My family and I recently returned from a 10-day road trip that included two cabins, three campgrounds, hundreds of miles, and countless memories. Of those 10 days, four nights were spent in a tent in three different locations. Yes, that is correct. A tent with a four-year old and a 22-month old. And let me tell you, it was so much fun! I know some of you are giving me the side eye right now, and I know that camping is not for everyone, but let me tell you that if you enjoy camping, do not let having kids stop you!
I have to admit, when we go camping we lean more towards the glamping side of camping vs the roughing it type. I often joke to my husband that our raised queen size air mattress we use camping is more comfortable than our bed at home! But none the less, it is still camping. So how do we have fun while camping with two young kids? Here are a few tips we have learned!
Pick a family-friendly campground
When camping, location is very important. There are so many amazing campgrounds within a few hours of the Twin Cities. First I suggest putting together a must have list. Here is our list when camping with the kids:
Must Have List:
Drive-in tent site
Bathroom facility close by
Activities for parents and kids to do
Electricity nice, but not required
Beach or swimming close by
Once you have your list, then you can begin researching campgrounds in the area you would like to go. We love campgrounds that have activities for the kids as well as the adults. The first campground we stayed on our trip was Jellystone Park in Warrens, WI. This is basically a campground on kid steroids. Waterslides, splash pad, lazy river, mini golf, wave pool, craft time, and Yogi and his friends. The kids absolutely loved it here and us parents had a pretty great time as well. Our second stop was Gooseberry Falls. They have great tent sites, clean bathroom facilities, and amazing site seeing. Although there was much less activities for the kids to do here, they still had a great time hiking to see the waterfalls, playing on the beach, and roasting s’mores at the campfire. The last campground stop in Orr, MN was the perfect compromise of the first two stops. We snagged the perfect tent site next to the lake with our own dock and family of ducks to greet us in the morning. They had a great beach, kayaks, playground, water trampoline, and clean facilities.
Preparing for the trip
Be genuinely excited for your camping trip and explain to your kids where you are going camping and what it will all include. Kids often feed off of our behavior so if you are excited, chances are they are going to be too! Also, get them involved in the packing. Our daughter has a small backpack that whenever we travel on the weekends, she will pack all of her must have toys in there to bring with on the trip.
Tent: When camping with kids, the easier setup the better for us. We invested in a 10-man Coleman Instant Tent. This tent is big enough for all of us with room to spare and the best part is that we can have it setup in less than 5 minutes. I am sure if we timed it, it probably would be more like two minutes! Another great feature is the room divider. Our youngest daughter doesn’t sleep the best in the same room as us so we put her on her own side of the tent and put up the room divider and she slept great!
Beds: We have a raised queen sized air mattress for us, a toddler sized air mattress for our four-year old that she loves, and a pack’n’play for our youngest. The pack’n’play fits in the tent nicely and since our daughter is used to sleeping in one at daycare and when we travel, she feels comfortable in it and makes sleeping much easier.
Chairs : When camping, we always bring our camp chairs for around the fire and have two smaller ones for the girls. Most sites have a picnic table, but having separate chairs is much easier when relaxing by the fire.
Noise machine: Both of our girls sleep with a noise machine. We have an app on our cell phone so when we travel we can put the noise on when it is time to sleep. This helps block out the noise outside the tent and also helps as it is part of their normal bedtime routing.
Backpack carrier: Chances are if you are camping, you might walk around the campground or do some hiking. Our youngest daughter loves to ride on our back in the ergo which allows us to go places that we can’t with a stroller.
Food: Keep it simple. With young kids, you will be busy enough and don’t need to worry about making an elaborate meal. Also, prep whatever you can before you leave on your trip to make mealtime easier.
At The Campsite
Organization: When setting up camp, try to keep everything organized. This will minimize stress of looking for things later.
Include the kids: Make sure to involve the kids in the setup and tear down. Our oldest is always so proud of herself when she makes her bed and gets her side of the tent all ready.
Enjoy the outdoors: Have a campfire, go for a hike, go swimming, catch frogs, the list goes on and on of all the fun outdoor things you can introduce your kids to while camping.
Relax and enjoy: Kids’ schedules are probably going to go out the window when camping, but go with the flow, relax, and enjoy the quality time with your family.
Camping with kids can be a lot of work, but oh so worth it! I can’t wait to go on more camping trips and create more memories with my family this summer!