If you’re taking your family camping for the first time, you may need some guidelines. Being prepared can make the difference between a fun trip and a disaster. To help foster a love of camping among your family members, try some of these tips to make your camping trip full of good memories.

For first-time campers, a campground is a good choice. Some of the benefits of a campground versus wilderness camping are:

  • Bathroom facilities (including showers)
  • Trash and recycling bins so you don’t have to haul your waste out
  • Guided outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting and horseback riding
  • Nearby tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries
  • Knowledgeable staff who can help you with any problems you encounter or questions you have
  • A community of campers who can provide playmates for your children and social time for adults

A campground can provide a sort of neighborhood where children can play freely with others. You can also get away to your tent or other shelter when you want to be alone or with just your family.

Here are some more tips for first-time campers:

1. Shop around for the right campground. Visit them if possible. Look for cleanliness and an organized staff. Pick up brochures for campgrounds at rest stops, your local tourism department, and the internet. Call the campground ahead of time and make sure everything is up and running. If you are taking your pets, check on the campground’s policy regarding companion animals.

2. Pack your family’s gear in duffle bags. Color code them if possible. Duffle bags are easy to pack and do the least damage to the inside of your vehicle.

3. Rain happens. Pack a tarp and rope, and study up on how to tie it at a slant between trees (and get it down without leaving rope dangling from the tree). Once your tarp is up, you can take your time setting up your tents under your “roof.”

4. Practice at home with your gear – set up your tent in the living room or yard, break in your hiking boots, tie a tarp, and try out your camp stove if you have one. It’s very frustrating to try to figure everything out for the first time on site – especially if it’s raining.

5. Pack a small, empty duffle for each family member. This can hold toiletries on the way to the shower facilities, wet bathing suits, and whatever items you need to tote for a short distance.

6. Plan your itinerary with each family member in mind. Try to make sure that there is an activity for everyone. For example, you may like hiking, and your spouse may enjoy fishing. Your son may enjoy identifying plants, while your daughter likes canoeing or rafting. Very small children may just like running around the campsite and making s’mores. Try to accommodate everyone’s interest at some point in the trip.

7. Look up camping recipes on the internet to find cooked-out foods that everyone will enjoy. Plan your meals and shop accordingly. Bring along some emergency rations in case something spoils or gets ruined in the campfire.