With summer’s soaring gas prices, lots of folks are choosing to stay close to home. If your family is looking for Tennessee fun, why not give camping a try? Don’t let thoughts of “roughing it” scare you off. You can camp in the woods or at a resort, pitch a tent or hit the road in an RV, complete with air conditioning and a microwave.
Once you’re in nature, gone are the distractions of household chores, work obligations and other time-consuming aspects of daily living. While you’re away, you can focus on relaxing and having fun with your family. If this sounds good to you, let’s get started!
Unless you plan on sleeping under the stars, you need to decide what to camp in. If you have very young children or have never camped before, a cabin is probably the easiest way to start. Cabins usually sleep between four and 10 people. You may need to provide your own bedding, cooking appliances, etc. Other forms of shelter include tents, campers and RV’s.
If you use a tent, make sure you practice setting it up prior to your trip. This will not only make set up easier when you get to your camping destination but will allow you to check the tent for possible damage as well. Campers and RVs are available to rent if you would like to try it before you buy one. Some rentals come stocked with cookware, meaning less packing.
You can never bring too much stuff. Pack everything that will keep you safe, comfortable and happy. When making your checklist, think of the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” A first aid kit, flashlights, bug spray and a battery-operated radio are basic safety items. If you plan on using campground shower facilities, make sure you bring some form of shower shoes. Consider everything you plan on doing while you’re camping, and pack what you need to do it.
Having bacon for breakfast? An electric frying pan works great – as long as you have an electrical hookup. If you can’t function without your coffee in the morning, then by all means, bring your coffee pot. Remember, you are camping to unwind and spend time with your family, not test your survival skills. While you’re camping, keep an ongoing list of everything you wish you had taken and remember to bring those items next time.
Plan ahead what you will eat for each meal. Food prepared in advance makes mealtimes easier. Fresh air and exercise increases appetites, so be sure to bring plenty of snacks and beverages. Keep food safe from harmful bacteria by packing meats and other perishables in plenty of ice. Blocks of ice melt slower than cubes. You can make your own by freezing water in 10-by-13-inch pans then putting the ice blocks in the bottom of your cooler.
Most campgrounds are dog friendly but have rules regarding your family pet. If you wish to bring Fido with you, inquire about the campground’s policy when making reservations. Most require that you keep your dog supervised and on a leash. Of course, you want to clean up after your pet. Dogs that are prone to frequent barking usually do not make good camping companions and are best left with a trusted family member, friend or boarder.
Things to Do
There are many activities everyone can enjoy while camping. A great way to introduce your children to nature is by taking them on a hike. Bring along a book about birds and make a game out of who can identify the most. Don’t forget to pack some snacks and drinks to take with you. If your campground has a lake, ask in advance if fishing and swimming are permitted. Pack balls, bikes, skates – whatever your family enjoys doing. Don’t forget some down time activities such as board games, cards, puzzles or books. These will also come in handy if it rains.
‘Tweens and Teens
If your kids are in middle school and older, they may want to take walks or bike rides without you. Two-way radios provide peace of mind if this is something you’ll allow for them to do.
Everyone loves a campfire! They provide the perfect setting for family bonding – chatting, sing-a-longs and s’mores. During daylight hikes, everyone can gather small twigs for kindling. You can also purchase fire starters in any store that sells camping supplies. If you do not have a supply of firewood at home, the campground may have wood available to purchase – ask when you make your reservation. For obvious reasons, teach children about safety around fire before any campfire endeavor.
Nobody wants it to rain when they’re camping, but if you’re prepared, it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Rain ponchos and umbrellas are camping necessities. If it isn’t raining too hard, set up a tarp or canopy to sit under. This will provide an area in which to cook, eat and play games. If you are camping in a tent, don’t put your belongings against the sides or they will get wet. If you have to put the tent away wet, allow it to dry out properly when you get home.
When You Leave
After your relaxing weekend, do a good job of leaving nature the way you found it. Your children will appreciate learning the camper’s motto: “Take only pictures and leave only footprints!”
Karen Bianchi is a camper, freelance writer and editor of www.AwesomeMomsNetwork.com
A-CAMPING YOU CAN GO
Cabins, campsites and more:
For a complete list of camping locations in Tennessee, including those offering online reservations for cabins, campsites, lodging for groups and other recreational activities, visit www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/findapark.
By Harold Stinnette
Falcon Guides; $12.95
A handy guidebook detailing descriptions of more than 100 public campgrounds throughout the state, organized in distinct sections.
Kids Love Tennessee
By George and Michele Zavatsky
Kids Love Publications; $13.95
Make your adventure even more adventurous. This book goes into the most minute details of fun places for kids to visit throughout the state and offers suggestions for saving money, time and making things fun.