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Today's Family Magazine

Camping is a simpler summer vacation

By Nina Polien Light

Your family’s next getaway needn’t be to a fancy (read: pricey) beachside resort or expansive (and equally expensive) amusement park.  Camping presents an affordable, relaxing and healthy alternative to the sensory overload typical of most tourist traps.

Fortunately, you won’t have to travel far as northeast Ohio offers some top-notch campgrounds.

Why Camping?
Camping is budget friendly.  After an initial investment in a tent or pop-up camper (more about that later) and some cooking and sleeping paraphernalia, the associated costs are minimal: a tank of gas, campsite rental, groceries, sunscreen, bug spray and a first aid kit.

Beyond its affordability, camping offers a unique opportunity to unplug and bond.  Yes, Mom and/or Dad should carry a cell phone in case of emergency, but this is a time to forego Minecraft, YouTube videos and Instagram in favor of breathing in fresh air, soaking up vitamin D from the sun and creating memories.

Setting up the campsite and cooking meals will encourage family members to communicate and work with each other, resulting in stronger relationships and the boost in self-esteem that comes from conquering a new challenge.

Fitness benefits abound.  Depending on the campground, there may be hiking, fishing, canoeing or sailing—not to mention gathering firewood and searching for the long twigs needed to toast marshmallows for s’mores, the sweet treat that’s the culinary highlight of every child’s (and most adults’) camping experience.

As a bonus, studies reveal camping can help lower stress and depression, sharpen focus and elevate mood.

Tents or pop-up campers?
A tent is a portable temporary shelter that tethers to a post in the ground and carries a lower price tag than its sibling, the pop-up camper. A pop-up is a towed recreational vehicle that can be expanded into a sturdier shelter at the campsite and then collapsed for the drive home.  It requires a tow vehicle and hitch.

Novices who want to gauge their interest before shelling out some cash, or those whose finances are limited, may wish to consider starting with a tent or used pop-up camper.  That leaves open the option of trading up for better gear as interest and budget grow.

There are pros and cons to both options. Yes, tents are cheaper, lighter and can be checked with luggage if flying to a distant destination, but that also means they are less sturdy than pop-up campers.  Tents also lay close to the ground, so campers and their belongings may get soaked if a rainstorm ensues.  Because they are reasonably priced, some families prefer to buy (or rent) several tents so Mom and Dad can sleep in one tent and the kiddos can crash in separate tents.  This allows for a semblance of privacy that isn’t possible in the close quarters of a pop-up camper.

Most pop-up campers contain a fold-down table and seats, water tank, sink, cabinets and sleeper bunks.  Souped-up models may feature an awning, stove, refrigerator, electricity or surge brakes, heating and/or air conditioning.  Some families prefer pop-up campers because the design allows them to hook up a portable microwave for prepping food and provides relief from extreme weather conditions.  Others maintain camping should be more primitive, so they opt for tents.

Where to go?
Ohio is chock full of great campsites, many of which can be found on the site

Here are a few nearby parks worth checking out:

Lake Metroparks
Offers both cabin and tent campsite options.

Mosquito Lake State Park
With 2,483 acres of woodlands and marshes, this Cortland site features hiking, picnicking and camping.

Nelson Ledges Quarry Park
This Garrettsville destination hosts music and crafts festivals in addition to hiking, biking, camping, swimming, fishing and cliff diving.

Punderson State Park
Located in Newbury, Punderson’s 741 acres include a 150-acre lake, resort manor house, family cottages, golf course and campground.

West Branch State Park
Fishing, boating, swimming, camping, hiking and horseback riding abound in this Ravenna gem consisting of a 2,650-acre lake and 5,379 acres of meadows and woods.

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