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Last weekend, we went camping, and it ended quickly with a lot of rain and a leaky tent.
Regardless, not one, but two people have requested a blog post on the topic. So even though I’m no expert, and our trip wasn’t exactly a success, I can hook you guys up with some helpful tips and tricks. Here we go!
Quick note: this might be what you would consider “glamping”. Sorry, I’m not hardcore. I have to have a bathroom and showers nearby.
Essentials You Might Not Think Of
There are the obvious essentials for camping, like a tent and food. But when you have a preschooler and a toddler running around, there are a few things that are extra helpful:
Canopy – Bring one to set up over your picnic table or eating area, and have a place to gather when it’s really sunny – or if it rains. (You hope it doesn’t, but just in case.)
Wagon – A multi-purpose tool. Great for mild hikes or walks, a place to set the kids, a way of moving supplies, and a toy to keep kids occupied.
Hammock – Ours became the hub for the kids to play, and also was a great place to take a nap in the middle of the day.
Sand Toys – We were on a site packed with pebbles, and of course my boys dug in. Sand toys are great for the outdoors and you won’t mind so much if they don’t make it home.
Hand Sanitizer – Because a trip all the way to the bathroom to wash your hands might turn out to take too much effort.
Glow Sticks – A cheap, fun toy for when it gets dark! (Here’s an assorted pack that makes lots of fun toys.)
S’More Sticks – These sticks expand to a length that even a smaller child can hold, and it’s a more sanitary option that sticks from the woods.
Solar-powered Garden Lights – A cheap way to light a trail around your campsite and make it easier to navigate in the dark!
Tips for the Trip
Go with friends. We were so grateful to have another family with kids around the same age there. Our boys could play with their boys, we could share meals, and we could fill the gaps for each other for the things we inevitably would forget. (And did.)
Keep the car nearby. We kept our food in the car, to avoid animals. And small kids can hang out in their car seats with the doors or windows open if you’re nearby. It’s a nice way to keep them contained if you need to during set-up or clean-up.
Use a bucket to pack. My friend Kazia (who we shared a campsite with) shared this amazing idea: pack your clothes and personal items in a bucket – like a plastic paint bucket from a hardware store. It doubles as a stool, and won’t get its contents wet.
Pack layers. Be prepared for any kind of weather by packing long sleeves, short sleeves, jackets, pants, shorts, etc.
Stay close to town. In the likely event you forget something, have a Walmart or a general store available nearby. A pizza place? That too.
Pick a spot for maximum sleep potential. That means limited light, limited people, and limited traffic.
Bring as many comforts from home as you can. Pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals, anything to help make them feel a little more comfortable.
Most parks have wood and ice available. And reasonably priced. Don’t feel pressure to get those things ahead of time.
Easy Meal Ideas
Some basics: Stay simple. Work with another family. You probably won’t eat the healthiest while you’re out, kids included, so don’t worry too much about the health factor. And prep as much ahead of time.
Omelettes/egg scramble (chop vegetables ahead of time to make it easier)
Pancakes (make ahead of time to make it easier on you!)
Bacon (of course!)
Breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs in tortillas with burrito toppings)
Sandwiches – peanut butter, grilled cheese
Burgers and hot dogs
Walking Tacos (cooked hamburger meat and taco toppings added to individual bags of tortilla chips – eat right out of the bag)
Grilled meat, potatoes and veggies in aluminum foil (prep ahead of time)
English muffin pizzas (bring tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and toppings, and grill)
S’mores are the obvious choice. Make them a little more fun by adding some of your favorite candies. (Rolls work great!)
Or add mini marshmallows, chocolate, fruit, and other fillings to ice cream cones, wrap in foil, and cook over the campfire.
What tips and tricks do you have for camping with littles? Happy to add your ideas to this post (with credit)! We need all the help we can get 😉