Back in 2016, my husband became a minister. Before that, he was a public school band director, so our family was limited to traveling at Christmas time (we would go see family), at Spring Break (we would usually stay home to handle house repairs or projects), or a precious few days in July between end of year school inventory and the beginning of summer band (we would stay home because July is hot as death).
Then, Tyler became a minister, which meant he could take a weekday off. He chose Friday, so that we could have a whole weekend together. We decided to become a camping family. And we have learned to love it.
After the initial investment to get outfitted with appropriate gear, a camping weekend is the cost of gas, food, and your campsite, which is anywhere from $20 to $40 a night. My family and I have been able to double our vacation time simply by camping instead of staying at a hotel.
You can learn to camp over the weekend, or you can camp for 10 days. You can camp in cold weather or hot weather. A quick trip down the road - twenty or thirty minutes - can have the same effect on the body and soul as a long excursion to a National Park, like the Grand Canyon.
Yes, camping can be a lot of work. But, honestly, taking a trip with kids is always a lot of work. Camping allows simple entertainment to fill the days. My kids learn to entertain themselves by riding bikes, playing tag, whittling, gathering bottle caps or acorns or feathers, building shelters and such out of scrap wood, taking sketchpads and colored pencils for nature drawing, reading in hammocks, playing card games, and meeting other kids around the campground.
Something about spending time with family outdoors builds lasting memories. When asked about what they did over a weekend at home, my kids will respond, “Nothing.” But I can ask my kids, “What do you remember about Meridian State Park?” and they will immediately conjure up a story, usually involving a wild animal or their mother falling out of something.
What does a weekend camping trip look like?
We pack up the truck on a Thursday afternoon, grab some Whataburger on the way, and get to the State Park of choice right before dusk. We set up our tent and get the kitchen area ready. Tyler or one of the boys makes a fire, and we roast s’mores and hang out.
The next day we make pancakes and bacon and French Press coffee. We eat outside with the squirrels and the deer, and then we go explore a bit. We usually take a long walk before heading back for lunch. After lunch we all do our own thing: read, build stuff with sticks, hammock, explore around the camp site, play games. The adults usually end up asleep. If it’s warm, we will swim in the late afternoon. If it’s not, we’ll go fishing or for a drive.
We get back in the early evening, and I start on dinner. We build another fire and hang out, eat. I might read a book aloud. We sing and enjoy the stars. We head to bed that night.
In the morning, we have bacon and eggs and start packing up. These little getaways help us to remember our wildness, and the time outside gives us clarity and rest. We drive back to our suburban home, sunshine on our shoulders, ready to face the daily grind again.