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Taking the Kids: Heading outdoors any way you want this summer

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Is it safe? After being cooped up with their kids for more than two months, families are desperate to get out of the house.

“I don’t know how much longer the kids can take it,” said Pearl Martinez, a Denver mom of four.

Parents either.

But is it safe to head out of town? “It is a really difficult position we are in. I am concerned we will see an increase in cases, but I recognize we can’t stay locked up forever,” said Dr. David Kimberlin, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease. He is also a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics on infectious disease. (In addition to the Academy of Pediatrics’ main COVID-19 page, offers a collection of articles in response to the pandemic in both English and Spanish.)

“I think what we all have to do — and for a long time, months if not years, is to protecting ourselves and protect others by maintaining social distancing, not gathering in large crowds, wearing masks in public, washing your hands frequently. By doing that, those who have COVID and are asymptomatic are much less likely to spread it and at the same time, we can protect ourselves.”

Families, it seems, think camping can be the antidote they seek — and a way to get out of town safely, according to a new COVID-19 edition of the North American Camping Report, sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.


Nearly double the number of travelers surveyed the end of April — 60 percent — now report they believe it is more important than ever for kids to get outdoors. And two-thirds of those who plan to take kids camping for the first time report they are motivated by their newfound conviction that kids need to spend time outdoors.

“Intuitively, it makes sense that people are going to gravitate toward outdoor activities after having been under stay-at-home orders for so long,” said Toby O’Rourke, KOA president and CEO, who adds that her two kids are clamoring for a camping trip.

Nearly a third of those surveyed say they are most looking forward to spending time outdoors with their family — as compared to just 4 percent who want to travel somewhere new. Interest in camping has grown steadily for the past decade, adding millions of new camping households each year, but this year especially, families want a safe, affordable vacation that is close to home. Another plus, they can bring their pooch with them.

Nearly half of those surveyed — campers and non-campers — report camping is the safest type of trip to take right now — as compared to a resort vacation (15 percent) or even a rental home (14 percent). Only 10 percent report they think it is safe to fly. A third of leisure travelers who have not camped before say that they are now interested in camping. And should schools remain closed and remote work a continuing option, families see the potential to extend their camping experience beyond the summer. That doesn’t mean everyone wants to pitch a tent or hoist a heavy backpack into the wilderness. Those with generous budgets may opt for deluxe glamping resorts like Paws Up in Montana on a working cattle ranch with safari-style tents, Moose Meadow Lodge in Waterbury, Vermont, with the option to stay in a treehouse or LEED-certified Fireside Lodge in the Teton wilderness near Jackson, Wyoming.


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