As summer approaches, many of us start planning our summer vacations – for many that means camping!
Camping can be a wonderful way to spend a family vacation. It can also be a disaster. We have visions of getting back to nature, exploration, lots of fresh air, outdoor activities, and relaxation. Somehow, the mosquitoes, sunburns, lumpy beds, and the search for the perfect site can bring those visions crashing down around you. So, how do you have the best camping trip possible with your family?
Like the Boy Scouts Say, “Be Prepared”
Involve the Kids
The first step is involving your kids in the planning process. Even very young children can be involved – the extent of their involvement depends upon their age and abilities. It can be as simple as letting them decide on a menu for one day, or as involved as having them book the campsite at your destination! If they have a part in the plan, they will be more excited about the trip. They can also learn a lot this way.
Plan AheadWhile many people like the “let’s just hit the road and see where we end up” approach to a camping vacation, this may not be the best way to go if you have younger kids. Some campground fill up quickly, and the last thing you want to be doing after having been on the road for hours listening to the repeated refrain of “are we there yet?”, is more driving to try to find a place to stay. The kids (and sometimes spouses too) can get cranky if they are tired, hungry, and just want to be settled in somewhere. Check with your destination to see if you can make reservations, or if their campgrounds fill up quickly.
Test the BedsIt doesn’t matter if you are going to be in a tent or an RV; if the beds are not comfortable, no one will have a good sleep. If you have air mattresses, check them for leaks. If you have foamies, try a night on them in your living room. Better yet, set the tent up in the backyard and have a one night campout. If you have an RV, sleep in it one night in your driveway. You will quickly see if you need to make some modifications – adding a little foam topper, an extra blanket, or even just taking your regular pillow can make a big difference.
Bugs and SunSunscreen and insect repellant are two of the things you definitely do not want to forget! Also, be sure to have a basic first aid kit for little boo boos and insect bites.
Be Ready for RainMake sure you are ready for some inclement weather. You may not have any rain on your vacation, but rain jackets and a few umbrellas don’t take up much room and you will be very glad you have them if the weather turns on you. A big tarp is also a good idea – whether for over your tent or as a shelter for a picnic table. The tarp can double as a sun shade too!
Extra ClothingKids will get dirty and they will get wet – I can almost guarantee that! Make sure you have enough clothing to allow for changes through the day. It can also be cold at night, so remember a couple of warmer things as well. Make sure the kids have good footwear with them -- flip flops are great for the beach but will not be great on a hike or if it gets cold in the evening. Be sure to bring a rope so you can make a clothesline to hang up wet towels and clothing.
It seems like one of the things that can easily be forgotten, but it is so important to have a few good flashlights and extra batteries or their chargers. Aside from letting you see your way in the night, they can also be reassuring to a chold who may be afriad of the dark.
Fun and GamesBe sure to pack a few books and games for any “down time” you may have. There is something wonderful about sitting around at a picnic table playing cards or a board game with the family. These will also come in handy if you have some rainy weather. Don't over do it though -- you won't want to be packing around a lot of extra "stuff".
MealsPlan some meals ahead of time, and get the kids to help. You will actually end up packing less and having more to eat! You can also do some of the prep work ahead of time (again, enlist the help of your kids), such as making a couple of meals and freezing them to be thawed and heated. These will have the added benefit of helping to keep other groceries cold if you are using a cooler. Depending on the length of your vacation, you may want to plan a trip or two to the grocery store at some point during your trip.
Make a ChecklistIt is so easy to forget essential things when packing to go camping. If you make a checklist and verify the items as you go along, you are less likely to get to your destination without something you really need. Imaging getting to your campsite, setting up, and then at bedtime realize that your son’s favorite stuffed toy that he always sleeps with is back at the house. Be careful not to over pack though – you only want to bring things that you need as your space may be limited.
The most important thing to bring on a camping vacation is a sense of humor! Things may not go exactly as planned, and that is ok. Roll with it, have a good time, and crete memories that will last a lifetime.
For more camping tips, please visit Maternity Corner.