When it comes to camping with kids, there is a right way to do it and there is a wrong way. Over the next few days, several Americans will demonstrate the wrong way — camping out (and yes, sometimes as a family!) in front of The Apple Store to secure their place in line to ultimately purchase the iPhone 6. As tech-savvy as kids can be these days and as eager as they may be to get their hands on tablets and smartphones, spending the night out in the cold in front of a retail store still does not constitute family camping. Here are some quick Dos and Don’ts for best possible experience while camping with kids.
Do: Teach Kids Outdoor Survival Skills
Seventy-four percent of Americans of all ages have tried at least one new activity while camping — and most of these activities entailed something they were previously afraid to do. You don’t necessarily have to start out sleeping out under the stars or swimming in a lake, however. Parents can slowly introduce kids to camping and outdoor survival skills, while enjoying the comforts of RV or cabin camping. That way, you can get kids accustomed to things like building a fire, identifying plants, or hiking — without getting too overwhelmed.
Don’t: Expect Your Kids To Eat Cold Beans Out Of The Can For Several Days Straight
Some survival skills are fun — even for young children. Some are not. Even the most enthusiastic adults will tire of eating cold beans out of a can for days on end. That’s not what you want your child to associate camping with, especially if you want to make a second trip.
Do: Roast Marshmallows And Tell Ghost Stories
There are some stereotypical — but well-liked and even loved — camping traditions you don’t want kids to miss out on. Roast marshmallows. Make s’mores. Tell stories around a campfire. Pick up a camping press, and let your young children help you prepare peanut butter and jelly to cook and into gooey perfection over the campfire.
You know — in fact, we all know — camping outside of The Apple Store is not a proper family vacation. Help your kids make life-long memories with a legitimate and exciting camping experience.
Over the last five years we have spent more than 120 nights camping at dozens of campgrounds with our three young boys Max, Theo, and Wes. Well, after four days camping in Virginia at Jellystone Park in Luray, our boys have proclaimed it to be their Favorite. Campground. Ever.
On our first day there we realized it would be possible to have an amazing family getaway without ever leaving the campground. The packed schedule of activities, wonderful amenities, and energetic staff kept our whole family happy from breakfast to bedtime.
Here are our top 12 reasons why your family should choose Jellystone Park in Luray, Virginia for your next family camping adventure:
1. Spacious Campsites: Easy to back into, our site was roomy enough for the boys to run and stretch their legs. We also enjoyed the added benefit of being directly across from the playground. This meant that we could relax in our zero gravity chairs while watching them climb and play.
2. Fun and Friendly Staff: Throughout our entire stay, we were incredibly impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. The Rangers were willing to give directions and tips on where to eat. The camp store was well-stocked and run efficiently. The young activities coordinators, such as Ryan Cubbage (pictured above), were warm and welcoming. The staff made our boys feel special from the time we arrived to the time we departed.
3. Cute Crafts and Terrific Tie-Dyes: Everyday this campground offers an opportunity for the kids (and adults!) to get creative. There is always a free craft available during craft time such as the medals we made for Wacky Olympics Week. You can also pay to paint ceramics or color a pillowcase or bag. The prices were very reasonable, so we didn’t have to blink when our boys wanted to try painting the $2 dinosaurs. We have made a lot of campground tie dyes, but the staff at Jellystone Luray helped our boys make their best shirts yet.
4. Two Large Pools: The two large pools gave our kids plenty of room to splash, jump, and dive for rings. Our boys are not yet confident swimmers, so we loved the large, shallow kids’ pool with the fun water fountain feature.
5. Yogi Bear’s Water Zone: The colorful and exciting water zone had plenty of opportunity for imaginative play. Our five year olds loved the slides, and our one year old hung out around the edges, happy to watch the water show in front of him. Next year he will definitely be excited to plunge in.
