Disclaimer: this is an opinion based on many years of camping both as a Boy Scout, Cub Master, Assistant Scout Master, and as a dad.
So you read about the types of camping, and you decided on tent camping. This is probably where most people start camping. Now, you have decided that you want to take your family camping so now what? First, you need to make a plan. Decide where you want to go, what gear do you need, what you want to do while you are there, and what you want to eat?
Where to go?
For tent camping, state and federal parks are great places to start. The campsites are usually have some privacy from the neighbors, have a tent pad or a fairly level site to place your tent, and you can drive up to the site. They also usually have a bathhouse, drinking water, and possibly electricity. Privately owned campground are also like this, but some of them like to see how many sites they can squeeze on to their property. This could mean you will be put between two monster RV's and listen to their AC's running all night. Where ever you go, be sure to come back to site and add your review and pictures to share with other readers.
What gear is needed?
The bare necessities are a tent, ground cloth, sleeping pad or mattress, sleeping bag or blankets, something to cook on and eat with, light to see at night, and food.
When choosing a tent I like to find a tent large enough to hold everybody camping with me but yet simple to setup. For camping with the Cub Scouts, I had a small 4 person tent that was a good size for my son and I. It had 2 poles that are held on by clips and two smaller poles in the rain fly. We could set this tent up in about a ¼ of time it took the people with the large tents. The rule of thumb when selecting a tent is to get one that is listed for more people than you are going. If you have a family of four look for a 6 to 8 person tent. This will allow you to spread out and not be sleeping on top of each other. My four person tent has room for two air mattress and our back packs between us. A feature I also like is a vestibule. This is a covered area outside the tent where you can keep shoes dry and not track in dirt into the tent. I am a very hot natured person so I also like a tent that has a lot of mesh either on the top or the sides of the tent. This helps to cool off the tent and also help to reduce condensation on the inside of the tent.
Whatever tent you decide on be sure to practice setting it up and taking it down before you actually go camping. Yes with practice the tent will go back into the bag that comes with it. When rolling it up go slow and be sure to get all of the air out. The easiest way is to kneel on the tent and then roll the tent to you.
Ground Cloth or foot print
This is one of the most important items to take with you. This sheet acts as a barrier to keep moisture from the ground seeping into your tent. There are several kinds of these. You can get your blue tarp, you can footprint made for tent, or a painter drop cloth and cut to size. The blue tarp is large, heavy, and usually overkill. The foot print made especially for the tents are nice and convenient but are usually overpriced. My preferred method is to buy the thickest painter drop cloth and cut it to size. For my backpacking tents I got 2 mil drop cloth and cut it to size for two tents. Cost $3.
If you don’t have a good night sleep you are going to miserable. As a boy scout I always used a foam pad and a sleeping bag. When my son starting camping we started using two air mattresses. The air mattresses are good but I never slept very well on them. In the winter cold air will come through the air and make you colder. I have only used cots at summer camp and they do work well. My choice is either a foam pad or a thermarest type self inflating type pad these are much more expensive. For covers you can bring either sleeping bags or sheets and blankets. Whatever you do don’t leave home without your pillow!
There is a lot more than you can eat while camping beside marsh mellows and hot dogs on sticks. Don’t get me wrong it is fun to cook hotdogs and marsh mellows but they do get old after a while. Whatever you eat at home you can eat at camp unless you just eat microwave dinners. For cooking I have a grill, a Coleman stove, and a Dutch oven. A lot of campground have a grill there you can use but I have a nice portable one that uses gas and it easier than charcoal. This is just my preference. Dutch ovens are great. You can just drop them in coals from the fire and use like a pan on your stove. You can put coals on top and bottom and use like your home oven. With the Coleman stove you can also use that like your home cook top or use it with a percolator to make coffee.