How to Plan a Family Camping Trip

family-camping-trip

Camping is a great (and inexpensive) option for a summer family vacation. If you are planning your very first camping trip with the kids, things can get pretty stressful. That is why we prepared a list of tips for you to use before you head out into the wilderness. Planning should be a fun experience for you family, so read on and lift the stress off your shoulders!

  • Keep it short and sweet: For your kid’s first camping trip, you’re going to want to keep it short. Try an over-nighter first to see how it goes and then plan the longer trips if things go well. Keeping it short will allow you to see how well your family does out in the wilderness, and it will also help you better prepare for the next trip.
  • Know what your kids like: Set up a test trial camping trip right in your own backyard. See what your kids like about camping and what they don’t like so you can alter your plans so you’ll be ready when you are out on the campsite. It is better to try it at home first before your trip so that nothing comes as a surprise to you.

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  • Stay close to home: Some of the best camping guides say to stay local (within an hour drive) your first time. Not only will this avoid a long road trip which is tough for younger kids, but you’ll also be relatively close to an area you are familiar with. If anything goes south during the trip, you’ll be able to drive home in a short amount of time.
  • Make a reservation if possible: If the area you are planning to head to allows reservations, most definitely plan ahead and make one. For your first trip with the kids, you don’t want to have to stress about arriving early to reserve a spot for your family. For more help on reserving a campsite for your family, check out these four great resources: Reserve AmericaRecreation.gov, NPS.gov, Fed.us
  • Always check the weather: One of the first things you should do before packing is to check the weather at the campsite. Even if it says it will be 100+ degrees, always expect the unexpected. Pack simply, but be prepared for all ranges of temperatures.
  • Lists are your best friend: Prepare a list for everything you’ll need to pack. If you have a list made for each individual person – even better! You won’t want to forget your child’s favorite teddy bear, or your husband’s/wife’s all terrain socks, so get your list on and feel prepared. Always make sure to pack a first aid kit/medicine to have handy.
  • Find the right tent: For your first time camping with your kids, it is recommended to buy one tent for the whole family. You won’t want to have your kids out of your sight on your first trip. Finding the right tent is essential for your first trip. It’s normal to be completely clueless, so here is a resource from REI to help you out.
  • Get other essentials: At the minimum, besides the tent, you need a sleeping bag and an inflatable mattress for each person. You can buy camping equipment at a specialized store such as REI, at a mass market retailer such as Walmart or Target or Costco. Or you can buy used equipment on Craigslist or borrow it for free from family and friends.
  • Plan your meals: Keep it simple, pack/prep your meals, and only do dessert. You don’t want to spend your day or night at the site stressing about preparing food for your family. We suggest to pack lunch/dinner and to only cook dessert there. Try s’mores out for your first trip. This is a classic camping delicacy and your children will still feel like they made something of their own in the outdoors.
  • Sleep…a lot: The night before your trip, you are going to want to get in some quality Zzz’s. If you find it hard to sleep anywhere but your own bed, you need to make sure you are well rested to make up for any lack of sleep. Plus, you don’t want to be cranky the day of your trip!
  • Arrive at campsite early: Never arrive at the site at night. The sun is your best friend! Take advantage of the natural light to set up your camp. It will make the transition easier for your kids if they are able to see where they are so they can feel safe.
  • Safety first always: Remind your kids that safety always comes first. If your campsite has a sheriff or tour guide, take advantage of this amenity and have your kids go on a tour of the area. The sheriff/guide will always go over safety rules.
  • Be enthusiastic and have fun: Your kids will always look to you first to see if you are enjoying yourself. If you look unamused, they are more likely to not be as excited. Set the mood for your family and make this camping trip the best thing that has ever happened to your family! Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.
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