My family doesn’t choose a campground solely based on amenities, we look at what there is to do within an hour’s drive. If the campground has a beach, hiking trails, etc then that’s definitely a great bonus, but it’s not necessary. Take advantage of the campground amenities, but don’t miss out on local attractions. Our kids love spending time at the creeks, beaches, and hiking trails around the campground. We make sure to take them away for other adventures, too. So, how do you find these adventures?
- Google it before you go. See what is located in and around the campground you’re visiting. Look at photos to see if anything piques your interest. A lot of places have websites now, but not every place does.
- Pull up Google Maps and look at the location you’re heading for. Then go into Trip Advisor and Groupon, put in the town you’re visiting as well as some nearby towns (make sure you have Ebates so you earn cash back!). Trip Advisor even lists natural sites for hiking and taking pictures, which is great. It also tells you what other travelers thought so you can choose what you want to see if you don’t have a lot of time, but don’t base your trip solely off of reviews. Some times people don’t have the whole story and other times they haven’t actually been. They’re just trying to get a higher status so they review a bunch of places and don’t care if their three star review hurts the business.
- When you get to the campground, ask what must see attractions are in the area. This goes back to number one, they may not have a web presence, as well as Robert’s three questions mentioned previously. Also, when you visit the restaurant recommended at the campground, ask your server about must see places. Their answer will likely be different and you will have even more options of places to see and things to do.
- Also, before asking, make sure you kind of have an idea of what your family likes to do in mind. When you ask what there is to do, the person may respond with, “What are y’all into?” so they don’t tell someone who has never hiked to climb the highest local waterfall.
- If you are planning to try out some recommended hiking trails or visiting the local river, be sure you are prepared. Have hiking sticks and/or water shoes in case you do go on one of these recommended excursions and look into it before heading out. Just because 20 year old Jim can hike Devil’s Back doesn’t mean 40 year old Robert and 3 year old Moana can. Or should.
- If you are planning on visiting a beach, verify that it’s not hurricane, jellyfish, etc season. If it’s in the south, ask about snakes and gators. We visit a beautiful lake in North Carolina, but twenty miles away is another lake full of gators. We don’t recommend that one. Seeing this as you’re jumping in the lake is probably more adventure than you want. Especially if you have kids.
- Don’t try to fill every day with a bunch of activities. Choose a couple of places max and spend a lot of time there to really experience it. Take pictures (if allowed), ask questions, and really enjoy the place you’re visiting.
- Save museums, house tours, and such for rainy days and spend beautiful ones in the outdoors. Check dates, too, because some are only open certain days some parts of the year. So you may not be able to avoid it, but if you can then you should.
- We like to keep one or two places a surprise for our kids, and each other. I’m in charge of the GPS, so it’s a bit easier for me to keep the secret than my husband. For instance, the kids know where we’re going, but there’s a museum and a factory tour that they’re going to love, but they don’t know we’re going.
- If you’re in a metropolitan area, see if there’s a trolley or a shuttle service so that you don’t have to drive every where. This definitely counts as an adventure if your kids (like ours) have never been on an old trolley like they have in New Orleans and Memphis.
So, don’t be afraid to try new things. Try a simple hike, swim in a new lake (ask about snakes and gators first!), or wine tasting. My husband and I are not sophisticated by any means, but we love wine, beer, and whiskey tasting. It’s a lot of fun taking a big, burly guy who talks like Jeff Foxworthy to wineries! You’re not there to get drunk, so it’s okay to take the kids and let them explore the vineyard, if they’re allowed. Some places even sell grapes, so the kids can have a snack while you taste the wine.
We’re heading out next week for some lake and mountain adventures, so we will have more tips and tricks specific to our trips then. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the tarp over our tent, why it’s there, and what it does. There will be a lot of pictures so you can copy us, if you want. I think you will.
I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow. Happy camping!