It’s high summer in the U.S., which means one thing — camping season. Family camping trips are one of the most popular choices for American families, with camping days spent together totaling 534.9 million in the year 2011 alone. However, camping with kids requires some special planning, so read on for some recommendations for having the best camping vacation ever with your family.
Know Your Needs
Will your family enjoy tent camping or should you look at cabins? Do you need flush toilets and hot showers or can you handle a campground with outhouses, in order to get even closer to nature?
Buy Gear Slowly
According to this tip from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Don’t invest heavily in gear until you know camping is a good fit for your family. Borrow what you can, troll garage sales and invest in necessities.” Above all, keep your packing as simple as possible to save time.
Pack for the environment
If you are camping somewhere that gets cold at night, plan on layers of clothing. You want your bottom layer to wick moisture from the skin, a warm layer, and then a water repelling layer on top of that. If you are going somewhere warmer, try to remember battery powered fans and sport towels. Don’t forget the bug repellent!
Prep as much food as possible at home, and keep quick snacks on hand like nuts and dried fruit to keep everyone’s energy up. Have a box designated for camp cooking supplies only, so you can just grab it and pack it when you leave.
Plan, Test, Modify
Keep a running list of what you take camping that you can adjust as your family takes more trips. According to one article on Summit Daily, “To prepare for a camping trip, consider testing out your gear beforehand, making sure the batteries in the battery-operated lantern and glowsticks are still functional and practicing putting up the tent, including how to put on the rainfly.”
Make your first night easy
Set realistic expectations on how long it will take to get your campsite set up and everyone settled in. Plan on simple meals your first night so you don’t make more work for yourself — sandwiches or hot dogs, for example, are quick and easy.
Challenge the Kids
Have activity ideas on hand, which can be as easy as an impromptu scavenger hunt or hike. Participating in planned activities such as junior ranger programs can be very interesting and educational for the little ones. Smartphones can help you identify plants, wildlife, and constellations when you’re bored — if you have a connection.
Be Flexible, Not Miserable
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that the weather is too poor for camping and getting a cabin or hotel room instead. It’s better to deviate from your plans than stick to them and be wet and miserable the whole trip.