E – Exercise

beach running

Adapted from sea-412578_1920_Dieter G @ Pixabay.com

Confession time: I hate exercising for the sake of exercising. I have never been a fan of going to the gym or jogging. I have a treadmill that collects more dust than miles. So, if you’re at all like me, don’t stop reading once you see that word EXERCISE. Stick with me for a few minutes…

While I do not like exercise in and of itself, I love getting outside. There’s something about the fresh air and change in scenery that makes me want to be active. Suddenly, I feel like grabbing the rake or trimming a tree. I’m bouncing a basketball with one of my sons while I play traffic cop as my other son rides his bike up and down the driveway. There’s no gym membership required, but just being outside means I’m burning more calories than I would be inside on a chair.

Think those outside activities don’t matter much? Take a look at the list of outdoor activities and their calorie-burning power compiled by Everyday Health’s Jen Laskey:

  • Frisbee: 100 calories
  • Jumping on a trampoline: 100 calories
  • Dancing: 115 to 150 calories or more
  • Snorkeling: 120 calories
  • Horseback riding: 150 calories
  • Gardening: 160 calories
  • Kayaking: 150 calories
  • Swimming: 180 calories
  • Playing tennis: 250 calories
  • Rollerblading: 250 calories
  • Beach volleyball: 280 calories
  • Biking around town: 250 calories or more
  • Jumping rope: 360 calories

*All calorie counts are approximate and are based on a 150-pound person engaging in the activity at moderate intensity for 30 minutes.

The Beyond the Tent blog adds more useful calorie-burning outside activities:

  • Rowing: 250 calories per hour
  • Hiking & Backpacking: 500 calories per hour.
  • Walking: 200 calories per hour.
  • Playing with children: 200 calories per hour.

Those outside activities add up quickly. According to the blog at Eureka Tents, there’s an added bonus to exercising outside:

…People who walked outside walked faster, perceived less exertion, and had more positive feelings than people who walked on a treadmill.

Want an interesting activity that will keep your family engaged while exercising? Try Geocaching! Annette, a mom, reported on the Geocaching Junkie blog that “Every time we mention geocaching, as opposed to just going for a walk, [the kids] are out of the door like a shot! Now they do enjoy the outdoors, but geocaching adds an extra motivation to get out there.”

By the way, if you think you need to spend hours outside to see results, findings show that just 30 minutes of light exercise could improve your health:

 

Challenge yourself and your family to spend just a half hour of your day outside. My guess is that you’ll all be happier and healthier for it!

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

Advertisements

D – Digital Detox

beach father and son

Out of curiosity, I searched for the word “detox” in Pinterest this morning. I can’t tell you how many results I found—too many to count. I even found a board dedicated to detoxes that includes an astounding 1,137 pins!


What’s the lesson to be learned here? No, the lesson I’m going for has nothing to do with lemon juice or kale. What I drew from this quick search was a clear sense that people see the world we live in as TOXIC.

A toxin is usually defined as something poisonous, something we’d want to stay far away from. Somehow, though, we humans acknowledge that many things around us are toxic, yet we don’t stay away from those things. In many cases, we embrace those toxins. At some point, though, we go searching for a recipe to detox our bodies, to rid us of the effects of those poisons.

I’d like to offer up my own recipe for detoxing today:

  1. Turn off TV, cell phones, video games, and any other digital devices.
  2. Go outside.

Obviously, I’m focused on our overreliance on digital devices as the “poison” in our lives today. Like many other toxins, even while we bemoan the impact of these devices on our relationships and family lives, we can’t help responding to one more text and watching one more movie. I’m guilty of it, too. I took my phone out to take a quick picture and then just had to respond to a bunch of email messages, too, taking my attention away from my kids.

What effect does digital media have on kids?

In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation released an often-cited report claiming children between 8 and 18 spent 7 hours and 38 minutes a day focused on digital media. Much research has focused on what the impact of that large amount of digital interaction has been. While there are some positives (access to information, entertainment and communication), findings have included many negatives:

  • obesity
  • depression
  • ADHD
  • violence
  • self-esteem issues

While I’m not suggesting you remove all digital devices from your children’s lives, an afternoon outside or a weekend camping trip could be a great opportunity for a digital detox. It’s a good time to talk, reconnect, and remember what life was like before we become addicted to technology.

