You Want Me To Go Where? Camping With Teens

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May 11, 2010

We have been blessed with four beautiful children – a teenager, two preteens and a toddler.  And while they all have their moments at times, I have to admit, camping with older kids is by far the most challenging.

As a whole, they’re a pretty tough bunch to please.  Friends, sports and trips to the mall are all hard to compete with.  And all those hormones can make for some serious attitude problems.

camping with teenagers - no cell phones allowedBut have no fear.  It is possible to go on a family camping trip with your teenager — without making everyone involved miserable in the process.  It’s all a matter of striking the right balance between your child’s new-found desires and those of the rest of the family.

At least at this point, we’ve made it very clear to our kids that we are a camping family — plain and simple.  They will come with us and we will spend time together.  Staying home alone is not an option.  That said, we’ve been around the block a few times and understand fully that if our teen isn’t happy, then nobody’s happy.

So we find the best approach is one of compromise.  For example, my husband and I love to get away from it all.  We’d be happy to fill our days with hiking, biking and enjoying the wilderness.

Our kids also enjoyed this when they were younger, spending hours upon hours playing in the dirt, searching for bugs or climbing the nearest tree.  But that was then.

Now our older kids have other ideas of what constitutes “fun.”  These usually involve either something electronic, something they can do with their friends or something extremely expensive – usually available at the local shopping establishment.

This is where the compromise comes in.  My husband and I have come to the realization that sometimes we must sacrifice our beautiful campsite in the wilderness in order to avoid the makings of WWIII.  We’ve also found that a pool, a general store and a rec room goes a long way to ensuring familial harmony.camping with teenagers

Our kids’ compromise when it comes to our antiquated (at least that’s what they tell us) views of TV.  While we have a DVD in the car for road trips, we do not allow a TV in the trailer.  Other small electronics yes, but TV, no.  Instead we spend most nights by a campfire or playing board games or cards.

But for our youngest, gone are the days when the kids would play happily in the dirt beside us.  However, thanks to the modern conveniences found at so many campgrounds, my brood will keep busy in the water, get their shopping fix satisfied and be able to make some new friends along the way.

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  1. Teenagers camping? I think I have to wish harder that my kids will not to reach to the point that they prefer to go camping with their peers than us.

  2. L.Tannis

    Well the interesting thing is that my 16 yr old son requested to go camping with me again this summer, his mom. He didn’t say, “I want to take a friend”. The last time we went camping, my marriage was falling apart. My ex wasn’t going. My older son refused to go camping for the first time in his life (he was 16 then and said “there are no teens at a campground mom”), so my youngest who was 13 said, “so let’s go- just you and me.” We had never gone camping alone before. The other two in the family the practical ones, the tent makers, equipment/tool fixers.
    It was one of the most memorable 3 days of my life. We struggled with the tarp, since at that time we were both short. It took us a few tries to get the tent up, but we laughed like 5 year olds. And although we spent a day in a throng of families and kids for one day, my teenager wanted to get away for the next two, as I did. We spent an entire day in a beautiful, entirely secluded rocky shore eating smoked oysters from a can, with crackers, and fruit/nuts and telling stories and hanging out. It was the greatest, most unexpected thing.
    So, now another trip to plan. And I am as nervous as last time.My son, unlike your teen girls, does not need a general store, or a make-up mirror. But he probably wouldn’t mind an occasional spot close by (with girls on it!) and he is now unlike 3 years ago glued to a cellphone.
    And yet. My guess he is looking for another experience where we find/explore a beautiful, secluded natural area and secluded camping spot.
    Can anyone suggest something specific in the Lake Superior area, or Algonquin area?
    L. Tannis

  3. Unfortunately when our kids were young we did not do any camping. Our vacations were in hotels. My wife and I started camping about 7 years ago and have gotten two of our grown children somewhat involved with the camping scene. The grandchildren are the ones who are benefiting from our camping trips. They love to camp with us and now a couple of them are in their teens. The older ones still love to go camping but now want to take a friend. We make sure that they have things to do, such as pool, go carts, etc. as well as the typical outdoor things. I wish we had gotten into camping when our children were young.

  4. Jim Kennedy

    Been there! The kids are all grown and married,now the grand kids love to go with us in the MH. But now we have all the “goodies”

  5. Scott Eccker

    Thank you for your help. I also have teens 15, 14, 12 and 10, but love to camp.

  6. When I was a teenager, camping with my parents became partly about scoping out the boys. It was important to us that we could fix our hair and do our makeup, and we loved camping at places that had mirrors in the bathroom and a lodge to “hang out” in the evening hours.

  7. great post! i agree with Crazy Old Coot , i hope u a part two on this topic

  8. Yes, I forgot to mention that we DEFINITELY limit cell phone use, along with Nintendo and other technology. Glad you like the post. I’ll get working on a Part II right away.

  9. Crazy Old Coot

    When our daughter turned 13 things really began to change. She insisted on taking a friend with her on our family trips. While it was one extra bed to provide and yet another child to monitor, it actually made life much easier on the rest of us. Along with no TV in the camper, how about limited cell phone hours?
    Great article! One I was really glad to see addressed. I hope you do a Part 2 on the topic.