In my experience camping with the family has meant a lot to me. As a youngster, I never liked camping with the scouts, but found that I really liked camping with my family. My love of camping was based on the opportunity to do something with my parents, especially my dad. It still has an effect on me today. Here are some tips in planning that family camping trip to make it a pleasure and hopefully hook the family on a lifetime of camping joy.
Involve the entire family in the entire process including the making decisions about where to go. When everyone is involved they will feel a part of the trip not just an accessory. This includes the kids. Be truly open to the suggestions that are presented. If an idea is not accepted, explain why.
Know your family and their comfort level. This is very important when planning everything for the trip from where to go to what to eat and do. Ask yourself and the family these three questions:
- Do you want to stay at a modern campground, at a state park or in a backcountry setting? I would suggest to avoid the backcountry for your first attempt.
- Will your family be most comfortable in a tent, RV or cabin? Either of these serve the purpose of getting the family out in nature.
- What would be the best conditions for your family as far as temperature? Spring, summer or fall? Here in the Johnstown area summer can be rather hot. In the fall and spring, although the daytime temperatures can be nice, the nights can get downright cold.
Keep it simple when planning. This keeps from putting pressure on the family. Don’t over plan activities which could put you in a time crunch. Also choose foods that are simple to prepare and cleanup. Tin foil cooking is a fun way to eat and let everyone make their own meal. Use paper plates and plastic utensils. This eliminates some of the time consuming cleanup which can also put you in a time crunch. Lastly, don’t go buy an RV or tent. Check into renting or borrowing first. This means that the family doesn’t feel that they have to like it because you have the equipment. One option for keeping it simple in the Johnstown area would be Glendale Camper Rentals which will deliver and set up the camper for you at the campsite. There are also several programs with Pennsylvania State Parks for first-time campers or family camping which can help you learn and cut down on the stress.
Be prepared. Research before you go. Challenge the kids to look for activities at the campground that they would like. Some campgrounds will have a good schedule of family programming during the weekends, especially during the summer. But don’t limit yourself to the campground, look at the surrounding area also. A couple days before the trip, check the weather forecast. This will let you know if you need to have clothing for rain or cold temperatures. It will also be important for you as a family leader to know about possible hazards such as poison ivy or the possibility of bear encounters. Check out any special rules at the campground like campfire bans and be ready for alternatives.
Make a list and check it twice. Research online for a good camping list. Many of the online outfitters have lists. Check them out as not all of the lists will have the exact same items on them. Once you have a good list, make your own list. Also make a personal list for each person. This should include clothes, toiletries, and medications. Make a food list. The reason that you make a list is so that you do not forget anything. So check it twice. Once as you are packing the items in containers or boxes and the second time as you are loading the equipment in the car. As you begin to take more trips, it may save time to have several storage containers with your camping supplies already together. Here are just a few sources for camping lists:
- REI - Family Camping Checklist (tent)
- Coleman – Tent Camping Checklist and RV Camping Checklist
- Good Sam Club – RV Travel Checklists
- Pennsylvania State Parks – Camping Supplies Checklist
Rehearse at home. If you have new or borrowed equipment, this will save time and frustration at the campsite. If you have trouble setting up the tent at the campsite, the trip starts off with tension. Set your tent up, practice using your camp stove or making a fire and practice cooking. This will also allow you to find any hidden damage that could ruin a camping trip.
So go ahead and start planning. Have fun with the family and begin making memories that will last a lifetime. Check back shortly for tips to help your camping experience once you’re there.