Sleeping Under the Stars
Camping is a low-cost vacation option that allows families to get back to nature. With tighter household budgets cutting into vacation funds, a getaway to a local nature park or campground becomes a fun and inexpensive Summer activity for the family. Besides saving some money and getting the kids off their electronic devices, camping trips can also be a chance to teach outdoor skills and encourage exercise. You might end up making it an annual tradition!
In Ontario, the options for camping range from private campgrounds to camping at a national park. Do your kids like to swim? Pick a spot near a lake or a beach. Are they energetic and full of curiosity? Then maybe a location with a network of hiking trails would be a better bet. Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to tents either. A number of campgrounds rent rustic shelters, cabins, or RV trailers for families looking to ease their way into camping.
Where to Go
Here are some resources to help you find the best campground location:
Camping in Ontario
Parks Canada (National Parks Canada)
KOA Campgrounds in Ontario
Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to pack, plot your driving route, and pick up any food or supplies that you’ll need. Be sure to include the kids in this process. They’ll have fun helping to make decisions and will be far more excited about the trip if they’re involved in the planning.
When preparing for a camping trip, resist bringing too many extras that will only get in the way of your enjoyment of the great outdoors. It’s easy to overpack. Even if you plan on pitching your tent right next to your car, it’s possible to be fully prepared without lugging tons of unnecessary equipment around.
Here’s a short list of essentials:
Tent. If you plan to go camping with any regularity, this is a worthwhile investment that will last for years. Try to think carefully about your long-term needs before buying a tent, though, as they come in many sizes and prices.
A ground tarp to spread on the ground and protect the floor of your tent.
Down sleeping bags and inflatable pads. Cotton sleeping bags may be less expensive bu they absorb moisture and won’t keep the kids as warm on chilly nights.
Games and activities. Make sure there’s never a dull moment by bringing a Frisbee, card games, or your child’s favourite toy, but also pack educational goodies such as binoculars, a magnifying glass, or an animal identification guide.
Lantern and flashlight with extra batteries.
Toilet paper and trowel. Toilets might not be available at some campsites, so remember to bury any waste a considerable distance from your tent.
Daypack or small backpack. Stuff this with useful items like maps, bug spray, sunscreen, water purification tablets, a small first-aid kit, matches/lighter, a rain jacket, etc.
Water bottle or jug. Be green, and avoid creating waste with plastic bottles!
Food and a cooler. Plan to bring foods that are easy to cook with minimum paper waste.
Camping cookset, bowls, and utensils. It's better for the environment than paper or plastic.
A camping stove. Or consider bringing your own cooking grate to use over the campsite’s fire pit.
More Fun Activities at the Campground...
Discovering the outdoors such as water to play in, rocks to climb on, and the chance to see wildlife is what camping is all about. Go for walks, try identifying flowers and birds, go for a swim, and try exploring the area. Bathing in rivers can be a completely different experience for your kids. At night, make shadow puppets on the tent walls with a flashlight. Here are some more ideas:
S’mores - Mmmmm... Melted chocolate and marshmallows between graham crackers. A must on a camping trip!
Camp Songs - You’ve got to brush up on camp songs from your youth and sing them to your kids.
Star Gazing - Enjoy the stars during night-time star gazing. Without the city lights, it will be so much easier to see the planets and constellations.
Ghost Stories - Spooky (friendly) tales told by one person around a campfire are a tradition!
Games - Bring a family favourite compact board-game (many come in travel size now).
Storytelling - Practice your art of storytelling as everyone bundles into their sleeping bags.
Take Pictures - Give the kids access to the family digital camera (or buy them their own) so everyone can record their own perspective and images of the trip.
Camping with kids is a great way to ensure quality family time is created without the distractions from the outside world!
What amazing places have you gone camping with family?