Camping is a perfect opportunity to disconnect from the world and get in touch with nature. It also creates an opportunity for family and friends to connect and create memories. There is something about nature that is calming and absolutely perfect for family bonding.
How should I choose my first family campsite? There are many factors to consider when selecting the campsite that will make your first family camping trip a low-stress success, such as:
- Consider the distance of the campground from home
- Decide your preferred nature experience
- Determine your camping style
- Preferred level of convenience
- Finding the right campsite
- Choosing your spot
- Campsite activities
- Local activities and attractions
- Preparing meals
- Safety is important
These are some of the most significant considerations when it comes to camping, especially with a family. Read on to prepare yourself for the camping experience of a lifetime!
1. Consider the Distance From Home
As you plan your camping trip, consider the following:
- the time you have available to camp
- how far you are willing to drive
- how familiar you are with the area
Some first-time campers choose to plan their first camping trip somewhere near home. Troubleshooting problems as they arise is much easier if you are familiar with the area you’re in. You know where the stores are to buy last-minute essentials, and you know where to find a doctor or a drug store if needed. Sticking close to home allows you to do a trial run without too much risk.
2. Decide Your Preferred Nature Experience
Nature is a part of the camping experience, but there is a large variety of outdoor adventures from which to choose. Some families prefer having mountains to climb while others are interested in the serenity of a quiet lake.
The National Park Service alone has over 130 areas in their Find a Campground interactive article to camp across the United States.
3. Determine Your Camping Style
There is more than one way to camp, but some styles of camping are more convenient for families than others. Dispersed camping may not be the best choice as it involves camping on public lands but not in a designated camping area. Camping outside a designated area means there are no bathrooms, trash pickup, or other convenient services.
4. Preferred Level of Convenience
Your first family camping trip does not have to be primitive, and the addition of amenities does not mean your camping experience is a watered-down version of roughing it. If you are camping with your family, having bathrooms, water, and other small luxuries make a huge difference and reduces stress. There are many campsites that offer a variety of amenities if you prefer to have them.
5. Finding the Right Campsite
There is an extensive range of campsites to consider. Some only have necessities, and others can be somewhat fancy. As you consider the right campground, take into consideration the number of people in your family, their ages, and their interests.
Full-Service Modern Campgrounds
Some campgrounds bring camping to the next level. Modern amenities such as hot water, flushing toilets, and electrical outlets are considered modern, but some campgrounds bring entertainment to resort-quality. KOA Resorts is an example of this type of campground. They offer a premium camping experience with pools and planned activities.
Semi-Modern and Rustic Campgrounds
Many state and federal campgrounds are considered semi-modern as they have flushing toilets, showers, and areas with electricity. Others are very rustic and offer water pumps or spigots, fire pits, and outhouses for a bathroom.
Frequently campgrounds have areas with different designations. There may also be areas considered premier campsites for tent camping and others that are more rustic.
It is important to check ahead on the state or federal campground’s website to make reservations well in advance if you have a specific type of camping experience in mind. Reservations fill up fast, especially during peak holiday months.
6. Choosing Your Spot
Once you determine where you want to camp, you may want to scout out which site will work best for your camping adventure.
- Choose a campsite taking into consideration how close you will be to others camping. It might be nice to have friendly neighbors, especially if there are children involved. It is also reasonable to decide a more private site is best so you can focus on each other instead of a crowd.
- Consider the ground of the campsite. If you are putting up a tent, you want a nice grassy area that does not have many holes in the ground, lumps, or rocks. Situating your tent over a flat area helps with comfortable sleeping.
- Think about the shade and sun when camping. Early morning sun coming into a tent can get in the way of sleeping in through the mornings. Also, if you anticipate a hot day, shade can help keep your camp area a little cooler.
7. Campsite Activities
While someone campgrounds have planned and guided activities suitable for the whole family, not all have this amenity. As you research your perfect campsite for your family, look at what activities the campgrounds have available that are not guided. Many times, campgrounds have areas to swim or fish or areas to rent equipment to participate in recreational activities on your own.
It helps to keep kids from wanting to plug into electronics by having some activity ideas planned to help keep kids occupied. Fortunately, most of these require little to no extra gear to pack. You can introduce your kids to nature-inspired scavenger hunts and swap stories around the campfire to keep them entertained.
If you absolutely have to take your electronic devices with you, you’ll want to check out our article on the best portable powerpacks and chargers.
8. Local Activities and Attractions
Another option is to look at local attractions near the campground to keep your family satisfied. You might be at a campground perfect for hiking and swimming, but there might be local areas for fishing and climbing if that is your passion.
9. Preparing Meals
Knowing how you intend to plan meals is essential when picking out a campsite. If you prefer to cook over an open fire, a campground with a fire pit is ideal. We have come great information on building your campfire and on how to cook over a campfire. We even have some great suggestions (with some fantastic pictures) on what to cook while camping.
Some fire pits already have a grill top, but it helps to know in advance so you can plan. Others offer campsites with a built-in grill to use where all campers need is charcoal to cook their food.
It is useful to have a plan on how to keep your cooler at a temperature safe for food. Ice is essential for traditional, ice-chest coolers, when camping and knowing if you must go off-site to find ice is something worth knowing in advance and before any food is wasted. If you have opted for a fridge cooler you need to have access to electrical power to keep it cold. You can power a fridge cooler for a short time from your car battery (overnight) but you may need a camping inverter-generator for more continuous power.
10. Safety is Important
When choosing the ideal campsite for your family, it helps to consider safety. If your children are very young, you will want to evaluate the space you have and the location of the fire pit. The firepit should be orientated in such a manner that it does not become a hazard. Also, be mindful of nearby rivers, lakes, or ravines where children can get hurt.
Lastly, when you check-in, notice any warnings of local wildlife dangers. You will want to know what to look for and what you can do as campers to minimize attracting local wildlife to your campsite.
In the End
Camping is a fantastic way to decompress and let the fast pace of life slip away. It is an opportunity to invest in your family and to create memories that will be shared repeatedly throughout the years around a campfire.
With so many options for camping, it is easy to find a campsite that suits the entire family. Deciding how far away from home to camp is the first step. Afterward, it is easy to pinpoint the type of camping experience that is right for the family. By taking into consideration interests and comfort levels, families can enjoy the outdoors without stress.