend is the official kick-off of to the camping season and in an effort to convince all of you to join us camping this weekend, here are 5 reasons to pack up your tent and your kids for a weekend of fun and memories that will last a lifetime :-)


Eric and I have always been campers, but it was only within the last year that we started camping with our kids. And let me tell you friends...that's an entirely DIFFERENT camping experience than we were used to. Long gone were the days of just pitching a tent anywhere we wanted and surviving on chili and spiked apple cider for 3 days.

But now that we've done it and survived an entire camping season with a 2 and 4-year-old...we can honestly say that camping with kids is SO MUCH MORE FUN!!!! And here's why:

Camping gives you the chance...

1. To Explore the Great Outdoors

I will never forget the first time we went camping with the kids. We only drove 30 minutes from our home but to Addie and Blake, it felt like a vacation. We took them down to our recreation club, a place they have been a million times, but when we pulled into our space next to the woods, the kids were enchanted. The trees, the smells, the squirrels...it was all so exciting! We gathered acorns, we fished in the lake, we hiked on the trails and when night came...we looked at the stars. I couldn't believe how adventurous both of them were, considering the mere presence of a fly at home sends them both into a total panic. But here they were picking up worms, chasing frogs and catching fish! They both learned how to skip rocks on the water, how to tell the difference between a pine tree and an oak tree and what happens to food when we leave it on the picnic table (hello scary raccoons). Ha! There is just so much beauty to see in this world and when we spend our days rushing from one activity or commitment to the next, we miss incredibly peaceful, precious moments like these.


2. To Travel on a Budget

Last year, Eric and I were able to take not one, but TWO very special 4-day trips with our kids for about the price of one plane ticket. We were also able to spend multiple weekends at our local campground for next to nothing. If you and your family are new to camping, there is obviously the initial expense of purchasing tents, a camper, gear, etc. but once you have all that, your travel possibilities are endless. There are SO MANY places Eric and I want to take the kids and most of them have State Park Campgrounds, which can be as cheap as $5 a night if you are tent camping. The best place to start when searching for a campground is your state's Department of Natural Resources website. This is ours for Illinois. Now, if you and your family are looking for a few more amenities or activities, you can stay at a camping resort like Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park. We had the best time camping at Yogi Bear resorts last year and we can't wait to go back again this year. And of course, if you are on a super tight budget (or want a little camping test-run with your kids), let's not forget how perfect your backyard can be too! The great thing about camping is that you don't need a plan or itinerary to have the time of your life. You can just hop in your car or camper and head out on the open road. No matter where you go, there is ALWAYS a place to stay :-)



3. To Build a Campfire and Eat Campfire Food

I won't even pretend like this isn't one of the BEST parts of camping. The campfire is the one thing I look forward to most. I love the smell, I love the coziness and I love the FOOD!!! Eric has become quite the master at building the perfect fire and I look forward to watching him teach Blake (when he is way, WAY older). And while the boys do that, Addie and I can get all the food ready!! Her and I are so alike in that we wait all. stinkin. day. to have one of those delicious, gooey s'mores. And really...eating s'mores is a right of passage. ALL kids should taste one hot off the campfire at some point in their lives. And while their mouths are full, you can tell them stories. We so rarely get the chance to just sit and talk these days without the distractions of home. When you are around a campfire, there is no TV blaring, no phones ringing and no one coming to the door. Around a campfire, the kids aren't begging for the iPad or asking to go to their friend's house. Around a campfire, there is nothing but laughter and marshmallow mustaches :-)



4. To Make New Friends

When Eric and I bought our camper, we knew ONE other couple that camped with their young kids. But that didn't last long because after only our second trip, we had made a whole new group of camping buddies!! The families we met our first year camping are now some of our dearest friends. We schedule weekends together at our club, we plan trips to Yogi Bear and we've even started a little Facebook page to keep in touch with each other throughout the year. What Eric and I learned early on is that camping brings people together. Everyone isn't just sitting alone in their tent or camper. People are out mingling, talking, sharing firewood, sharing marshmallows, sharing a beer...it's like a little community no matter where you go. How often does that happen in a hotel? I think it's so important for the kids to have experiences like this and practice making new friends. And as much as Eric and I love camping alone too, we have grown rather fond of our camping buddies and all the great late night campfire shenanigans that take place :-)


5. To Make Memories as a Family

When I see teenagers still camping with their parents during the summer, I want to cry tears of joy. I know that there is going to come a day when our kids will no longer want to be with us every waking moment. They will have friends and social lives and sports and activities and we will be the LAST thing on their priority list. But...I truly believe that if Eric and I always make family time a priority and make camping our tradition, the kids will always look forward to it, no matter how old they are. I am excited to sit down each Spring and plan our summer trips. There are so many places to see in the U.S. and I think involving the kids in the planning process is half the fun. Seeing the world's largest Ketchup bottle will be WAY more exciting if it is their idea :-)

*****

So...have I convinced you to take your kids camping this summer?? If so, here are just a few helpful tips, links and apps to get your started. You can also follow my Cruisin in the RV Pinterest board for more info and links to fun stuff :-)

Finding Gear: The biggest decision in the beginning of this journey is to decide how you will camp. Are you going to rough it in a tent, or go "glamping" in a camper? Here are some of the websites where Eric and I buy all of our gear and goodies:
* Gear Trade: For buying and selling used camping gear. 

