Extended Camping With Kids

Guest Post from Allyson on Extended Camping With Kids (If you happened to miss my set up for this post, go back and read it HERE.)


Yup, you read that right. I mean, camping with kids sounds hard enough, why in the world would you go on an extended camping trip, right!? That’s a lot of reactions we got when telling everyone (mainly strangers!) our plan of a 4-week Northeast camping trip. I get it—camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! For our family, it works, and we LOVE it. Our kids live for it.

So we thought- why not extend that weekend camping trip and see some sites across the U.S.??

Two main reasons we chose to camp instead of staying at hotels for this length of time: money and experiences. Most hotels are $100-$200 a night. When you weigh the cost, it’s actually way more affordable than hotels over a long period of time. We stayed at most campgrounds for TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A NIGHT!!! So our entire month-long trip cost roughly the same as a week in a hotel. Also, several places we went were in the middle of nowhere. There were no hotels around! We’ve found that camping lets you have a completely different experience on your vacation.

After having dreamed it, planned it, and survived it, here are some tips we learned along the way that will help you plan your extended camping trip:

  1. 1. Take Time: I am a teacher with Summers off, and my husband had 4 weeks vacation that was going to disappear at the end of this year. That was our main push in the bum to get this on the calendar! 4 weeks!? Could we actually camp for 4 weeks!? {And still love each other??? Ha!} I’m aware this isn’t a luxury everyone can swing- but if at all possible, figure it out!If you are going to drive some major miles, you are going to need at least 2 weeks. The max I would camp would be 4 weeks—which is what we did. It wasn’t until day 25 that my oldest said, “Mom, I’m ready to go home.” We were all ready to go home and sleep in our own beds by then! So look at your map and calendar and plan somewhere between 2-4 weeks depending on the age of your children, your destination, and your patience level. (Funny but true!)
Mapping out our stops.
  • 2. Pick Your Destinations: My husband and I both took out West trips when we were teenagers. My family took a small RV on a 3-week loop out West. It is my favorite memory from my childhood! So originally, we were planning a camping trip out West. But then we looked at the miles and how many hours our 8, 6, and 3-year old children would have to be in the car. Our older two could do it, but that’s not fair to ask our little guy to sit still and be happy for that long! So we changed our trip to the Northeast. Still new places to see but a MUCH smaller scale. It immediately seemed more doable! But where to begin??Because it was overwhelming thinking of exactly where to go, we decided on 3 main locations we knew we wanted to visit: Niagara Falls, Acadia National Park in Maine, and New York City to visit my brother. The rest of the trip was seriously just stops to get us to our main 3 destinations. My husband and I both sat down with our computers, phones, maps, and calendars, and looked at a loop route we could take to hit all places in a 30-day time frame. I printed a blank calendar and we talked through how many days we would stay at each location, penciled it in on the calendar (and erased and rewrote and made LOTS of changes in the process), my husband made reservations, and I got to write it in permanent ink. This was really going to happen!!!

***When making camping reservations, some places fill up 6 months (or more!) in advance. The Grand Canyon can fill up a year in advance! Give yourself plenty of time to reserve spots. 2 of our campgrounds we were the last spot! We reserved most through: www.reserveamerica.com and www.recreation.gov .Also when planning, keep your children in mind! Our trip was so successful because our kids LOVED it. The 3 destinations we started with were places my husband and I wanted to see. Then we added in things we knew our children would love. Specifically for our train-obsessed 3-year-old, we added in train rides throughout the trip and a stop at ThomasLand in Massachusetts! My daughter loves horses, so we added in Grayson Highlands National Park to see the wild horses. (A must see!!!) We also tried to visit National Parks when that was an option but definitely ventured out because of our kiddos and their interests!

Grayson Highlands National Park’s wild horses.
  • 3. Plan & Pack: Think through these questions as you plan to know what to pack: What all are you going to be doing on this long camping trip? What will the weather be like? Will you swim? Will you bike? Will you hike? What if my kids get sick? I packed for WEEKS but thought about it for months in advance and started making a list of things I might forget in the midst of packing. For example, we were going to be in Boston on the 4th of July. I knew we needed patriotic clothing (priorities!!) that we wouldn’t need the rest of the trip. So I packed a separate bag just for that stop and put it in the back of the truck knowing I wouldn’t need it until week number 3. I also was able to shop at the Target Dollar Spot before we left to get glow bracelets and flags for $1 instead of $15 in the city! Threw those in the bag and was ready to go the day we needed them! I really did logistically think of every stop and every possible excursion we may be doing. The easiest thing for us was to limit 1 suitcase per person. We each packed for 14 days so that we would have to do laundry 1x. Then, because we were traveling so far North, we packed 1 bag full of long sleeves and jackets. We had rain jackets readily available and had to use them the entire trip! When checkout is at 11 am, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining! You have to pack up and get out of the campground!
  • Because we have a pop-up camper, we were able to pop it up in our backyard for the entire week before we left and I was about to reorganize, pack things inside, pack dry goods in the cabinets, etc. so I didn’t have to do these things at our campsites. Every time we pulled up to a new campsite, I would get in the bed of the truck, get our clothes out for those 3-4 days we were in that location, and put the bags back away. Suitcases are the one thing that can crowd a camper more than anything! Organization is key for everyone’s sanity.
Prepared for all types of weather- even a cold rain!
  • 4. Excursions: Are you thinking of any excursions that you need to book before you leave? Most of our trip was hiking and biking—things that didn’t need to be booked in advance. Subway/Metro tickets can be bought the day of. Sadly, we did not book our whale/puffin tour in advance in Maine and the day we wanted to go they were fully booked, then the day we could go they canceled the tour due to weather. If we had booked in advance, we could have seen puffins!!! My dream! So think through each stop and book in advance what you can.
Plenty of train stops for my train loving 3-year old.

Read part 2 of Allyson’s post, here.

You may also enjoy reading:

Tips For RV Camping With Family

5 Unique Theme Parks To Visit With Kids

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