Camping: A Cheap, Active Vacation

Forget the staycation. If you are on a budget this year (I know, who isn't?) and you are looking for an active vacation, consider camping.

I will be the first to admit that when the word "camping" is uttered I don't jump up and down with excitement. However, camping does have some virtues. It is a great option for families who want to spend time together, enjoy the outdoors, and get some physical activity. And, you can't beat the price. Where else can you find a place where a family of 4 can stay for an entire week for under $400? If you decide to pitch a tent, you're doing even better.

Don't fret. Even if you are a hard core urbanite, you can find an option that will work for you. I assure you, dear reader, that if I can survive a week camping, you can as well. I am a wimp when it comes to grunging it, and I hate the added "ick" factor associated with dirty toddlers who are too young for showers and thus remain dirty for the entirety of the stay.

This past week we packed up the kids and all of our grungiest belongings to camp at Letchworth State Park, in upstate NY. This was not hard core camping. After all, we did take our 2 and 4-year-old children. We rented a rustic cabin where we had the ability to put children down for naps, turn on a light in the middle of the night, and store some all important peanut butter, hummus, and yogurt in the refrigerator.

The accommodations were far from cushy. If you rent these cabins, you will certainly have to get over the fact that the floor is so dirty that you won't want your feet to touch it. You'll also need to get over the sound of mice and chipmunks scurrying around looking for food as you sleep. However, those rodents do have a redeeming quality: they will instill in you a great love and gratitude for your own home, even if you've been forced into a crappy rental due to this recession.

And, really, it all seems worth it to wake up to this:
Or this:

This park literally engulfs its visitors with natural beauty, something the average stressed out and overtired workaholic could seriously benefit from. Camping in a state park also leaves you with endless outdoor activities. This park does not disappoint. It has a swimming pool. There are countless hikes along waterfalls and through woods. There is biking. They conduct water rafting trips that include a stop to swim in the river. There is horseback riding.

Because our kids are younger and have less stamina for hiking, we hoofed parts of many trails, then had picnic lunches in beautiful grassy areas while admiring the views. Though it wasn't the sort of heart pumping exercise that I favor, I got a bit of that. One morning we walked to the bottom of a waterfall and my daughter decided she'd had enough. I carried her up hundreds of slopes and steps. Yes, my heart was pumping after that!

You may believe that camping is not your thing. And it may not be. But there still may be reason to reconsider. It's not my thing, either, but I'd recommend it. I'd even do it again. For a short time.

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