Tuesday, February 11, 2020

3 Tips to Survive Camping with Kids

Mom2MomEd Blog: 3 Tips to Survive Camping with Kids
Many parents have mixed feelings about camping with children (especially small ones), and I get it! Before I had children of my own, I was a self-proclaimed parenting expert. I know there are several of you out there who were the same!

I was sure I would not let children change my life or impact the activities that I enjoyed in any way. I thought that it was silly when parents stayed home because of their children or gave up activities just because they now had littles running around and ruining all of the fun.

How hard could parenting be, right?

In our single days and our pre-children married days, my husband and I spent a lot of time camping -- not even glamorous camping. Rather, we liked the kind where you drive up in the middle of the night, throw your tent up, chug a few beers, and eat something from a can. We'd then get up, hike around, and hit the road again. Sometimes, we'd actually plan and pack "real" food and decide where we were going before it got dark. Other times, we were more spontaneous and just pitched our tent to break up a long road trip (another pre-kid favorite activity!).

Somewhere along way, we acquired a ridiculously large and obnoxious RV. We drove that thing everywhere, including around town just for the fun of it! We broke down several times, blew a tire or two, and maybe extinguished a small engine fire. Nothing stopped us, not even when we found out I was pregnant.

If anything we camped even more. However...

When our son was born we definitely became those boring, do nothing, stay at home parents pretty quickly. I was a nervous first time mom and was very strict with our nap, play, feeding routine.  Camping with kids didn't happen for a couple of years.

Fast forward 24 months. Our daughter was born and I started to get antsy.

We needed to get out of the house (and town!).

Our son loved the outdoors as much as mom and dad, despite his limited life experience to that point. So, we decided to head out of town. As luck would have it, the gigantic RV had met it's fate, and so we were only equipped with a tent and some cots. Our daughter was a preemie and slept 23 hours a day for her first few months, so I figured she could just come along and sleep the weekend away. We packed the house into our small SUV and hit the road with our (gigantic) dog. We had a lovely afternoon. We hiked, cooked, made s'mores, and just enjoyed the fresh air.

It was pretty idyllic!

Bedtime rolled around and we all snuggled into the tent to turn in for the night. Our tiny daughter slept soundly in a Pack-and-Play (portable crib) and our son loved being in a sleeping bag next to mom and dad. We were set for the night!

After sleeping for two hours we woke up to a family of 500 setting up their camp at MIDNIGHT directly across from us! They proceeded to scream, play games, and party for several more hours. We asked them to keep it down and they declined our request. Finally, around 3am, they seemed to be down for the night. Great! Only a few minutes later, the loudest storm rolled in and the sky opened up with pouring rain and thunder.

It was so loud in our tent! Our son was horrified (maybe a little terrified), but our tiny daughter never woke up despite all of the chaos! We didn't sleep a wink after that. Pouring down rain on a tent is about as loud rocks on a roof! It may be the loudest sound ever. Around 5am we decided to call the trip done and ran from the tent to our car, balled everything up as best we could, and headed home.

It took us several years to try family camping again, but we finally did and it's one of our favorite family past-times!

Here are 3 things that have made our life a little easier on the road and in the wild:

1.  Don't try to pack up the entire house, but don't pack too lightly either. Kids don't rough it as well as adults. While we don't usually take any technology with us, we don't disallow toys or other items that will entertain the kids. There is nothing worse on a camping trip than finally sitting down at the camp fire and your kid is begging you to entertain them (thunder and rain and huge partying families aside). We keep a little box of games, cards, and coloring items in our camper (a great compromise between a huge RV and a tent) so the items feel new and special when we go on a trip. We also have a Yahtzee game that is only for camping and we all look forward to playing it. We also don't fight the kids when they just want to hang out in the camper instead of exploring. It keeps them busy, it's something special, and it gives us some quiet time to ourselves.

2.  As soon as we get into the car, the tent or anywhere inconvenient, someone has to go to the bathroom. It's like a law or something. We do have a camper now, but we didn't for years. We decided to invest in a small portable toilet that we could easily keep in the tent for the late night potty needs and other times that there was no where else to go. While we didn't enjoy cleaning it out (it was a novelty at first and they both had to constantly use it because it was available), it saved us from wandering around the woods at night with two kids who had to pee but didn't want to go behind a tree. Not to mention it has saved me a time or two from having to leave our cozy tent in the freezing cold. I'll be honest, I can rough it like the best of them, but why do that when you don't have to? A bucket with a toilet seat on top also works as a makeshift toilet. This also makes it a lot easier to pack out what you pack in and leave the woods how you found them.

3.  Plan your trip around something that will be interesting to your children. I know adults have places they like to go, but if there isn't something to entertain your children, they are not going to enjoy the trip -- and neither will you. Both of our kids could go fishing for hours, so we look for campgrounds/sites that are near water with easy walking access. We also know that they will ride their bikes for hours if we go somewhere with paved paths. We always throw bikes and scooters in when packing up for a trip. We've found that if our kids have things to keep them engaged, they don't start fighting while camping.....which is a huge bonus in our books!

These may seem like simple tips, but they have saved our trips a few times over. We now successfully camp multiple times a year, and, while there may be hiccups now and then, we have a pretty good system in place. We especially love camping on the beach and catching our dinner for the night. We also have so many fond memories of camping at a special creek and watching our children spend the day fishing.

Wherever you end up going, I hope you make some special memories with your family. I know that your children will one day look back and cherish the memories you made with them.

Where are your favorite places to camp with kids? Do you have any essential items or tips that make your life easier? Drop a comment and let us know!

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