My husband and I aren’t exactly rolling in the dough. There’s no basement filled with gold coins that we go swimming in a la Scrooge McDuck. We do like to go on at least one family vacation in the summertime, but with travel costs, restaurant costs, hotel costs, etc., the dollar signs really start to add up. And stress us out. And make us argue. So instead of doing all of that, we do something cheaper and a lot more fun for our young kids.
I’ll admit it’s not my favorite thing ever. Last year, I had trouble sleeping because there was a beast pawing around our tent right by my head. And then you have to factor in bugs and cold coffee, but my kids? They love it. They really love it, which makes it the perfect summer getaway.
As a general rule, my kids aren’t allowed to play with dirt inside the house or throw rocks, but when we’re out in nature, free from the rules that bind them at home, I let them do whatever they want.
My kids love nothing more than to sprint around outside which is pretty much all you can do when you’re camping, right? I mean, the whole point is to be outside so there’s no room for me to be like, “Hey kids, come inside and get washed up.” Nope, when we’re camping they’re allowed to get as dirty and messy as they want which is a kid’s dream, amiright?
Their chores at home include things like making their bed, sweeping the floors, taking out the trash, and cleaning their room. And while they have similar jobs when we’re camping, it’s all so new and different!
Taking out the trash means going for a walk to the nearest dumpster. Making their bed takes all of five seconds because they’re just straightening out their sleeping bag. And sweeping the floor? No need for that! Plus they get all new jobs like collecting sticks for the evening’s fire, hanging their swimsuits on a tree to dry after splashing around in the lake, and getting out the marshmallows for dessert. Every single thing is exciting to them.
And speaking of marshmallows, the food is probably the most fun thing for little ones. I don’t even attempt to make them eat some “yucky” casserole when we’re in the woods. It’s all hot dogs with lots of mustard, every kind of chip they could want, and s’mores — obviously.
Camping is a great way to get out of the house and unplug. Even if you’re mom of the year, there’s a good chance your children spend a good chunk of time watching a movie or playing on a tablet, but when we’re surrounded by trees and dirt, they can’t do any of that. They don’t even want to do those things, because there’s so much to explore.
Their only real responsibility when we’re on vacation is to have fun and be kids — learn to skip rocks, look for weird bugs, splash around in the lake, play Frisbee, read books by flashlight. It’s all fun and games all the time because they’re getting to do stuff they never get to do at home, and isn’t that the whole point of vacation? To remove yourself from the rigors of every day life and do something out of the ordinary?
Even though money is a prohibitive factor in our planning, my kids do not feel like they are missing out on a single thing during these trips. They look forward to it. They count down the days with anticipation.
Someday, I hope we can afford to take the kids on more lavish vacations like Disney World or the Grand Canyon, but I hope that we always make time in the summer for camping. Cuddles by campfire, waking up in the crisp air, and eating chocolate and graham crackers until you think you might puke is good for the soul. And I hope it is something they always remember.