There’s one more month left of summer vacation, and families everywhere are looking for a frugal way to get away for a weekend. Camping is the perfect solution! Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you didn’t grow up in a camping family.

When I first got married, I didn’t know anything about camping. I had gone twice with my neighbor’s family when I was about 8 years old. Needless to say, at the time I wasn’t thinking about taking notes, so I’d be able to camp proficiently in my adult years.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned a bit about camping, and it’s something my whole family enjoys. So if you’re a novice camper, there’s hope for you! Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Camp with Another Family

I learned a lot about camping by camping with others. Fortunately every church we’ve attended has run some sort of family camp, and that’s where I learned how to camp.

If you camp with experienced friends, you’ll find that they’re more than happy to show you the ropes.

2. Try a Yurt Your First Time Out

If you’d like to give tent camping a try, but you’re worried it might be a bit much, try a yurt. Here in Oregon, you can rent a yurt for $29 a night. They’re basically big tents with wood floors, furnished with a couple of beds.

You still cook outside on a barbeque or campfire, but you don’t have to worry about setting up the tent and blowing up the air mattresses, and then finding and patching the holes in the air mattresses. Not that I would know anything about that…

3. Plan Easy Meals

Your first time camping, don’t try to be a campfire gourmet. I still remember the time my husband and I went camping on our first anniversary. I had a great meal of steak and baked potatoes planned. The steak was charred and the baked potatoes weren’t baked.

No, it’s better to take foods you can heat and eat. Cereal and muffins are good for breakfast. Sandwiches are great for lunch. And stews that you can just heat up are great for dinner. Consider making some of the food ahead of time and just packing it in your cooler. That makes for quick and easy food preparation.

4. Use Paper Plates

Normally I’m not a huge fan of paper plates, but one of the hardest things for me to learn about camping was how to effectively do the dishes. It’s harder than it would seem.

If you use paper plates, you don’t have to worry too much about dishes. You can become an expert at other camp-related things, like keeping the floor of the tent clean, before you tackle subjects such as dishes.

5. Bring a Big Pot, if You Attempt to Wash Dishes

Seriously. You’re going to need something to heat up the water you’ll need to was the dishes. I use my big canner. I fill it up at the water fountain and stick it on the campfire while I’m fixing the meal. When it’s hot, I dump it into a dishwashing tub with some detergent.

Then I fill the canner again and heat more water, while we eat. This water goes into another dish tub for rinsing.

6. Fireplace Logs are Great

I’m going to admit something. Even though I’ve been camping for over 10 years now, I still can’t build a campfire to save my life. A couple of years ago, a friend gave me some great advice. She told me to buy those 3 hour fireplace logs. You light the paper, and the log burns for three hours. It doesn’t get easier than that. It’s also easier to haul a few fireplace logs than it is to haul tons of firewood, which helps if packing space is an issue.

7. Don’t Rough It

There are plenty of campgrounds that offer flushing toilets and hot showers. Some even offer firewood for sale, so you don’t have to chop your own. If this is your first time camping, I highly recommend you look for such a campground. There will be plenty of time to rough it. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself the first time out.

Do you have any tips for beginning campers?