If you’re not quite ready to entirely unplug, the National Wildlife Federation has put together this presentation with ideas for incorporating digital media in your outdoor adventures—sort of a best of all worlds situation:

What’s your favorite way of digital detoxing? 

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

C – CHEAP Outside Activities

boy playing in fountain

Adapted from fountain-389423_1920_memyselfaneye @ Pixabay.com

I took my family to see a movie this past weekend. Here’s the damage:
2 Children’s Tickets x $7.50 each = $15
2 Adult Tickets x $8.50 each = $17
Popcorn & Soda = $15
Almost $50 for an hour and a half’s entertainment

Last month, we took the kids to see a Disney on Ice show—their first ever. I thought I got a great deal when I paid only $75 for four tickets. Of course, parking cost another $8. Once we got in the arena, we discovered that to get snacks, we’d have to buy a souvenir, too. You see, if you bought cotton candy, it came with a plastic crown. Drinks came in special collector’s cups. In short, we got just two snacks and spent $24. In case you’re not keeping track, that brings the total to just shy of $110.

My point isn’t to complain about costs here. Each of these experiences was worthwhile, and we budget well for such outings. However, entertainment is expensive!

On the contrary, outside activities are inexpensive—and often free. If you find yourself in need of inspiration to get your family outside today, check out the list below.

Cheap outside activities

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

 

B – Break from Daily Life

swing reasons to take your family outside break from daily life

Adapted from swint-set-667949_1920_ctvgs @ Pixabay.com

I’m a mom. As such, my normal daily schedule looks a bit like this:

daily schedule

I know many others have schedules that are far crazier than mine, but it’s clear that we have a lot to keep us occupied during the day. Activity-packed days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and suddenly we feel like our days are repeating themselves—Groundhog Day style. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t eat as well as we should. We cut corners where we can to make everything fit into the schedule. By the time the weekend rolls around, we’re exhausted—and for good reason! We look forward to vacations to “catch-up,” but how many times have you found yourself saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation” when you return?

Let’s face it: We need a break. Our families need a break.

But how do we find time for a break—a really refreshing break?

What most of us forget is that we have a great way to take a break right in front of us: The great outdoors!

Having trouble sleeping?

Current Biology did a study (reported by Fox News) that camping can result in a break from the unnatural circadian rhythms caused by modern life. According to Kenneth Wright, who led the study, “By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning.” It took less than a week of camping for study participants to feel less groggy in the morning. Even if a camping trip isn’t in your future, spending more time outside during the day and reducing exposure to artificial light in the evenings can produce results. Starting your day with a walk outside can jumpstart your circadian rhythm.

Feeling stressed?

Just being outside can act as a stress break. In a Landscape and Urban Planning study reported in Prevention, scientists measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 25 healthy adults in Scotland and discovered that participants living where green space was in abundance had lower cortisol levels and fewer complaints of stress. If you think this means you have to move to the country, there’s good news. Environmental Science & Technology reported that people showed improved mood and self-esteem after only five minutes of light exercise outdoors.

Life’s routines and never-ending to-do list too much for you?

When things feel hectic at home, I find myself yearning for the routine break of a camping trip. Yes, we still have to set-up the campsite, make food, etc. However, doing these things away from home is a nice change of routine. When we’re camping, I’m not thinking about the laundry that needs to get washed, the bills that need to be paid, or the vet appointment I need to make for the dog. I talk with my family around the campfire, go for walks in the woods, and play games at the picnic table. For that brief time, I relax.

 

Next time things feel hectic and you notice you’re not sleeping well, stressed, or overwhelmed with life, take my advice and get outside. No, time spent outside won’t get those bills paid, but my guess is that you’ll return to those tasks with more focus and a renewed spirit.

How do you take a break from daily life?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

A – Adaptability

rain 26 reasons to take your family outside adaptability

Adapted from rain-455120_1920_ChristopherPluta @ Pixabay.com

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you:

  • You realize at hour four of a six hour drive to your campsite that you’ve left all of the drinks in the refrigerator at home.
  • The sunny afternoon walk with your kids is ruined when biting flies descend in swarms.
  • The trip to the playground comes to a screeching halt when one of your kids falls off the monkey bars and ends up with a bloody nose.
  • Your geocaching adventure turns hostile when you can’t find a single cache.

