You don’t have to be experienced or own a camper to go camping with your kids. There are 100 ways to do it and a thousand different reasons why you should. Even if you try it and determine that you don’t like it, you should give it a shot at least once in your lifetime.
Here’s the Why
Let’s start with the why behind camping with your kids. There are so many great reasons that you should take your kids camping but, really it boils down to the experience. It’s all about having an experience as a family and making memories. Whether you camp regularly or you are just thinking about it for the first time, camping provides family time and family time is the best time.
Camping gives your family more outdoor time. Being outdoors has proven to be relaxing, strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, and improve overall mood. Sometimes people don’t realize the benefits of being outdoors until they actually spend a significant amount of time outside. We live in an indoor world these days. You have to be intentional to get your family outside. Don’t let the fear of bugs, dirt, or heat scare you away. Camping doesn’t have to be any of that.
Camping can also shake things up a bit. It’s a different type of experience. It’s not the normal go on vacation and stay in a hotel or a rented house type of deal. Sometimes it’s fun to just do something different and experience new things. From the packing to meal planning, to setting up, camping is an adventure. It can push you and your family outside of the comfort zone. It also shows your family that you are open to new things and want them to experience different things in life.
Different Ways to Camp
When most people read the word camping, they think of a tent in the woods. But tent camping is not the only way to camp, and it doesn’t have to be in the woods. There is tent camping, camping in a camper, cabin rentals, and even glamping now. Our family started with tent camping and eventually moved up to buying our own camper. From time to time, we like to rent a cabin or house at a camping resort just for a different experience. But camping resorts have so much to offer. There are places with waterparks, beach access, laser tag, daily activities, arcades, and so much more.
Tent camping, in my opinion, can be the most difficult for a family. It is totally doable but takes the most effort. You have to pack ALL the things and there is a lot to the set-up process. Temperature shifts and rain are also harder to deal with in a tent. With that said, there are some pretty cool tents out there and it is probably the cheapest way to camp. Tent sites are relatively inexpensive, and you can always borrow equipment from family or friends to try it out.
There are various ways to camp in a camper. If you are thinking about buying one, check out my post with tips to help buy a camper for your family. But you don’t have to buy one to go camping. There are great rental resources out there like outdoorsy.com. Believe it or not, you can pick a spot and have someone deliver a camper to it. They will even get it set up for you! You just show up like a rental house and use it.
Many camping resorts have different types of rentals if you don’t want to tent camp or rent a camper. There are cabins, tiny houses, and regular vacation rentals. We have stayed in all different types, and I do think this is probably the easiest way to camp. They typically have a grill, firepit, some kitchen appliances, beds, and temperature control. You get to enjoy the amenities of the campground, have the experience, and stay is something more comfortable. But it can also be the most expensive way to camp.
Family Camping Tips
Camping with kids isn’t necessarily easy and requires some prep work. I think it is totally worth it though. After camping for years with our family, a variety of different ways, we have learned so many hacks to help. Below are some of our top tips to help you prepare for your family camping trip and check out my post on what to pack for your family camping trip too.
- Visit the campground website and read. Make sure to visit the campgrounds website and read all the rules. Plus, there are FAQ on most websites. You will need to know what you can and cannot do. You also need to know what they offer. Do they allow fires, have ice, any pools, fishing, etc.? Checking out their activity schedule can also help with planning.
- Look for deals. Many camping resorts offer deal codes or promotions that can save you hundreds of dollars when you book. Especially Jellystone parks. Be sure to check before you book.
- Know your site type. It is important to know your site type. Does it have a firepit or grill? Is it paved or dirt? If it is not paved, don’t bring nice shoes and invest in a huge tarp! It is good to know if there are trees for shade or bathhouses nearby. But also, if you have to back in a camper or put out a slide, you need to know what the site setup is.
- Book add ons early. If you want to book an add on, make sure you do it before you arrive. Things get sold out most times. Think cabanas near the pool, golf carts, paid activities, etc.
- Check the weather. Be sure to check the weather before you start packing and up until you leave. It is so important to know if you are facing rain, wind, or scorching heat. This is going to guide your packing and the stuff you bring.
- Make a menu. Create your food menu before you go. This not only helps you plan out your food, but it also helps you pack the food and not forget things. I like to go meal by meal and make sure that I have all the ingredients and condiments. You can even make some meals ahead of time, like spaghetti sauce or casseroles. Don’t forget LOTS of snacks.
- Bring paper products. It is so much easier to just use paper plates and cups. Then you throw them in the trash or fire, when you are done. Washing dishes while camping is never fun.
- Use a packing list. There are a ton of great packing lists out there, especially on Pinterest. Use one for your sanity.
- Pack clothes separate. Don’t just throw everyone’s clothes in one big bag or suitcase. Use packing cubes or separate bins to keep everyone’s stuff together. Check out this post on packing for a family to help you out.
- Pack in layers. When you camp, evenings tend to be cooler. So, try to pack in layers. Like sweatshirts and sweatpants that can be taken off as the day warms up. Don’t forget swimwear if there is any form of water. The kids will go in if it is open, even if it is freezing. Extra underwear and socks are always a good thing too.
- Bring the bags. Literally, bring all the bags. We use bags for everything. From pool bags for the beach or water days to Ziplock bags for the lotions. Bags are useful. So don’t forget garbage bags, extra plastic bags for wet stuff, a bathhouse bag, a pool bag, or hiking bags.
- Bring basic medical stuff. You never know what is going to happen and if you are in the middle of nowhere, it can be hard to find the basics. Make sure you pack all the medicines (Tylenol, Benadryl, sunscreen, itch cream, etc.) and basic first aid supplies (like an outdoor first aid kit and thermometer). If you are at a resort near stores you don’t have to worry as much because you can buy it. But something just makes me feel better having it all on hand.
- Keep it simple. Camping doesn’t have to be complex. You don’t need the fancy clothes, handbags, matching shoes, and makeup. Nobody cares about that stuff, and it is supposed to be a relaxed activity. So let your hair down and bring the basics.
- Stick to your schedule. Now I am not saying plan it all out and don’t flex from your norm but, with kids, schedules work. If you vary too far from your normal routine of food and sleep, you will regret it with the littles. From vomiting from too much junk food to screaming melt downs from lack of sleep, we have experienced it all. Camping is already breaking the routine so remember the more variables you add in, the more you alter their norm.
- Bring all the outdoor “stuff”. Bikes, scooters, picnic blankets, hiking gear, fishing gear, cornhole, outdoor rugs, beach toys, shade tents, screened tents, chairs, flashlights, fire tools, a small blower, tiki torches, bug candles, and fun lights are just some of the things we pack.
- Pack a toy bag. We always allow the kids to fill one bag with their favorite toys and activities. For example, dolls, trucks, or coloring stuff. There may be a time that they need to stay busy while you cook.
- Go with Friends. Camping with friends is always fun. Convince some friends or family to come with you.
I know this seems like a lot and can be overwhelming, especially for your first trip. There is a lot to think about, plan, and pack. Once you do it a couple times, it becomes a lot easier. It is all worth it in the end. Here’s to happy memories on your family camping trip!
-Kristy M., Mommy to Many