Family camping is not impossible…but it does look more like ‘glamping’
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Family camping is not impossible…but it does look more like ‘glamping’

In my ebook ‘Choosing Joy,’ I talk about self-limiting beliefs – the long list of things I starting telling myself would be impossible after we learned about all of Julia’s medical, developmental and physical challenges. Camping was one of those activities I thought we would never be able to do as a family. Some families might not be disappointed to miss out on camping. But, I’m married to an Eagle Scout, and we have two sons who are Boy Scouts, so camping is a thing for us.

Luckily, we’ve discovered a way to make family camping a possibility. A few years ago, we learned that our state has handicap-accessible cabins in several state parks. Those cabins can be rented quite affordably by anyone who has a family member with disabilities, and priority is given to those who would not be able to camp without accessible accommodations.

So, both last summer and this summer, our family camped. We cooked dinner over the campfire, hiked wooded trails, biked on paved paths and enjoyed the great outdoors. Our comfortable, accessible accommodations, such as air-conditioning, a large bathroom, an adjustable hospital bed, and a full kitchen, were the things that made camping with Julia possible. And, I have to admit, I definitely enjoy this more glamorous camping or ‘glamping’ better than sleeping in a tent.

Camping with our whole gang isn’t simple, but we’ve developed some strategies that make it work for us:

1 – Understand what accommodations are available and how to reserve them.
The State of Wisconsin has one handicap-accessible cabin in eight different state parks, and they are in hot demand. Reservations open for the upcoming year in early January, and there is a very specific process for booking the cabins. The first year we learned about the cabins, they were already booked solid for that year. So, we marked our calendar, and the next year we were ready to submit our request on the day the reservations opened. For the last two summers, we’ve successfully booked cabins for dates on our wish list.

2 – Willingness to make plans months in advance.
Planning events, outings and vacations in advance can be challenging for our family. We never know if Julia will be healthy and stable. However, if we want to take advantage of the affordable, accessible cabin accommodations, we have to take a bit of a risk and make reservations months in the future. That leap of faith often works out for us, but not always. Earlier this summer, we had to cancel our weekend camping trip because Julia was recovering from an awful respiratory virus. That was disappointing for all of us. Luckily, we had planned for two camping trips this summer, and we were able to enjoy the second trip.

3 -Organization, organization, organization and lots of packing
When we do a getaway with Julia, we need to bring A LOT of supplies and equipment. In fact, we’ve invested in a trailer so that we have enough space to haul it all. We use plastic totes to organize and pack everything we need to adapt the environment to Julia’s needs. Meds, pulse ox, feeding pump, Vest, nebulizer, bike trailer, pureed food, wheelchair and much more – it all gets packed and loaded. While it takes patience and organization to make sure everything we need is packed, it’s worth the effort to bring what we need so that we can stick to Julia’s regular routine as much as possible.

I hope these strategies spur some ideas that help make it a little easier for your family to do a camping getaway. But, this blog post is more than a how-to about camping with a child who has disabilities. It’s also about looking at things that might seem impossible and finding a way to make them possible, especially if they are a priority for you. What kind of self-limiting beliefs are you holding onto, and could there be opportunities to overcome them? I’d love to hear about the creative thinking you’re using to make your dreams a reality. Please share what obstacles you’re knocking over to get to your different kind of special.

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