Camping is a great way to create memories with your little ones. It can definitely feel daunting but with some fun and safe tips, it can quickly become one of your favorite activities. Camping gives you and the kiddos a chance to connect with nature and break free from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, while also deepening the familial bond by trying new things together.
Whether you’re a first-time camper or a seasoned pro, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by all of the things that go into planning a camping trip. So, grab your tents, pack your sense of adventure, and let’s dive into our top camping tips!
Choose Your Camping Style
Some camping methods suit some families better than others. There is tent camping, trailer camping, rooftop tents, RVs, and even cabins. When it comes to affordability, tent camping takes the cake. If you’re willing to pay a little more for something a bit more comfortable and spacious that won’t break the bank, a rooftop tent is another option. However, if you’re able to splurge ($6,000+), an RV is a great option for an air-conditioned, indoors feel.
We suggest that beginners start with a tent or rooftop tent; there’s something so enchanting about falling asleep to the sounds of chirping crickets and waking up to the morning sun peeking through the tent fabric! This 6-person camping tent has a 60-second set-up time and can fit camping cots if you decide to bring those along, too!
Where to Go Camping
If no adult in your group has any experience with camping, we recommend you book out a space at a camping site for your first time to give you some wiggle room as you're discovering the world of camping. The last thing you want is to be alone and need some help! Go to any national park or lake website to book a spot online that’ll be close to bathrooms and other people.
Camping for the first time can be a challenge, especially with kids, so be easy on yourself and don’t expect perfection. Choose a location that offers fun activities for the whole family, like swimming in a nearby lake or hiking on nature trails.
A good rule of thumb for first-time campers is to camp out at a location that’s a maximum of an hour and a half away from your house. Also, plan to be out for only 3-4 days because things can get hectic really fast and there might come a moment where you just want to go home. Camping should be a fun, safe experience - so if you’re feeling unsafe it’s completely okay for your first time to be seen as more of a practice run for you to be better prepared next time!
Essential Gear Checklist
Equip your family for the adventure ahead with the right gear. Here’s a sample checklist you can use as inspiration for your next tent/roof-tent camping trip. You can also stop in to any outdoors store like REI or Bass Pro Shops for assistance.
Creating Cute Traditions for Life-Long Memories
The little things matter! You’d be surprised at how often the simple things like storytelling around a campfire make their way into your little ones’ favorite family memories once they get older. Creating cute traditions around camping can make a huge difference in your kiddos perception of camping, and can make them look forward to it every time! Here are some ideas for fun camping traditions your little ones will remember for years to come!
- Classic campfire storytelling. Encourage everyone to tell a story and see where the evening goes - it could be scary, funny, or silly, but it’ll definitely be a good time! If you have a fire pit, bring supplies for S’mores to make it extra fun!
- Nature scavenger hunt! Create a boundary with duct tape around your campsite and make a list of things for you and your little ones to look for (a smooth black rock, a feather, or a pine cone). Whoever finds everything first wins! Be sure to keep in mind any allergies and the age of your little ones. Try to scope out the area first for any poison ivy or other dangers.
- Stargazing. This one speaks for itself! Growing up in the city could mean you don’t get a good look at the stars, camping is the perfect time to spot them together.
- Campsite Olympics. Set up a mini obstacle course or a few fun games like water balloon toss, hopscotch, or a three-legged race. Let the kids compete for “medals” that you can DIY in advance or buy online for an affordable price!
- Jar Journey! Document your trip as a family by letting each family member toss something they found (and liked!) in nature into the jar throughout the trip. By the end of the trip, try to have a jar full of nature finds that will have documented the trip chronologically from bottom to top!
Recommended Ages for Camping
Based on what we found during our research and learned from others, there’s no specific age requirement for camping. However, the general advice is to wait until your baby is at least six months old or sleeps through the night. This way, both your family and surrounding campers get adequate amounts of rest and can enjoy the trip. Every child is different, so trust your instincts and choose a time where you feel most comfortable and ready to handle any challenges thrown your way!
Leave No Trace!
Remember the Leave No Trace Rule! Leave the campsite as pristine as you originally found it by disposing of trash, respecting wildlife, and cleaning after yourself to ensure that the next camper can enjoy their time there as well!
Regardless of how and when you decide to go camping, keep in mind that every family’s experience will be a unique learning experience. Camping with kids is a journey filled with wonder, laughter, and stories that you’ll go on to tell for years. So, pack your bags, leave your worries behind, and embark on a journey filled with laughter, exploration, and the magic of camping with kiddos! Adventure awaits!