Remember camping as a kid? What was the best part? Swimming? S’mores? Flashlights and sleeping bags? Kids love the simplicity—it’s the parents that make it complicated! Somewhere along the line, we tried to equate camping to our five-star resort getaways of the past. Stop the madness! Check out our tips for making the family camping trip stress-free, gear-light and fun-heavy.

Camp Close To Home

You don’t have to drive 100 miles away to feel 100 miles away. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be lakeside than stuck in the car for half the day. This area has tons of lakes and ponds that offer camping, so search out which campgrounds are no more than an hour away from home (or gauge driving time based on the maximum-time-in-car-before-kids-go-Exorcist-on-you).  Don’t forget to make a reservation in advance as campgrounds fill up quickly. And no one wants to be stuck with the site right next to the bathrooms. Ewwww.

Keep It Short

Think about all the stuff you use while you’re at home, never mind at a campsite with shared bathrooms! Longer trips require much more planning and packing.  Opt for a two or three night stay—you’ll still make plenty of memories and the kids will have a blast. And, with New England summer weather being so fickle, you’ll have a better chance of not bumping against a rain storm. Because camping in the rain is no. fun. for. anyone.

Pack Light

The beauty of camping is doing without and living simply, if only for a night or two. You don’t really *need* to bring ten board games (bring one), food for three meals a day (order take-out!) and your curling iron (time to embrace the bed-head look). You’ll be surprised how simply you can live, and how good it feels. And it’s not like you’re camping in Antarctica—if you’ve forgotten something that you really can’t go without, there is bound to be at least five stores nearby that can sell you what you need.

Leave The Entertaining Up To Mother Nature

Don’t worry about packing every deck of cards, board game, reading book and Game Boy in the house. Take some time and enjoy the great outdoors! Plan a hike, rent canoes or visit the local swimming hole. If you hear the kids mutter, “I’m bored” at any point, send them out to gather firewood, find s’more sticks or create an impromptu nature scavenger hunt.

Here’s our recommendation for packing light while still having all the necessities:
*Tent (don’t forget the hammer)
*Sleeping bags, pillows and floor mats
*Flashlights (don’t forget to check the batteries!)
*Water bottle, plate and silverware for each person
*Starter sticks and lighter (beats the heck out of crumpled up newspaper and rubbing sticks together)
*Toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, liquid soap and hand towels)
*Sunscreen, bug spray and Band-Aids
*Snacks (granola bars, fruit leather, apples)
*Water
*Beach towels
*Food (for just one or two meals a day, chances are you’ll be away from the campground for at least one mealtime)
*Garbage bag for trash
*Small propane or charcoal grill (only if you plan on cooking)
*Cooking utensils and pots/pans (see above)
*Lawn chairs (sitting in the dirt just ain’t my thing)
*Zip lock bags and paper towels (not sure why, but my friend who camps says these are a must-have)

Here’s what you DON’T need:
*Pajamas (a t-shirt and shorts work just fine and you can still walk to the john in the morning without looking silly)
*Laptop (no, not even to watch movies on)
*Coffee (chances are, they have fresh brewed right at the camp store)
*Seven different outfits (unless of course, you’re going for seven days—it’s ok to be grubby when you camp)
*The entire grocery store (storing food and keeping things cold is too much work; just get enough easy stuff for a few meals and hit up the deli for lunch)

Here are a couple of great sites to help you choose the campground best for you:

Campers Love New Hampshire
Maine Camping Guide
Camping in Massachusetts

Camping is about making memories! So get out there, have fun, bond with your family and don’t stress too much about having every single, conceivable amenity. It’s called “roughing it” for a reason.

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