Picking a Campground: When picking a campground, take into consideration how long you want to stay (some places do have a time limit), what recreational activities you want to do while you are there (fishing, hiking, etc.), what amenities you prefer (like having toilets and shower or full hook-ups for campers/RVs) and if the campground is "kid friendly".

You can also start by looking online at Woodalls or downloading their app to read reviews of places before you stay. They have a great rating system and a pretty comprehensive list. But, if you really want an app for finding campsites on the road, you have to check out Allstays. Not only does it show you all of the surrounding campgrounds (with reviews), it also locates rest stops, 24 hour stores like Wal-Mart, RV repair shops and also notifies you of low clearance bridges (for those pulling or driving a large motorhome). It's a little pricey for an app, but could be SUPER handy on long distance trips.

Packing for Your Trip: Whether you are packing for one night in a tent or a week in a camper, there is a LOT to remember...especially with kids!! Start by getting together some checklists. You can find a ton of AMAZING resources on Wilderness for Kids, especially if you plan to really rough it.

There is also a fabulous list-making app called Camping List Pro that allows you to customize a packing list for each trip you take! This app is like any other list maker, except it has tons of lists already programmed with suggestions for what to pack!!

But if you are a paper person like me and just can't stand making lists on your phone, feel free to download all of the camping printables I made for our camping binder last year. They have come in very handy, but I also plan to do some updating this summer now that we have had a year of experience :-)


Once you have your gear, your campsite booked and stuff all packed...you are ready to make some family memories!!! I really hope you found this post helpful and in honor of camping season, I have decided to do a little camping post every other week to share new campfire recipes, tips and tricks. And of course, I will share LOTS of pictures from all of our trips this season :-)

Happy Camping Friends!!

6 comments:

  1. THANKS so much for this post. We have a really nice tent that we've had for like 5 years and never used it other than in our back yard. I am determined to make this the year of using that tent! I want to do it but knowing what to pack and where to go seems almost overwhelming. There is a cool campground not far from us where I want to go. It's happening!!

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  2. Jimmy is SO excited to take KP camping this summer. I wish I liked it more but your post may have just changed my mind on it!

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  3. This post is very useful as keeping a note of the given reasons makes your child grow in all the aspects of life as he or she comes to learn and experience many different things which they sincerely believe until and unless they face it by themselves.

    Camp Manitou in Canada

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  4. Thank you so much for this list and wonderful sites you also listed! We have been camping (in a tent) for about 15 years now with my son who is now 24 and my daughter who is 6. I was one who thought roughing it was going to a hotel with no room service but found out what roughing it REALLY was and LOVED it!!! I of course will not go to a campground without a shower... even if it is a cold one! But we do without electricity and all the other creature comforts and just spend great quality family time and love every minute of it! I hope one day to get an RV so we can do this year round... in the heat, cold and rain and not just play it by ear when the weather is just right! It is on my someday list!!!

    One of the things we just bought last year was pie irons... the things we now cook besides just hotdogs over the campfire is amazing!!! I have made sooooooooooo many different things including pizza and tacos! Also amazing concoctions I have come up with that knock our socks off! lol We all enjoy using them and it makes spending more than just a night or two out there so much better... hotdogs get old fast! lol Ooooh and the desserts!!! I have literally made apple pie! YUMMY!!! If you do not have them, or for anyone else reading this... get them! It is well worth the money! Also... get the iron ones! Not the aluminum ones! They last longer!

    I see you are also in IL... thank you for the link for IL places to camp! I have not yet camped in state! How awful is that! We have always gone up into WI to Big Foot or Governor Dodge State Parks and of course Jellystone! Gov Dodge is a blast Columbus Day weekend to camp! But BUSY BUSY! They have a ton of activities going on- not to mention the adult trick or treating in one area of the campground where the adults go from site to site and are doing shots or having drinks! They also have 2 lakes, lots of trails and tons of other activities in the area! It is so beautiful there!

    Sorry, I babble alot when it comes to camping since we just love it! Last things to put on the list for everyone to pack... mosquito spray and tick spray/repellant!!! Also binoculars and/or telescope! When out in the far woods you will be amazed at how many stars you can see... you feel like you can almost touch them! Also a flashlight for those who do not have an RV with a washroom and have to make a midnight hike to the facilities... you do not want to be surprised by a raccoon ;)

    Happy Camping everyone!!!

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  5. I love this!! So fun that y'all have made so many friends from camping!

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