Family travel and especially camping are great ways for parents and children to build strong ties together.
Whether you are camping at the beach or in the mountains or somewhere in between, you should be aware of Leave No Trace principles.
Leave No Trace is an environmental movement that started in the Sixties and continued to grow through educational programs designed to teach people who love the outdoors how to have a minimum impact on the environment.
Leave No Trace has seven guidelines that you can incorporate into your daily activities as you travel and camp.
Know the characteristics and regulations of the area you plan to visit. If it's dry season, are open fires allowed?
Do you have an alternate cooking source like a Coleman propane grill or stove? Is there clean water available or do you need some type of water purification system?
When choosing activities for your family, make sure they are appropriate for all your children's abilities. For instance, if you are hiking, go only as fast as the slowest hiker.
If you are in a campground, there is sure to be an area that has been designated for RVs or tents.
Use only the space that is already packed down and use designated fire rings. Keep your equipment as close together as possible.
However, if you are backpacking, the opposite is true--spread out. Avoid creating trails within the campsite. When you leave, restore the site to its former appearance.
Anyone coming after you should have no idea that there was a campsite there.
Just remember that what you carry in, you will have to carry out. This is especially true if you are backpacking, but it applies to your site in a campground also.
Don't dispose of kitchen waste by tossing it in the woods. It will draw animals that you would rather not meet, and it looks nasty too. Be sure to pick up candy wrappers, plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
If you are in a campground you will have restrooms at your disposal. If you are in the backcountry, you must dig a cat hole to dispose of human waste.
It must be at least 200 feet from any water source and 6 to 8 inches deep. Cover it over when you are finished, just like a cat would.
Don't even think of bringing back "souvenirs".
If you have a digital camera, take of plenty of pictures of whatever you think is significant, but leave the artifacts, rocks, flowers and plants behind for others to enjoy.
When you get back home, you can make a scrapbook or photo album with your pictures and have a lasting memory of your trip.
If at all possible, use camping stoves for cooking. If you must build a fire, use a fire ring if it is already there.
If there is none, an alternative is a mound fire. Build a mound of soil, sand or gravel three to five inches thick.
Make it slightly larger than the circumference of your fire. When you dismantle the mound, be sure to sweep ground litter over the spot, so there is no evidence that a fire was there.
Do not interfere with any wildlife that you see. Watch from a distance, with a good pair of binoculars.
You can't beat Nikon optics and the best binoculars I've found are the Nikon Monarch binoculars.
If you are quiet, your chances of seeing wildlife are much greater. Be especially careful to keep your distance in the Spring when mamas and their babies are around.
Here's where the Golden Rule comes into play. A campground or backcountry campsite is no place for loud play or for radios, cds or MP3 players, unless you use earphones.
People go camping to experience peace and quiet in the great outdoors.
Leave No Trace principles are really just common sense. You can use these guidelines to teach your children responsibility for their actions.
By protecting the environment, you are leaving no trace that you were ever there and allowing others to enjoy nature that same way that you did.
Author Bio: Stephanie Trementozzi is the publisher of www.always-outdoors.com which contains articles on camping activities as well as product reviews on camping equipment such as the Coleman Weathermaster big tent for family camping.
She lives in Culpeper, VA, just 35 minutes from the Shenandoah National Park where she enjoys hiking and nature photography.