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family campingTired of hotel rooms that look just like the next? Or breakfasts that should be renamed break-the-banks? Maybe this summer is the year you and the family try something new: camping! It’s a terrific way to introduce your kids to the great outdoors, it can bring you together in ways hotels can’t, and the best part: it’s a bargain. (The average night at a campground costs about $25-$35—state parks even cheaper. Either way, a fraction of the typical hotel room.) Check out these savvy tips for planning a family camping trip with minimum hassle and maximum fun, from a recent travel article in The Boston Globe.

RENT OR BORROW BEFORE YOU BUY

Before you invest in camping equipment, see if you can borrow the basics, like a tent and stove, from friends or family, advises The Globe. And make sure you’ve got all the parts, like the poles for the tent. You can also rent equipment from a local sporting goods shop, or check out online rentals at LowerGear. Whatever you do, don’t invest in a lot of fancy gear before that first trip. Some families have spent the earth on gear, only to find out that camping is not for them. Avoid that mistake!

DO A BACKYARD CAMPOUT FIRST

It’s a good idea to get comfortable with setting up the tent before you’re miles from nowhere, in the dark, when everyone’s tired and cranky. You’ll also discover what you need to sleep comfortably—such as warmer clothes and an extra pillow.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMPGROUND

Save that rustic wilderness spot for later, once your kids have their camping legs. For now, ease into the camping lifestyle: Pick a campground with some amenities, such as beach access, a swimming pool, bike or boat rentals, and all-important restrooms and showers. Reserve ahead, since some campgrounds sell out on summer weekends. Try Reserve America, the central booking site for many campgrounds.

BUDDY SYSTEM

A great way to help a camping trip appeal to older kids who might not be thrilled with the concept is to allow them to bring a friend along. Most campgrounds will allow a second tent on a site.

STAY IN THE COMFORT ZONE

A worthwhile investment is a self-inflating sleeping pad (like Therm-a-Rest) to make sleeping on the ground tolerable. It fills up with the twist of an air valve (no pump needed.) Remember to bring everyone’s favorite pillows from home. Also pack a mat (for shoes, which should be kept outside the tent) and a small hand broom to keep out debris and sand.

ARRIVE EARLY TO GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

Plan to arrive at the campground well before dark. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to set up the tent in daylight, and cook dinner on the campfire with a minimum of fuss. (Plan an easy meal for your first night.) Stroll around the campground with the kids, visit the restrooms, maybe check out if there are other kids around, all so that the surroundings will be familiar when darkness falls.

GET THE KIDS TO PITCH IN

Strange but true: The same kids who balk at setting the table at home often transform into cheery worker bees at the campsite, the article asserts. Even your youngest can gather kindling for the campfire or spread a tablecloth on a picnic table.

KEEP IT CLEAN

Camping is a great opportunity to introduce kids to the Leave No Trace principles. Store food in airtight containers and dispose of all scraps properly so as not to attract wild animals to the campsite. (Camping in bear country has its own set of rules.) For more ‘‘green’’ camping tips, plus camping recipes, check out the Greater Outdoors blog.

PLAY IT SAFE

When you arrive at the campsite, check for hazards like broken glass and poison ivy. Pack a first aid kit and keep it on hand at all times. Give kids whistles and headlamps (much easier to use and more fun than a flashlight) and practice fire safety, as in: Don’t leave a fire unattended, have water nearby, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the site or going to bed.

LET THE FUN JUST HAPPEN

As hard it may seem, resist the urge to schedule. Don’t over-plan your time in camp—just enjoy being in nature, being together, and experience what comes to you. Camping is also a good time to try things you might not do at home, like trying to spot constellations with an astronomy book, making shadow animals with your hands and a flashlight, and of course, that time-honored joy of s’more-making and campfire stories. Enjoy!

Even while enjoying the great outdoors, you and your family can be comfortable. We suggest Cabeau’s Memory Foam Evolution® Pillow (360 degree head and neck support for comfy naps on long car rides), Ultra Soft Fluffy Socks™ (for warm, cozy toes on chilly nights), Midnight Magic™ Sleep Mask (total blackout for quality shuteye), Fold ‘n Go™ Blanket (wrap up in butter-soft fleece) and especially our children’s BlanKid Buddy™ (4-in-1 blanket, neck pillow, animal buddy and backpack). To learn more about our entire line of comfort travel products, please visit our website.

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