6. Wonderful Water Slide: This is a pretty amazing water slide for a campground. Its fast and ridiculously fun for the adults as well as the kids. The best part is there are no long lines for the slide—even on a weekend. Although all of the kids rushed in when it opened in the mornings, for the most part you could walk right up and slide right down.
7. Perfect Playground: There are a few separate sections to this playground, so many kids of all different ages can enjoy the equipment without it feeling crowded. We particularly appreciated the smaller enclosed play set, perfect for our 16 month old. Our boys walked across the moving steps (pictured above) dozens of times each day.
8. Two Jumping Pillows: Max and Theo wanted to visit the jumping pillows both before and after any scheduled activity with Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, and Cindy Bear. We probably stopped between 6-8 times a day for a brief but intense aerobic workout. Two pillows meant there was always room for all the kids to comfortably jump. In the late afternoon or evening, you might even get the pillow all to yourself.
9. Peaceful Mountain Setting: Even though this Jellystone Park was an action packed place for the kids, it was also a deeply relaxing setting for us, since we had panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains no matter where we were on the property. From the morning mountain mist to the evening sunsets, we truly enjoyed the beauty of this campground’s Shenandoah Valley location.
10. Room to Roam: We love it when a campground has a large, grassy common area, and Jellystone Luray delivered on this in spades. Over the course of our stay we saw games of frisbee and catch, families picnicking, and people napping on the grass in front of their cabins. This wide-open field invites families to relax and play together…and isn’t that what vacation is all about?
11. Pancakes with Yogi Bear: On Sunday morning the Cartoon Cafe serves up a fun Pancake Breakfast, attended by Yogi Bear himself. You can order the Yogi (three pancakes) or the Boo Boo (two pancakes) depending on how big of an appetite you worked up during your pre-breakfast jumping pillow session.
12. Tractor Rides: Our boys have been on many tractor rides over the last five camping seasons. This was by far the most fun for them. Yogi Bear and Boo Boo both took turns on the tractor (yes, we went on two rides), but perhaps the best part was the sing along. Both parents and children enjoyed clapping and singing standards such as Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Yankee Doodle, and the Wheels on the Bus.
Jellystone Park Luray offered more activities and amenities than we could possibly experience over one long weekend. We didn’t even get to the Laser Tag building, and we couldn’t fit Story Time with Boo Boo into our packed schedule. There is always next time.
So what are your family’s favorite things about Jellystone Luray? Let us know what you would add to our list!
You want to go camping, but you are little apprehensive. Maybe you’re even a little ashamed to admit the reason. What is it? Like many others, you are afraid of encountering wildlife, specifically bears. Don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Seventy-four percent of campers try new things while cabin or tent camping — new things that they were initially afraid to do (that can include camping in the first place!).
What is the deal then? Should you be afraid of bears at family campgrounds?
Even if you are tent camping in the very midst of bear country, you’re unlikely to even see one, at least in most cases. “Many hikers never even know that they passed close to a bear because the bear did such a good job of avoiding them. Most encounters end with the bear and human departing in opposite directions, without harm to either party,” The Grizzly And Wolf Discovery Center writes. “Your risk of being hurt by a bear is lower than your risk of being hit by lightning and much lower than your risk of being hurt in a car accident as you drive to bear country.”
But If Must Do Something…
For some people, knowing that a bear attack or even an encounter is extremely unlikely isn’t enough. For Americans who want to do something to proactively lower their chances of a run-in with any kind of bear, there are some fairly simple steps you can take.
First, most campgrounds already have a carry-in, carry-out policy when it comes to trash. Following these policies, instead of letting your trash or litter end up on the ground, will help you avoid any unwanted encounters with wildlife. Some campgrounds will provide bear-resistant food or trash containers upon request, or you can always temporarily stow it in a hard-shelled vehicle, like an RV or even your car. (Keep in mind that some popup campers use water-resistant cloth only in some parts, so it may not be the most secure container for your trash.) Making a lot of noise while hiking — sing, talk, recite limericks, do what you gotta do — and sticking to marked trails will also keep you out of trouble.
