For parents, the idea of a family camping trip without technology and other distractions for a few days often sounds desirable. That is, until they're driving to the site and hear the famous four-word question.
"Are we there yet?"
You can grit your teeth, tune them out, or threaten to turn around and go home. With a little extra preparation, however, you can have a wonderful journey, create great memories, and help your kids develop a lifelong interest in nature and the outdoors.
1. Plan Your Camping Trip Together
Kids and teens want to be heard. Give them a vote on where you'll go and what you'll do. This also applies to meals, snacks, drinks and amusements. When they feel their input is valued, and that they'll be able to see and do things that interest them, they're more likely to be as enthusiastic as you are about the idea.
2. Conduct a Dry Run
Your children will be more confident about camping if they know what to expect. Try your first outdoor adventure with the kids in the backyard. It's a lot of work to not go anywhere, but the payoff is a more enjoyable trip in the future.
First, get all your equipment together. Print a camping checklist for your kids to teach them that camping is both fun and work, and that everyone has to pitch in. They're a part of your camping team—not guests to be waited on. This is also a great time to make sure that you have everything you'll need.
Teach your kids how to set up the tent, or prep the trailer or motorhome for use. Then, have an overnight adventure. Let them experience sleeping outdoors so they can get used to nighttime sounds. Plan some fun camping activities like stargazing or making s'mores over.
3. Get Ready for Your Trip as a Team
Kids, especially younger ones, often don't know how to plan more than five minutes ahead. They live in the now. This is a good opportunity to teach them how to be organized and anticipate future needs.
As you get ready to go, give each child their own checklist and the responsibility to pack their own gear in a personal duffle bag. You'll want to double-check their bags to make sure they actually did pack the proper camping gear and not just their video game console or favorite toys.
4. Try a Short Outing First
If your kids have never experienced a road trip, it's best to start small with a weekend visit to a local campground, where civilization is still within reach. This will give everyone in your family a chance to see what camping is really like.
If and when you do hit the open road, don't drive for hours at a time. Break it up into shorter segments so your little ones can get out and burn off some energy.