5 Tips for Camping with Kids
Woohoo! What a great day! It's our 7th anniversary today AND my crazy crew is off to Birch Bay for our annual camping trip! This is the 5th year that we have joined up with our friends to camp at Birch Bay State Park. Our first year we only had a 6 month old with us and we camped for 2 nights. This year, we're up to 3 kids (4.5 years, 2.5 years, 8 months) and we're staying 5 nights! Veteran campers won't bat an eye at taking their kids camping for a week, while others may think we're crazy for taking our kids camping but it's just so much fun! And after you've done it once or twice, it's really not so intimidating :)
If you've been on the fence about taking your kiddos camping, I hope this list of 5 tips will help you feel empowered and encouraged to give it a try!
1. Choose your campground
Ok, I know. "Choose your campground" doesn't really seem like a tip. It's kind of a given, right? But what I mean is put some thought into it!
Here are some things to think about when choosing your campground:
- Do you want to go on day trips? If so, is it near any great sites or attractions?
- Do you prefer to be out in the middle of nowhere or would you like to have cell reception?
- What basic amenities do you want? Running water... toilets... showers... etc.
- Do you want to stay somewhere that has a lot of fun activities for kids without leaving the campground, like a pool, clubhouse, etc.?
- If needed, do the sites allow RV's, have power, water hook-ups, etc?
- What is the cost?
- Would you prefer to stay somewhere that already has a cabin or yurt so you don't need to set up?
There are lots of things to consider, and where you choose will be determined by your family's needs!
2. Be prepared
Confession: I was a Girl Guide. "Be prepared" had to make it into this list.
If we take a look at what we really need when camping, it comes down to these: shelter, food, water, and clothing. A couple things that I think are important also are fire for cooking (a real one or stove) and tarps for rain.
When you're a parent, things get even more complicated. I won't list all of the extras that you'll probably want to bring to make your family comfortable, because that list is unique to your family and the type of camping you are doing.
But, I do think it's important to be prepared for possible bumps, bruises and burns just in case! This year I have fully stocked my all-natural first aid and health kit.
Here's what I am bringing in my "be prepared" kit:
- sun protection: I prefer to use sun safety, with a physical sunscreen applied when needed
- eczema care: coconut oil, Vintage Tradition Body Balm, Plant Therapy's Rosehip Oil with Eczema Synergy
- natural hand sanitizer (purchased at a local spa)
- all of my Plant Therapy EO's (for sleep, headaches, muscle pain, stomach aches, etc.)
- bentonite clay paste for cuts, scrapes and burns
- bentonite clay (dry) for upset stomachs
- traumeel gel for inflammation, bruising and pain
- bug sprays: California Baby and Plant Therapy's Bug Off Synergy in witch hazel
- witch hazel for bruising and sunburns
- aloe vera gel for sunburns (ours isn't a great formula, so I won't use it on the kids)
Plus, I am bringing our current supplements.
3. Don't overpack
I know, it's tough. I told you to be prepared, but that doesn't mean pack your whole house. The concept of packing "only what you need" comes easier with experience, but here are a couple things to think about as you're deciding what gets packed.
Kids and their stuff alone take up a ton of space, so you need to plan accordingly and make some tough judgement calls. Do you really need your jobbing stroller or will a small umbrella one be okay for where you are staying? If you have a baby who isn't mobile yet, then will she sleep okay on a thin mat on the floor in a tent instead of bringing a pack-n-play? Do you need a full high-chair or will a bumbo or one of these seats work? It's up to you, of course! But the point is to think about what you NEED before you pack.
Also, think about clothes. Yes, you should have enough clothes to cover different temperatures and weather conditions, but you don't necessarily need to pack multiple outfits for each of your kids. They're going to get dirty--that's a fact. But unless they are wet, you probably don't need to change their clothes every day. They are just going to get dirty again!
Overpacking clothes isn't just about taking up extra space in your vehicle, tent or trailer, but it's also about laundry. If you've ever been camping or sat around a campfire, then you know that the smoke smell seeps into everything. That means that it doesn't matter if you wore it or not, it's getting washed when you get home. I can tell you honestly that the only negative I feel about camping is having to come home and wash dozens of loads of laundry due to clothes, bedding, towels, etc.
Another area to be mindful about is cooking tools. Except for a can opener, most utensils, bowls, etc can be multi-purpose. Pack the items you know that you'll need and that can be used for more than one purpose. Do you really need a large salad bowl or can you use that large pot for soup one night and a big salad the next night?
If you follow my next point and plan your meals ahead of time, then you know already what you are going to make and what food you need to pack. Only bring what you plan to eat for each meal and snack, not a lot of extras.
4. Plan simple meals
You know how you love cooking hotdogs over the fire when you're camping but you could care less to eat them when you're at home? Ya, it's because food just tastes better when you're camping. I don't think it really matters what it is!
So, why stress yourself out and spend half your day prepping and cooking food when you could plan simple, but healthy, meals and get to spend more time enjoying the experience!?
Another great way to make meals simple while you're camping is to cook what you can ahead of time. Soup and chili can be cooked in advance and frozen--which also helps keep your cooler colder for longer! You can make hamburger patties ahead of time so all you have to do is throw them on a grill, or you can marinate and freeze cuts of meat ahead of time.
You can bake cookies, bread and muffins; you can make trail mix. You could even wash and cut up all your veggies ahead of time too. You could really make most, if not all, your meals in advance if you really wanted to!
Because our family lives in British Columbia (Canada) and we go camping in Birch Bay (US), it means I cannot bring any meats or produce across the border with me. But as you'll see later in the week, I can still plan simple meals ahead of time, stop at the store for what I will need, and be on my way to enjoying the week in the woods!
This is really the most important part, in my opinion... A stressed out mom does not a fun family camping trip make.
The point of going camping, at least for most of us, is to "get away" from the noise, the busyness, and the stress. Once you are set up, you should have plenty of time to have fun with your kids, play some games, explore, or sit and read a book. Don't spend your time cooking and cleaning (see point #4) and don't spend your time worrying that your kids are going to get hurt (see point #2).
Just have fun.