Camping is a traditional activity throughout the United States for families and youth groups. Camping is also an economical way to spend a week of vacation while exploring a national or state park. Camping with children poses its own challenges, depending on the age of the child. Use these tips to plan a camping trip for your family that everyone will enjoy and remember for years to come.
Choosing a Campground or Resort
Camping with a child may change the types of amenities desired for a family visiting a national park, resort campground or state park. Campsites will vary in the types of sites, the amenities on location and the type of campers who frequent the area. Decide if you will be tent camping or prefer to rent a cabin. Young children will enjoy the adventure of both venues. A tent will be less expensive, but will not keep out the noise of neighbors. A cabin is more solid but does not provide the experience of a tent.
Many national parks have campgrounds with showers, bathrooms, playgrounds and small general stores. Additional items to consider are beaches, fishing, boating and the availability of on-site restaurants. Having programmed activities on site can also make a trip more exciting. Nature hikes hosted by rangers or programs that introduce children to stars in a place where city lights don’t drown them out can create a memory that lasts a lifetime.
Camping Gear to Bring
Once a location has been chosen it is time to start packing. Many items can make a camping trip much easier than it might first appear. Choose equipment that will simplify camp chores. A camp stove will be easier to use than trying to cook over a fire. The tent should be easy to set up. Sleeping mats should be comfortable and easy to inflate. Some styles inflate themselves with little effort. Bring activities that can be done inside the tent in case it rains. A deck of cards, books to read or a favorite magnetic board game can pass the hours if the weather does not cooperate.
An inflatable camp sink will make meal clean-up easier. There are pots and pans that nestle together for easy storage. Purchase metal roasting prongs to roast hot dogs or marshmallows over an open fire. These have rubber handles to help prevent burning as the heat from the fire travels down the metal stick. Bring aluminum foil. This all-purpose material can be used to cook meals and create sculptures if it starts to rain and the kids need something to do.
Planning Meals Kids Will Eat
Plan meals ahead and experiment with dehydrated foodls. Some types of food are just easier to prepare when camping. Staples include instant oatmeal, instant coffee or tea, pop tarts and dry cereal for breakfast. Lunch can be sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly, raisins, apples, pears and a bag of potato chips. Dinner may be hot dogs roasted over a fire or a dehydrated meal that only needs boiling water to make. Cup of soup and ramen noodles also travel well and are easy to make.
Snacks can be bags of chips or crackers, nuts or breakfast bars. Avoid bringing candies with chocolate as this may melt and create a large mess. Bring individual packets of flavoring for water to create orange juice or grape juice. These do not need to be refrigerated and will cover the taste of water from a well or other non-city-cleaned source. Gallon jugs of water from home will usually taste better than well water from the campsite.
Test any new foods before going camping to make sure the kids will eat them. Try a variety of foods to determine what the family prefers. Different brands will have different flavors and tastes.
Additional Tips for Camping with Kids
Planning is key to camping with children. They will have a lot of time when the adults are busy preparing meals or generally taking care of camp business. Providing children with activities they can do independently will reduce their frustration and allow everyone to enjoy the trip. Bring small toys or favorite activities such as coloring books, matchbox cars or plastic animals that the children can play with outside and keep themselves entertained.
Bring small mesh bags to hold water toys and other outside toys that may be used so they can be easily carried from the campsite to the play area. Bring a welcome mat to be placed outside the entrance to the tent. This will provide a spot to place shoes, as shoe should not be worn inside the tent. Bring a flashlight that can double as a nightlight. The night can seem very dark to a child who is used to a nightlight or hall light to sleep with. Small chairs for the kids to sit in while in the camp can be helpful. These chairs can also travel to the beach or playground as needed to provide seating.
Before camping for a full week take an overnight trip to a local campsite to see how the children adapt and behave. This may highlight any additional items to bring on a longer trip. Enjoy the time together and remember to bring a camera to record the fun and excitement of the trip.