Unless you’ve had unbelievably good luck, these scenarios are ones you can relate to—and you’ve probably got some outdoor disaster stories that rival the ones on the list (which all happened to my family, by the way). As much as I love the outdoors, it’s unpredictable. However, it’s that unpredictability that can teach an important lesson about ADAPTABILITY.

According to the video produced by Character Trades, “ADAPTABILITY is eagerly embracing a change in plans without complaint. The opposite of ADAPTABILITY is INFLEXIBILITY, holding tightly to something that prevents me from embracing an alternative.”


Okay, but how important is it that our kids learn to be adaptable? After all, we spend most of their young lives teaching them routine, with rules, curfews, and boundaries firmly in place. Why should they need to be adaptable? Here are just two answers to that question:

  • In an article titled “How to Demonstrate Adaptability on the Job,” Neil Kokemuller highlights four traits of adaptable people that make them suitable for the 21st century workplace:
    • Adaptable people are able to come up with alternative solutions to problems.
    • Adaptable people accept surprises more easily, making the working environment more productive.
    • Adaptable people easily accept new roles, important in rapidly changing workplaces.
    • Adaptable people show calm and confidence, which helps them make quick decisions.
  • In a Journal of Educational Psychology study of 969 Australian high school students, researchers found that “Young people who are more adaptable were more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self-esteem, and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.”

I acknowledge that some kids are just less flexible than others. Some children will balk at the idea of change in any form (and many adults feel the same way, hopefully without the screaming tantrums). It’s true that a child’s personality definitely plays a role, but outside adventures are a great way to teach the benefits of adaptability.

Here are five tips to encourage ADAPTABILITY in kids in an outdoor setting:

  1. Discuss adaptability in nature: The natural world is filled with examples of adaptability. Just as chameleons change color when threatened and trees grow deeper roots when water tables are low, the natural world shows us many ways to change, adapt, learn, and grow. The process is rarely a fast one, but nature has much to teach us.
  2. Model adaptability: I wrote a post about unrealistic expectations recently. In the process, it occurred to me that by reacting badly when my plans for our family’s outdoor adventures went awry, I was teaching my sons to follow suit. Rather than modeling adaptability, I was showing resistance and inflexibility. As parents, caregivers, and role models, it is our place to teach kids to accept change—not to fight against it.
  3. Acknowledge emotions associated with change: For many, change is frightening. We’re more likely to put up with the miserable we know than try something new. Outdoors settings represent an added component to these emotions, heightening fears of failure or worry about “doing it wrong.” However, these outdoor experiences also allow for more flexibility without dire consequences (yes, there are exceptions; I’ll save those for another post on another day): Can’t go on a picnic because it’s raining? Plan a puddle-jumping contest instead. Blow a bike tire in the middle of the family ride? Have a contest while walking back to see who can identify the most birds flying overhead.
  4. Think about opportunities afforded by unexpected changes: The idea of a “Plan B” is really a cliche since we discuss it so often, but having a Plan B, an alternative activity, in mind can keep problems in perspective. If something goes wrong, what could you do instead? Often the alternative ends up being as good—if not better—than the original plan.
  5. Praise flexibility. If we want to emphasize good behavior—in ourselves or in our children—a quick word of praise goes a long way. “Nice job rolling with the changes!” I’ve said to my sons—or “I’m so glad you decided to try out this trail instead of the one we’d intended.”

A confession: I’m not great at this idea of adaptability. In scenario A at the beginning of this post, the one with all the drinks left at home (for a week-long trip no less!), I fumed in the truck after the discovery. Admittedly, this was a minor issue that was easily remedied with a stop at a convenience store. My sons actually loved the fact they got to choose their own drinks, making that part of the trip better for them than what I’d planned. It was their flexibility that I leveraged later in the trip when it was too cold to do a planned activity and they were upset. “Remember how getting to pick your own drinks was better than what we’d planned?” I asked them. “Let’s think of something else we could do that would make today better.”

The natural world is a great model of adaptability and an excellent teacher, too—if we let it.

What outdoor activity disasters have happened to you and your family? Were you able to be adaptable and save the day?

