Tips for Camping with Kids – and Loving It!
If being secluded in a miniature dome house with your kids in the middle of the woods sounds like a scary version of Survivor, just give it a chance. Around the bonfire, S’mores in hand, and giggles from all of the kids is one of the best ways to spend a summer evening. Memorial Day is just around the corner, as is the rest of summer vacation for children. If you’re looking for a stay-cation or a new adventure, it’s time to pull out the sleeping bags and go camping with the kids. Even if you’ve never ventured to the campground before, camping with kids is an easy and relaxing way to spend a weekend as a family – and costs less than a night at a waterpark hotel.
Camping With Kids 101
There are a few extra rules I live by when I go camping with the kids that help make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
- Request a large tenting space. If there is an option, choose one that is on the end of a row to give the kids more space.
- If you’re camping with really little ones, ask for a space close to the bathrooms for late night trips to the privy (just be prepared to hear everyone else in the campground heading there, too).
- If possible, make reservations ahead of time so you can select a campground with the amenities your family prefers. We look for those with fishing lakes, swimming beaches or pools, hiking trails, and unique nearby attractions.
- Check ahead to see if they supply child-sized life jackets with boat rentals, or you’ll need to pack your own.
- Choose your tents wisely. Campgrounds usually charge for each tent, no matter how many campsites you reserve. Consider investing in a larger tent with room dividers if you want to pay for one tent. The last time we camped with the kids we had 3 tents – but it was well worth the comfort of the extra space – and we had 4 extra kids along with our own 4 camping kids (+ the dog!). An extra $9/tent was well worth the extra wiggle room that 8 kids need.
What to Pack When Camping with Kids
Besides your basic camping gear, there are a few things that I don’t leave home without when camping with the kids. Most of these things you probably have around the house, but if you don’t, they still make a good investment for camping or other adventures.
- Bug spray, suntan lotion, and first aid kit (you never know who will get stung by what or scrape which body part climbing on the trails)
- Reusable water bottles with snap lids – you can use them for milk, juice, or water, and the tops keep the bugs out and reduce waste and space of packing a bunch of paper or plastic cups – and kids work up a thirst exploring the outdoors
- Bikes and helmets, or scooters if you are limited on packing space – The boys all take their compact scooters and use them to cruise to the bathrooms, the lake, or just to explore.
- Bug and/or butterfly nets and a small plastic observation box – Little kids can chase and catch butterflies and insects, them observe them in the container before letting them go (don’t take them home with you – you don’t want them to leave their natural habitat and in some places, it is even illegal). Fireflies make great mini lanterns in the observation container at night!
- Footballs, Frisbees, kick-balls, and bubble blowers – These small and easy to pack supplies can be great distractions for the kids while you set up the tent or get food ready and you need them to stay nearby.
- A good balance of easy to serve, healthy snacks – The last thing you need to do is get kids with belly aches and sugar highs – although they will be running off a lot of those empty S’mores calories.
- Decks of cards, small board games, books, and self-contained toys for rainy times when you might be confined to the tent
- Glow sticks you can turn into bracelets and necklaces and headlights like these for hands-free lights for kids
- Extra comfort creatures from home – favorite stuffed animals, blankets, or a special toy can comfort kids when they are in unfamiliar surroundings, especially if they aren’t used to being in the great outdoors
Camping with kids is a great way to escape from technologies (we still had cell phones but limited texting), and get back to the basics. Add in some marshmallows, spooky stories around the campfire, and nighttime stargazing – camping with kids is a great summer family vacation, even if you don’t go much further than your own backyard.