A practical, handy guide to camping
If you’re like me, your idea of roughing it is a hotel room with no room service. But at some point in your life you will most likely have the opportunity to go camping. Although every fiber of your being is screaming, “No! I don’t want to go and you can’t make me!”, I urge you to reconsider. With a little tweaking, camping can become quite a pleasant experience. (Unless you have children in which case you should absolutely most definitely never go camping, the explanation for which is written about in this chapter).
Each point of explanation in this guide will be in two parts. Part one will explain how to turn a mosquito infested camping experience into something a bit more on the sublime side, or at the very least, as hassle-free as possible.
Part two will explain the same point but the procedure and outcome will be drastically different because it is intended for those of you who deemed it necessary to include your children. I feel it is important to note here that any vacation that has children in it is not actually a vacation.”Vacation”, which obviously means to vacate, comes from the Latin, where “vaca” means “to do nothing” and “tion” means “away from anything that can cause even the slightest amount of stress and concern.”
1. Free Parking (Or At Least You Hope It Is)
(No Children) As summer draws near, decide on an ideal vacation spot. Considering your bank account balance, you will most likely conclude that camping will be the way to go this year. Imagine yourself nestled comfortably in a cozy sleeping bag, being lulled to sleep under a full moon with billions of stars overhead. You can almost hear the bunny rabbits scurrying about and the loons singing soft lullabies as you drift off. This camping idea is starting to look really good.
(Children) As summer draws near, you will hear the following statements and complaints: “Patrick is going to Disney World for the whole summer! Why can’t we go? It’s not fair!” “Laura is going to Europe next week for three months. Can we go somewhere like that?” “We never go anywhere fun!” “There’s nothing to do!” “I’m bored.” “Can we go to Australia? I wanna go to Australia!” This is perfectly normal. If your children are not saying these things to you, well it’s because you are clearly already in Disney World or Australia. And as I think about that, it dawns on me that maybe you’re not even having that great of a time because let’s face it: Seventy-five bucks to enter a theme park? And the line-ups to get on a ride? A wise man once said that Disney World was a people trap operated by a giant mouse. It is obviously true.
Upon examining your bank account, look into the faces of your mosquito-bite-free children and feigning excitement, announce how you think it will be a real blast to go camping. If you look closely enough, you may be able to see the precise second when this registers in your children’s brains and then the moment when, beyond their control, the disappointment crosses their faces. You might as well have told them that they have tuberculosis. They will get the same look on their face. It’s a cross between “This cannot be happening to me!” and “Oh my God this is really going to happen to me.” Now don’t get me wrong---some children really like camping. (if you do it the child-friendly way) But I must stress the point that children only like camping because they have to do virtually none of the work involved.
2. What to Take (Camping Gear, Not Mood Enhancers)
(No Children) Nothing could be simpler than packing the bare essentials for one or two people. A few clothes, a few cans of beans to cook over an open campfire, maybe even a pretty new journal to record your serene moments and deepest thoughts in. That is basically all you need. If you could have afforded a week in Hawaii, think of all the horrible luggage you would have carried around, half of which would have ended up in another hemisphere.
(Children) Peek inside your children’s rooms. This is what you will be packing. Locate every suitcase and duffel bag within a one hundred-mile radius. You’re going to need it. The last thing you want is for your children, as precious as they are, to become bored. Therefore, you need to bring every single toy or entertainment apparatus they own that doesn’t require an electrical outlet. On top of that, they will need all the clothes they own. Tramping around in unknown areas of the great outdoors will result in several changes of clothes per child per day. Do not forget your own clothes. And the massive amounts of food you will need, plus dishes to eat it off of, plus pots and pans to cook it in. If you think the kids who wanted Disney World and Australia are going to be satisfied scarfing down a half warm can of kidney beans three times a day, you will be in for a rude awakening. These children are going to want pancakes for breakfast (they don’t care what National Park they just woke up in, they want the usual), macaroni and cheese for lunch, and hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner. Every day. To ensure your own happiness on this vacation, I highly recommend you provide this fare. Remember this formula: CK= SP squared. That stands for “cranky kids = stressed parents times two.” Stock up on pancake mix.
3. Location, Location, Location
(No Children) Serene settings in lush, green valleys near waterfalls can be very peaceful. Think of the dainty butterflies and majestic dragonflies that might mill about. You could crawl out of your tent after a nice twelve-hour sleep, quickly whip up some chamomile tea and marvel at your surroundings while the meaning of life suddenly dawns on you. Think of the sunrises and sunsets, the rainbows and exotic flowers. This could be one of the happiest moments of your life.
(Children) No child on the planet is going to be content with butterflies and rainbows. And the lush valley would suddenly seem less wondrous with the echoing whines of children who are bored and bug-bitten. Some of the best places to set up tents for children are at campgrounds where there are other screaming children. Ideal spots are near amusement parks, video arcades, stock car race tracks and water slides. Sure, you’ll go broke (you should have thought of that before you had kids) and they will still whine, but the whining will be for different reasons. They will have forgotten all about their sunburns and bug bites. Now they will want money, trackside seats and access to rides such as Dead Man’s Drop.
4. Typical Days
(No Children) A typical camping day with no children present goes something like this: You wake up snuggled next to your beloved in the previously mentioned lush, scenic valley. You profess your love to one another and exit your very roomy, very comfortable tent through which no bug or fly or mosquito can enter. The view takes your breath away as you share a simple breakfast together and then skip through meadows of tall wildflowers as you head towards an inviting waterfall, underneath which you profess and express your love to each other once again. Clad in skimpy summer attire, you both spend the day lounging around on a private section of miraculous beach, content in the simplicity of it all and just very happy to be alive and in each others company. The night is spent lazily around a campfire, watching stars pop out overhead with your arms wrapped around each other. The magical day culminates with an even greater expression of love and you fall asleep in each others arms, hoping days like these never end.
(Children) A typical camping day with children present goes something like this: You are awakened very early by a child’s foot in your face, which is odd to you because you know you put that child in his or her own tent not more than six hours ago. “Why are you in my tent, child?” is answered with, “There were bugs in my tent. So I came in here.” Sighing, you traipse towards the lovely outhouses provided by the campground, with your children in tow. After many complaints of the outhouse odor, you force everyone to use it and then traipse back to the campsite to make breakfast. “Are there pancakes?”,“Did we bring Captain Crunch?” and “I want waffles!” will be all you hear while you and your spouse attempt to make a campfire and throw some semblance of a breakfast together so the children do not starve, like they are claiming they will.
After eating and the children have dressed, you will gather up every toy, inflatable flotation device, towel, swimsuit, beach chair, water gun, beach umbrella and any other thing necessary to keep children entertained. Of course, it is almost lunchtime because these simple tasks take a billion times longer than usual when children are involved. They will get ice cream cones at the beach for lunch today.
Exhausted, you will finally reach the beach and drop everything on the sand. Unfortunately, by the time you get everything set up, it will be nearly time to return to the campsite for dinner. You realize it doesn’t matter anyway because you wore your sleepwear to the beach (which just happened to be old sweats and a ratty t-shirt) because you were so busy getting everyone else fed, dressed and organized. After twenty minutes, you pile all of the beach items on your back once again and begin the long trek back to camp where you will build another fire and try to cook something amidst the complaints of “I want macaroni and cheese!”, “Can we have pizza?” and “Can we have ice cream for dinner,too?”