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Tips for Camping with Kids of All Ages

camping with kids

We love camping. Seriously. If we have a couple days off – you can find us in our tent. Camping is such an amazing tool to have up your sleeve. Connecting with nature and letting the kids run around free is so good for the soul. Not only that, but it’s so much cheaper than any other vacation. You can bring your tent to new cities and camp out as an affordable way to explore a new area. I’ve long lost track of how many times we’ve taken our clan camping, so here are some things we’ve learned (and we’ve certainly had many camping fails along the way to learn from). 

Splurge on the pop-up tent!

We’ve all seen the movies where people spend the entire first day camping setting up their tent only to have it collapse on them in the middle of the night. Don’t be those people. They make tents that literally pop-up and lock in place in under two minutes. It’s not a huge price difference and worth every penny. I can set it up and take it apart by myself. Honestly, my 6-year-old could probably do it on her own. If we drive out of state somewhere we usually drive through the night. Setting up a tent in the dark? Not a problem when it pops up instantly. I have three young kids, so keeping my eyes off of them to fumble with a tent isn’t a safe option. Taking the tent down is equally simple – which is just as much of a benefit as the easy setup, since at the end of the vacation when you’re ready to go the excitement you used to fuel the tent setup is gone. 
camping with kids

Must-Have Items

When camping – less is more. You don’t need your hair straighter, jewelry or any other ‘extra’ you may take on an ordinary vacation. Work smarter, not harder. That being said there are a few items you need to have no matter what. 
  • Flashlights (lanterns are really nice too – especially if your fire making skills aren’t suburb)
  • Bug Spray + Sun Block
  • Clothes Line (to hang towels and wet clothes – you won’t be doing laundry)
  • Multiple lighters (you never know when one will give out or break)
  • Two pairs of shoes (because one will surely get muddy and wet and potentially break- crocks or keens are ideal)
  • Food + drinking water (skip food that makes crumbs so you don’t attract animals. We usually pack a lot of fruit so even if we have a fire fail we don’t go hungry)
  • Toilet paper (if you’re not next to a bathroom)
  • Blankets/ Sleeping bag (it gets cold at night! I find sleeping on the ground to be far more comfortable than an air mattress so I just pack a large quilt to lay on – but if you bring an air mattress don’t forget to bring a pump to fill it up) 
Camping with kids tent

Choosing your campsite

If you’re camping with babies, toddlers, or any non-school-aged children I strongly suggest picking a campground that offers drive up sites (always call to check before booking). Dragging all of your camping supplies and small children through the woods to get to your site is not a good way to start your trip. Once our site was overrun by raccoons (because Milton was really smart and poured dog food straight on the dirt when he couldn’t find their bowl. . . ). We were very thankful that our van was right there and the five of us (and two dogs) piled in for an uncomfortable but raccoon free night of sleep. When picking a campsite, look at the map and try to find a spot that’s near the bathrooms or a playground. Because of the ages of my kids, I avoid spots that are right on the water. But if your kids are older and great swimmers this may be an ideal camping location. Either way, it’s something to be mindful of.

Let it Go

This is probably the most important, and sometimes the most difficult, thing to do when it comes to camping. Embracing the dirt, bugs, and lack of connectivity will allow you to enjoy your time far more than if you try to fight it. Allow yourself a learning curve and have fun!

Camping with kids

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