Camping as an alternative family vacation

Written by admin on March 23, 2009 – 6:23 pm -

This year, many families are considering axing their annual family vacations.  Traveling is a luxury and people are looking at their expenses and their bank balances with fear and trepidation.

If you’re in the U.S., you might want to consider camping. Campgrounds at state parks, national parks, national or state forests, and other public recreation areas as a destination for your family vacation. The cost of gas is down and there are numerous options when it comes to accommodations.

What can you expect at the campground?
They cost approximately  $12-$25 per night, considerably less than a motel room.

Park rangers, who also provide security at the campgrounds, typically run the parks. Frequently, they conduct programs where people can learn about the ecology and more of the area. Many campgrounds have activities targeted to children (and adults) with different interests. A great number have evening lectures and even sing-alongs.

Most campsites have a fire-pit, a charcoal grill and a picnic table. During high season, it’s prudent to reserve; different campgrounds have regulations as to precisely how long you may stay.

You’ll find an area to set up a tent and a place to park your car. There are dedicated buildings for bathrooms and showers. Don’t forget your personal belongings such as soap; shampoo, and rubber flip flops and other sundries.

All camping areas have drinking water available as well as places to do dishes and toss your trash.  Many are equipped with laundry facilities and some have mini-markets, which aren’t the least expensive place to buy groceries but are convenient. There’s some work to camping but hey … family members save a lot of money when everyone gets involved in doing the chores.

If you’re not into the tent culture, many camp grounds offer rental cottages. Some are more primitive than others. Or you can rent an R.V. if you want to travel in a self contained unit. Or you may prefer to drag a trailer behind your car so you can park it  and go off exploring.  Visit camping lots in your area and you’ll find there are a lot of used campers as well as trailers for rent and for sale. Many owners are delighted to rent them in order to generate some income.

Possible things to do  in a campground.
Most public parks have hiking trails and many parks have lakes for fishing, boating and swimming.

Discover nature — some city children have never seen a deer crossing a path much less a mushroom sprouting from the ground. Hummm, watch out for poison ivy.

Many camping destinations have recreational facilities such as basketball courts and playgrounds with swings and slides for the younger set.

Don’t forget to bring bikes, inflatable floats and pool toys, softball equipment, Frisbees, board games if the weather isn’t cooperating.  Remember your children’s favorite toys.

Yes, you can break down and ever bring a portable DVD player.

Bring a telescope so you can star gaze and a include a bird book if that’s your thing.

Locating camp grounds (both public and private) is only a question of surfing the Internet. In France, there’s a manual rating camping areas as if they were hotels with the equivalent of Michelin stars.

One caveat: Don’t assume you can pull off and camp anyplace you want. Depending on the state and local regulations, you might be breaking the law and awakened by the police in the middle of the night. Plus campgrounds offer greater security from people who might be up to no good.

I’m not an avid camper but have gone camping both in the U.S. and in France. I have some great memories and have amassed some tips. But, let’s hear your dos and don’ts and how you’ve maximized your camping forays. And whether or not this article is inspiring you to launch out on one?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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