My family loves to travel and take vacations to exotic places tropical and remote mountain camping areas. Over the years, we prefer family camping vacations over Disneyland trips and other popular destinations because we have more control and flexibility.
What Is A Family Camping Vacation?
A family camping vacation or holiday is what you make of it. There is no set blue print or model that you have to follow. We first started taking small weekend camping trips with the church that we attended. Our boys were only 1 and 3 years old at the time. We finally made the plunge into a full blown cross country camping trip.
Our first camping holiday was a trip to Colorado where I met up with my brother and his family. We rented a cabin for a week and camped along the way. We discovered that it was just as much fun camping along the way as it was staying in the cabin. I cherish the times where my oldest asked within minutes "Are we almost there Daddy"? I would respond "Just a little bit more".
I learned that the time together was the most important part of the trip. Sight seeing and destination was secondary. My 2 boys were just 2 and 4 years old when we packed up our family station wagon and drove to Colorado. We did not have sleeping bags yet for the kids and just stuffed them into blankets between the two of us.
I cannot map out your family camping vacation, but after over 9 years of camping with my family, I sure can give you some good tips. Getting yourself organized before you leave is paramount to the success of any family vacation.
Answers These 5 Questions And You Will Be On Your Way To A Well Planned Camping Trip
- Where are you going?
- How many days will you be gone?
- What is your budget?
- What will the weather be like?
- Do you have all the right camping equipment?
You really need an idea of where you are going-you need to have your final destination. Winging it does not work when you have. My family likes to move around and visit several destinations on our vacation. I build in enough flexibility that I can stay in a certain area a little longer if we really like it.
Remember,this is supposed to be a vacation. I have vivid memories of camping with my parents and to be honest, more often than not it was more of a hassle. Mom & Dad fought as they packed. Setting up our camp was like a prison concentration camp for us kids. It was more like family chores on steroids. Make this a fun time for your kids. My kids only assist me in setting up camp. The trip is for them. There only chore is washing the dishes just like they do at home.
Family Camping Vacation Destination Ideas
Rent A National Forest Cabin Or Lookout Tower
Are you looking for an amazing experience that your kids will remember for years? Rent a National Forest cabin for a few days or for an entire week. My kids have better memories of us staying in cabins than they do running around Disneyland. I have been renting National Forest nearly every year for the past 7 years. I almost don't want to write about renting them in fear of giving away my best kept secret. We have rented rustic cabins for a low as $25 a night just outside of Yellowstone National Park. National Forest cabins are not luxurious. Some do not have indoor plumbing. We rented a beautiful cabin in a remote area of Utah that included a propane refrigerator and range. There was not any electricity.
Click here for more information about National Forest Lookout Towers
Camp In A Rustic Yurt On The Oregon Coast
I heard about rustic yurts a few years back while traveling on the Oregon Coast. Yurts are like a large tepee with a nice wood floor, windows, heat, and electricity. If you want to camp without the inconvenience of setting up a tent, this is the way to go. Yurts are round, include a small eating table and chairs, a futon that doubles as bed and couch, and pointy on top. Yurts broke hit the public camping scene in Oregon and have become popular in other areas.
You can learn more about renting Yurts in Oregon by visiting the Oregon Parks & Recreation.
National Park Camping Vacation
I visited Grand Teton National Park when I was 15 years old and from that time on I was hooked on camping. The entire Jackson Hole area is stunning. The mountains rise more 6000 feet off the valley floor. There is a national elk refuge in the valley. The National Parks have fantastic Junior Ranger programs for kids that are unique to each park. My kids have badges from over 18 National Parks and Monuments. The programs have the kids go out in the field and actively learn something. Here is a link that will list all the National Parks by state.
I have a few favorite National Parks and I am sure that you will start your own list. It all depends on where you live. I live in California. The park that we visit more often than any other park is Lassen Volcanic National Park. It has hot springs and boiling pots similar to those found in Yellowstone National Park. It's far enough away from any major metropolitan area and airport, so it does not get crowded. I have never reserved a campsite for this park. The season at Lassen is very short as the main road is snowed in until the end of June or the first part of July. The South entrance remains open most of the year unless it too is snowed in.
When I travel East of California, I enjoy the visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. It's famous for the red hoodoo towers that dominate the landscape. You can walk down inside the hoodoos. There is a trail that borders the entire rim. The sky is blacker than black. It is one of the darkest places at night in the US. This is the place for star gazing. On my last two visits, we were able to attend a night time ranger program where we viewed planets with a high powered telescope. Bryce Canyon is a park that I say is a must see.
Zion National Park. Whenever we visit Bryce Canyon, we always make a trip to Zion National Park which is less than 100 miles away. Even though it's so close, the geography, plant life, weather, geology, and everything else about the park is so different. Zion National Park is much lower in elevation.
I am naming just few things that you can do on your next vacation. I would start reading different camping blogs to get ideas of what real people like to do on their camping trips.
If you want to visit some gems that few people ever visit, I suggest that you visit one our National Monuments. They are usually off the beaten path. They do not get as many visitors (this is a bonus!) and the monuments are absolutely beautiful!
Here is a list of National Monuments that I have visited that I highly recommend:
Cedar Breaks National Monument. This is a beautify located in Utah. It has the beautiful red rock that is famous in Bryce Canyon. Tall red rocks that are similar to Bryce's hoodoos jump out of the ground. You will be camping at over 10,000 feet. It's a great place to escape the heat of Utah's hot summers.
Lava Beds National Monument
This is one place that looks like the surface of the moon. It's really hard to explain what it looks like. A lot of the ground is molten lava that has frozen in time. We were able to climb inside the lava tubs and walk on self guided tours. It's really an amazing experience. The caves are relatively safe. We found this National Monument while I was looking for back roads to drive on our trip to Crater Lake National Park. The weather is supposed to be unpredictable in the summer. We have visited this park twice and it's always been hot. I would not expect much to change. Bring a few good flashlights and have fun.
Pipesprings National Monument
This is a historical monument where Mormon pioneers settled near a natural spring. They used the cooling effects of the water to keep dairy products fresh. Step back into the life of early pioneers. The museum is worth seeing. The entire area is like a fortress. The pioneers lived inside the compound where they gardened, raised chickens, goats, horses, and cattle. The Mormons were self sufficient as they raised most of their own food and produced an excess to send back to Salt Lake City.
The desert area of Northern Arizona is extremely hot. The Mormons built building made of stone and dug subbasements to ward off the afternoon heat. The springs ran through the building further cooling it. The water was cool enough to act as a natural refrigerator for keeping butter and milk.
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument