Extended Camping With Kids- Part 2

If you missed part 1 of Allyson’s guest post about Extended Camping With Kids, be sure to go back and read it- here.

5. Use Your Drive Time as Plan Time: We had a general idea of what to do in each of our 10 stops, but it was impossible to research everything before we left with 3 kids and a full-time job! My brain could only hold so much! So every time we left one campground, I would see what to do at our next stop. Most drives were 3-4 hours a day between our stops so it was the perfect amount of time to research—and then take a nap.

I also used this time for me and my big kids to journal. Without movies to watch in the car, their options were books or writing in their journal to document our trip. And they LOVED documenting their favorite parts of each stop! My favorite journals for kids are from Lakeshore.

6. Ask the Locals: Every campground we stopped at, we asked the ranger, campstore worker, or fellow campers what they would recommend we do while there. Google is helpful if you don’t have someone to ask, but locals can tell you the best. places to eat or sites to see and the best way to get there. We used a lot of mass transit (trolleys, shuttles, buses, metro, subways) and when locals found out we were visiting from so far away, they happily told us some insider tips on things to do and places to go!

7. Food Prep: When planning to do extended camping with kids – one month is a LONG time to prepare food for! Before we left, I stocked the camper cabinets with dry goods to last most of the trip. We had two large coolers that we kept in the truck (which we had to buy ice for about every other day). We bought enough perishable food to last 2 weeks and knew we could restock as needed. We knew of a few places we were traveling would be literally in the middle of nowhere! No grocery stores around to stock up (like The Adirondacks or Acadia National Park). So we planned to stop at a grocery store or Wal-Mart convenient to our drive and restock for a week before we got to those locations. We cooked most meals at the camper and limited eating out except to experience local cuisine (like lobster in Maine!) or if we were getting to a campground too late to cook and we ate on the road. The first half of our trip, we cooked almost every meal! And to save money at lunch, I had a small cooler packed with sandwiches to fix at a Rest Area instead of spending $20+ on lunch every day we traveled. AND the kids got to stretch their legs and play instead of sit in a fast food restaurant after sitting so long in the car. Win win!

Our youngest has severe food allergies and cannot eat just anything. We are so brand specific with him that I made sure for his food specifically to buy enough to last our entire trip, not knowing if there would be a Kroger or Whole Foods along the way. (Thankfully there was toward the end when we started running out of things for him!)

8. Laundry: Sadly, this is a part of life on any extended trip! We packed clothes for 2 weeks so we would potentially spend one day at a laundromat half-way through our trip. We actually never had to visit a laundromat! We booked a KOA the 2nd week of our trip knowing that they would have laundry available. So even though we still had clothes leftover, I did ALL laundry, including our sheets and blankets because it was convenient and we didn’t have to leave the campground. My kiddos swam in the pool and played while I did laundry! Win win! KOA’s are the most expensive campgrounds you can reserve (for a good reason! They are so nice!), so this was our only KOA of our trip. There were several other campgrounds that had a laundry room connected to a bath house that we were not expecting! So I did any laundry I had any chance I got if it was available and convenient.
*Make sure you bring rolls of quarters and detergent for this purpose. Most places were $1.25-$1.75 per cycle (washer & dryer separate $$).

9. Hotel Haven: If you want to feel rejuvenated half-way through your trip, stay at a hotel!!! Our trip from upstate New York to Maine that we had mapped out was going to be a 9 hour day. When the forecast called for rain, we decided to pack up, leave a day early, and stay at a hotel to cut our drive time in half. Best decision of our whole trip!!! We were able to take a hot shower, swim in a pool, stay in a warm and cozy bed, do laundry, and eat a breakfast we didn’t have to prepare! It really gave us the rest and break we needed to keep going for the next 2 weeks! And the kids got to watch TV—they were in heaven!!

10. Rest Days: Make sure as you are planning for each location that you have a day to rest and relax at the campground. If you are going-going-going the entire trip without resting, you won’t make it ’til the end! Our best stops were when we had 3 nights in a campground. It makes setting up and taking down so much easier when you have 3 days in between! That gave us a day to explore, a day at the campground, and a day to explore. (Also our favorite things at campgrounds were a Parachute Camping Hammock and Billow Air Lounge—so portable and able to take with us on hikes and through cities!)

We did 3 cities back to back: Boston->New York City->Washington, D.C. We were EXHAUSTED!!!! And actually came home 2 days early because we were all so tired. So live and learn from our mistake—have restful stays in between busy cities, too!

Speaking of cities–did you know you can camp outside of major cities?? All 3 major cities we stopped at we found metros within a short driving distance from our campground and rode a train (yay for my 3-year-old!) for about 45 minutes into the city. Without a rest day in D.C. at Pohick Bay campground, we wouldn’t have had time to play at their water park!! (A Water Park in the campground!? Hooray!!)

11. Practice before you leave: Three weeks before we left, we planned a primitive camping weekend so we could test out the camper in a primitive site and see what needed to be fixed or stocked before we left. This was the best idea because there was plenty that went wrong! My husband had to fix the refrigerator on this trip instead of our month-long trip. No time taken away from seeing sites! I also realized things that would make my life easier on our long trip and went to Goodwill to stock up on extra silverware, an extra pot/pan, etc. Practice makes perfect!

12. Get Ready to BOND: My biggest tip: leave the electronics at home. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll choose electronics over anything. Without iPads as an option, they {gasp!} use their imagination and play together!!! They biked laps and laps in each campground, had money from grandparents to spend at each campstore, played around the campsite with the small amount of toys they were each allowed to bring in a bag, but mostly, we stayed together as a family and made memories that will last a lifetime. Camping is forced family fun and togetherness! As my Mom has always said, “A family that camps together stays together.”

Do you have any additional tips for extended camping with kids?

In addition to being an amazing planner of extended camping with kids, Allyson is a busy mom of 3 adorable kiddos (featured in a lot of these photographs!) She is pretty much Pinterest come to life, except even better. She can throw together an educational game, themed outfit, science experiment, and exciting game to entertain 20 kids using only the items found in a small box. In all seriousness, she’s pretty amazing and one of my role models!

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