I didn’t grow up going on camping trips with my family and it was all really alien to me. Mind you, I had gone on the odd tent camping trip here and there and I really enjoyed them.
But when I thought about taking family vacations, my thoughts seemed to turn more to sun kissed beaches, amusement parks and lovely hotel rooms with really fluffy pillows.
Camping made me think of the two things I dreaded most. No beds and no showers.
Let me share with you how my husband eventually persuaded me into his way of thinking.
RV Camping: A happy medium
RV Camping can hardly be considered roughing it. In fact, if you see some of the newer models of RV’s that are currently for sale, I think you’d be amazed at how swanky they can be.
From gourmet kitchens to leather couches to yes, you guessed it fancy bathrooms with (gasp!) showers, these modern RV’s have everything you could wish for and more.
Unfortunately, they also cost a pretty penny.
Our budget was a bit lower than that, so we had to look at more modestly priced RV’s but we were still pleasantly surprised by what we found.
Within our budget, we were able to find a modestly- sized trailer with bunk beds for the kids, a Queen bed for us, a dinette set, a bathroom (with a shower) and a seating area that converted into another full size bed if need be.
The best part is that the RV also had a slide out feature, giving the dinette and seating areas extra room to stretch out, and with the windows looking out, gave us the feeling of being in a larger space.
Ok, so I had to admit that camping in this way (which many people would not consider true camping, but that’s ok) was not as disagreeable a notion as I had first thought.
The RV was pretty, spacious and clean, and the thought that we could take it just about anywhere in the U.S. (the Grand Canyon, California beaches, Colorado, even Disney has an RV park!) was an attractive thought.
We could really travel the U.S. at a fraction of the cost of airfare, hotel and dining out.
This was sounding better and better.
A few secrets we learned about camping
Around the same time that we got an RV, in an odd but welcome twist, 3 of our closest friends got RV’s as well.
It was not planned, it was a complete coincidence which has led to many joint camping trips which have led to more fun we could have ever imagined.
This twist of fate led us to stumble upon probably one of the greatest secrets about camping.
It is better to camp with friends.
Preferably friends with kids.
We’ve camped alone and we’ve camped with friends and we learned quickly that camping with friends is the way to go.
Camping with friends means that your kids will not be seen by you except for mealtimes, and while that may be sad for some parents, other parents may be thrilled at the thought of adult
And maybe, just maybe, the kids are thrilled at the thought of kiddie conversation too.
Now, our kids were always within eyeshot, but they were climbing trees and making walking sticks, making forts, spying on other campers, swimming, making sandcastles, riding bikes, collecting sticks to build the perfect fire.
They were busy, busy, busy. They were in nature! And loving it.
We couldn’t force them to come in to the camper and watch a movie if we tried. There were way too many other fun things to do outside.
This was exactly what my husband had pictured in his mind when he lobbied passionately for an RV.
And I have to admit, watching our kids play in the Great Outdoors, that he was absolutely right.
Another thing we learned? Keep the food simple
Our camping buddies all suffered from the same malady when we embarked on our first camping trips: Cookingtoomuch-itis
We all got it into our heads to cook these elaborate meals, when our kids were happy with roasted hot dogs over the fire.
We had to remind ourselves that this was supposed to be a vacation for us too.
That meant no chili, no spaghetti, forget the elaborate eggs and bacon breakfasts. That was too much work, and too much cleanup.
If we really felt the need to eat something a little fancier, we bought frozen meals at Costco. All the fuss and none of the mess.
The menus were simple but good: Hot dogs, burgers, ready made ribs from Costco, sandwiches, lots of chips and treats, yummy drinks and of course, Smores.
You can fancy it up by getting fancy polish dogs or jalapeno cheddar sausages for hot dogs (for the adults)
and fancy bread for your sandwiches, but other than that, grab some frozen buffalo wings, frozen pizzas, and you’re good. Maybe throw in some fresh stuff too. ( I swear we normally eat healthy, really!)
I know, I know, it’s not the healthiest menu, but do you ever eat healthy when you’re on vacation? Probably not.
Take advantage of State Parks
State Parks offer lots of fun at a relatively low cost.
Our local state Park offers tent and Rv camping, lush green trails for exploring and paved trails for biking and walking.
There are also non paved trails for horseback riding and hiking.
There’s a large beautiful lake for swimming, fishing and boating and beach areas for just sitting back and relaxing or building sand castles and skipping rocks.
It’s a literal paradise for young families who are adventurous and willing to explore
the grounds, at a fraction of the price you would pay to stay at a family resort.
For our family of 4, we pay $25 a day for use of the state park and a place to park our RV with all the electric and water hook ups. I’m not hugely great at math. But think about it this way. You pay $100 for 4 days of fun plus the cost of food and gas.
Family vacations don’t get any cheaper than this, unless they’re free.
Stir your children’s imagination
Being there with a group of their best friends (and ours) made all the difference.
We found a great RV spot with the woods on one side and the lake on another. T
The kids found a group of trees that they named their “fort” and they would literally spend hours there; we could not drag them away.
Between their fort and building sand castles on the beach and riding their bikes, scooters and skateboards all day long and then building fires in the fire pits and roasting yummy things to eat
late into the night, they never lacked for fun things to do.
TV? Phones? They were promptly forgotten ( and thank goodness we did not get good reception at our campsite because it took away any temptation, and I’m talking about the adults here, for the kids that was a non-issue).
My husband had very vividly painted this picture of camping for me (a non-camper) because this was how he grew up and he had a fabulous time.
He knew the benefits of this type of family bonding time, and he was absolutely right. Everything he visualized for us ended up being exactly what we have experienced so far, and I am so glad he persuaded me to get that blessed RV.
It’s certainly a more affordable family vacation for us, and we have built a lifetime of memories and have built our own unique family identity through these trips.
Will we go to Disney World, or other beachy resorts?
But for now, we are very happy taking our fun camping trips and look forward to more fun times together in the years ahead.