If a ‘fun family camping’ sounds more like an oxymoron than an actual possibility, prepare to have your mind changed. While our expectations of family trips may get in the way of allowing the vacation to unfold on its own, how fun the trip is will also depend on how well prepared you are for the trip – as a family.
A successful camping trip with the kids needs careful planning and an open mind, so get started by having a look at these excellent tips.
It’s not to say that you won’t have to put up with any rainy days or the kids moaning about being bored, but at least you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important and make the best out of the trip, regardless of the weather.
First: Talk about the trip
It may seem obvious to discuss and plan the trip together, but including the kids means that you should remember that to take their plans into account as well. While you may want to slough away the day in the hammock, reading a book and looking at the trees, your kids have other things in mind.
Let them know that you’re there to mainly relax and have a chat about what they would like to do as well – that way, you’re all up to date and might even become a bit more considerate towards one another while camping.
Another point to this is that you should allow them to have a say in where you’re going or, at least, show them pictures of the camping site you’ve decided on and discuss everything they can do there. Not only does it make them feel valued and that their opinion actually matters, but it helps them to get a certain impression of the trip and can adjust their mindset accordingly.
Next: Get packing
In case this is your first big camping trip as a family, it’s a good idea to make a list of everything you need. It takes a bit of the stress away, first of all, and ensures that you won’t have to make a swift turn-around halfway to the camping site to pick up whatever you forgot.
The most important thing to pack is, of course, the tent and other equipment you need in order to have a roof over your heads. A first aid kit should be your next priority on the list; with kids running around in nature, it would just be foolish to leave this one behind.
Remember that the sleeping bags you use should also be made for the kind of temperature you’re camping in. If they are made for colder climates, you risk sweating your way through the night and, reversely, you risk freezing if the sleeping bag is made for a very mild climate. It should be easy enough to find out by looking at its temperature rating.
The vehicle you use should also be ready for the trip ahead so make sure you use one that is large enough for the whole family, the dog, and all of your stuff – and send it in for service first to avoid any hiccups along the way. Kia Carnival, People Mover, Best Family Wagon is a classic example of a car that can handle these kinds of challenges or you can have a look around the web to learn more about how you should prepare your car.
Prepare for shifting weather too and pack everything you might need for a sunny day as well as a rainy, windy, and generally cold day. This includes sunscreen, of course, but in particular lightweight rain ponchos for the whole family.
Try to pack everything in categories and label it as either cooking equipment, supplies, camping gear, food, etc – it just makes it a lot easier to get ahold of what you need quickly and without having to unpack everything at once.
On the campsite: Share responsibilities
A major reason that some parents dread family camping trips is because they end up with the responsibility for all the boring stuff. If you are the one to always take care of the cooking, tidying up, hauling water and preparing the tents, it’s no wonder you’re not the most enthusiastic camper.
Arrange responsibilities before you go and let everyone be in charge of one station – but try to be flexible and don’t over plan.
Even if you have agreed on tasks beforehand, it’s alright to switch with someone if they agree to it. Let the trip unfold as you go, at least in terms of who has to clean up and who has to cook, and you avoid any feelings of resentment within the group. It’s not just good camping etiquette, it’s good parenting too and everyone should be able to help out and share the responsibility. This does, of course, depend on the age of your children and you wouldn’t give your 5-year-old the responsibility of cooking up breakfast for the whole family. Yet, the small ones are also able to help out with tidying up around the camp and even doing a bit of cleaning so teach them this kind of responsibility early on.
During the trip: Eat and play well
One of the most important things you can do for your family both before leaving and while you’re camping is to make sure you have more than enough to eat. A hungry camper is definitely an unhappy camper, and remember that you should pack food that everyone enjoys.
Ask your kids about what they would like to eat during the trip, allow them to be involved in the cooking process, and bring a lot of snacks that you can eat without having to set up a campfire or heat up the dutch oven.
Crackers are great as a camping snack, as well carrot and celery sticks to make sure you have something healthy to eat that won’t perish overnight. Pack chocolate as well since you’ll need the extra energy – particularly if you’re heading off on a hike or similar, and remember that it’s alright to treat yourself while you’re on holiday.
Other things to keep in mind is that you won’t always be able to run outside, swim or even enjoy the nice weather so remember to pack games, books, and other things to keep yourself and the kids entertained.
It’s the number one rule to avoid the dreaded ‘mommy, daddy – I’m bored’ going on repeat for a full day and you’ll ensure the kind of camping trip everyone wants to come back to next summer.