On the more economical end of family vacations, camping is the perfect option. Camping is a great way to spend time with the family. However, the experience can vary greatly depending on how the campers are prepared, particularly for the younger ones. Keeping the kids prepared and involved on the trip is key to having a good, memorable family vacation they’ll want to return to.
1. Pick a location that suits everyone
Different styles are going to suit different young campers, based on their ages, experience, and the experience of their parents. Ideally, a test run for the youngest with tents in the backyard or a very close-to-home campsite will give a reasonable preview for the trip to come. Introduce them gently to the idea of sleeping in a tent, camper, or cabin, so the actual trip won’t be a jarring shift. This adjustment period will inform the decision of where to take the real trip, whether it’s a campsite just outside of town or one well into the wilderness.
Pack for the trial run as if it were the real thing, and keep a checklist of everything. This will also give the chance to make sure all the equipment is working as intended. Keep track of all the home comforts the little ones want and need, particularly the toys or pillows that may help them get to sleep. Don’t be afraid to overpack, subsequent visits will help you slim down to the necessities and whittle prep times.
When the trip is composed mostly of new campers, keep the principle supplies simple. The lofted tents, powered hammocks, and other fantastic camping equipment aren’t for newcomers. Set-up shouldn’t be a long, complex ordeal, and quirky camping supplies will make it just that.
2. Think about travel time
If it’s destination camping, take the time to plan the journey there. Stock up the car with snacks and entertainment for the whole family. Engage the whole family in car games to set the mood for an exciting trip. Getting off to a good start on the journey will set the mood for the rest of the vacation.
Keep those games in mind when you arrive. Those moments that aren’t packed with hiking, fishing, or bike riding will need quieter, more relaxed entertainment. Small board games or a deck of playing cards can keep them occupied while everyone else relaxes or naps. While kids are often more than capable of entertaining themselves, it’s best to have alternatives when they inevitably proclaim they’re bored.
3. Keep a group effort mentality
Make sure to keep camping a family experience. Involve the kids in unpacking on arrival. Divide the responsibilities among the family in a way that everyone is helping in a meaningful capacity. The younger ones will have a sense of accomplishment from contributing to the campsite they’ll be sleeping in. Everyone will learn valuable skills for further camping experiences, and if duties are shuffled between trips, eventually the whole family will be composed of well-rounded campers.
While on the trip, keep another checklist of what did and didn’t get used, and include some quick notes as to what for and why. This will help future packing and save space in the car. The overpacking will eventually become a list of necessities and a few comforts, making the whole trip less cumbersome.
4. Prepare to improvise
All this careful planning and preparation will not predict the unknown. Keep a first aid kit, tool box, and other odds and ends handy for those moments where things don’t quite go according to plan. Kids are notoriously rough-and-tumble, so keep band-aids on-hand for their hurts and duct tape on-hand for everything else. Take time before the trip to learn to care for your tents and supplies, particularly waterproofing and managing it while in use.
5. Don’t be afraid to call it
Sometimes plans don’t work out. Whether the weather isn’t cooperating or the heat is unbearable, there’s no reason to stick out the misery on principle. Even if the plan was to stay for a few more days, don’t do it at the expense of comfort and enjoyment. Pack up the family and the supplies and start planning the next trip, having learned from everything that went wrong and right. Make sure the campsite is left as it was found, so the whole family will be welcomed back on the next trip. Some campsites have regulations and specific rules. Research those prior to the trip and be sure to abide by them.
Family camping is the perfect way to bond with the family. It’s a cooperative adventure away from the stresses of home life. So long as the campers have the chance to detach from work and school, they can really relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Keep in mind these tips on the next trip and each one after to maximize the fun and minimize the stress.