Family camping is one of our favorite summer activities. However, camping with children can be a challenge if you aren’t prepared. After many trial and error camping experiences, my husband and I have accumulated many useful tips and tricks that help to make our camping adventures go as smoothly as possible.
12 Tips and Tricks for Camping With Kids
Here’s our list of tips and tricks to make your camping experience with kids a little bit easier and a lot more fun … for everyone.
Arrive before dark
If your camping destination is far from home and you have a long drive ahead, be sure to time your arrival wisely. Arriving at a campsite in the dark with kids can be tricky. You can’t get a proper lay of the land in the dark and it makes it difficult to set up your site with tired kiddos. After too many late-night arrivals with crying kids and frustrated parents, we now aim to get to our site with at least two hours of daylight.
Try out glow stick nightlights
Last year we forgot the kids’ nightlights when we went camping. Luckily, we had purchased glow sticks for a fun nighttime activity. We were able to hang a few glow stick rings from various points in our truck camper and they provided the perfect amount of glow to keep everyone happy.
Bring a sound machine
Our kids sleep with a sound machine at home every night. We don’t travel anywhere without it. This includes when we go camping. The sound machine is perfect for cancelling out any strange nighttime noises or any rowdy campground neighbors. If you don’t have power to plug in a portable sound machine, we have used a fully charged iPad with a white noise app downloaded on it.
Stick to a familiar bedtime routine
Going camping and sleeping in a new place is super exciting for kids. So exciting that it can make bedtime difficult. Sticking to a familiar bedtime routine can help to reduce the overall novelty of the situation and put your kids at ease. Going through the regular motions will help them to relax and get into a bedtime state of mind. Make sure you pack all of your kid’s bedtime essentials — blankets, sleep sacks, teddies, and favorite bedtime stories.
Bring a bucket for bath time
You might be inclined to skip bathtime while camping but, trust me, your kids will need a good scrubbing. We bring a large Tupperware container and fill it with bubble bath and warm water. The kids think it’s fun and hilarious to have a bath in a bucket and it is effective in getting them nice and clean. While toting along a huge Tupperware container might seem like an inconvenience, you can use the bath bucket to pack other supplies like your towels or kid toys on the way in and out. A perfect multipurpose bathtime solution.
Bring an outdoor rug
An outdoor rug acts as an area for putting on and taking off shoes. It can also be used as a playmat for your kids since you don’t always know what the ground will be like at your campsite. If it’s sandy or muddy, the outdoor mat provides a clear play area. Our outdoor mat is easy to shake off and can be rolled up for transport.
Bring baby wipes
Baby wipes are not just for baby butts! We bring multiple packages on every family camping trip and they have many purposes. From cleaning faces and dirty feet to cleaning up road trip car spills. Baby wipes are a must. Bring a few packs and you’ll be surprised to see how many different things you will use them for.
Prepare food ahead of time
Campfire cooking can be fun but if you want to keep things as simple as possible, including the clean-up, then prepare your food ahead of time. We plan all of our meals, cut up all of our ingredients ahead of time, pre-make sandwiches, and even marinate our meat at home. This helps to make mealtime quick and it keeps the number of dishes you need to use to a minimum.
Keep a first-aid kit on hand
When you’re camping with littles, you can never be too prepared. We do not leave home without a well-stocked first-aid kit. When you’re outside being active and having tons of fun, there will probably be a few bumps and cuts so make sure you have tons of bandaids. Also, make sure you have all of the necessary medications that you might need for you and your kids.
Protect yourself from the sun and bugs
Don’t leave home without your sunscreen and bug spray. When you’re spending most of the day outside you need to protect yourself and your kids from the hot summer sun. In addition to sunscreen, we use wide-brimmed hats for the kids as well as UV protection shirts to keep away the harmful rays. For bugs, we look for deet-free bug spray to keep the mosquitos away from the kids.
Give yourself a break with a kids seat or stroller
If you have babies or young kids, a kids seat or stroller is necessary. A stroller can act as a high chair at mealtime if you don’t want to bring multiple chairs. The point is, if you want to have your hands free to make dinner or eat dinner, then you need a safe place to seat your kiddos.
Don’t forget garbage bags
When you’re camping, everything you bring in needs to go out with you when you leave. So, make sure you bring lots of bags for garbage and recycling. After we do our big grocery shop for camping food and supplies, we just bring all of the used plastic bags with us for garbage bags. When we had kids in diapers we also brought a sealable diaper bag in an effort to keep the diaper smell away.
Enjoy your next family camping trip
Camping with young kids comes with its challenges, but it can be done. Yes, it might feel like you are moving out of your house due to the sheer amount of stuff required to sleep away with children. But, I promise you, it’s worth it. You will go on adventures and create memories with your kids that will truly last a lifetime. With a little bit of prep work and the use of these camping tips and tricks, you can enjoy a fun and, dare I say, somewhat relaxing family camping trip.
— By Jessica Martel