10 Tips for a Successful Camping Trip with Kids
Camping is a wonderful way to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life without spending a fortune on a fancy vacation. It’s also a great time to connect with nature and teach your kids a little about self-sufficiency, and the kids will love being outdoors all day and sleeping under the stars at night, especially if they see how much you enjoy doing it too! The following tips can help you and your family have a great camping trip together… after all, the secret to a successful trip is in the planning!
- Include your kids in the planning process. If the kids have a hand in deciding where to go and what to see they will enjoy the trip a lot more. Make sure that the choices you give them are not too far away so that you don’t spend too much of your holiday driving, because being cooped up in the car for hours at a time probably won’t be too much fun for anyone. Older children can help map out the route to get to the lake or campground, and being the designated trip navigator will make them feel like an important part of the process. It’s also one of those teachable moments that come along that you just can’t pass up; having good map skills are very important, both in school and in life.
- Print out maps for everyone and mark special points along the way. If everyone has a map you will be less likely to hear, “Are we there yet?”, and more likely to hear, “Where are we?” This is where having personal maps come in handy. As the kids follow along on the map have special bags made up that they get when they reach certain checkpoints. How long you will be in the car and how many surprises you want to give them will determine how many ‘stars’ will be on the map. Make the surprises camping related, and include items like a small compass, a keychain sunscreen, fun sunglasses, a beach ball, and glow in the dark stuff.
- Create a master list of what you need to bring along. There are lists available to help you with your planning such as this one, which are great for using as a starting point, but you should expand on it so that you have a master list based on your family’s needs. Make sure that you bring the essentials, like pots and pans to cook in, utensils to cook with, plates, cups, flatware, bedding, fire making materials, a basic first aid kit, food, plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray, old clothing that you don’t care if they get dirty, and toys.
- Remember to have a plan for rain. Bring along games, books, magazines, and other toys that will keep the kids busy if they are stuck inside during any passing rain showers. Another good idea is to bring along rain gear like old shoes and a rain poncho so the kids can go out and explore the outdoors even if it’s raining, as long as there’s no danger of severe weather. Bringing extra towels, extra shoes, and plenty of plastic bags is also a good idea, as are swimsuits.
- Set up the tent at home a few days before you go. This is especially important if you haven’t gone camping in a while. You need to make sure that everything is in working order so that you don’t show up to the campsite with a tent that is broken or missing pieces. You can also have the kids get involved by letting them sweep out the inside of the tent and check for any holes or other wear and tear. Check to make sure you have enough tent stakes and that the poles are in working order.
- Bring along something comforting for your child. If she has a favorite stuffed animal that she sleeps with every night or a blanket that she doesn’t go anywhere without, let her bring it along as a comforting reminder of home. Download some of her favorite lullabies to your phone so that she has something calming to listen to at bedtime, when she’s more likely to start to miss the familiarity of being in her own bed. Campgrounds can often be a little loud if others are staying up later than you are, and being in the outdoors at night can be a little intimidating once you settle in to go to sleep.
- When planning the menus, make sure the food is something the kids will like. Camping is a special time, and saving certain foods to cook exclusively when you are camping make both the foods and the experience that much more unique. The kids will be running around all day and will probably be a lot more active than they are when they’re at home, so the extra calories from a few fun treats will likely be burned off anyway. S’mores are a campsite classic that the kids will love making, however if you want to be a little healthier you can make banana boats instead. Start by peeling one strip down on the banana, but don’t rip it off because you will need it. Take a fork and mash up the inside of the banana, then add chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, and red hot candies to the inside of the banana. Once you’ve added in the extra goodies pull the banana peel back over the filling and wrap the whole thing in foil. Lay this on the coals or on the grill and turn it often; it won’t take it long to get all melty and yummy.
- Plan to do something extra special toward the end of the trip. Kids and adults alike always remember the last thing done on a trip the most clearly, so save a fun activity or adventure for the last day or night you’re there. Saving something extra special for the very last day will help the entire family look back on the trip with fond memories, even if there were a few mishaps that happened on the trip before that.
- Don’t over plan the time away. This trip is a time to relax and bond with your family, not to plan back to back activities that take up the entire day. Play games, sing songs, and go on long nature walks with the kids. Explore the area and try to find things that are really cool to get pictures of.
- Don’t worry about the dirt. The biggest thing you need to remember when camping is that your kids will play in the dirt and they will get dirty. Let it happen and embrace the outdoors. Bring digging toys and shovels to help keep them busy while they are getting dirty. Parents rarely voluntarily let their kids get dirty, but this is one time you can actively encourage them to do so.