We Survived Our First Family Camping Trip!


Lately, I have been having thoughts that tent camping would be a fun weekend for my family… I now think those thoughts might have been mini pin strokes.

My personal attraction to camping was (note past tense) to enjoy a lovely setting, a water view and a glass of wine for twenty bucks a night instead of $200.

After surviving our one—and perhaps only – weekend camping trip, I am now thinking, that in lieu of a costly hotel room, the view of my backyard from the comfort of my screened back porch is indeed lovely enough and I can still drink an entire bottle of wine for the price of a restaurant glass.

Except for middle of the night hikes to the toilet located a couple hundred feet away, I actually enjoyed every single moment of our camping trip… from the time the tent was set up until two days later when we had to take it down.

Everything in the middle of my camping Oreo was creamy and delicious, but what transpired on either side of those gorgeous pink sunsets and crackling bonfires, was a hellacious amount of hard work, preceded by weeks of anxiety producing planning.

Lists. Lists. Lists. I made a shitload of them. What to pack for camping – chairs, air mattresses, the tent itself. What to pack for ourselves – clothing, towels, bathing suits.   What to pack for our dogs – food, treats, bowls – I almost forgot one of the dogs – here’s me sitting in a packed car in the garage ready to leave: “Hey, where’s Cody?”

Matches, sheets, pillows, towels, grilling tools, paper plates, napkins, plastic forks, trash bags, bug spray, sunscreen, the dogs’ bed, flashlights, extra batteries, and on and on and on… the list was ENORMOUS.

Then there was the meal planning.  Bags and bags of stuff was needed to have chicken kabobs, grilled vegetables, campfire pizzas and sandwich wraps, not to mention, the ubiquitous SMORES, and plenty of other snacks – ‘cause there is nothing more vicious in the wilderness than a hungry 9-year-old who needs to eat NOW, not in 30 minutes when the fire is ready.

And to ratchet my packing anxiety up to a new level, I decided that I would bring the comforts of home in addition to the other 147 essential things we needed: a rug, a feather mattress topper – which was HUGE and weighed about 70 pounds, tablecloths, fresh flowers in a glass vase, cloth NAPKINS – I think that decision may have been made during one of my particularly violent pin strokes.

Needless to say, the amount of stuff required for 48 hours in a modern campsite equipped with electricity and running water, not to mention only 5 miles from the nearest Super Walmart, meant that we drove a car that looked like the Grinch’s sleigh, after he stole every last Christmas decoration in Whoville, with dangerously, perhaps criminally, limited fields of vision out the back and side windows.

The feather mattress, a duffle bag and two pillows were stuffed in the floorboard beneath both me and my daughter. Thank God the ride was only an hour long since we were curled into pretzel shapes, me shifting to readjust the pressure on a stiff hip every few miles.

Here are our spots in the car on the way home:



Thankfully, the poor dogs are small and don’t suffer from claustrophobia. Their bed was precariously perched on a mountain of camping crap with about 4” of headroom between them and the car’s ceiling.  Only their tendency to nap through every crisis, which kept them perfectly still, saved them from toppling headlong onto the hard sided cooler from what would have been an avalanche of sheets and towels.


My husband and I learned several things about ourselves that weekend, among them, our knees aren’t what they used to be, we don’t work well as a team under stress, and if not for the kindness of strangers, our first night would have been spent in the car.

I had borrowed the tent and had a tutorial on setting it up the weekend before and since this was a surprise weekend for my husband’s birthday, he, of course, knew nothing about setting it up. And yes, we made the number one classic rookie mistake of leaving town about two hours later than we had planned which meant, “Ta da! Surprise!  We’re camping,” also meant “Oh, and by the way, I don’t remember the fine print on setting up this mammoth, two-room, 6-foot-high, deluxe tent and yep… that’s the sun setting over the lake right there in front of you.  Good news:  It’s beautiful.  Bad news:  It’s about to get dark.”

After we dropped the tent twice in an uncoordinated attempt to raise one side, an angel, in the form of a portly man, with white hair and knee-length, jean shorts – our neighbor at the site behind us – came over and said, “Can I help?”

That man spent a good 45 minutes helping my husband figure out how to set it up, put on the rain fly, and stake it down.  He was so worried that we would be blown off into the lake that he went back to his RV and got some rope, then went around on his own, staking our tent in what some might call overkill, but I am telling you, it would have held its position in a hurricane.

Late on the second night, since he knew we were idiots, he stopped by our campfire to let us know of impending inclement weather for the following day.  I will forever be grateful to him.  Not only for his emergency assistance in helping us arrange shelter before dark, but based on the frayed nerves and swearing that was going on between my husband and me at the time of his arrival, he might have just saved a marriage.

From that point on – the weekend was GLORIOUS.


Postcard sunsets, fireside dinners, hikes, wild deer, our own personal frog, who hopped around our campsite all weekend… and then, it was time to go.  Everything we had just done to get there, now had to be undone in reverse.  Re-packing the car almost caused additional mini-strokes.  The hour ride home was excruciating.  My back nearly seized up and caused me to abruptly shout out in pain a couple of times.

Then, after we got home, the real fun began – all that shit had to be unloaded, carried in and put away. All the bedding had to be washed, as well as the other dirty laundry.  The dogs were dirty.  Our shoes were dirty.  I spent more hours cleaning up from the weekend than I did actually there.

Was it worth it? Well, it depends on who you ask.  For my 9-year-old daughter… an unequivocal, yes!  But then again, all she did was show up to the party.  My husband… yes, but with concessions – a better air mattress, a less over-loaded car.  As for me – the jury is still out.  I am currently looking at light travel trailers for sale. Canned Ham

Cheaper Than Therapy is a blog and live storytelling show in Montgomery, AL. FOLLOW the blog, LIKE the show on FB, FOLLOW me on Twitter @ReneaDijab or come check out the show!



3 responses to “We Survived Our First Family Camping Trip!

  1. Ha, I thought you were moving across country! We have yet to go camping, because camping! Good for you, you are a brave soul!

    • Here’s the thing… in order to camp, I do not want to suffer any personal discomfort which means bringing all the comforts from home. Might as well stay home.

  2. Ha ha! So funny…probably not at the time for you. I have yet to try camping with all three of my boys. We used to go once in a while with just me and my husband, but children bring a whole new level of planning I’m just not ready for.

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