I can’t tell you how many people question our sanity when I tell them that all three of our children started camping in the first 3 months of their lives; our youngest went on her first trip at just 3 weeks old!
For us, camping is an absolute getaway. We work all winter to camp all summer! But over the 15 years of avid camping (13 of which have been with babies and children), we have learned a lot about what makes camping enjoyable for the family as a whole.
Listed below are 8 tips to take with you on your next camping trip.
Make sure you have your own space; for us this means as many trees/coverage as possible… Provincial parks (for those of you in Canada) are a great place to start. Make sure you know a little bit about the park, and especially the sites within the park. Don’t get caught up in privately owned parks (not all private parks are bad- but many are) that leave you and hundreds of fellow campers in a field with no trees and no individual boundaries. Not only will this potentially leave you camping with a pile of drunken teenagers, but you will also never get a chance to sit down and relax while your children play on your own site.
2) Give yourself lots of time.
This is something that took us way too many years to figure out. It’s so easy to get overexcited and want to start your camping adventure as soon as possible- but if leaving today means you won’t arrive until it’s dark, wait until the morning! The best camping trips start out on a great note- and arriving in the darkness, and trying to set up site while your children cry and you can’t see what’s going on or where anything is, is certainly not the best start. Not to mention that blowing up air mattresses, or yelling while you try to guide your husband and the trailer into the site at midnight, is not appreciated by camping neighbours who have arrived before you.
3) Meal Plan
Make it fun, but keep it simple!
You don’t need to decide exactly what you are eating on each day, but instead, count how many dinners, lunches and breakfasts you will have on the trip. Determine what you will have for each meal, and don’t over shop (especially if you are tent camping!) – Once you are on site you can decide which days you are eating which meals- for us this often depends on weather; i.e. if it’s a cold or wet morning we will make a big breakfast, but if it’s sunny and beautiful we will eat quick in the morning and hit the beach!
We also plan 75% of our lunch meals to be eaten on the go (for us that usually means on the beach) – we don’t want to have to stop all the fun in the middle of the day to return to site and cook.
Don’t forget your favourite snacks, lots of water, and your favourite cocktail ingredients!
TIP: even with perfectly planned out meals we always end up with random leftovers. Because of this I do not plan a meal for one lunch – it’s leftover lunch!
4)Don’t rough it too much.
We started our camping journeys with a very small tent, an air mattress, and a baby bassinet. Over the years we have stepped up our camping game quite significantly, upgrading to a huge tent, then a pop up camper, and now a travel trailer/RV. We have also grown from one teenage couple into a 30-something husband and wife with three children. We have definitely learned that the easier we can make it, the more relaxing and enjoyable it is for us… but that doesn’t change the fact that our first 10+ years of tent camping were AMAZING. Just make sure you have basic essentials, a comfortable place to sleep, a decent place to shower, and a drive-up campsite!
5) Don’t look at the Clock.
Put away the rigid scheduling. Being outdoors all day long is so good for you and the kids; generally speaking the kids will fall into a pretty great schedule due to being exhausted from being active and in the fresh air all day long… But don’t stress yourself out about bed or nap times. Let the little ones nap in the stroller on the a bike or the beach, let the bigger tots skip a nap if it’s going to stop them from having fun… Let them go to bed earlier than usual, or stay up late roasting marshmallows. Camping is ALL ABOUT going with the flow!
6) Be prepared for all Weather
Regardless of the forecast, be ready for whatever Mother Nature may throw your way. Have rainsuits, extra tarps, warm hats, and of course the obvious sunglasses, sunscreen, BUG SPRAY etc. Don’t let a rainy day spoil your fun. If you show the kids how much fun it is to play in the rain, they will learn to love it… but don’t be scared to use a rainy day to explore the closest town, or get lunch at a local restaurant.
Also make sure you are prepared to keep your bed and clothing DRY! Make sure your tent is waterproof, your trailer has no leaks, bring extra tarps, and if rain is expected, setup for it before it comes.
*tip: The year we finally got a waterproof dining shelter was a game changer. It is more than worth the investment. (Trailers- awnings are key!)
7)Pack & Plan activities.
As your children grow, and get used to the camping life, keeping busy and having fun in the wilderness will come naturally to them… but to start, make sure you have fun stuff to help them fall in love with camping, and help them keep busy so that you can kick back and relax. At the start of every camp season we make a dollar store trip. We don’t skimp- we buy lots of random outdoor toys like bug catchers and water toys, and I always create what we have come to call “The Rainy Day Box” – filled with crayons, colouring and reading books and small toys- the kids are so excited for this box that rainy days turn into a good thing!
We also make sure to have glue on hand for nature crafts, a scavenger hunt prepared ahead of time, and lots of fun stuff for night; glow sticks, sparklers, lanterns etc.
8) Set Up Your Site.
Have fun, and get specific when setting up your campsite. Have different areas; i.e. cooking, washing, eating, playing etc. Make sure to have a clothesline for wet towels and clothes, and Decorate your site with lanterns, a flag, table clothes, and beautiful items your children have collected in the forest (we always have lovely children- made centre pieces on our picnic tables!).
Being well organized, and having items you need consistently readily available will make day-to-day much easier for everyone!
Don’t forget that food related items will have to be cleaned, and stored in your vehicle, trailer or high in a tree while you are not on site, or sleeping. Nothing is worse than critters (or bears!) finding your site!
*tip: if it’s in the budget to have a second smaller tent for storage, do it! Makes all the difference!
Camping is truly the best activity for people of all ages. Our children range from 12 years to 1 year old, and so far camping is truly the one activity we have discovered that is perfect for everyone.
If you are considering your first camp trip- don’t be scared! Start with these tips, and feel free to send me any more questions! I love spreading our passion for camping!!