For some families, the camping experience is 2nd nature.  They enjoy it so much that they incorporate the experience into their lives continually.  For these families, camping is as natural as breathing.  They camp in unusual locations, away from campgrounds, without just fresh air and nature.  When a new member of the family arrives, a first camping trip can happen before a first step.

However, if you did not grow up camping, the experience can be daunting.  It looks like a great time, communing with nature, meeting new people, getting away from “screens” and business, and most of all making memories with those you love.  With a bit of planning and prep, realistic expectations, and flexibility camping can be all those things and more.  Here are some thoughts to get you on your way.

  1. Find a good time of year and investigate different locations. 

Camping in the summer is the most popular time to camp.  Moreover, camping first time at a campground, you will find lots of people to meet.  Kids will have others to play with, and for the most part, the weather is ideal.  Even on hot days, campgrounds, like Small Country, offer many activities, shade, water fun, and other stuff to keep busy.

But if crowds are an issue remember spring and fall camping are beautiful times to camp.  The campgrounds are not as busy, and mother nature provides a beautiful backdrop.  The weather can be cooperative also, with late periods of warm weather in the fall and mild temperatures in the spring.

  1. Keep your first trip short and manageable.

There is a reason we practice camping in the backyard first.  You may find that you do not know how to set up the tent, you NEED the air mattress because sleeping on the ground does not agree with you, or that you are not cut out for the tent camping lifestyle.  But if you’ve graduated backyard camping, then your first trip should be about 1 ½ to 3 hours from your home.  Far enough that it is a “trip,” but close enough that you can arrive at the campground early and get set up in the light of day. Also, keep the time frame short – I have seen fantastic trips that were just one night.   On your next trip go a bit farther and stay a bit longer.  Widen your circle of time and location as your experience grows.

  1. Pack well, remember the essentials but don’t worry if you forget something.

Make a checklist and bring it with you.  There are lots of places to find useful camping checklists.    It is a great way to not only make sure you get everything you need to the campsite but that you have everything going back home with you.   And don’t worry if you leave something at home.   You don’t need all the comforts of home. Doing without and improvising can make a great story.   Be certain to pack a flashlight, a first aid kit, and if you have a little one with you, a comfort item (a particular blanket or stuffed animal) can be a real asset.

  1. Embrace dirt, bugs, and new experiences.

Bug repellent and sunscreen are great equalizers and will keep you comfortable.  But know for certain that you will get dirty, and you will see bugs and hopefully other wildlife.  Be respectful of the space and people around you.  Know the rules of the campground before you go.

  1. Remember why you’re doing this.

Camping trips make memories.  And even the worst day on a trip brings moments that you will laugh about later.   Reconnect, strengthen bonds, embrace challenges, belly laugh, share chores, and be with each other.