We love to camp and donít do it nearly as often as Iíd like to. If you donít mind ďroughing itĒ, love being out in nature, and can refrain from showering for a few days Ė itís a great, inexpensive family getaway.
It does, however, require some planning.
Make sure the children are well rested before you go.
The last time we went camping, we went following a really, busy week. Exhausted children can lead to a difficult car ride and increased tantrums or sibling conflicts while camping. Sleeping routines are disrupted already when camping, so itís important to arrive at the site with well-rested children who are rearing to go.
Too much food makes for a heavier load.
Planning out your meals and snacks will help to ensure that you bring just enough food. Pick foods that everyone in the family enjoys and that will help you pack less. Do you have a camping stove? Will you be cooking over a fire? Do you like to prepare your food ahead of time and warm it on the fire or eat it cold? All of these questions will help you select the right food items.
Plastic tubs Ė though not great for the environment Ė are perfect for toting camping gear.
We have one tub for our plates, pots and pans, and other serving items. We have another for our small stove, gas canisters, and cleaning supplies. Donít forget to pack the tablecloth with clips to keep it secure on the table. If you have room for a small folding table that helps to organize the cooking gear and gives you a space for food preparation.
Itís easier for every member of our family to have their own backpack filled with their clothes and toiletry items. We pack lightly but plan for any extreme weather changes. Their toothbrushes, flashlights, and a card game, doll, or other small toy are also packed. I pack another container with balls, fishing gear, bug spray, and other outdoor necessities. Wipes, a first aid kit, and hats are other items you definitely do not want to leave behind.
Camping is an opportunity to get away from everyday life and that includes technology. However, for the ride to and from the campground, we allow the children to bring their electronic games. We also have hangman for the car, car bingo, and other creativity workbooks I put together before each trip. I keep a separate, smaller container of snacks and drinks for the car ride to lessen the number of stops along the way.
Organization is key.
Perhaps Iím a bit of an anal camper. I donít care how long my children go without bathing or brushing their teeth, but I like my campsite well organized. Everything has its place. Inside the tent, clothes are kept in their backpacks. I bring a small collapsible bag that looks like a giant bucket for outdoor games and toys. The mealtime items stay in their plastic tubs unless we are using them. We donít leave trash lying around, and we keep our food protected from animals.
Preparing to go home is just as important as planning the trip. It is important to anticipate your arrival home. There will be loads of laundry (I wash everything Ė even if it wasnít worn) and stuff to put away. There have been times when our camping gear has sat in our garage for weeks (maybe months) waiting to be put away. I recommend making sure you arrive home with enough time left in the day for everyone to help put the gear away.
Camping is a great bonding experience for families. With the right preparation and organization, even mom can relax and enjoy!
Below are links to two of our favorite car activities - travel hangman and the Anti-Coloring book: