Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Camping with Kids

Camping with kids can be intimidating and maybe even scary. 
But I promise you it is so easy and best of all fun
And I'm gong to prove it to you. 
Yes, you will feel like you are packing the entire house into your car. 
Yes, everyone will get dirty.
But I promise you will have a blast and make tons of memories that will make the dirt and the craziness worth it.
So worth it! 

Here are a few of my tips for camping with kids (we are by no means experts but every time we go we learn something new). 
1. Tips for the Drive

Leave early in the morning.
And I mean still dark outside. 
We usually shoot for 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning (with lots of coffee in tow).
The kids are always super excited when we wake them up and usually stay awake for a bit but since it's still dark outside (and we enforce a strict no talking rule and remind them that it is still night time) they go back to sleep.
With sleeping kids in the car and no traffic you can get a good head start on your camping adventure. 

Once we have gone a few hours and the kids are awake, we usually stop for a quick breakfast and potty break and get back on the road before traffic starts. 
Our favorite breakfast stop is donuts.

Pack a Backpack for Each Kid
A long road trip can be torture for anyone...especially if you have antsy, bored or crying kids in the car. 
I usually pack a back pack full of toys for each kid and give them something new every hour or so. That keeps things somewhat exciting. 
A portable DVD player is also a life saver. 
And my personal motto is...
When things start to get crazy...bust out the snacks.
Food has a way of working magic with kids. 

Get Out of the Car for Lunch
Oh and we always make sure to stop for lunch. We usually just go to a fast food place (preferably one with a jungle gym type thing inside) to stretch our legs and fill our bellies. 
And after lunch we try to find a park close to the freeway and the place we stopped to eat (this is where the maps app on our iPhone comes in handy) to let the kids get out and play for a bit!
This really helps to let the kids get their wiggles out and to make it through the rest of the road trip.  
2. Your kids will get dirty. 
I repeat your kids will get dirty. 
Try not to freak out!
Don't fight the dirt. embrace it.
Only baby wipe/wash them off before...
meals, naptime (if they nap) and bedtime. 
Otherwise you are fighting a losing battle. 

Choose Your Kids Clothes Wisely
Also I only bring clothes for the kids that I'm not super attached to.
That way if something gets ruined beyond repair I'm not worried about it.
I also buy tennis shoes (just for camping) from the thrift shop before each trip (or I use their old shoes that are on their way out anyways) because their shoes will get reallllly dirty. 
BUT with that said I have always been able to get out camping stains, crazy dirt/grossness from the clothes we bring camping. 
You would be amazed at the magic of Oxyclean. 

Keep the Kids Out of the Tent
Also we do not under any circumstances let the kids inside our tent unless they are going to bed.
This helps to keep the dirt, etc. out of the tent.

3. Go with the flow. Relax and have fun! 
I have a tendency to freak out when things don't go how I expected them to.
In these moments I have to tell myself to calm down and enjoy the adventure.

For example:
-When you plan on keeping the baby out of the water and then decide to let her just put her feet in and then she comes out soaking wet.
-When you find your kids eating rabbit poo.
-Or getting roasted marshmallow in their hair.  
-Or when you find out the trail you took the stroller was not meant for a stroller.
-Or a squirrel eats through the side of your backpack.
 Silly stuff like that :)

4. Ditch the Car Toys 
Remember all those fun toys you brought to entertain the kids in the car?
Leave them in the car.

Bring some fun outdoors toys instead.
We love to bring the kids bikes and scooters for them to ride around the campiste.
A ball, frisbee, horse shoes, bocee ball or some fishing poles would also be fun to bring too. 
You are looking for things that will help you enjoy the outdoors!

I specifically remember this moment from our camping trip 2 years ago. 
We went down to a little stream by our campiste and the kids had the greatest time collecting, sorting and throwing rocks into the stream. 
It was one of the first times I thought...being outside is way more fun than real toys or a TV!

This year the kids spent almost all of their time on this giant log by our campsite playing with sticks and rocks and their imaginations (it also helps to go camping with friends! The more kids the more fun!)
5. Camping with small kids (and babies) is made so much easier with a few key items (with links).

If you have a baby that cannot sit up on it's own the Bumbo is great! Two years ago Maddie spent most of her time around the campsite on top of the table in the Bumbo. You can also feed them in there!

