Guest Post By Allyson
Before I tell you the ins and outs of how to successfully camp with kiddos, let me first give you a little intro on me! I have been camping my entire life. My Mom always said, “A family that camps together stays together.” We took a small RV camper on a 3 week trip out West when I was 13-years-old and it is the most memorable vacation of my childhood. It didn’t come with fancy rides or expensive things, but lots of uninterrupted (albeit forced!) quality time with my family. We grew closer as a family that summer and still quote things from that trip now, 20 years later.
When I got married, we went tent camping. In fact, for our first anniversary, my husband surprised me with a camping trip to see the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont! See more on that here. It’s a must see!
When my little guy was born 7 years ago, we knew we wanted to take him camping as soon as we could! And that’s exactly what we did.
I’ve learned lots along the way and would love to share tips with you to hopefully make your camping trip a success!
My top 12 Tips for Camping with Kids
- Unplug: One of my favorite places to camp is primitive camping in the Smoky Mountains because you are FORCED to unplug whether you want to or not! No internet or cell service, no hookups for electricity (except for certain handicapped campsites), i.e., no distractions!! In order to make the most of your camping trip, put the distractions away. Make a point to keep your phones (even if you have service!) in your car or camper and be present. But…sometimes a distraction is necessary while the adults set up the necessities that the kiddos aren’t quite big enough to help with yet! My husband and I divide and conquer on every camping trip until things are set up enough to keep them contained. Although I do want to make our camping trip “unplugged,” I do use portable DVD players or iPads for small amounts of time until I know the kids can be safely contained in the camper/tent or until I can give them my full attention. I think it is important for our children to understand what it means to “unplug” as well!
- Go NOW!: If you think, “I’ll go when my kids are older,” you’ll never go! We have taken all three of our children camping by the time they were 6 months old. If you have little ones that tend to wake up at night (like I do!), just make sure you have a toy or portable DVD player that could help them get back to sleep without waking your neighbors (or the rest of your family!) up.
- Pick Your Destination: There are so many types of campgrounds to choose from: KOA, State Parks, National Parks, those with hookups, primitive sites, etc. My advice is to try them out and take notes for the future. We have had great experiences and not-so-great experiences. We have gone to a campground we want to revisit and written down the site number of a perfect campsite for future camping trips. There is no right or wrong destination! A good place to start would be a State Park because the majority have electricity and bathroom facilities with showers. (Let’s face it—camping is more enjoyable when you’re clean at the end of the day!)
- Contain Your Kids: In order for me to be able to enjoy myself, I have to know my kiddos are safe. To make mealtimes easy, I have always packed a travel highchair so my little ones don’t go exploring—and so I can actually enjoy a meal! We have camped in a tent, pop-up, RV, and 5th wheel with kids. In each one, I have used a Pack n Play for my little ones until they were at least 2-years-old to contain them at night!
- Get The Kids Involved: If they are old enough, let the kids help with setting up/taking down. Camping is A LOT of work! And camping is no different than home when it comes to getting them involved. My kids always feel more important and included when we give them small tasks, from gathering firewood to helping cook dinner.
- Divide and Conquer: Although not a necessity to enjoy your trip, but an incredible bonus, is extra sets of hands!! Both sets of our parents are campers! Most camping trips we plan with them so our children can spend time with their grandparents AND it makes for a more enjoyable and less chaotic experience for us. Camping is definitely doable by yourself as a family! But we all know an extra set of hands is mighty helpful!
Tomorrow I will post the 2nd half of Allyson’s tips.
Who else is inspired to go camping?