When it's time to take the family on a summer vacation, but funds are a bit tight, there aren't many options that fit the bill quite like a camping trip. While a trip to the woods or the lake isn't free, the costs associated with camping are typically far less than a standard beach or mountain cabin retreat, and there are typically plenty of things to do to occupy children of all ages, as well as activities for families to engage in together.
For those who already have all the requisite equipment for a camping trip, the primary expenses will be gas money to get to the camping destination, money for food and beverages, and the modest fee associated with most campgrounds. The result is tremendous savings over a typical vacation, which comes complete with the gas and food expenditures, but also with expensive hotel or condominium rental fees, and the costs of the overpriced entertainment options at most tourist-driven summer vacation destinations.
Campground typically charge a nominal fee for a campsite, usually no more than $10 per evening, meaning that a family camping trip would result in $50 in accommodation costs for a 5-night trip. For those without the proper equipment to go camping, the costs will certainly be greater, though anyone with friends who like to camp may be able to borrow most of the gear they'll need for an enjoyable trip.
Essentials for Camping
Make sure this is large enough to accommodate the entire family or, if children are old enough to sleep in their own, bring two tents to sleep the entire family. It is always a good idea to use a tent that has a rain fly included, in the event of a downpour that would otherwise render a camping trip quite boring. It's also important to place a tarp on the ground prior to pitching the tent, but make sure that the tarp doesn't stick out beyond the 'footprint' of the tent itself, otherwise rain will gather on the tarp where it is exposed and roll under the tent, leading to some very uncomfortable conditions.
For warm weather camping, sleeping bags can be very lightweight, though standard sheets and blankets will suffice. Still, children love sleeping bags, and summer-weight bags can be purchased inexpensively at any large retail store.
These vary from large behemoths that require an electric inflator to backpacking mattresses that 'self inflate'. For a summer family trip, the former is a better idea―no need to rough it for a family vacation. Children, on the other hand, typically will be comfortable just using a foam pad or a second sleeping bag underneath them to keep them comfortable.
Lanterns and Flashlights
Kerosene lanterns are a great way to keep the campsite lit up at night, but flashlights should also be on hand for each member of the camping party. Children, especially, like to have their own gear, including a flashlight.
Cooking hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire is a given on a camping trip, but a good camp stove, powered by kerosene or white fuel, will give parents the option to cook some good, healthy dinners. These are highly portable and easy to use.
A cooler full of good food and drink―this goes without saying, but for the novice camper, what to bring may be a mystery. Think of the trip as an extended picnic―breakfast and lunch will typically be an assortment of fruits, cereals, yogurt, breakfast bars, sandwiches, and hot dogs. Dinners can be more luxurious, as camp stoves can accommodate just about any meal you would want to make at home.
Whether for parents or kids, toys are a must. Frisbees, ball and gloves, water toys, and others are a good bet for children, while mom and dad can bring a canoe, fishing gear, hiking boots, and anything else that suits their fancy.
Whether close to home or across the country, camping can be a great opportunity for a family to spend time together. Activities tend to be more family-centric, unlike with trips to tourist destinations, and the cost of a camping vacation is much less than a typical family trip. For those looking for an alternative to a costly, commercialized experience, camping can be the way to go.