Hello all! And yes I know it’s been forrreeeevvvvverrrrrr but that’s another post so, for now, let’s get to this one.
I was really excited to write this post the other day because it’s literally been in my mind for like the last two years, but I just didn’t feel like I had the whole camping trip thing down yet. But after 5 years of camping at least once per sumer, 4 whole camping trips last summer, and already one on the books for spring- that’s with anywhere from 4-9 kids each time, um thank you very much- I definitely feel like I have a few words of wisdom to pass on ;).
Ok so you may be wondering, “Wait i thought you only had 4, no 5 kids? Why did you take so many kids camping?” So, no I’m not a youth counselor or anything like that, it’s just that I have 4 kids plus my stepson which makes 5…and they all have cousins, friends, girlfriends etc. So sometimes they get to invite people. Though I will say that I’ve learned to really value camping with just the kids, my husband, and I.
Anyways, if you haven’t been camping before, you may be wondering if going is worth the trouble. Let’s talk about it.
I read several other posts on camping before writing this and one thing that stood out to me is the focus on what kids learn. Like survival skills. Well, that’s great if you’re into that sort of stuff. As for me, when I go camping with my kids, they are JUST NOT HAVING IT. It’s supposed to be a VACATION, so if teaching your kids about all the edible plants, or how to tie knots makes you (AND THEM) feel rejuvenated, I say go for it! But if not, that’s OK!!
What I love about camping is that it really helps my body reset. All the skin to dirt contact is crucial for balancing us out. The kids get soo tired and sleep great when we get back.
Secondly, we have a ton of one on one time. We have important, interesting, and just plain silly conversations. We play games, tell scary stories, and the kids imaginations run wild. Not to mention all the exploring and outdoor activities we do, like swimming and hiking.
I truly think every family should go camping at least a few times while the kids are young. Ideally at least once every year. Even if it’s just a day trip! You don’t need a whole week or weekend, and you usually don’t even have to go very far.
For us camping is about family time, disconnecting from the routine, seeing the world from a different perspective, and just being in nature.
BUT… here’s the catch- camping with kids is not easy. It can be exhausting. And if not well planned, leave you feeling, well… drained. And we don’t want that! That’s why…
Today, I’m going to share some of my absolute MUST DO’S for camping with kids!
I promise these tips will make your life soo much easier, so you can enjoy all the magic and special memories that camping is made of. So here goes!
My Top Tips For Family Camping Trips:
PLANNING AND PREPARING
- The first rule of camping is that it begins well before you leave. If you even think about going on a camping trip, start preparing. This way you don’t have to do it all at once. I’d start with writing a list of things you need. And that all depends on what kind of camping you’ll be doing. Mountains? River side? Campground with all the extras? Your job is to decide what’s really needed like-sleeping bags and toothbrushes- then decide what extras you can take that will make the trip enjoyable- goggles and floats for swimming?
- Plan your menu. SOOOO much food has gone to waste because I didn’t plan a menu. You don’t have to be strict with the menu, it’s more of a guideline. When you go camping, you may be famished one day and not feel like eating the next. So you should plan for a few light meals and few hearty meals. A light meal might include fruit and sandwiches, while a hearty meal might include carne asada tacos with roasted corn and beans. Don’t discount pre-prepared food, like canned stuff, this keeps things easy for days that are hot or extra tiring. BONUS TIP: Kids tend to eat a lot of snacks while camping so plan on bringing lots of fruit and water to combat constipation.
- Clean your house. Camping can be rejuvenating but it’s also exhausting, especially with kids to care for. Take my word for it, you DO NOT want to come home to a messy house. Plan to be preparing the house for your return for at least a few days before you leave. You want to make sure you have clean towels, and work and school clothes ready to go for the week or at least the next day. Take out all the garbages so you don’t come home to flies or rodents. Have the dishes washed. Be extra and have everyone fix their beds and lay out their comfiest clothes ready to change into when you get home.
- Have a pre-prepared meal in the freezer for when you get back or plan to order take out. No one wants to come home and cook after camping.
- Have each person pack their own bag, with instruction from you of course. I do NOT have the kids share bags because it’s always more of a mess when two people have to dig stuff out of the same bag. Each person is allowed ONE BACKPACK. It’s easy to carry and easy to pack into the car. To make sure they have everything they need, give them a list and check in with them before you leave. For the smaller ones, obviously you may have to check their bags or pack it yourself. DO NOT FORGET TO COUNT THE BAGS AFTER YOU PACK THEM INTO THE CAR. People have left their backpack on the front steps one too many times, forcing an unplanned and unbudgeted trip to nearest Walmart from our campsite.
- Have a designated bag for dirty laundry, and a clothes line to hang wet clothes. If something is wet and dirty, hang it to dry first so your clothes don’t get moldy. Don’t bring white clothes unless you must for a family photo or something, this way all the clothes can go in one bag and you can just throw them in the washer when you get home.
