If your family loves camping, but you can't afford the gas money and campground fees to go as often as you'd like? Why not do some backyard camping -- free, no transportation required, and potentially just as fun as if you left town? You will, of course, need to have a decent-sized backyard in order to do this, but other than that, so long as you have the proper equipment, this family activity can be done at any time.
Set up a tent. Hopefully you have a tent that can fit your entire family, but if not, a few pup tents will do as well. Don't set them up over a muddy area; choose the spot where you pitch the tent as carefully as if you were out in the wilderness. If you think it might rain, take all the precautions to protect your tent from rain -- a tarp over the roof, or a rainproof cover for any vents that would let in water. And don't neglect putting a tarp underneath, for extra padding and also to keep the bottom of your tent clean and dry.
Have a fire in a pit -- if possible. If you can create your own fire pit safely somewhere in your backyard -- or use one of the metal roasting pits -- you can have a roaring fire over which you can make authentic campout food! Hot dogs make a great easy meal, or you can be more adventurous and bring out a fire-safe pot to cook some pasta, soup, or another kind of food you would eat on a typical camping trip.
Tell ghost stories and roast marshmallows, or participate in any other camping activities you normally do. Act as if you aren't anywhere near your house, and are out in the woods somewhere. Maybe you normally stargaze, or perhaps a family member has an arsenal of terrifying tales that are always good for a scare. When it's time to sleep, get inside your sleeping bags and let the sounds of your environment carry you to sleep.
If it gets genuinely too cold, go inside! The nice thing about backyard camping is that if you absolutely must, you have somewhere to go that's safer and warmer than your tent. It takes away some of the fun challenge of real camping, but at least your youngsters won't wake in the night freezing!
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