We have three kids (4-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old daughter). We purchased our first travel trailer and starting camping as a family after our twins turned one. What other vacation is affordable for a family of five?! In that time, we’ve learned a few tricks for camping with young kids. Here are our top six tips for camping with kids:
1. Split up long trips.
Nothing starts a trip off on a bad foot more than cranky, tired kids! We’ve found that arriving at a campsite too late in the evening after working all day not only makes that first night rough but also the next full day. Our kids don’t like to go to sleep right when we arrive so they’re really tired the next day. Cranky kids = cranky parents. Not exactly how we like to vacation! When we have a long trip ahead of us, we’ll find a campsite within an hour or so of home. We get started on our drive right after work on Friday and find either big sites or a pull-thru sites so we don’t even have to unhook the camper. Plus, this lets us explore other campgrounds!
2. Store toys and activities only used for camping in your camper.
We keep a set of toys in the camper and leave them there. This helps with packing – one less thing to remember! We choose toys that we don’t care about getting dirty or broken. The kids love playing with these toys when we camp because they don’t see them any other time. And, it’s a great way to rotate older toys at home after the holidays or birthdays when the kids receive new toys.
3. Keep a set of clothes for the kids in the camper.
Similar to #2, we keep a set of clothing for the kids in the camper almost the entire season. After I wash them, I take it right back to the camper. I select clothes that I don’t care about getting dirty because our kids spend so much time in the woods and the sand when we’re camping. And, I only have to throw in a few extras here and there depending on weather for a trip which saves a TON of time packing. Have I mentioned how much I hate packing for a trip?
4. Prep food/meals ahead of your trip.
When you have busy kids and/or toddlers running around a campsite, it’s difficult to stop and put together a meal and keep the kids alive! We prep meals ahead of our trip so we spend less cooking time and choose meals that are really easy to put together. Anything you can do at home before your trip will help! Cutting up fruit so it’s ready to serve, cooking meat, anything will help. Here are a few of our favorite camping meals:
- Breakfast Burritos – I cook the filling ahead of time and heat up just what we need in the morning.
- Muffins – Prepackaged or made ahead of time. The kids love them and we can usually buy a couple extra zzzs by handing out muffins and turning on a movie. It’s
vacationafter all, right?
- Walking Tacos – I cook the meat at home and put it in the fridge. Everything else can be thrown together quickly.
- Campfire Pizzas – Grab your pie iron, bread, cheese and toppings and you’re ready! The kids love making their own custom pizza.
- Lunchables – Sometimes I get fancy and make my own but if we’re being honest I’m all about buying these ahead of time and feeding them to the kids. It might not be the healthiest choice but if it gets us back to the vacation fun quickly I’m good with it. These are also great for traveling to your destination!
5. Pick the right campsite.
Kids have a lot of STUFF! Especially babies and toddlers. I’m always amazed at what is required for a simple afternoon at the beach. To make our lives easier, we are very careful about which campsites we choose. Our favorite campsites are those that we can easily access the beach/water directly from our campsite. Having quick, easy access to the camper frees us from having to lug all the kid-essentials to the beach. I’m exhausted just thinking about dragging a mountain of gear in 80-degree heat. We’ve found convenient sites like these at Harrisville State Park, Tawas Point State Park, Young State Park, Interlochen State Park, and although we haven’t visited yet I hear Wilderness State Park offers the same.
6. Always, always have a rainy-day plan.
The only thing worse than lugging kids and their gear to the beach is spending an entire day cooped up in your camper with rambunctious, bored kiddos. When we pick a camping destination we always do research ahead of time to have a few rainy-day or not-so-great-weather activities up our sleeves. In some cases, these trips have been highlights of the summer for our kids. When we visited Harrisville State Park, we checked out the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Museum in Alpena. The museum was free and the kids LOVED it! Bonus points for an educational experience! And, when we visited Holland State Park we visited Nelis’ Dutch Village when the weather was too chilly for the beach. Another great find and great memories for our kids.
Have any tips of your own you’ve picked up over the years? Share them on our Facebook group!