There seem to be three types of moms when it comes to camping.
One who has never been camping before in her life. (Can we say hotel reservation on speed dial?)
The second mom used to go camping when she was younger but is afraid to take her kids because it seems like too much work.
And third: the camping enthusiast.
I gotta tell you, I fell into the second mom category for many years, coming up with different excuses why I shouldn’t take my kids camping. My kids are too young, I don’t have the right equipment, I can’t plan for a trip all by myself…you name it, I had a way to talk myself out of it.
However, now that I have started camping with my kids, I can’t imagine why I waited so long to start!
I have found it’s essential to get away as a family and spend quality time together forgetting, for a while, the busyness of life and reconnecting.
I decided to poll some of my expert camping friends, and apart from the wise guys whose advice was to get a hotel or leave the kids behind, I was able to compile a list of ways to make sure your camping trip with the kiddos is an adventure you’ll all remember fondly.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but planning is key. Some people love lists and others plan with spreadsheets. What’s important is that you think about everything you need to go camping and pack accordingly. There are several great places to find helpful packing lists, but I found this one when I was researching our Yellowstone trip last year. I think it’s a pretty straightforward, simple one.
Most checklists don’t include food, but there are several places you could look that provide ideas about that as well. When planning an extended trip, try to keep things simple. We eat a lot of sandwiches for lunch simply because we don’t want to have to go back to the campsite to cook anything during the day. Whatever you decide on for meals, try and do all you can ahead of time. Prep and cook as much as you can at home. Make foil packs ahead of time and use convenience items when possible (Think along the lines of walking tacos, hot dogs, and those add water and shake pancake mixes).
Go for a Short Trial-Run
If it’s your first time camping, go for an overnight somewhere local. My son and I did this before our week-long trip and we took notes on what we wished we had brought. This trial-run was the perfect opportunity to break in our new camping gear and test what we did and didn’t like and brainstorm some new menu items.
Think About Your Entertainment
Are you going to be hiking, swimming, fishing, boating? Be sure to pack all the equipment you might need. What will the kids do while you set up camp? Will they help? Will they ride around the campsite on their scooters or bikes? What if it’s raining? What about card games or board games? You want to have a few things to do around the campsite, especially if the weather is not ideal. Camping is the perfect time to unwind and unplug, but you don’t want to forget about including some activities. Don’t be stuck without a plan B. Reversely, try not to over-plan your schedule either. Downtime is good for you and your kids.
Nothing is more essential to camping than the campfire, right? I love getting my kids involved in helping me get the wood. We bring along a hatchet and pretend we are Brian stuck in the Canadian wilderness. (kid lit reference there)
We often buy bundled firewood, but it’s fun to look around for the kindling and the smaller sticks and branches, too. Don’t forget to bring along newspaper or save some junk mail to use for starting the fire.
While getting the fire going is necessary, it’s what you do around the fire that is truly magic. Once the food is cooked and everyone is full, great conversations happen around the fire. Stories are told that are scary, funny, or that perfect combination of scary and funny. Laughter. Singing. Bonding. Memories are made while gathered around the campfire.
Go camping with your kids, you won’t regret it.
Even if you borrow a friend’s tent and go to the closest campsite you can find. Even if everything goes awry and you are all so thankful to be home after your trip, those are some of the best memories! Get out and experience nature with your kids…just remember to pack some good bug spray.