As a young girl one of the things I looked forward to the most every summer was getting to go camping with my family. From the time I was born we spent many a night roughing it, starting with tent camping and gradually moving up to a decked out camper trailer. Every summer we would pack up the station wagon and head to Nova Scotia, camping all the way there. The memories we made still resonate with me now, many years later.

As a parent I have yet to give my own children the wonderful experience that camping can be. Part of the reason for this is because my in-laws have a cottage, bought specifically to entice their children and grandchildren to spend summer weekends with them. I have to admit roughing it in a cottage with indoor plumbing and Wi-Fi sure beats using an outhouse in the middle of the night! Not to mention, we have created many wonderful memories doing some of the same things I did as a child when camping, like telling stories around a fire or swimming in a lake. So, have I really shortchanged them on the whole camping thing or not?

To camp or not to camp has to be a family decision and despite my wonderful experiences growing up, my husband’s camping memories are not as pleasant. This means he is none too eager to dig out sleeping bags and pitch a tent, whether it is in our backyard or in a provincial park. 🙂 Roughing it is not for everyone, but we really need to revisit this idea and now is the perfect time to do it. So, how do we decide if the Rudge household, or even your family, should go camping this year?

The first thing I suggest doing is to have a family meeting. Mom or Dad should look up some websites and videos beforehand and find two or three campgrounds your family can choose from. The internet is full of other people having adventures so you will be able to see what the different sites have to offer and get a good idea of how much work setting up camp can be. This may cause your kiddos to slowly reject the idea of camping or possibly make them even more excited. Be prepared for either reaction and then move on to the next step.

Have each member of the family write out a list of the pros and cons of camping, what gear they think you will need and how much work they will need to put in to make this a good experience for everyone. Try to be honest about things like how difficult putting up a tent can be for little kids, but emphasize how they can help with setting up the poles. The parent who is not in love with the idea of sleeping under the stars should be realistic with their expectations, but also not exaggerate things so as to scare anyone off. 🙂 For example, don’t list having no indoor plumbing as a con if you know the campgrounds you would use have public washrooms.

Once the lists are complete go over them, discussing each pro and con. What your child sees as a pro might be on your con list, but with a little imagination it can turn into a great family memory. I remember having to use flashlights in our tents, which made reading at night impossible. So my sister and I did the next best thing and would play “guess the shadow puppet.” Simple entertainment that has resulted in secret family jokes thirty years later. ♥

Another area to tackle is the gear you need for camping. If you don’t already own any, buying sleeping bags, a tent, air mattresses, coolers, camper stoves etc., can be quite costly. This would definitely cause many families to shut down the whole camping idea, but take it one step further and talk about who you can borrow from. Some places even rent out tents and other big ticket items. That idea alone will save you money and give your family a chance to see if camping again is something you really want to do.

Finally, talk about the fun parts of camping, again keeping an open mind. Cooking over an open fire may seem stressful to you, but researching some fun campfire recipes could alleviate that. One of the treats we loved the most when camping was to roast hot dogs; we would wrap them in tinfoil, then newspaper and then place them in a milk carton and light it on fire! Best hot dogs around! This is also is a great way to make s’mores. 🙂

Don’t forget to discuss family bonding things to do. Playing board games is a great way to pass the time if it rains and of course there is swimming, hiking, biking and fishing at many campsites. You can even make things like washing up the dishes into a enjoyable chore when you need to use cold water and rubber tub from the dollar store. Talk to your kids about the things they would like to do when camping and if they seem impossible, now is the time to chat about ways to make it work for the whole family.

Camping, while not as, convenient as staying in a hotel or even a cottage, can still be a massive amount of fun for the whole family. My advice would be to look into it, keeping an open mind and thinking about the memories you can make with your spouse and children. Even spending one night with the Milky Way overhead, owls hooting in the trees and the lingering smell of a campfire wafting through your mesh windows is a wonderful way to spend some time with your family this summer.

Happy trails!

Suzanne Rudge, owner of the blog MapleMouseMama, is a Canadian mama of two, happily married to her supportive husband. Suzanne blogs about life in general, the trials and tribulations of raising a family, as well as reviews and giveaways. Suzanne tackles issues like Food Allergy Awareness as she does planning a Disney vacation – with passion! You can follow Suzanne living her dream at www.MapleMouseMama.com.