Every day with kids is a never-ending roller coaster of emotions; each parent knows it all too well.
The day can start with you wiping down the milk they spilled from their cereal bowl as it drips over the sides of the table. At the same time, you have to answer questions that you answered 600 times before times before (or at least it feels like it).
A good parent will know that it’s not their fault; they’re only discovering the world from their innocent point of view.
One “roller coaster ride” typically ends with you tucking them in for the night with an overwhelming feeling that it’s all worth.
“Nothing is ever the same” doesn’t mean “worse”
From lazy Sundays to trips, nothing will ever be the same after you have a kid.
The change is especially dramatic for those of us who are the outdoorsy type. A camping trip or a weekend getaway to your cabin will never be about just throwing in a few basics into the trunk and hitting the road.
That doesn’t mean that the pleasure of a weekend trip is gone forever and it’s all about the kids now. For the smart parent, it will mean adjusting to the situation and adopting a few new tactics…tactics that will make the trip fun for them but relaxing for you.
That’s what we explore today – below, we’ll outline a few tips for planning a camping trip or weekend getaway with your kids. Let’s dive right in.
If this is your first camping trip with kids
If you never camped out with kids before, it’s definitely smart to do a test run.
Gets the gear you plan on using (tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags…) and do a test run in your backyard. You need to learn a lot and it’s not the best idea to start the learning process “on the run”.
That one night in your backyard will give you solid insights into what you can expect on the campsite, from the things that make your little ones comfortable (or uncomfortable) to the things that can keep them busy to give you some me-time.
If there is one thing that can make or break a trip it’s poorly planned sleeping arrangements.
Each kid is different and you need to adjust to that.
If they scare easily, your best bet will be a bigger tent and that will allow for all of you to sleep together.
On the other hand (hopefully), you might have fearless rascals on your hands who will not only be okay with sleeping in a tent of their own but will prefer it.
In the latter scenario, you and your partner can get a good night of eye-shut in the two-person tent with an air mattress of just the right size. Typically, a full-size air mattress will comfortably sleep two people – you can see some of the good ones in Full size here.
This brings us back to the test run we mentioned above – instead of purchasing all the gear you need, it’s a good idea to rent a tent for that one a night. If you live in an apartment and circumstances don’t allow a test run, renting is still a good option for that first trip.
Make it fun for them
Sleeping outdoors is a new experience for the kid and the first time you do it will form their perception of it, in the long run, so your approach is especially important here.
The best thing you can do is turn the whole experience into a game of sorts and design a fun routine around it. This shouldn’t be hard, especially if you have them sleeping on an airbed. To them, these feel like mini bouncy castles.
It’s also smart to plan for some camping games for the little ones.
Packing just right
We tend to worry too much about every detail of their comfort. At home, that’s not a big deal because you can always give them another blanket if they suddenly decide they don’t like the one with the dinosaurs.
Things get trickier when packing for a camping trip, there are just too many “just-in-case” items to bring.
Before you know it, the trunk is crammed with a lot of stuff you’ll never use. If it’s a longer trip (like a week), this primarily refers to clothes.
For your first trip, choose a location that meets two criteria:
It’s not too far away from home
The weather patterns are predictable
This way, you can avoid packing three jackets for each of them and if things “go south” in any way, it will be easy to pack up, drive home and rethink your plan.
With each following trip you will learn more about their preferences and they will slowly learn about the ways a camping trip is different from the comfort of their home.
There’s no substitute for planning
As this process unfolds, you’ll have more freedom in choosing a campground.
These tend to fill up quickly and an important part of planning trip is booking well in advance, especially the campground is in a State or National Park.
There’s a range of booking providers for campground reservations, use them.
Booking in advance will also give you the time to research the weather you can expect and plan the trip well.
Get them involved
The last thing you want is your kids feeling like this is something you want to do and you’re just dragging them along.
They should feel involved from the first step (choosing the location) to the moment you back the last item for the drive back.
That especially goes for the first few days of the trip. Give them a chore to do so they’ll feel like they’re contributing, it can be something as simple as gathering branches for the campfire.
Ease them into it
This might sound like it contradicts the tip above, but it doesn’t, it’s all about the balance.
They should feel busy and involved, but the trip shouldn’t feel like too much work. Remember, this is a big adjustment for them compared to the comfort of home.
In practice, this means not getting over-ambitious for the first day or two and making it all appear super-simple, especially when it comes to meals.
Nutrition bars or canned meals are perfectly fine for the first night, leave making s’mores by the campfire for the second or third night, once it’s all settled.
Remember, you’re forming their perception
If there’s one thought to keep in mind at all times it’s the fact that this is a whole new experience for them.
How you approach it and what you do will form their perception of the Great Outdoors.
If you do try to make it’s all about fun, they will grow to love it.
SHARE THIS STORY