Planning a family camping trip? Check out these tips for camping with kids for the most successful camping trip!
Last weekend we took our first camping trip as a family of four and while it was definitely not the easiest or most relaxing trip by any means, I would definitely say it was a success. Some things went great and some, well, didn’t. I posted a couple of pictures of us camping on Instagram stories and received quite a few questions on camping with kids, so I figured I’d share some tips on what worked for us!
Obviously we only know what it’s like to camp with a baby and a toddler, not older kids, but I think a lot of these tips can be applied across the ages. Also, if you have any other tips the have worked for you – share them in the comments! I’d love to hear them.
Prep and plan as much food in advance as possible.
Plan out all of your meals, including snacks, and write it down. That way you won’t be digging through your cooler thinking, what did I bring this for and you won’t forget things like ketchup or salt if you write it down. I also find it helpful to prep as much of the food in advance as possible. Chop up the veggies, make the PB&J’s, marinate meat, make a pasta salad/grain salad/etc ahead of time, and anything else that can be done in advance.
Plan daytime activities.
If you’re camping with kids, chances are you’re going to be in an area with plenty of outdoor activities. Do your research in advance so you know what hikes you might want to do, what lakes you want to check out, or where the best fishing is. Bonus: your kids will be wiped by the end of the day if you pack their day full of activity!
Bring activities for the campsite. And then bring backup activities.
It’s easy to think that the outdoors will also occupy your kids at the campsite and while that might be somewhat true, there comes a point when they need something else to do. We brought books, magnet tiles, and a backpacking bocce ball set which was great for Lars to toss around and pretend that he was playing a game with us, and a bag full of Soren’s toys that also doubled as road trip distractions. If you have older kids, cards and board games, baseball and gloves, a soccer ball, and art supplies for drawing nature scenes would all be fun depending on your child’s interests. If you think you’ve packed enough activities, pack one more just in case.
Embrace the dirt.
Let’s face it – you are going to get dirty when you camp with kids. Especially if you have a crawling baby and/or a toddler, they are going to be dirty. I made sure to pack clothes that I didn’t mind getting dirty (and borderline ruined) and packed an extra pack of wipes to give the boys a good wipe down every once in awhile. For the most part, I just let them be dirty.
Be flexible and accept that it might not be easy.
I have found this to be the case any time when traveling with kids, and I think especially when doing something way out of a kids normal routine, like camping. Soren slept terribly the entire time we camped and the first night I had a really bad attitude about it. In the thick of it at 2 a.m., I was so frustrated that I whispered to Marc “there’s no way we are camping again tomorrow night!” The next morning when Lars woke up the first thing he said was “I want to camp again tonight!” How can a mom say no to that?! I’m so glad I accepted that sleeping at night was not going to involve much actual sleeping and we camped another night because the fun definitely outweighed how tired I was!
Along the same lines, don’t expect it to be a breeze. And then if it is, what a pleasant surprise! And if it’s not, well at least you aren’t disappointed. There will be more (or maybe just different?) hazards that you have to keep your kids from – like rocks and sticks from your baby and the campfire from your rambunctious toddler, and it might feel exhausting. But when it comes down to it, you’re outside with your kids and making memories that they will remember forever. Unless they’re 3 years and 9 months old. Then they probably won’t remember any of it 😉
Have the right gear.
While you don’t need a ton of fancy camping gear to have a successful camping trip when camping with kids, it does help to have a few key items. For one, if you’re camping with your family, it helps to have a decent sized tent. We have the REI Kingdom 6 which has two “rooms.” This was ideal for putting Soren in one section and Lars, Marc, and I in the other.
If you’re going to be camping at a time of year that it might get cold at night, a good sleeping bag for everyone is ideal. We have this one for Lars and a couple of other ones for ourselves that keep us warm down to 20-30 degrees.
A camping high chair is amazing for feeding your little one and just having a place to set them down for a few minutes. We forgot ours this time. Don’t be like us!
Headlamps are fun when camping with kids because kids find them super amusing plus they’re helpful when you’re up at 2 a.m. trying to find the pacifier. Not that I know anything about that sort of situation 😉
The last tip for camping with kids, and potentially the most important, don’t forget the s’mores!
This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for allowing me to share with you some of our favorite camping products!