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside

I Pledge to Help Women & Girls Achieve Their Ambitions – IWD 2016

International Women's Day

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day set aside to recognize women’s contributions to the social, economic, cultural and political health of our world. The theme this year is gender parity. The IWD website notes

The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

While I’m realistic in knowing that I can’t make any sort of major steps toward achieving gender parity, I’m taking up one of the IWD pledges in my own little corner of the world:

Pledge for parity

One way women can continue to push the boundaries is through improved self-confidence. There are few things better for building a person’s sense of self than getting outside and active. According to a March 6 article, from the Couer d’Alene Press, “…There is some research that suggests outdoor play leads to overall well being, which ultimately leads to higher self esteem and confidence.”And right now, according to Jill Sanford at The Clymb, is a great time to be an active outdoor woman:

…Most mil­len­ni­als were raised by women who had the oppor­tu­nity to be active. We grew up with pro­fes­sional female ath­letes as role mod­els. We played sports and went hik­ing with our dads and broth­ers. Life wasn’t always like this for girls, but slowly, the norm has shifted and women are allowed, even encour­aged, to be active par­tic­i­pants in all things athletic.

Organizations have popped up all over the country to give women and girls a chance to get active and play outside. Here are just a few:

  • Women Outdoors: A network where women can meet other women who share their outdoor interests and values. We provide a place for women who, through the outdoors, build bridges among members of diverse outdoor skills, ages, lifestyles and cultures.
  • Outdoor Women’s Alliance: The nonprofit media and adventure collective that encourages, educates, and engages females through adventure sports worldwide.
  • CLIPPED Outdoors:  community organization with a passion for engaging women in active outdoor pursuits. Through community building, programming, networking and partnerships, we enable women to advance and excel as leaders and mentors in their active outdoor goals.
  • Girls on the Run: A 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

If you’re still on the fence, many states, including Illinois and Ohio, have programs designed to introduce women to outdoors activities.

Okay, I fully acknowledge that getting outside will not in and of itself reduce gender parity. However, I know from experience that the problem-solving skills, resilience, determination, persistence, and adaptability I’ve learned from participating in outdoor activities have prepared me well for the challenges I face on the job and in my social world. If I’m pledging to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, I think getting outside is a great first step.

How will you help women and girls achieve their goals in 2016? Will you take the IWD #PledgeforParity with me? 

**A special thanks for Sayanti aka Shine at the blog Close to you for the reminder of IWD’s approach!

 

 

Escaping Expectations

creek escaping expectations

Adapted from Unsplash @pixabay.com

The sun was shining over the weekend, and the unseasonably warm winter temperature reduced the piles of snow in our yard to puddles. As anyone with spring fever might do, I rounded up the family and headed outside to do some geocaching. At first, everything went expected.

We found the first cache with ease, and it felt great to get outside and stretch our winter-weary legs.

It was when we got to the second cache that everything went downhill.

I can’t tell you exactly what the trigger was. Maybe it was the fact tht we couldn’t get the GPS coordinates for the next cache to work. It could have been that my oldest was running through the woods swinging sticks at everything. It’s possible it was my youngest who was bent on destroying as much of the surrounding trees as he could. It may have been my husband who wasn’t helping me with the GPS problem or the kid problem fast enough.

Whatever the reason, I got angry. I yelled at my family and then stomped back to the car. I sulked for the rest of the afternoon. Not a pretty picture.

After calming down, I did some thinking about what went wrong. It wasn’t that I hadn’t planned the day well enough. I’m definitely an overplanner, feeling the need to know just how things are going to go.

That’s when it hit me: My unrealistic expectations got in the way of a great day outside.

If you think about it, an expectation is just a strong belief something will happen the way we anticipate it will. On our outdoor adventures, we expect good weather, for our kids to behave, for the perfect campsite, for a bug-free hike, for a fun-filled vacation… But more often than not, something happens that upends those expectations in a second.

How do you react when things don’t go as you expect?

Are you like I was over the weekend and have a ruined day?

Do you feel disappointed or let down?

Or do you roll with it when the rain drops fall, delighting in the chance to go stomping through mud puddles on your hike?

