Ever since our kids (Christian, Ashton and Mia) were babies we’ve taken them out camping; it was a conscious decision that we made so that the kids would grow up with the same love of the outdoors and adventure that Justin and I grew up with. But let’s be honest, camping with kids can be a challenging task, especially if they’re still very young.
Over the years I’ve learned some tricks that help take the stress off family camping trips, so you can spend more time enjoying quality family time around the campfire.
Tip #1 Pre-Trip Checklist
Create a living pre-trip checklist that is unique to your family, that you can reference before you leave for a trip. This might include things like servicing the caravan or camper trailer, all the way through to remembering emergency clothes or glow sticks for the kids. It will also prompt you to check your camping equipment, including tents and mattresses, to make sure everything is in working order before you leave.
Tip #2 Don’t Overpack
This is a common mistake that I see a lot of families making. While it is important to have the right things (like the right clothes for the right climate), you don’t need to take everything that you own. For our family, we give each child one Flat Pack Storage Box before each trip, and they are only allowed to take items that fit inside. This keeps us from overloading our car or camper trailer, and stops us from feeling so cramped in on the way there and back.
Tip #3 Involve the kids
Two sets of eyes are better than one, right? Even if your kids are little, it’s good to get them involved in planning for, and packing for a camping trip so they can better understand what’s involved. It will also help them get excited about the trip if they’re not happy campers.
Tip #4 First Aid
When you’re in the great outdoors with kids, something is going to happen! It might be scraped knees or a splinter, you’re always going to have use for a decent first aid kit while you’re camping, so make sure that you purchase the good stuff, and ensure that keeping it topped up is high on your pre-trip checklist.
Tip #5 Headlamps
Kids headlamps are inexpensive but such a big help for kids that are still growing into their hand eye coordination. From going to the bathroom to finding their bed in the dark, headlamps are a real lifesaver when you’re camping with kids.
Tip #6 Set the ground rules
When you get to camp, make sure that you start assigning jobs to the kids right away. If the kids feel needed and useful, they are more likely to embrace the trip. It’s also important to ensure that you, as the parent, enjoys the trip too, so you shouldn’t get suckered in to setting everything up for them. If your kids are old enough, they need to set up their areas, keep them clean and pack them away themselves.
Tip #7 Glowsticks
We don’t go camping without glow sticks. The soft light produced by the sticks are perfect for helping sleepy kids to find their beds in the dark, they’re inexpensive and they last through the night.
Tip #8 Bite-sized Entertainment
There are elements of camping that are always going to be boring for kids; especially the drive in to camp. To help combat ‘are we there yet’, make sure you pack small card games to keep the kids entertained.
Tip #9 Marshmellows
Always remember the marsh mellows. Trust me, it’s no fun when you forget them!
Tip #10 Shower/Wet Wipes
Shower wipes, or wet wipes, are incredible when camping with kids; especially messy toddlers. This will make sure that no matter what they get into, you can always get them clean again no matter where you are, which is especially important if you are all about to get back into the car for a long drive.
Tip #11 Check the weather
Always make sure that you are packing for the weather; jumpers and rain gear being especially important to the wellbeing of your child when you are away from home.
Tip #12 The Campfire Rule
When camping with kids, teach them early on to always walk behind chairs that are placed around a campfire, and never in front. This rule has helped us enormously in making sure that the kids were always safe around campfires, as they were never close enough to trip in or have a fire-related accident.
Tip #13 Emergency clothes
While it’s important to keep the load light, younger children will always need emergency clothes. When our kids were younger, I always kept a bag of old clothes in the back of the car, so if we were away from home and they managed to get themselves filthy, I always had a back up.
Tip #14 Travelling Snacks
To eliminate pit-stops for snacks on the way to your camping destination, always pack snacks for the kids to munch on while travelling. This will cut down your travel time significantly, and they can’t say ‘are we there yet’ while snacking.