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Camping With Kids: Tips For A Great Trip

camping with kids

Do you have fond memories of family camping trips? Maybe your memories are similar to mine: exploring the woods with cousins, singing by the fire, eating my uncle’s gourmet meals, and the tent just somehow magically appearing. In fact, as a kid, I don’t remember any actual work ever being done on a camping trip.

As the parent on a camping trip, however, it is easy to feel like the work is never done!

Here are some tips to help make your camping trip with kids a little easier:

Camping Tip Number One:

Try it in your backyard first. Seriously. If things are just not working out in the middle of the night, your own bed is just steps from your tent. This trial run with help you decide if your family is ready for camping.

Camping Eats:

camping tips

  • Pick up a pizza on the way to your campsite. Trust me on this one. You will avoid kid (and adult) tantrums. It takes time to set up camp, and your kids will not wait patiently.
  • S’mores are a must (and so are baby wipes)! If the kids will remember one thing it will be this. Nothing beats an ooey, gooey and super messy s’more. Even if you are beyond the diapering phase, pack wipes because you will need them!
  • Bring little luxuries to enjoy. Remember the French press coffee maker. The Starbucks drive-thru is out of reach, and you could spend the day with a caffeine headache. True story, by the way.
  • Keep the camping menu simple. I may have enjoyed the gourmet camping breakfasts of my childhood, but, sorry uncle Paul, that is way too much effort for this mom. Think of anything you can roast on a stick! Here is the simplest camping menu ever. You’re welcome.
    • Breakfast: Hard-boiled eggs, cereal, and bananas. 
    • Lunch: Grilled ham and cheese on pie cookers, carrots, and hummus.
    • Dinner: Hot dogs on a stick, chips, watermelon, and bagged salad.

Camping With Babies And Toddlers:

kids camping tips

  • Take naps on the go. Unless your baby is an amazing sleeper, they will most likely not fall asleep in a tent during the daytime. Try giving a nap in a stroller or baby carrier instead.
  • Use a pack ‘n play to contain your baby or toddler near the fire. Rather than be in a constant state of anxiety when your toddler is by the fire, fill the pack n’ play with toys and put them inside.
  • Bring a carrier for hiking. Suppress their innate desire to run toward a cliff by strapping them in!
  • White noise can be a lifesaver. Suburban kids are not used to the chirping crickets so use an app or a battery operated white noise machine to drown out that noisy nature.

Camping In The Great Outdoors:

kids camping tips

  • Connect with nature. No data? Great! That phone should have already been put away. Look at the stars. Identify birds. Catch tadpoles. Play in the dirt. Build a fort. Take a hike.
  • Keep the bugs away. Nothing can ruin a trip more than being constantly bitten by mosquitoes. Lather on the bug spray. Set out citronella candles. Bring a screened food tent. Declare war on their species.
  • Choose your campsite wisely. Do your research, and find out which sites have the most shade and privacy.
  • Make sure your kids know the safety rules. Keep a safe distance from the fire. Stay on the path. Bears are not our friends… that sort of thing.

Camping Activities For Kids:

  • Come prepared with fun activities. For the moments of downtime around the campsite, here is a suggested list of items to bring: sidewalk chalk, playdoh, card games, bubbles, coloring books, frisbees, sporting equipment, balls, and bikes.
  • Pick a campground with kid-friendly amenities. Many state parks have extra amenities to keep the kids occupied such as access to a swimming pool, beach, playground, fishing lake, and sports courts. Hocking Hills State Park, Mohican State Park, and Lake Hope State Park are all very family-friendly campgrounds in Ohio.
  • Spend a lot of quality time around the fire. Bring a guitar, and sing songs. Roast marshmallows. Tell stories. Play games. Laugh. A lot.
  • Bring each kid a flashlight. Your kids will have hours of fun playing flashlight games in the tent. Avoid the constant fighting over taking turns by bringing one flashlight per kid.

Camping In Groups:

Go with friends or relatives. For more fun, invite other families along on your camping trip. They will be able to share the costs as well as lighten the workload. Your kids have built-in playmates, and you have adult company. It’s a win, win. In general, the group sites are very inexpensive and much more private. Bonus: If your friends happen to be a “camping” family, they will have all the latest camping gadgets to make your trip even easier.

And The Final Camping Tip Is….

Lower your expectations, and have a great time!  Remember that this is not a beach vacation. You will feel dirty all weekend. You probably won’t sleep that well on the ground. Peeing in the woods will happen. The kids will probably have a few meltdowns. But, there are a lot of great memories to be had with you and your family. You can do this!

What are some of your best tips for camping with kids?

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