As a kid, there was nothing better than family camping trips out to my grandparents land in Southeast Oklahoma. My dad would usually stock the Suburban with the requisite amount of fishing rods, camping gear, and chocolate cupcakes, and we would set off for a long weekend of fun and relaxation. Sitting next to my dad and talking about life, love, and which G.I. Joe was best is, and always will be, some of my fondest memories.
Now that I am a father, I approach that situation much differently. While I am still focused on fun and cupcakes, there are so many other things to consider, such as what to take, what to do once we get there, and, most importantly, how to keep my family safe.
For that reason, I put together this short guide on a few things to keep in mind when planning a fishing and camping trip with your family.
Choose the Right Spot
You might already have a place picked out, maybe one that you’ve visited several times and are familiar with, but if not, make sure you choose a site that is both budget-friendly, fun, and not over-crowded.
The last thing you want when you are out with your family is the sounds of 10,000 other families making memories as loud as they can ten feet away from you.
How many rods and reels will you need? Is your tent big enough? What will you do about firewood? Will you have enough chairs for everyone? Did you remember to bring the camping mats that go underneath your sleeping bags? What if it gets cold overnight? Is the fishing gear age appropriate, or do you have reels that are too technical and bobbers that are too heavy for your family to use?
All of these things are your responsibility, so it’s important to consider them beforehand. And don’t forget the bait! Some kids will love the idea of bringing a big bucket of worms on the trip, but others may need something a little tamer instead. Same goes for the whole gear – make sure you take some lighter gear with you that suits the whole family. There’s no point in flaunting those awesome reels, if no one besides you can enjoy them properly!
Hype it Up
Get your family excited about the upcoming trip by showing them books and videos about the area you’ll be going to, as well as the fish you might catch.
Put a calendar on the wall and mark off each day as it gets closer and closer to the trip. Ask questions at dinner and tell stories from your own personal experiences, as well as others. All of these will help fill your family’s imagination about what’s to come, making the trip even more memorable.
Prep Your Family
If this isn’t your first rodeo, chances are, your family is already prepared enough for a few days outdoors, but just in case, it doesn’t hurt to have a fifteen-minute meeting with your family prior to heading out. Go over fire safety, remind them not to travel too far away from the campsite, and how to call for help if something goes wrong.
Normally, I don’t like to use cliches, but this short meeting could make all the difference in the world when it comes to your family camping trip.
Make Safety a Priority
You don’t need me to tell you about all the things lurking in the woods; if you’re like most parents, you’ve probably over-analyzed all the dangers beforehand and considered all the terrible things that can happen.
There’s no way to prepare for all possible scenarios, but make sure you have at least a first-aid kit handy, a phone that will have good reception wherever you are going, and necessary ointments for the area you are headed to (in case of mosquitos, poison ivy, etc).
Set Up Camp First
You’ll want to do this for a couple of reasons: first, if you wait till too late in the day, you won’t have enough light to see what you’re doing, and second, after a long day of fishing and camping, your family will be too tired to help and you may end up doing most of the work yourself. Set this up first while you have the hands you need.
Everyone Gets a Job
Depending on how old your kids are, some of them may be able to help with all sorts of jobs, whether that’s handling the bait and getting the rod and reels set up, or carrying the items from the car.
Camping trips are not necessarily about learning responsibility, but hey, everyone has to pull their weight when you’re trying to survive in the great outdoors.
Make it Fun
Let’s face it, camping and fishing may not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, and your family may be there for all of twenty minutes before they’re ready to turn around and head back to the house.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to bring alternate things to do as well, such as board games or books, although resist the temptation to bring technology on your trip, such as laptops, video games, etc. If your family is already having fun fishing, make it more fun by singing songs, exploring nature around you, and catch bugs.
Don’t Stay Too Long
No matter how old your kids are, their attention span and enthusiasm for living outside is inevitably going to wane as the hours go by, and it’s much better to leave while everyone’s having a good time, than stay too long and kill their enjoyment of family camping trips.
Try to keep it to a couple of days at most to begin with, but as the kids get older and your family gets more used to it, you can extend it accordingly.
Fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family, but make sure that you take care of the environment while you’re there. Pick up loose trash and clean up regularly, but also practice responsible fishing as well. Catch-and-release is a good principle to live by, but keep a few if you would like.
Your kids need to remember that you are guests in the outdoor space, and that treating it right not only preserves it for you in the future, but also for other families that want to enjoy it as well.