Camping season has officially begun and we already have our first trip of the year in the books. Camping with kids can be extra challenging but we have come up with a It was a very successful trip despite a few things that we under-anticipated. For one, we didn’t expect as many mosquitos at our camp site! We camped in northern New Hampshire and apparently this year they’ve decided to reproduce in droves. We frequent New Hampshire throughout the year, usually 5-8 trips, and had never really experienced them like this up there. Luckily, however, we had a back-up plan just in case the weather was poor — and in this case, that weather was the mosquitos.
I think the biggest thing you can do to prepare for a trip with kids is to level your expectations in your head, and your spouses head, of what to expect from the trip. We try not to over-plan the trip because that may, and most likely will, lead to disappointment. Behavior, weather, and costs may alter your plans quickly. We always try to have a back-up plan to resolve any of these problems. Typically, we will plan our next day the night before but we generally have a good idea of options for the day.
Do not over-plan. When camping with kids, everyday you will want to do something fun and exciting, but keep in mind you do not need to stick to a structure. Instead, list the things you want to do on your trip and have them in order from “must-accomplish” to “if time allows.”
We suggest not planning anything on the day you are traveling. When camping with kids, travel days are so unpredictable that it’s best to calculate your route with google, double the estimated travel time to allocate for kids and stops, and plan on “settling in” to your camp site for the night. Our kids have grown to appreciate this down time and it also allows us to have some sort of family meeting to discuss our great adventures. We typically iron out what our next day will look like by picking an event or site to see from our list. We always stress to the kids that it is not set in stone and we can change it if we need to — based on their behavior, weather, and costs (if we don’t know the costs ahead of time).
We also tend not to clue our kids into our plans too far in advance. If we do this, we find our kids are restless for a few days — maybe even weeks — and it costs them valuable sleep (which, in turn, costs us sleep!). Instead, we keep it a surprise and let them “figure it out” as we hit the road. Our best “trick” was we once went to a local minor league game, a night game, and left for our camp site immediately following the game. The kids were exhausted after taking in the game so they slept the entire car ride. We ended up staying in a hotel for the first night so we didn’t have to set up a site in the dark (never set up a site in the dark, with or without kids — safety concern and its a miserable experience for everyone involved).
Take the time to set up your site as if you were staying there for a while. I know this can be tiring, especially when camping with kids, but you will appreciate it so much more. This is especially true after a long day at an event or site/hike. It’s a valuable experience to be able to come “home” and relax, versus just coming back to the site.
A few things we make sure we do to accomplish this include setting up our outdoor living space, as well as our indoor living space. We camp in a pop-up trailer, but the same thing applies for all types of camping.
Our outdoor living space includes a screened tent and a grill. We have a 1 year old, 4 year old, and 7 year old so we need to prepare for them too. Our screened tent takes a matter of minutes to set up and can be set up with one person. If our site has a picnic table, we actually set the screened tent up over the picnic table. You can check it out with the link below. We will never camp without it because it allows us to avoid the bugs and still sit outside during a rainy day.
Inside our screened tent, we have a playpen for the baby. He loved this in New Hampshire because it allows him to crawl around and play outdoors! It goes without saying, but allowing your kids to exercise tires them out for napping in an unknown scenery. We find this to be a must-have when we go on many trips, including day trips to the park! We even use it at home when we are all sitting outside or doing yard work. It is well worth the cost. Check it out with the link below!
For our infants sleeping needs, we use a portable travel crib. This fits perfectly where our dinette table normally sits. We love that it is out of the way and still allows our baby to get a good night sleep in his own bed. When we used to tent camp, we had a small infant tent that our older two boys slept in on many trips. These are great because they can be set up on virtually any flat surface (as long as it is sturdy enough!) They take up minimal space, and they are very breathable. You can check out the travel tent below, and the portable travel crib with the link above.
Prepare both indoor and outdoor activities with your kids. We give our kids full control on the indoor activities but offer them guidance on space constraints. We find that when we let our kids choose what games, crafts, etc they want to bring, there’s less of a let down if they need to engage in them. When the weather is looking great, they even look forward to the indoor activities as a way to wind down at night. When we pick for them, there’s less of an excitement about them because they don’t feel like they’re given a choice. We do try to steer them clear of electronics because we believe camping is a time to escape from these things. The electronics are used for the car ride only just because they aren’t mobile to enjoy other activities.
Camping with kids is definitely more challenging than your pre-parent days. As our kids get older and their needs change, we are learning how to make camping with them more comfortable for everyone! We love the outdoors and would prefer to camp than stay in a hotel room. What are some ways you make camping, or traveling, with your kids easier? We would love to hear from you!
Also, if you need tips for traveling in warm weather or some cost-saving track hacks — check out the articles below!
Here’s a few other things we use on a regular basis while camping: