April 25, 2009

Camping - A Great Family Vacation!

It seems all to familiar, almost cliche-like now- tough economic times have us watching every penny we spend. Typically the first expense a family is forced to dismiss is their vacation. Ironically, its the very avenue we reward ourselves with for all the efforts we've tended to throughout the year. It seems now, more than ever, a vacation is certainly warranted.

Many times when considering a vacation, the idea of packing the family up and heading out into the 'unknown' is, well, not an option. Some view it with insurmountable odds, claiming it'd be to much on the little ones, or one must be experienced in the great outdoors in order for it to be successful. These 2 points could not be further from the truth, nor could the argument that camping is to expensive. With the three P's of camping, 1) Proper planning 2) Proper place 3) Proper packing, this outdoor experience is one likely to become a family vacation tradition! (I've seen this tradition grow to include, but not be limited to, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.).

It is imperative, as with any thing in life we chose to do, that homework be done in the early phase of planning a camping trip. Sixteen years ago, when I began camping with both my 6 month old son and my then 2 year old son, websites with virtual tours of camping facilities were not yet available. However, in my quest to do it properly, the months of February and March were spent driving hours to visit possible locations to pitch our tent in the coming months. Oh, these trips were made into fun loving, adventurous outings, the car packed with goodies and loads of easy roadway games! Now though, the computer is a great way to explore various camping sites, what they offer, prices, etc.

When trying to determine the best possible camping facility for your family, there are many factors to take into consideration. (For this writing consideration is taken, but not limited to, family's with children age 1 year plus).

- How far from home do you wish to be? Children get sick, this is an outdoor vacation.
- What activities does your family enjoy? (bike riding, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking )

* if swimming at facility, (pool, lake) is there a lifeguard on duty?

* can fishing poles, bikes be rented?

* for the adventurous, fishing license required, can caught fish be kept (cooked for dinner?)

* canoes, rafts, etc. are they allowed on lake, can they be rented- age specified?

* inquire as to arts/crafts and other activities facility provides free of charge.

- Minimum stay/ night requirement? (its advisable while enthusiasm may rend wild, 3-4 nights for first trip)
- Electricity, running water provided at individual campsite? (some do however, cost/night more)
- Shower/toliet facilities, are there any and how old.
- Forest Ranger on duty, 24/7? (this is important as we had a bear visit us twice in one night and Ranger on duty came from his home, 5 minutes away. At another facility, no Ranger on duty in PM hours.)
- Without physically visiting campgrounds it may be difficult to determine average age of campers, geared toward family or 20 year olds. (One facility in Upstate NY bands played all night, every night, with 4 and 5 yr. olds this was quite disruptive!)
- What is cancellation policy in the event of rain, child sick,etc. (most are very accomodating to re-book up to one year after scheduled stay.)
- Is there commissary store for incidentals on property? (having to drive around unfamiliar territory at 9:00pm for Children's Tylenol- yes, there will be a check-list provided so you have it all, but just in case)

Obtaining this information prior to reserving a campsite allows a formidable decision leaving much less room for error.

...and subsequently much more time for enjoyment and relaxation. Look for future information pertaining to picking the perfect campsite and of course, just what to bring.


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