Forty-three million Americans went camping in 2013. Don’t miss out on the fun because of bears. Remember, you’re completely unlikely to even see one. Making noise along hiking trails and carefully containing any food and trash will lower your chances even more.
Camping is easily a favorite American pastime, with regular campers taking an average of five trips every year and each approximately 191 miles from their homes. Thankfully, all camping trips can be a completely unique experience, so your family will never tire of it — and will, in fact, look forward to the next big adventure. What are some ways to mix things up and keep camping excursions interesting year after year?
Teepee And Yurt Camping
Okay, so what’s a yurt? Ancient yurts consisted of a single, circular room; the structures were typically built from pelts and animal skins laid over a wooden frame. Today, there’s is a lot more freedom in this design. (For one thing, most camping sites replace the pelts with durable, water-resistant cloth.) In any case, yurt and teepee camping is a great way to keep things at their most basic level, and to get back in touch with nature and the simple pleasures in life.
“Water, Water Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink”
Manufacturers and tent rental companies are now offering inflatable tents that float. This is a pretty ideal arrangement, especially if your favorite campground is located nearby a lake or even on the beach. We all remember what happened in the required reading favorite The Cay, however. Be mindful not to drift too far, and never drink untreated water or salt water.
Stop Roughing It, And Start Enjoying It
Many campers are stuck up on the idea that they have do to everything the hard way, or it doesn’t count. Guess what? It’s your vacation, and family campgrounds are more than happy to keep your secrets. If eating cold beans out of the can and sleeping on the ground (with twigs, grass, and pebbles poking into your back all night long) doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, don’t do it. Modern campgrounds offer a variety of experiences, and some sites come with plenty of nearby luxuries and amenities, like heated cabins, swimming pools, gem mining, theaters, playgrounds, and mini golf.
Keep camping trips fresh and interesting by making a point of doing something new every time. You have to try yurt camping at least once, and you can promise the kids a site right next to the swimming pool next time to make up for it.
Want to make your visit to nontraditional or family campgrounds unforgettable? There are plenty of ways to do just that, and these ways range from creative to truly bizarre. In 2013, 43 million Americans packed up the bare essentials and pitched tents on camping sites. Camping can be a great family experience, and campers can choose from tent camping, cabin camping, or even camping in relatively new yurts. Now Americans can also choose their own adventure — and decide whether they would like to center camping trips around the popular book series The Hunger Games or even the zombie apocalypse.
Camping Hunger Games Style
Disclaimer: please do not challenge friends, family, and/or fellow campers to fight to the death. New, Hunger Games-themed camping experiences teach young adults survival skills, such as foraging for edible plants, building shelters, and starting a fire. Kids also learn archery and play games, similar to capture the flag, with opponents from other districts. Thankfully, the Hunger Games boot gamecamp does not recreate the extreme violence in the books and films.
Bring Out Your Inner Cowgirl (Or Cowboy!)
Do you know how to make a grill using just a tin can? Get stuff done around camping sites — and do it using just the bare minimum, like they did long ago. To create your very own tin can grill, use heavy-duty metal scissors to cut several three- to four-inch slits in the sides of the can. Bend back these flaps to create a basket-like fixture, and weigh down the very bottom of the can with some dirt. Cover the whole thing in aluminium foil, add some charcoal, and a grill rack, and you’re all set!
What Do Zombies Have To Do With Camping?
Some new camping trips can help you be prepared for anything, including the zombie apocalypse. “Survivors learn how to build a shelter without any tools, collect wild edibles, and lean just what to pack if you’re camping in zombie territory. Survivors will also be taught paramilitary field tactics to escape and evade zombie hordes,” The Westman Journal writes.
Camping can get pretty unique and interesting. Choose from yurt or tent camping, or really mix things up by going on camping excursions that help you imagine what it’d be like roughing it during the zombie apocalypse.