Things To Like About Camping --- If You Don't Like Camping

Growing up, my family rarely stayed in hotels on vacations. I'm the youngest of seven children, and the cost of staying in hotels for every vacation would have been a stretch on our single income household. Honestly, without the ability to camp, our vacations would have been few and far in between.

My favorite vacations have always included camping. Saving money on lodging made it possible for my family to go to Disney World, Colorado, The Black Hills, Canada, New York, Michigan, and countless other places. We had a private "home" to escape to at the end of a long day of touring that usually included a pool and a few strange campground friends.

So yes, I was raised on camping and have a natural appreciation for it.
Camping doesn't scare me away, but admittedly, I "had it good" (I've rarely camped without AC). Tom teases me and tells me I never really camped. Tent camping was a rare occurrence in my upbringing, and the times we did usually ended badly (roots in your back, freezing weather, rained the whole time, crowded)... but I'm willing to give it a chance. Last year, we bought a tent and are taking it on its maiden voyage next week in the mountains of North Carolina. 

However, I have set up a few requirements for my use of this tent:
1. There must be an air mattress. No sleeping on roots for this gal.
2. A bathroom must be available.
3. We can only camp when it's cool because I don't 'do' sweaty sleeping.
4. No actual sleeping 'under the stars' because bugs. Tent stays zipped at all times.

The thing is, there will be no bathroom at our first site in N.C.
I've started getting a little worried about this aspect... like I'm setting myself up for an immediate hatred of tent camping by breaking one of my own rules.

Then I wondered how many other people have had a bad experience on their first time camping and have since sworn it off.

This post is for those people.

Who think it's dirty.
Who think it's more work.
Who are clean, tidy, and organized on trips to a fault.
Who think camping with kids would be a nightmare.
Who like to be prepared.
Who think you need tons of supplies.
Who just. don't. get. it.

Things to like about camping... if you don't like camping:

1. It (usually) saves money on lodging.

I already covered this in my life story above, but it's a huge part of why camping is great. If you have a tent, your own camper, or rent a basic cabin, camping can usually save you at least $50+ per night.
Basically, you get to control how immersed you get in nature. Tent camping can be a rude awakening for people who need a TV, three fans, and four blankets in order to fall asleep. Maybe start with a cabin and go from there...

2. You'll be forcibly disconnected.

You know those trips where you swear you'll leave your phone tucked away... and then... don't? Being out in the boonies gives you no choice. It's incredibly freeing and everyone should experience that disconnect at LEAST once a year. I promise it's super refreshing. We went on a ten day trip over the summer, and we camped for four days right in the middle. Even when we got service back, my husband refused to look at his phone for a few more days because he felt so relaxed without it. Plus, without the service, your phone is only good for taking pictures!

3. Nature is the focal point, not your accommodations.

Don't get me wrong, I love a trip where the accommodations are a treat in themselves. Camping causes you to relax in the sounds, smells, and views around you. You feel small in comparison to the surrounding beauty. God's creation takes the driver's seat and you could care less whether your hair is clean or not. Mountains, streams, trees, wildlife, flowers...
Take it as a chance to teach your children about the importance of caring for and enjoying the simple pleasures of nature.

4. Camping food.

Need I say more? S'mores, hot dogs, campfire casseroles...
This is one that can stress many people out though (myself included). Really, all it takes is a little planning. Bring a cooler with specific, necessary items. Instead of bringing milk, cereal, and bowls, just bring cereal bars or homemade muffins. You don't have access to running water? Just make sure you bring a few gallons. Have some wet-wipes for cleaning hands and faces (and a garbage bag). Use as few utensils for cooking food as possible, then simply wipe them off before putting them in a designated spot in the trunk of your car. Cook food inside tinfoil thrown onto some embers. Only use paper plates and plastic eating utensils. You might actually find that eating while camping is easier than at home. Again, it just takes a little planning. Your kids will probably love drinking juice boxes for a few days too!

5. It is completely acceptable to be 'grungy.'

This one can also seem like a stress inducer. You smell like a campfire, then sleep in it??
Yes. And it's glorious. Splash a little soap and water on your face now and then, bring some dry shampoo... it's completely doable (coming from a clean FREAK, guys). Camping is the only time I allow myself to sleep in makeup (even though I could easily go wash my face if I wanted to). You'll actually be surprised how clean you can keep yourself. Survival instincts kick in, I swear. 

6. Sunsets and sunrises.

When was the last time you watched the sunset or rise? And on the drive to/from work doesn't count. Camping is about the only time you'll wake up ungodly early (by accident), feeling completely refreshed, and you step outside your tent to see the sun rising over the distant mountains. It's breathtaking. You feel like you're the only one in the world who's witnessing that moment. Cozy up on a blanket, drink your coffee (or pop some bubbly), and enjoy.
One of the most memorable sunrises I've seen was in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, wrapped in a sleeping bag (a tent sleepover on a friend's farm). I mean, it was short lived because we got chased off the field by a crop duster plane... but still.

7. Pet friendly.

Do you know the pains of paying to put your pets in a kennel service while you vacation? Or finding someone to pet sit for you? Bringing your pets camping is not only cheaper, it's actually enjoyable for them. I'm speaking mostly to dog owners here, of course. Plus, having a dog with you can sometimes ward off unwanted wildlife from your site.
We had our black lab with us when we camped in Canada. He slept in my bed, and one night he saw a bear through the screen! I shined a flashlight into the woods and could see its reflective eyes... but my dog's warning growls sent him away. Honestly, I suggest bringing your dogs. I was so thankful to have his protection.

8. You can camp in areas where other lodging is scarce.

Some areas allow you to camp right on the coast of the oceans where hotels can't build because of code. Generally you'll find camping anywhere you'd find a hotel and then some. Jekyll Island is a popular tourist destination where you can spend nearly $200 a night for a hotel... or $30 a night for a campsite!
Cumberland Island (just south of Jekyll) is a protected wildlife area and can only be accessed via ferry. There is a waiting list in order to camp on this island that is home to wild horses! Sea turtles lay their eggs on these untouched beaches and it is rich in history. 

9. Saved money goes to better use.

Go to a fancy local restaurant, take the kids to that amusement park, hit the nearest water park, check out the museums, pick up some one-of-a-kind art or souvenirs. 
Tom and I are more willing to shell out money on a nicer meal or other vacation expenses when we've saved on lodging. Vice versa - when we spend the money to stay in a great hotel, we usually have cheap meals in our room! Deciding where to spend and where to save helps us enjoy our vacations without coming home and getting a pit in our stomachs over the money we blew.

Camping can be hard to get used to. If I hadn't been raised to camp, many aspects would have probably turned me off because I would have lacked preparation. Bugs and humidity are huge turn offs to me... but remembering bug spray, closing doors, and only camping during cooler months can alleviate those issues.

So for those...

Who think it's dirty. It doesn't have to be.
Who think it's more work. Maybe a little, but not overall.
Who are clean, tidy, and organized on trips to a fault. This is a perfect opportunity to prove that skill.
Who think camping with kids would be a nightmare. Your kids will be too busy getting lost in the woods.
Who like to be prepared. It's no more preparation than any other trip!
Who think you need tons of supplies. You don't.
Who just. don't. get. it. Try it... you'll get it.

Also, don't forget you'll probably have your car. It can charge phones, has AC, and can double as a bed if all else fails. 

TravelJoy Johnson