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How to Plan a Family Camp

Tips for Planning a Family Camp
Thanks for the memories!
Thanks for the memories!

Family camp is probably a significant departure from your family's M.O., so you'll want to plan your first outing -- whether it's a long holiday weekend or a two-week summer extravaganza -- with extra care (lest it be your last).

If you follow a few general guidelines, planning your family-bonding vacation should be a relative breeze.

Get Educated

Learn what's out there. Family camps come in different shapes and sizes, offered by traditional camps, universities, religious institutions, community centers and groups like the YMCA. Look around to find something in your price range that suits your family and your purpose.

Know Your Goals

Are you looking for bonding, counseling or just plain fun? Different camps offer a host of programs, some of which are intended to teach and develop skills, and others that are a bit looser and purely recreational. Know which one is for you so you don't end up disappointed.

Be Realistic

You may be dreaming of that movie moment when your entire, high-tech family realizes that analog togetherness is all they need. That might happen. But you might want to start a bit closer to your comfort zone.

If your family is the athletic, outdoorsy type, by all means, go for the family camp with the mountain climbing and survival course. But don't force it: If your family thinks "camping" means sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor, choose a camp with some more modern amenities. Remember, this is about enjoying yourselves.

Get Everyone On Board

Depending on your family situation, a week in the Catskills with no Internet access might be a tough sell, but you can do it. Make sure you choose or build a program with activities for everyone -- daughters, sons, husbands and wives (and grandparents and cousins, if you're into that), so you can generate some sort of enthusiasm from every camper involved. No one wants to experience nature with a sulky teenager.

Whether you go the preplanned, all-inclusive route or you plan it yourself, family camp can be an excellent way to spend your precious free time. At best, you strengthen your family relationships in a meaningful, lasting way; at worst you take an affordable vacation and come away with a really funny picture of your kid on a zip line.