- ALWAYS bring one outfit for cold weather. We’ve been camping as a family for several years at this point and I cannot tell you how many times we’ve gone somewhere that we KNEW would be hot and it happened to have freezing nights, or a random storm. You don’t need to bring a snow suit, but have everyone bring one pair of long pants, and a sweater or light jacket, possibly even a beanie for the babies.
- Bring Boredom Busters. Yes, the children will have an amazing time in nature, they always do-without fail. But as we all do, they get tired and want to just laze around after a long day. And they will get whiny waiting on you to figure out the grill or campfire meal. So you will want to pack a bag of boredom busters. My favorites are- activity books (mad libs is always a hit), balls of all kinds, sand toys even if there’s no sand the kids always come up with something, dolls, water guns (have a large bowl or bucket of water so they can fill up themselves), frisbee, and blocks. It’s important to have group games as well as one person activities for the introverts like me.
- If you are going with a group, Include toys that can be shared with or even given to other children. I once went camping with other families and there was another child the same age as one of my children. I hadn’t thought to bring extra toys and I listened to my child and the other whine and fight the ENTIRE CAMPING TRIP because they wanted to play together but my child did not want to share and the other child didn’t have any toys. I told my child she must share and she cried because the other child refused to give back the toys when my child wanted them back. This was not anyone’s fault, but just make the extra effort and bring a few extra toys. Have your child pick which ones are for keeping and which are for sharing. You can get two or three cheap toys at the dollar store for these types of situations.
- Organize food well. Keep raw meat in a separate cooler if possible. Pack dry goods with freezer packs instead of ice. Everything else can go in a large cooler with ice. Make sure to dump out the water and change the ice often or your risk spoiling the food. I would pack the dry goods in a cooler bag, and the meat in a small cooler.
- Medications. On top of your regular medications, bring something for headaches, cold medicine, and allergy medicine for both kids and adults. Even if you don’t have allergies, being in a new place with different plants and trees might expose allergies you never knew you had. It would also be a good idea to bring bug spray, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, anti-itch cream, and upset stomach medication. Don’t let this list scare you, while I bring all of this with me, I usually only use one or two medications. One kid might get an upset stomach, and one might get aggravated by mosquito bites, it’s just nice to have something to help them feel better. Be sure to keep everything locked somewhere safe like the trunk of your car so it doesn’t get eaten by the dog or one of the kids mistake it for candy.
PREPARE YOUR CAR
Get your car checked to make sure it’s trip ready. Some auto businesses do this for free. They check the oil, breaks, tires, etc. Be sure to check the heater and air conditioner. We once went on a trip and had to pass through a very hot area with very few homes or businesses. Our air conditioner wasn’t working and I nearly had a heat stroke. We ended up stopping at a rest area and soaked ourselves with water from a hose. But it was a couple hours before the heat let up. It was miserable. Another time about half way to our destination our car heated up and started smoking. Luckily we were able to get it to cool off and were able to make our trip, but imagine if we hadn’t. So DO NOT skip this step. Being stranded with kids is no fun at all, it’s dangerous.
WHAT TO BRING. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is enough to feel like you can camp comfortably.
Tent and sleeping bags. Many people like to bring inflatable mattresses, but if you don’t, at least bring something to keep you off the ground, as it can be, not only uncomfortable, but also cold. Extra blankets, or kids mats will do.
Towels, clothing, and toiletries
Sun protection such as spf, sun hats and sun glasses
A place to put the baby down to nap and play, and baby carrier that is cool enough for hot weather. Some people like to bring a light stroller but it depends on what you’ll be doing.
Picnic blanket, outdoor chairs, and a table if one is not available at the campsite.
Cooking/Eating equipment and utensils. It’s usually safest to bring a propane grill during the hot months because there are often fire bans.
Swimsuits and flip flops or water shoes. Life jackets if applicable.
Electronics. Phone chargers, lantern/flashlight, batteries
Cleaning supplies like sponges, dish soap, large bowl for washing, broom and dustpan for sweeping dirt out of the tent, garbage bags.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO…
What is the expected weather?
Will my campsite have access to water, electricity, bathrooms (outhouse or flushing toilets?), showers, and picnic tables?
If my campsite has water is it clean enough to drink or do I need to bring my own drinking water?
Is there a fire ban? If there is you will not be able to have a campfire or use charcoal to cook on a grill. Use a propane grill instead.
How far is the nearest store and what does it carry? (It may be difficult to find baby and mentrual necessities in small stores)
Ok guys so there you have it! These tips have made camping so much easier on me and I hope they help you out too! I am wishing you tons of fun this summer with your loved ones. Cherish your time together, and I will talk to you soon!
With much love and encouragement,
LC Venegas xoxo