Managing Expectations

As you can see, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about escaping from expectations this week (at least, the unrealistic ones), and I thought I’d share my take-aways with you so that your family time outside isn’t ruined:

  • Plan–yet be flexible. I don’t think planning itself is the problem. Most good outings require some degree of planning. What I sometimes forget, though, is to plan for flexibility. If everything is planned in detail, the littlest thing going wrong can wreck the day. However, if the plan includes some flexibility—like including multiple options or some time to explore and relax—it’s easier to roll with the unexpected.
  • Remember you can’t change reality, but you can change how you respond. I’m slowly realizing that happiness isn’t about expectations; it’s about reality, enjoying the moment. I can’t anticipate when the tire will go flat or how much damage a freak hailstorm will do to the camper roof, but I am entirely in charge of how I deal with those situations. Instead of letting them get me upset, I can choose to find the silver lining, making the best of the situation.
  • Evaluate how significant the expectation is. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to eliminate all expectations—and maybe it wouldn’t be a good thing if we did. However, some expectations are more reasonable and significant than others. Yael Kaufman wrote in an article titled “How Eliminating Unrealistic Expectations Can Make You a Happier Person” that some expectations are just unnecessary. It’s not easy to do, but we need to be asking ourselves if the day will be *ruined* if the expectation isn’t met. Was my day really ruined after the geocaching debacle? Of course not!
  • Acknowledge that unrealistic expectations cause stress. Who needs added stress in his/her life? No one I know, for sure! When we have these expectations for how everything will go, we’re living in the land of worry, anxiety, and stress. We’re focused on events in the future we have little control over. Letting go of those expectations means letting go of some stress—sounds like a good thing to me!
  • Become aware of your expectations—so that you can loosen your grip on them. Each of these five “take-aways” overlap, but I think this is the one that overlays all the rest.  The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path.” It sounds so simple when he says it. The first step to escaping from those unrealistic expectations is to recognize them. It’s hard to stay “in the moment,” though; instead, I’m usually a step ahead, planning—and yes, making expectations. I need to work on awareness of my expectations so they don’t get in the way of living.

Okay, I’ve confessed my embarrassing weekend tantrum and what I’ve learned as a result. Have you ever had these moments where your expectations got in the way of enjoying reality? Any tips?

Why #OutdoorFamilies Matter

I haven’t been able to get this tweet out of my head since I read it this morning:

THIS.

This is why I get off the couch when it’s cold and snowy.

This is why I’m outside in the yard even though the house is a mess.

This is why I pack up the camper over and over all summer long–even though I have a perfectly nice home (that probably needs cleaning).

It’s all about the memories. 

In an article titled “Sharing Memories as Gifts: Treasures to Last a Lifetime” published by Outdoor Families Magazine, Suzanne Solsona gets at this issue of memories when she asks,

Without thinking too much about it: What is your most vivid, cherished memory of childhood? Your teenage years? As an adult?

She argues that those memories are related to what we did–not what we had. I’d go one step further and say that many of my own most vivid memories were about what I did outside. Like the tweet above suggests, when I think of my favorite memories, they aren’t of television or movies (even though I’m a major fan of both). They aren’t about things I did inside at all. Instead, I remember…

  • Reading a book by the campfire with my parents on Foote Pond.
  • Sleeping on the Lake Huron beach as a teenager (admittedly not all that comfortable).
  • Hiking with my son to the top of his namesake mountain–only to realize he’d fallen asleep on the way.
  • Seeing amazement on my sons’ faces when they first saw Mt. Rushmore.
  • Getting swept up in my kids’ glee as they flew down snow-covered hill on their sleds.

These are the things I remember–and the things I hope my sons remember, too. These memories are the reason my family is an #OutdoorFamily.

#outdoorfamily

What are your reasons for getting outdoors? Are you an #outdoorfamily–or aspiring to be? 

 

 

Essentials for Making Campground Reservations

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Making Campground reservations campsiteLast year, I made a big mistake.

We were making the transition from camping in a small pop-up to RV camping. Previously, we’d gone to little “in the middle of nowhere” campgrounds that were just numbered pads of gravel in the middle of a state forest with a hand pump for water and a pit toilet. With our new trailer, though, we felt the need to try out all the amenities, like water, electric, and dump stations. However, we still wanted to feel like we were really camping, so we steered away from any campground with the word “resort” in the title.

Here in Michigan, we have some of the most amazing state parks, so those seemed like the best option to meet our new camping wish list. With that decided, I sat down at my computer when the weather started getting nice in May to make reservations for our summer camping.

Big mistake.

