Five Favorite Family Camping Trip Tips

by  Paul Eisenberg | Jun 14, 2011
Camping / Carmian/iStock

Summer is no longer around the corner. It has noisily turned the corner. And when it rolls up on June 21st, the National Park Service will honor it by waiving admission fees at the parks that levy them.

Other immediate signs of the season? Pretty much all schools will be out for summer by June 28th, and families everywhere will be trying to get invited to Fourth of July barbecues in lieu of hosting them. And, of course, there will be an onslaught of summer camping tips, several of which will be geared toward families. Here are a few favorite nuggets of wisdom. 

What’s the most important campsite amenity for families?

If you want to reserve a campsite for your family, one of the most important things to ask “is if the site has running water and how close it is to a restroom or outhouse,” says Shawn Urscheler of camping outfitter Campmor. “These are big things to consider, especially with kids.”

What is the single most important item for parents to pack?

First-time campers with kids will want to “bring socks,” says Cindy Richards, editor of “Lots of socks. At least 10 pairs for a two-day camping trip.” While camping with her kids at state parks, Richards “was amazed at how many times my kids jumped in the puddles and creeks. Even when they were wearing boots, they managed to come back to the campsite with soaking wet socks. And few things can make your kids – and therefore, you – unhappy the way cold, wet feet can make you unhappy.”

What are simple, inexpensive ways to prepare for bad weather and downtime?

As nonessential as it may seem while you’re packing, bring a few of your favorite board and card games, suggests Urscheler. “If it rains and you decide to stick it out for the weekend, you will need something to keep you and your family occupied,” he says. “I usually bring a pack of playing cards and some paper to keep score.” Consider packing a soccer ball, football, or softball gear, too, as “during downtime between planned hikes or other activities, this is an easy way to keep your kids occupied.”

If bad weather puts the kibosh on your grand campfire dinner plans, it’s generally a good idea to have “a couple of no-cook meal options,” says Ariella Rogge, a program director at Sanborn Western Camps in Colorado, who notes that she’ll often ply her kids “with Clif bars and cheese sticks til the weather breaks, and, if not, a good old PB&J will get the job done.”

What camping foods might my kids actually eat?

In the Waterford Press pocket guide Camping 101, James Kavanagh lists “classic camp foods,” including a kid-friendly gourmet potatoes recipe, for which you’d want to “alternate slices of potato, onion, and butter in foil, salt and pepper to taste, and bury the package in the coals” for 25 to 40 minutes.

A plentiful source of fun camping recipes is Kampgrounds of America ( where preparations range from dad-pleasing breakfast fried rice to biscuits on a stick – shove a ready-to-bake biscuit on the end of a foil-wrapped stick, fire it up, and let it burn until you suspect the inside is done. Don’t even pretend that you won't be trying that one at home.

How can I get my kids in the spirit of camping and giving at the same time?

Saturday, June 25 marks the National Wildlife Federation’s Great American Backyard Campout, an event that encourages casual camping as well as fundraising; registering for the campout is free, but registrants are also encouraged to make donations or form campout teams to raise money for NWF programming aimed at getting kids outside.

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