Camping – Quality Family Time

It’s been about 6 years now since my husband and I discussed the idea of camping. We were expecting our third child and I was going to become a stay home mom. There were several obstacles to overcome with the impending drop in our income but there was also a concern about how we would be able to have quality family time with 3 children that was also affordable. The discussion of camping kept coming up over and over again.

Camping is a great way to lodge near or within some of the most economical and quality activities this country offers. A tent site within Acadia National Park in Maine can be had for about $15/night! Within the park is free hiking, biking, swimming and ranger led tours for adults and children. (well, free to the extent that you pay federal taxes that pay for these parks). There are many private campgrounds on Mt. Desert Island (where Acadia is located) which can provide more amenities, if you so desire. Even these campgrounds provide awesome deals when you can get an ocean view or ocean side site for under $65.00 ($65 is considered an “expensive” site, in general we spend between $32 to $45/night for our sites). An ocean side hotel room (with kitchen) would probably run you about $150-$200 /night in season.

There are more and more ways for anyone to get out there and camp. There are tents (which diehards consider the “only” way to camp). There are “tear drop” and “A” frame style campers that can be towed by a standard vehicle. Bigger campers include pop-ups or smaller “hard side” campers which can be towed by a minivan or smaller SUV. The biggest hard sided campers need to be towed by large SUVs or pick up trucks. There are also pop-outs that are packed into trailers that are towed by motorcycles! In addition, more and more campgrounds now offer camping cabins that allow you to enjoy the amenities of the campgrounds without breaking out a single tent stake.

If you’re interested in camping I’d recommend trying to borrow equipment from friends or family before committing to purchase your own. You should be aware that even family might not let you borrow their camper, though. If you’re interested in trying out a camper for a weekend, a lot of campgrounds now rent campers and let you place them on one of their sites. Quite a few camper retailers will have rental units for you to try out as well. This is a good way to enjoy a periodic camping trip without buying your own camper.

No matter if you’re looking to get into a tent or a camper, you might want to begin with gently loved equipment. Many people begin with tent camping and move up rapidly to a travel trailer. There is an abundance of very gently used equipment out there. The three-bedroom tent that was only used twice and is now in our garage is testament to that. Our pop- up was only used four times in two years by the couple we bought it from and they also absorbed the initial depreciation (it’s just like buying a new car versus a used one). Whereas, when we sold the same pop-up, we were able to sell it for only $500 less than what we paid for it.

Camping has allowed us to take family vacations that we probably couldn’t have afforded otherwise. For example, we stayed on Cape Cod during the summer. We always pack the majority of our own food and shop just for fresh fruit and bread. We brought our bikes to the Cape and spent several days biking and swimming at this gem of a pond located right on the rail trail. There are miles of free hiking along the National Seashore and great picnic areas. The kids loved the playscapes that are in public parks and at the local schools (which are okay to use when school isn’t in session). We biked to a local free public beach several times at low tide so the kids could collect sea shells and learn about tidal pool ecology. Bottom line was a family vacation loaded with fantastic moments that we still talk about. Our campground site cost $350 (full hook up site, tent sites are even less) for the week. A week for a suite with a kitchen on the Cape in prime season would normally run you about $1500. to $2000. That is the difference between us being able to go and not go!

No matter what you use to camp in, there is a wonderful and simple enjoyment as you sit with your family by a campfire and chat about your day. There are no phones, no distractions, no TV and Nintendos. There is nothing to distract them from you and you from them and in this day and age when there is so much to draw our focus away from each other, this is truly a way to bring about quality family time.