We went camping this last week as a family. We have 3 kids and they are 7, 3 and just barely 1. As we told people that we were going camping we received all kinds of comments about how crazy we were, or how people didn’t know how we did it. People were wishing that they were as brave as us. To be honest, we were a little nervous about our baby because it was her first time but it was such a huge success. So let’s talk about how we pulled it off.
One of the things that made it easy was that we went to an organized campground. The roads in were paved, there was parking for RV’s or in our case, our car. There was a firepit already built in and they had water spigots at each site. There were places to pitch tents and our location actually had a picnic table on site. The best part is that there are bathrooms. Going somewhere remote that isn’t full of other campers has its benefits but if you are taking little kids and it’s your/their first time, I definitely recommend something more developed. Shade is VERY important as to not be completely miserable. Research the amount of shade that you have at whatever site you select and then take a shade tent. You can find one similar to the one that we have here but something bigger is NOT a bad idea, we’re hoping to invest in one soon.
You and your kids are going to get dirty. I hate dirt. I don’t like weeding, I love the beach but I hate the sand. I’m not a fan of wearing sandals hiking because….I mean you get it. That being said, you can imagine that this part is a little hard for me. I want to wash myself off and carry lotion everywhere I go. I’ve talked to so many people over the years that have expressed that their reason for not going camping is because they don’t know how to keep themselves and their kids clean. The answer that I have for this problem is, you can’t. You are all going to get dirty and it’s okay. It’s okay to let your children crawl around in the dirt. Even if those dirty hands end up in their mouth they will survive. You can bring wipes, wash off before meals in the water spigot and have them take their shoes off before coming into the tent. However, the sooner you accept that ya’ll are going to get filthy and stay that way until you come home the more you will enjoy your trip. When packing clothes consider clothes that are black or clothes that you don’t mind ending up black.
You need activities for yourself and your kids. No, I do not mean Ipads or phones. I mean real life, unplugged, socialize with others activities. We like to take cards and board games. We take books and coloring supplies. This time we made a scavenger hunt for the kids on paper plates that included things like “find a stick shaped like a Y” or “find 3 rocks as small as your fingernail.” When I was growing up my grandma used to give me, at an appropriate age, a hammer, and some small rocks and I would hammer them open so I could look at the inside. She also set up a station with paint and I would paint rocks. We did both of these activities this trip and the boys LOVED them. The baby spent most of her time with us and in the dirt. Without activities for everyone camping can drag, especially if you and/or your kids are used to being distracted by things that you won’t have while camping.
We also found a campsite that was close to the lake. We took a paddleboard and spent one day on the water. My kids could have stayed out on the water all day. This is also another place that our shade tent was absolutely necessary.
Plan easy meals that don’t require a ton of supplies and pack as few items as possible that will need to be kept cold. We took a pack of water bottles and a pack of Gatorade from Costco and would put a few into the cooler at a time. Here are a few ideas for easy camping meals.
We take Costco muffins to eat for every breakfast. Muffins and anything similar will be some of the easiest food ideas for the most important meal of the day. Donuts, English muffins, bagels and all of their toppings are cheap and easy. In the past, I have also made banana bread and taken that with us.
Lunch is the most simple in sandwich form. We also like to prepare some chicken in advance and take a few pieces with us that we know are cooked and just need to be heated over the fire or on a grill.
Dinner is the meal that can be the most complex but here are our favorites.
A weenie roast is always a winner. Hot dogs, chips, and some fruit.
Tin Foil Dinners. Ground beef or turkey, diced potatoes, carrots, peas…whatever you want. Place all of the items you choose into the center of two layers of tin foil, season it to your liking, wrap it up and place it in coals. Cook for 20 minutes on each side and gauge how much more time it may need from there, open up the foil and eat.
Dutch oven meals are the best. There are so many recipes out there and all you do is dump the ingredients into the dutch oven and place it over the coals. Here are some of our go-to’s.
And my personal favorite Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler. Is it dinner? It’s that good, so maybe.
Some of our favorite camping snacks include trail mix, beef jerky, chips/crackers, Redvines, Oreos and Premier Protein protein shakes. None of which need to be kept cool and most of which won’t melt if left out in the heat.
Lastly, packing is going to make or break you. There are some things that you will die without but with such limited space, you do need to be picky. Click here to download and view our packing list for a 4-day/4-night camping trip for 5.
Just remember to grab plenty of ice for the coolers on your way up! We like to camp within a decent driving distance to a gas station for emergencies and you can always get more ice there if needed on longer trips.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you can’t ever go on vacation or get away because let’s be honest, traveling is expensive, especially with kids. Once we decided that camping was our form of getting away we are always on vacation. Little ones make it scary but you can do it! It’s worth every dirty covered memory, pinky promise.