In case you’re wondering, the big mistake wasn’t sitting at my computer or trying to make reservations. The big mistake was thinking I’d still be able to find available sites at the popular campgrounds in May. Whichever state campground I tried, I found no availability—or only sites that didn’t meet my search criteria. To say I was disappointed and frustrated would be putting it mildly.

Since camping is such a popular activity in Michigan—and perhaps because summer is so short—campgrounds fill very quickly. I’ve learned my lesson, though, and this year things are different. Here are my plans to ensure we get the camping reservations we want this summer.

Research Campgrounds Ahead of Time

Many people know exactly where they want to camp. Maybe they’re camping with friends who always go to the same place, or they want to camp near a specific place (like Sleeping Bear Dunes or the Mackinac Bridge). What’s harder to know is the specific site within the campgrounds in which we want to stay. For example, we’ve unfortunately ended up with the campsite closest to the dump station and sites closest to the main road with cars rushing in and out. To avoid this problem:

  • Do a drive through: The best option is to see the campground yourself—if that’s an option. My family has been known to stop at campgrounds we’re not staying at to ask if we can drive through. Most places are more than happy to allow us to take a look. We like to get a map of the campground, if they’ll give one to non-paying guests, so we can mark down sites we like. Then, when it’s time to make reservations, we pull those maps out of the glove compartment (where they always end up) and know which sites are the best.
  • Check out reviews: In the 21st century, it seems everyone writes reviews. While I’m not always sure that’s a good phenomenon, it can help you determine if a campground is the one for you and your family. From reading reviews on Trip Advisor, for example, I’ve found out valuable information like which loop is the busier one and which campground bathrooms need upgrading.
  • Check out photos: These days, many campgrounds are posting photos of each site on their websites. Typing the name of the campground into Google Images will produce photos that others have taken of the campground (and often surrounding attractions). Further, if you’d like a bird’s eye view of the place—maybe to see how close the sites are to one another or how much undergrowth separates each site, use Google Earth to get a look at the place.

Doing your research ahead of time can make all the difference in how successful you camping trip will be.

Find Out When Campgrounds Begin Taking Reservations

I never expected that I’d need to make my camping reservations when there’s still snow on the ground, but that’s the case in the most popular campgrounds here in Michigan. Another part of the research you should be doing is to find out when the online reservation systems will begin accepting reservations for the year to come:

  • Michigan State Park Campgrounds: According to the Michigan DNR, reservations for state park campsites can be made six months in advance—not a day before. If you want a prime site at one of the popular state parks like the Porcupine Mountains SP, Ludington SP, or P. J. Hoffmaster SP, you’ll need to book pretty close to six months out of your intended reservation.
  • Private Campgrounds: Reservation systems can vary wildly for these locations, so it’s good to call ahead. One popular private campground my family likes to visit in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has beautiful Lake Superior overlook sites—but only if you book when reservations open in October of the year before.
  • Recreation.gov Campgrounds (National Parks): According to their website, reservations are available six months in advance , with notable exceptions like Yosemite National Park. Group facilities are available 12 months in advance.
  • Reserve America Campgrounds: Acknowledging how tough it can be to get “the good sites” at popular campgrounds, this website includes a list of the Top 5 On Sale Secrets, including synchronizing your clock with the online reservation system to ensure you’re making your reservation at the soonest moment possible. They also suggest setting up your login and password ahead of time and even practicing the reservation procedure so you’re ready the instant the booking window opens. This is serious business!

Knowing when you can begin making reservations is key to getting the campsites you want.

The Exceptions

If you’re like me and don’t get around to making all of your reservations way ahead of time, there’s still hope:

  • Cancellations: There’s always a chance  a campground may have a cancellation. Some campgrounds keep a waiting list, if you call to check their availability.
  • Nearby Locations and Campgrounds: Often, there are county park campgrounds or private campgrounds in the vicinity that have openings.These locations may be less known so therefore have more availability.
  • First Come First Served Campgrounds: If you arrive right at check-in (or even a bit before if check-out is earlier in the day), the odds of getting a prime site are good.
  • Being Nice: I’ve had some luck with just calling the campground directly and being as polite as possible to the person on the phone; when campsite demand is high, politeness can go a long way to getting you an open site.

What are your secrets to ensuring you get the campsite your family wants each year?

 

Summer Dreaming: Michigan’s U.P.

My front yard is covered in snow, but I’m daydreaming about summer trips to the Upper Peninsula today…