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How to Make Your Next Family Camping Trip Easy and Enjoyable

Camping with kids is a big undertaking, but I have a few helpful tips to think about as you plan and prepare to help make it fun and enjoyable for everyone.  My goal is always for my kids to have fun and enjoy nature. Second, that they learn flexibility and experience new things. 

Top Tips to Make Your Family Camping Trip Easy and Enjoyable

Start Simple: If you have never gone camping before or never gone with babies or kids, start simple. Don’t start with an epic trip of 4-5 nights, don’t start with a trip that has difficult logistics. Pick a place close to home, plan for 1-2 nights and give it a go! Pro tip: It is a lot of work for one night, so I suggest two nights as a good starting point to maximize your fun with about the same amount of work.

Prepare Ahead: Get a good packing list, make sure you have everything you need, organize what you can ahed and prep your meals before you leave home. You know your family – think about what you need to ensure it is a great time for everyone!

Think About your Setup Before you Leave Home: Where will you put your baby/toddler/kids when you are busy setting up camp or cooking? Pro Tip - Set up your tent first so that you have a dry place to go if it would start to rain. It can also double as safe place for your kids to be while your hands are busy setting everything else up or cooking. 

Here are some other ideas for where to put your kids while you are setting up: 

  • Babies and Toddlers: Lay and Play Adventure Mat, blanket, baby carrier or hiking pack, clip-on or camping high chair, inflatable pool with toys, play yard. 
  • Bigger Kids:
    • Setup a hammock and have them stay in it while you set up
    • Give them some jobs - collect sticks for the fire or find stones to help stake the tent
    • Scavenger Hunt - print out a scavenger hunt ahead of time and let them look for the things on the list
    • Look for treasures, dig in the dirt, build a home or camp for any special toys that they have brought on the trip
    • Play in the tent, read books, play cards

Baby in an inflatable pool without water

Bring Things for Play: Depending on your kids' ages, make sure to bring some things that can enhance the trip and help them explore nature.

  • Some ideas: Buckets and shovels, collection container for treasures, magnifying glass
  • Plan for rain: bring a few books and a deck of cards or an easy game to play in the tent if it rains
  • Don’t forget nighttime: Nights at camp can be magical and it is fun to sit around the campfire and enjoy special family time. We sometimes bring glow sticks or glow bracelets/necklaces for the kids to play with once it gets dark. Bonus: it also makes it easy for you to see your kids at night. Pro tip: put one on your dog’s collar to make it easy to see your dog also.

Ditch the Schedule, keep a Routine: Keep in mind that it will be hard to keep on the same schedule that you have at home, but it is a good idea to keep some of your routines in mind. If your baby normally naps from 1-3 pm, you may want to make sure you are on a hike at that time of day so they can snooze in the hiking pack. Tent naps can be difficult and frustrating if it is hot and light, so planning for a nap on the move might make everyone happier. If you don’t think your baby will sleep in the pack, but you know they will sleep in the car, you may want to take an afternoon drive to get them a nap. For bedtime – if you normally read three books and sing two songs before bottle and bed, do the same thing at camp. You can make it extra fun by reading books or singing songs about camping!

Keep Cooking Simple and Flexible: Prep as much as you can ahead of time, keep meals simple, pack some extra non-perishable items that you can eat in a pinch. Meal ideas and tips coming soon! 

Be Flexible and Keep Expectations Low: Don’t go in expecting to sleep like you do at home or stay on your exact schedule. If you start out knowing that you probably won’t get the best sleep of your life, everyone will be dirty and everything certainly won’t go as planned, you will be more able to enjoy the experience and embrace the adventure and be flexible. 

Give yourself Grace: It is okay if it all doesn’t go perfectly, it is okay if your baby doesn’t sleep great. It is ok if you need to alter your plans. There will be still be magic moments and your kids will have experiences and build memories that they will cherish forever. 

Think about the experience and enjoyment in the little things that your kids will gain by spending a few days in the outdoors and experiencing all the new sights, sounds, and smells.