We’ve taken our girls tent camping about 6 or 7 times now. We think camping is a great way to connect children to nature and unplug from our busy lives. My husband and I did a lot of camping out West when we lived in Colorado in our pre-children life. We consider ourselves seasoned campers but we were definitely nervous about our first camping trip with our children.
For our first camping trip we decided to do one night close by at Pocahontas State Park so we could easily make it home if we needed to. We’ve graduated to travelling farther away and staying for longer periods of time. Over the last several years we have camped at many Virginia campgrounds; Lake Anna State Park, Bear Creek Lake State Park, Douthat State Park, and Montbello campground near Wintergreen. Next on our list this summer will be Kiptopeke State Park in Virginia Beach.
We’ve learned a thing or two about camping with young children and we’ve made a few mistakes. (driving 20 minutes late at night to find a store that has diapers because we failed to pack any and camping in 104 degree weather in July are the top two blunders that come to mind) Here’s a list of tips and tricks that might help those who are considering taking their children camping but are still hesitant. One thing I know for sure is that our family loves to go camping. Our girls ask about going all the time. It has created some great family experiences and memories and there are some wonderful lessons to be learned from spending a couple of nights outside.
- Pick a campground with an activity for your kids to enjoy during the day time; horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and swimming are all great activities to fill your day.
- Before you arrive go online and check how the campsites are laid out. If you are tent camping check to see if will you be mixed in with the RV’s or if you will be on a separated loop. (tent only loops are considerably more quiet)
- Make sure you have the right camping gear. If you don’t want to buy brand new borrow from friends or family or buy second hand.
- Get to your campsite as early as possible. Even with a reservation you are usually not assigned a spot. Most campgrounds have you pick your own site upon arrival and trust me, all the good ones get picked first. If you don’t want to be right next to the bathroom with a squeaky door get there early.
- When choosing your campsite check to see what your distance is to the bathrooms, water supply, and playground ( if there is one).
- Check to see if you are allowed to bring your own firewood or need to purchase at camp store.
- Take your children’s bikes if you can. Another great time filler is riding loops around the camp ground or on trails nearby.
- Bring games.
- Always prepare for rain. Even if the weather does not call for it. Being unprepared for a summer rain storm can put a damper on any trip.
- Bring a well stocked first aid kit.
- Bring toilet paper, bring toilet paper, bring toilet paper!
- Bring plenty of water storage.
- Don’t leave any food, etc. out over night. It can attract all kinds of creatures, big and small. Put every thing in your car. Leave nothing out, not even toothpaste in your tent.
- Plan easy meals and defintely don’t forget the smores.
- Be flexible!
- Lastly, when you leave your camp site leave no trace!
If you still need some convincing or guidance check out the book “The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids” by Helen Olsson. The book has great ideas, recipes, boredom busters, and tips.
Do you have any tips for camping with children? Please share!