Thursday, May 15, 2008

Camping - Where it all began & how to begin

OK, here it goes....after nearly nine months of tinkering I am getting serious. I think what pushed me forward was reserving two campsites at Spring Lake Regional Park for our annual camping/wine tasting trip. It was on this trip last year kids tucked into sleeping bags and parents with open bottles of the day's purchases around a fire at the Casini Family Ranch in Russian River that I was cheered on to put all my planning prowess (I believe the actual term that evening was "anal-ness") out there for others to perhaps find a nugget they could use. So I thought it would be appropriate for my first blog to be about camping and things we consider when looking for campsite.

We learned early (both our kids started camping under age 1) gone are the days of walk-in or first-come least for a while. The last thing you want to do after a car ride somewhere, hopefully during their naps, is to pull up to the ranger station to find they are full. So just pick a weekend, go on-line, and reserve in advance. Generally cancellations are generous enough
that if a bug hits yoru family you can cancel and get your money back. Reserve America has on-line reservations for campgrounds in all 50 states and Canada and a lot of the national parks can be booked at, but unfortunately sometimes you just have to do a good ole Google Search to find what you are looking for. Some thoughts we always put into a location are:
  • Drive time:
    • Getting there: Until all the kids are older we like the distance from our home to = nap time + snack time. As they get older this can expand to add an additional time for cd/dvd/book on tape/I spy game
    • Venturing out: If you are going to visit attractions nearby...make it close. Our rule of thumb is no more than 30min. After the ride to get there the last thing the kids want is to be back in the car.
  • Campground Facilities (our must have's for under the age of 5):
    • Hot Showers: Kids get's all part of being a kid and handy wipes only go so far. Don't forget your quarters in case they are pay showers.
    • Flushable Toilets: It's hard to get a potty-training child to sit on an open pit, ala outhouse-style toilets.
    • Fun Stuff: Trust me the campsite and exploring will be fun...for a while, but let's admit it attention spans are short especially with the younger ages. So if a campground has a play set, ranger-led activities, river/lake nearby, or other "distracting" features it's an added bonus
Choosing a campsite here's a few things our family considers:
  • Not too close to the camp host/entrance...this cuts down on foot and vehicle traffic therefore leading to a more peaceful and safer site
  • Close to, but not next to bathrooms...being close to a bathroom, especially when traveling with a potty training toddler, is key. However, you do not want to be next to them or just be ready for foot traffic at all hours who will be bearing flashlights after dusk
  • Avoid insides of loops...many campgrounds are set-up in a loop lay-out. We tend to reserve campsites on the outside perimeter vs inside a loop. This allows for more privacy (or privacy for others when munchkins do not want to go to sleep or wake up early) and also a little more peace of mind as you have less roads around you and therefore less vehicle traffic.
Comments, including your favorite family-friendly campground welcome. Otherwise...get out there and camp this summer. It's a wonderful way to share nature with your family and start an appreciation for it and our Earth at an early age.

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