Pack N Play
We always bring a pack n play for the babies to sleep in but if you have a crawler it also helps to have an extra pack n play that you keep in the campsite to let them nap in, play in, etc. It also comes in handy to stick the babies in while you are trying to set up your tent! We have found that when it's in the middle of the action (in the campsite with everyone either cooking or playing around) the babies are more likely to be content in there.

Travel High Chair
Life saver for a baby/toddler who is eating but can't sit on a picknick bench by themselves.

Ergo Baby Carrier
My favorite baby carrier ever!! Maddie spent all of last years camping trip and half of this years in it.

Baby Carrier Backpack
These come in handy if you have a bigger toddler that can't make a full hike on their own. You can also set the kid on the ground (still in the carrier) for a snack or a meal. 
I would never think of bringing my nice stroller camping. You want something that is built for off roading and that can get dirty. We recently got this bike trailer that also turns into a stroller and LOVE it! A lot of hikes are stroller friendly and pushing a stroller is much easier than carrying a kid (or 2) on your back.

Bag Full of Kids/Baby Essentials
Bandaids, Neosporin, Tylenol for you and the kids, allergy medicine, Vicks Vapor Rub, Aquaphor (I use this stuff on everything), diaper rash cream, tweezers, fingernail clippers, moisturizing lotion, lots of chapstick (it can be really dry in the mountains), sunscreen,  bug spray, and all of your usual toiletries. *Make sure you keep this bag in your bear box not your tent! 
Our favorite camping spot is Yosemite and the best way to see Yosemite is on a bike! 
Last year we saved up so we could get bikes to bring to Yosemite and I'm so glad we did! The kids love riding on the bikes and we were able to see and do a million more things than we would have been able to do with 3 small kids. 

In case you were wondering how we loaded the kids up we put...
-Wesley (3) on the front of my bike in this 
-And Mackenzie (4 1/2) and Madelyn (1) in the bike trailer.
It worked out great! 

6. There are a ton of different options for your sleeping quarters while camping.
One year we took a tent trailer which was fun but these past two years we have been tent camping.
We have this 8 person tent from REI and love it! 
Aaron, me and the 2 big kids sleep on cots and Madelyn slept in the pack in play and we still had plenty of room.
Next year will will have baby number 4 with us so we have thought about getting a blowup mattress for us, letting the 3 biggest kids sleep on the cots and the baby in the pack n play.

*The cots are nice because they are more comfy than sleeping on the ground and you can store all of your bags/suitcases underneath them.  

7. Make Some Special Camping Traditions! 

We want camping to be fun! 
Over the past couple of years we have created some camping traditions...things our kids look forward to when we say the word "camping"!

Some of our camping traditions are...a big homemade breakfast (eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast...the works!), hot chocolate with breakfast for the kids, picking out a special walking stick to play with/take on hikes, playing with flash lights at night, and of course eating lots of campfire treats!! We have tried Smores (extra yummy with cinnamon graham crackers or Nutella instead of chocolate), Mexican Smores, and my favorite Banana Boats!

We also always go camping with a group of friends which makes everything way more fun! I think all of the adults favorite times are around the campfire after the kids are in bed. Sometimes we play board games or just hang out and chat but there is something about being in nature, under the stars, around a fire with good friends that can't be beat!   

The kids also love going on vacation with their friends!

Hope this little post has convinced you that camping with kids is not only possible but fun!! 
And if you are still hesitant...give it a try! 
I promise you won't regret it!

*And as always feel free to email me with any questions you may have! 


Unknown said...

Yay! Lots of good info! So smart to not let kids in tent to keep dirt out. Also, they will hopefully associate being in the tent with "sleep time" not "play time". I'm looking forward to making camping memories with my family :)
Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

S. J. Loewen said...

Looking at photos on your blog makes me impatient for my babies to grow up - just a little, I promise! Camping with your family sounds like so much fun - and that's an awesome looking tent!

Briar said...

Wow! We have so much in common that sometimes I feel like you are blogging our life! We love Yosemite and have taken our tribe several times. It's a lot of work but they love it! We also have the huge tent and an ibert bike seat. Have you ever used the stroller as the high chair? That's what we usually do since we are tight on space. Oh and glow bracelets and a bell are a great way to find little ones in the dark and make them visible to cars should they happen to go in the street. Good times! :)

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