We finally took our first real family vacation last week. What's a 'real' vacation? I'm defining it as a trip we took together, away from home, where we actually had a chance to relax and escape everyday life. We've gone away before, sure, but we usually bring all the busyness and activities of our daily life with us. This time was different.
After hearing our friends talk about their summers at family camp for a few years, we decided to give it a try. We're not really campers--the work involved, combined with sleeping in a tent on a rapidly deflating air mattress just doesn't equate to a relaxing vacation for us. Maybe when the kids are older... but this was different.
Imagine all the good things about camping (being outside all day, lots of activities and friends to keep the kids entertained, not having to do your daily chores) mixed with the benefits of an all-inclusive vacation (hot showers, relatively comfortable beds, lavish buffets three times a day, free childcare!) That's what family camp was like.
If you've never tried family camp before, I highly recommend trying it. It's a great way to introduce kids to camping without having to do so much work, it's suitable for all ages, and it has to be one of the most affordable family vacations out there.
If you're still not convinced, check out my top 25 best things about family camp.
Best Things About Family Camp
While I was at the camp, I started jotting down all the things that I love about it. After a while, I noticed that everything on my listed started with the word No. As in, here are all the things that don't happen at family camp. Turns out, most of the enjoyment for me wasn't even about everything that we got to do there; it was primarily about what we got to leave behind.
For that reason, I'm dividing this list into two parts: The 10 Best Things We Don't Have to Do at Family Camp and The 15 Best Things We Get to Do at Family Camp. Enjoy!
The 10 Best Things We Don't Have to Do at Family Camp
1. No cooking
2. No cleaning (except hosing down dirty children)
3. No driving (or having to buy gas, or sit in traffic, etc.)
4. No grocery shopping (or meal planning, or thinking about what's for dinner, or being stuck in a stifling hot kitchen)
5. No kids in the house fighting with each other all day because they're hot and bored
6. No chores at all - you get a break from gardening, taking out the garbage, sorting the recycling, paying the bills - everything that normally consumes your free time (plus, no having to nag your kids to do their chores either!)
7. No buying anything (unless you enter the temptation zone that is the gift shop)
8. No technology, computers, phones, Internet, Tv, alarm clocks, etc.
9. No clutter - all you have is exactly what you need
10. No work, and no staying up late trying to get a little more done
The 15 Best Things We Get to Do at Family Camp
1. Be altogether for a whole week, with my husband off of work, fully present and engaged with us
2. Eat amazing food (and way too much of it!) prepared for us three times a day
3. Retreat to a small, cozy cabin that doesn't have space to get messy
4. Sit in our wooden Adirondack chairs in front of the cabin, reading and writing until it gets dark
5. Listen to the babbling brook that cuts through the camp, soothing us to sleep each night
6. Swim together in an outdoor pool that's not too busy and not too deep (taking four kids swimming on my own is a challenge I very rarely take on)
7. Send the kids off for fun camp activities like archery, rock climbing, pool parties, and giant games
8. Engage in nightly themed activities such as a hoedown, ladies' night, mens' night, and couples' night
9. Enjoy a safe, natural environment for older kids to explore and play outside all day (even the ones who normally don't like being outside)
10. Make choices about our own schedule, opting to attend activities or take rests whenever we feel like it
11. Attend chapel twice a day to hear entertaining speakers talk about faith, family, parenting, and marriage, while the kids are entertained elsewhere
12. Rest, rest, rest. We slept in past seven most days, retired before ten each night, and took naps with the little ones as often as we wanted. Aside from catching up on sleep though, the whole experience was simply restful. We were never rushed or hurried or stressed in the least.
13. Enjoy the unusual feeling that there is enough time to do everything I "need to do"
14. Meet people from many different places and hear their stories. I love hearing people's stories almost as much as I love reading good books. As an introvert, I do tend to keep to myself at retreats, but once or twice a day I love having the chance to share a cup of coffee with someone and hear about their life. This week, I was so inspired by a pair of grandmothers whose son and daughter are a couple and who had recently welcomed a new family into their lives. The grandmothers decided to give their kids a break by taking their older children to family camp before visiting the new baby. Even neater: it was the first time the grandmothers had met. I was just blown away by the amount of love this family had for one another.
15. Find perspective. While I have never attended family camp before, I have been to this particular camp for other events, including a women's retreat. Nestled in the forest, with the aforementioned brook providing the soundtrack, this camp is the epitome of peaceful living.
Whenever I leave here, I challenge myself to bring some of this quiet, peaceful, simplistic living home with me. I always get a small piece, but never enough. I guess that is reason enough for me to keep going back!
How about you? What are some of your stories about family camp? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments; I love to hear your stories!