Camping is becoming more popular these days with families who desperately need a vacation but who want to steer clear of crowded locales. Move aside beaches and theme parks — camping is where it’s at. But if you’ve never been camping with kids (or even camping yourself), you may have your doubts about this fun form of travel.
How do you keep everyone entertained? What if you have a kid in diapers? How do you protect multiple tiny human beings from injury, bug bites, snake bites and more while hanging out in the woods or by the lake?
Settle down. Camping’s not that hard and can be an amazing way to spend time as a family and make memories.
To help you get through your first camping trip, here are eight tips for camping with your kids this summer.
Think you might need a dress rehearsal before your first actual trip out into the woods (or to the nearest state park)?
Set up a tent and practice camping in the backyard. Everyone can enjoy being outdoors together, sleeping in a tent and maybe even building a fire.
You get all the perks of camping, but your home is right there in case anything does happen to go wrong.
It’s a great way to have fun, work on the kinks and know for sure what you may need to take with you when you actually go to a campground.
2. Only take on what you can handle
If you know there’s no way anyone in your family will be okay with using the bathroom in the woods, don’t force them. Go to a campground with restroom and shower facilities.
If you know there’s no way your bad back will handle lying in a tent, rent a small camping trailer or even a cabin.
If you know you’ll feel a bit antsy going to camp in a remote, secluded area, camp somewhere near a small town or somewhere that’s popular with other camping families.
There’s no right or wrong way to camp. If there’s a part of traditional camping that you don’t want to try, you don’t have to. Make it as fun for you and your family as possible by camping the way you want to camp.
3. Have plenty of fun on hand
Don’t expect the kids to grab a stick and be entertained for the weekend. Make sure to pack plenty of fun (electricity-free) toys for their enjoyment.
Think squirt guns, sports balls, bubbles, coloring books and card games.
Similarly, if you’re camping at a campground and you have a choice of several, look for campgrounds with playground equipment, a lake, family-friendly hiking trails and other forms of entertainment. Some campgrounds even host family activities such as sing-alongs, story time and more.
4. Stay organized
There’s nothing more annoying than being camping and realizing that you can’t find that one piece of gear that you need right at that second.
Stay as organized as possible. Use clear bins and containers to store your gear, to make things even easier. Put your bathroom goods in one bin, your cooking tools in another, clothes and bed items in yet another.
5. Indulge in plenty of snacks
Part of the fun of camping is the food! Let your kids go a little crazy with the marshmallows and s’mores, but have other snacks on hand, too, for daytime snacking. Trail mix, dried fruits, beef jerky and other items are nice treats that travel well.
6. Be prepared for whatever comes your way
Always camp with a first aid kit. Beyond your typical household first aid supplies, you’ll also want to have camping-specific first aid and health supplies, such as sunscreen, bug spray, bug bite ointment and tools to remove ticks or splinters.
7. Learn your local wildlife
While, typically, you have nothing at all to fear when camping in a campground when it comes to the local wildlife, you still want to be aware of what’s in the area.
Read up on the potentially dangerous animals — snakes, spiders, bears and the like — and teach your children how to spot and avoid them.
But also make a point to read up and teach the kids about all the friendly wildlife in the area, too, and how they can track them.
8. Go with the flow
Lastly, go with the flow. Camping is a time for fun and relaxation, and there’s no need to stick to rigid schedules.
If your children are hungry, hand them a snack. If they need a nap at noon, let them sleep. And if they want to stay up late and watch the stars, enjoy the experience with them.
And definitely don’t worry about the dirt! The mud and mess will wipe away, but you’ll always have fun family memories.
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