Family Camping & RVing: Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Camping is one of the most popular ways to enjoy an outdoor family vacation. It's a great way for today's harried families to bond and enjoy activities together. In a recent survey, two-thirds of a sample of families cited camping as their favorite vacation choice.

Camping allows families to share outdoor experiences while enjoying some wonderful recreational opportunities. "Somehow just being outdoors makes people feel free, relaxed, and closer to one another," notes Go Camping America!, an information source for planning camping and recreation vehicle vacations.

Frequent mini-vacations covering shorter distances have become more popular for people of all ages -- and families are no exception. Shorter getaways require less fuel and less time on the road, but they still provide an opportunity to enjoy a relaxing, outdoor vacation.

Campgrounds and hiking trails are located near mountains and beaches, near big cities and small towns, near historic sites and national parks, far afield and close to home. With over 20,000 public and privately owned campgrounds in the United States, finding accommodations is rarely a problem.

Camping on public lands is one of America's favorite outdoor pastimes. More than 8,000 public campgrounds await outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Generally, public-land campgrounds are more rustic and offer fewer amenities than their privately owned campground counterparts. They do, however, offer some of the nation's most spectacular scenery. Nature trails and the woods surrounding campgrounds give campers an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and quiet moments with family and friends.

Getting Started

Bookstores and libraries are filled with books and magazines about enjoying time outdoors. Several agencies and organizations willing provide suggestions, tips, and encouragement to both novice and old-hand vacationers. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Anyone who plans to enjoy camping and/or hiking in the great outdoors should request a copy of an excellent free, full-color vacation planner entitled "Go Camping America!." It's available by calling 1-800-47-SUNNY. In addition to the complimentary planner, callers are sent a calendar of events. The calendar lists tourism and outdoor recreation activities around which vacationers may build camping and outdoor vacations.

Funoutdoors, a site on Internet's World Wide Web, is sponsored by the American Recreation Coalition. It provides up-to-date information about boating, skiing, camping, and other fun activities. Those who tap into the site are greeted by a home page that graphically underscores the natural beauty and unlimited fun of outdoor recreation.

If you're new to RV'ing, order a free RV "getting-started" DVD or CD-ROM at 1-888-Go RVing or GoRVing.com, or write to: Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, P.O. Box 2999, Dept. P, Reston, VA 20195. Surf the website for lists of RVing dealers and campgrounds in your area, as well as RV shows, publications, rental sources and clubs.

Although spontaneity is the keystone to good camping for many of us, it's wise to do some planning before heading out. Whether your family travels with a tent or in a rented or owned recreation vehicle, here are some tips that will help make your trip trouble free.

Tips for Family Camping

** Make your family's first camping experience an easy and fun one. For your first trip, pick a place near home or somewhere you've been before. Try not to make it something that requires a very long drive.

** After your first trip, consider the ages and interests of your children in choosing a camping site. The best sites tend to be those that are near beaches, biking trails, miniature golf, or other activities. Camping sites that have pools or swimming available are particularly popular for families.

** Plan your schedule for your camping trip, then cut it in half. Allow for plenty of free time, side trips, and spontaneous activities. Don't turn your family's camping experience into a military maneuver.

** Plan lots of car games to keep the trip bearable.

** When you pack for your trip, prepare a daypack or lunchbox filled with small toys, crayons, coloring books, pipe cleaners, books, cards, etc. These can be used in the car and at the camping site. If the child is old enough, you might let them pack their own small bag of things they want to bring.

** Bring stories on tape or CD, as well as tapes and CDs of sing-along songs, etc. Kids love those, both in the car and at the site.

** Let the children make their own Camp Journals. The kids can color them and make pictures or write in them. These are great souvenirs of the trip, and are also wonderful in case the kids are missing school to go on a camping trip.

** When traveling with teens (or older children), allow them to help you plan the trip. Let them bring along their MP3 player, CD player, or other diversions.

** When planning, let each person plan a day that they can do something that they want to do. This is helpful in making sure the camping trip is fun for everyone.
** Consider creating a theme related to your family's interests for each of your family camping trips. These might include "baseball", "beach adventures","Western", "mountain explorers", etc. The theme for these trips can pertain to destinations, meals, activities and more.

** Pack lots of socks for each child (at least 2 pairs per day per child). Kids go through them fast, and wet or muddy socks will cause problems.

** Bring along a disposable camera for each child to take on hiking trips. The kids love taking pictures of interesting things, and it will cut down on whining and keep them going. If at all possible, have the pictures developed while on your trip. It adds to the excitement

** Bring bug jars, flashlights, glow sticks, and buckets for kids to use.

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