Camping is not my jam.
And I have zero shame when it comes to admitting that fact.
I know what type of person I am and the things that bring me joy, and I feel confident in pursuing those without worrying about how other people fill up their joy buckets.
Put dirty bath water in it if you want, I’m still gonna be the kind of girl who likes beach front resorts and all inclusive getaways where I can lounge about without worrying about things like dinner and fresh towels over pitching a tent to enjoy nature.
That said, there are elements of the overall camping trip experience that I do enjoy.
For example, I like grilled things. And campfires.
Those are fun.
Plus, I like water activities of the sort that one can often locate at campsites.
You know, stuff like boating and fishing and drinking tasty beverages alongside a lake.
I like that my kids like camping, although, to be honest, my kids don’t really enjoy tent camping.
And, I say this with confidence because I’m not one to deny them experiences just because I don’t enjoy them. Their first camping trip was of the tent camping variety.
We bought a sleeps five tent, packed them into the car with the dog, drove hours up into the mountains of West Virginia with everything we’d need to survive for a long weekend and we camped our butts off.
For three straight nights of horror.
It was wildly unsuccessful and involved a snake, various insect related incidents, four flat ties (yes, FOUR), a bathroom that looked like a set location for The Walking Dead, two incessantly barking dogs, and a middle of the night barfing. Inside of the tent. On top of one of the other children. Because tents are hard to unzip from the inside in the dead of night when the urge to barf barrels from your abdomen.
So yeah, they don’t like actual camping either.
But they do love being outside –hiking, biking, adventuring, not being forced to shower daily because why bother when Mother Nature intend to filthy you up again, and the like.
Which is why when I get invited to a KOA campground for a three night, cabin based camp ground adventure, I accept. It’s what I like to call compromise.
You can follow our entire adventure at Chinoteague KOA via our video.
It was exactly perfect for our family and I highly recommend this type of “camping” vacation specifically for those who don’t usually enjoy camping vacations.
For those who plan to venture out into the natural world for the purposes of recreational enjoyment, here are some things to keep in mind.
First Camping Trip Tips for Non-Camping Families
There will be bugs.
So. Many. Bugs. Take your bug spray with you and think about going with the heavy duty kind. That natural stuff we use at home was no match for the type of flying, biting demons we encountered on our visit to Chincoteague. Whether this is your first camping trip or your 200th, bug spray is an item you should not leave home without.
And, there could be other wild creatures too.
Apparently, that is one of the draws of this whole experience –being close to nature. All up in it. So it rubs all over you, infects your senses. You can smell it, you can see it, you can feel it and hear it. You can even taste it. It will be all around you and can kill you if it wants to. Although you’re supposed to be focusing on the beauty of it during this “fun” adventure in the great outdoors so try not to let the “you could die” thing get in the way of that.
Fire roasted everything is delicious.
Not kidding. Fire roasted hot dogs are 1000% better than cooked in a pot of water on your stove hot dogs. Same for fire roasted corn and burgers and marshmallows and literally everything. There are few foods that don’t taste better cooked on a grill with an actual flame. Not one of those propane deals. But a fire, caveman style.
The bathroom situation is rarely desirable.
In fact, it could be downright non existent, although I wouldn’t know anything about that life because I don’t do what they call “primitive” camping. Primitive is a word that has no business being in my life vocabulary. But, if you get down like that, be prepared to take a small shovel and a roll of biodegradable toilet paper (yes, the one that looks and feels as though it has actual wood chips in it) with you to make your magic in the forest.
Fortunately, most campgrounds we’ve visited have bathroom facilities where you can play human for a bit. They may or may not have showers (again, a thing I can’t speak on due to lack of experience) and they may or may not be clean and well kempt. What I do know is that I pay extra for a cabin experience solely to make use of the facilities. Because my life says showering daily and pooping in privacy are life necessities I can’t call myself on vacation without. I can’t even call myself safe without those things since the only way I can see myself actually doing them would be in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Note: the bathrooms at Chincoteague KOA were super clean and nice and perfect.
Rain is the enemy.
Especially if you’re tent camping, because ew. But, even if you’re cabin camping, things at the campground aren’t the same in the rain.
Choose a location near things you enjoy.
This is especially important on your first camping trip because you truly don’t know if your family will really enjoy it. It will make everything easier if it does rain or if you just get bored doing campsite type things, you can do something fun like hop in your car, drive somewhere reasonably nearby, and enjoy the beach or an ice cream cone, or a delicious seafood dinner you didn’t have to catch, filet, and fry yourself.
Understand that all campgrounds are not created equal.
I know, middle of nowhere is the middle of nowhere.
Or is it?!
When it comes to campgrounds, there are plenty of different options.
Some are resort-like, with pools and activities and amenities that make you feel like you’re actually on vacation. These are the kind I enjoy. But, there are also the type where you can go and be one with nature. Where the only amenity is a cleared patch of land to make putting up your tent less of a nightmare. These are the kind I wouldn’t venture to with a ten foot pole. And, there are some in between.
If you’re a noob or a general indoorsemen, I’d say stay away from that second type for now. You’re not ready, you maybe never will be.
Campgrounds are communal places.
You will be able to see and hear your neighbors and they you. Think about that before you go if you are the owner of a night crying baby.
You will need some good gear.
If tent camping is in your future, first thing’s first: go buy a tent. Personally, I’d go for something like this, but I get it that some may think that is overkill. You really just need one large enough for your family to sleep comfortably without anyone having to get kicked in the kidneys all night. Also, you need to be able to erect the thing relatively quickly without a bunch of help (unless you are bringing a bunch of helpful people with you on this adventure).
I also recommend making sure you have adequate fire starting materials, light sources (the Dudes love bringing their Energizer headlamps on camping trips with them), first aid supplies, walking/hiking shoes, something to sleep on comfortably, a decent sleeping bag, and coolers to keep your food and drinks cold.
You should plan to entertain yourself.
Your children will probably be fine with that.
Campsites of today usually have wifi which means you can probably entertain yourself the same way you do at home –watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook at your leisure. However, the thing about camping is that it is an awesome time to disconnect and reconnect. You want to take the time to be together as a family.
So, bring along some board games or some outdoor games that you and the fam bam can have fun with. When you’re not fishing together, hiking together, or doing some other outdoorsy type together thing, you can be together in other ways.
Even though, if your kids are anything like mine you will have a heck of a time wrestling them away from the random friends they make at the campsite, or even getting them to come in at night because they are so happy playing tag and explore and adventure and find bugs and bike all over the place until they’re sweaty and exhausted and starving for S’mores.
Also, if you go to an awesome campground like the Chincoteague KOA we visited most recently, there will be plenty of other activities for you to enjoy (they have a massive jump pillow you guys, and it is epic) as a family.
Looking for a great camping destination in the Maryland area? Be sure to take a peek at the Chincoteague KOA!
Disclosure: We were guests of the Chincoteague KOA during the summer and enjoyed a complimentary stay at their destination. All opinions are my own. Post may also contain affiliate links.