So, my husband and I and our 7-year-old daughter took our first family camping trip this past week; a two night three day adventure in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania! If I am being honest, it was remarkably fun and very relaxing. There was plenty to do, and those creature comforts I simply cannot do without were addressed; the picturesque park we stayed in featured a lake with a sand beach, boat rentals, hiking trails, a playground, fields, and public restrooms (some with showers!) that were accessible 24-hours a day. All in all, everything I could have hoped for! However, while the park and its facilities were exemplary, there were a few things I wish I had known before we went camping as a family:
- Assume you could have some inclement weather (no matter what the forecast says!), and plan accordingly. We had only two things to do while trapped inside during a 3-hour epic rainstorm. After the first 15 minutes, we realized we should have packed a few more games or books. Also, because we were planning to grab lunches and snacks at the beach concession stand, we only had food packed for dinners, no good snack food to tide us over until the storm passed (did I mention the storm conveniently arrived just as we were planning to start setting up the grill for dinner?).
- Invest in an extra tarp or covering for your tent (see item #1). Our tent came with a rain fly - and we had put it on the tent when we set up camp, on the off chance it might rain. While it performed admirably, an additional tarp might have prevented the small leak we had in the roof from dripping on my husband's sleeping bag!
- Pack a first-aid kit. In all honesty, this one should go without saying, but in our excitement and haste to pack efficiently and bring all the things we wanted for exploring the great outdoors, all we happened to have on hand when my daughter receiver her first bee sting was a band-aid. I was horror struck when I realized that I hadn't packed benadryl or calamine lotion or anything and we were miles from the nearest pharmacy. We were lucky, she had no reaction - but we will never again vacation without bringing along a stocked first-aid kit.
- If you can, consult a topographical/detailed map of the available campsites before you reserve one. This was our first time at this park, and our site was idyllically scenic, but was on a down slope which served as a runoff in torrential storms (see item #1). This may just be a live-and-learn thing, but if you can, try to keep to higher ground!
- Interesting fact: in most states children do not require fishing licenses (specific age varies by state) and adults may help them fish (as long as said adults do not fish themselves!). I wish we had known this before we set out, our daughter loves to fish but we were afraid of incurring a fine so did not pack her pole.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels!