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Vacations can be a nightmare, even for the most prolific planner and fun loving family. The long lines at the theme parks, hotel rules, and dangerous crowds. Those problems can be worse for parents with hyper or small children. When my kids were small, we discovered state campgrounds. I know, I know; camping yuck. Right? Not so much anymore.
The family holiday photos are taken in Australian State Forests and were contributed to the article by author Ryn Shell
For decades, the forestry department has been working diligently to bring modern conveniences to the outdoors. Everything from public showers to rental cabins. And many states provide discounts to disabled people or veterans with disabilities. But you’ll need proof of disability. The National Park Service also has a website dedicated to finding handicap friendly parks. I love their mission statement. They are committed to making the same facilities, services, programs, and employment available to visitors and employees as non-disabled people enjoy. While exploring the NPS website I found several, different passes and the opportunity to purchase them. US National Parks are free to military personnel; other passes vary in cost.
There’s also to explore other opportunities. You can obtain information about various parks—including warnings—learn about special use permits such as weddings, and reserve a spot and plan a trip. There’s also useful information about the parks such as what to expect and see, special events, and the history of the parks.
Reserve America has an excellent website that will guide you step-by-step through the entire planning process. And guess what? They have an app too. They even have information on hunting and fishing licenses. For the less technologically inclined, they have a customer service number. That’s right, folks, some of us still use the phone. (US) 877-444-6777.
I clicked on camping guide and found information on everything from bird watching to campfire starting. They even help with what kind of gear to bring. That’s handy information for first-time campers. Reserve America
Wonderful family holidays were held by the Shell family every school holiday in Australian State Parks. A favourite camp spot was along the banks of the Murray River. These, faded, but much loved family photos are from the 1970s.
Here’s a piece of first-hand information, most game wardens assume if an adult is anywhere near a fishing pole then they are fishing. That’s right. They didn’t buy my story about my husband using two rod-and-reels while I was innocently reading my book. Sad, but true. And don’t forget life vests for your smaller children, even if you aren’t using a boat, small children have a way of wandering from even the most diligent parents.
The one that got away!
What can you do while camping? Hiking, birdwatching, swimming and horseback riding in some areas (check with your campground before reserving a spot) pretty much anything goes. Some campgrounds have scheduled activities if you’re inclined to participate. Most have playgrounds. But my family used to leave all things electronic, including watches and radios, in the truck and just did whatever. No plan, no anything. Complete freedom until checkout time. Sometimes, you can even enjoy non-denominational church services.
Painting, or reading, beside a lagoon while the other half catches a fish for dinner is fun. Photos are of the Shell family.
How much does all this excitement cost? That varies by campground and time of year. I went searching for yearlong passes with our National Park Service and here’s what I discovered. Annual passes cost $80 per year. Current military personnel can get them free. 4th graders no older than ten years of age can obtain a special 4th-grade pass; home, public, or free choice schooled, but you need a paper Every Kid in a Park paper pass. That interested me, so I went to the website https://www.everykidinapark.gov/ to have a look. That pass applies to 4th-grade educators as well. Senior passes are $10 for a lifetime, and that includes discounts on camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services. This does not apply to permit holders.
Photos of family and friends provided by author Ryn Shell.
As I said, camping is an ever-changing industry. People of all ages and physical strengths can enjoy it. It doesn’t cost a lot. It’s relaxing. You are free of long lines and noisy crowds. And with activities being scheduled, it’s a lot more than just spending time in the woods. Our country is gorgeous. So, pack a cooler, get out, and enjoy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, LF GILLIS.
LF Gillis is a writer and novelist who is deeply connected to the great outdoors and nature. You will experience small-town southern states of American life through this author's beautiful writing. The most amazing thing is the way the characters in a Gillis novel interact, and the author's gift for showing the full depth of their feelings. The stories below are gripping and inspirational reads that I would highly recommend.