When we started taking our kids camping a few years ago, we were complete camping newbies. We had been camping before, but never with kids. In short, we had no idea how to plan a family camping trip. It has become one of our favorite things to do with as a family, the kids have learned some pretty awesome life lessons, and we have learned a lot about what goes into planning a camping trip with the family.
Vacations are so important to our family, and we put a lot of time and thought into each one. We lead super busy day-to-day lives, and vacations give us time to reconnect as a family. Of course we spend time with each other everyday, but vacation is different. It’s as stress-free as we can get (hello, we have 4 kids!), and it’s all about having fun, and enjoying each other.
How to plan a family camping
1. Decide whether you will be camping in a tent, a cabin, or and RV. When we first starting camping, we camped in a tent. While we really enjoyed it, we decided it was just too much for us with small children, and the chance of rain always looming.
We weren’t ready for a camper/ RV (I’m still working on the husband… ), so we settled on a cabin. We have stayed in very basic cabins without bathrooms or kitchens, and we have stayed in deluxe cabins which are like small houses.
When we plan a camping trip, the very first thing we look for is cabin availability since not all campgrounds offer them. If you are staying in a tent or an RV and you are expecting to use electricity or running water, and bathrooms, be sure to reserve a site that is not a primitive site.
2. Consider the distance the campground is from your home. Planning a camping trip is a little different than planning another vacation. It’s unlikely that you will be able to fly to your location because of the equipment you need to pack.
Taking a long road trip will work for some families, while others may not be ready to brave one. How old your children are, and how they handle the car will play a role in determining how far you’re willing to drive. Luckily, all you have to do is look around and you will find a just about anywhere you want to go!
3. Check out the campground activities. When we choose a place to go camping, we put a lot of thought into what the campground offers in the way of activities.
Knowing that there are planned activities for the children, like tie dying shirts, bubble pits, or crafts ensures that there will be things for the children to do even when we don’t have time to plan anything, or want to leave the campground. Most of the time these activities are either free with your stay, or available at a very low and reasonable rate.
4. Pay attention to what activities are available in the area, beyond the campground. Depending on how long you’re planning on camping, you may not need to leave the campground.
However, if you’re planning a week-long vacation, you are most likely going to venture out. What does your family enjoy most? Look for a location that will meet those needs.
5. Read campsite reviews. Not all campgrounds are created equally. You will be a lot happier if you do a little digging before you settle on a campground.
6. Start planning early. One thing that shocked me the most when we started camping was how quickly sites filled up, particularly if you have requirements. Want a waterfront site? Better book early! Want a cabin with a bathroom? Better book early! Planning to bring your dog? Better make sure those spots aren’t limited.
You would be surprised how quickly a popular campground books. A couple of years ago, we started planning our trip in February. We weren’t set on a specific week, but we did need a cabin, and we were headed to “a” beach (we weren’t even set on that). We had one week, and one cabin option for the entire summer by the time we started looking.
This isn’t just for cabins either, we have booked tent sites in February for the summer, in order to get a waterfront spot.
7. Pay attention to campground amenities, and where you are in relation to the bathroom, hiking trails, playgrounds, etc. We are always so pleased with the amenities KOAs have to offer.
We have been to KOAs with splash pads, incredible pools, bounce pads, playgrounds, convenience stores, beautiful and clean bathrooms, and wash houses. These are all things we consider when choosing a campsite. We also pay attention to the campground’s map.
If we are staying in a basic cabin, or a tent, we don’t want to be far from the bathroom. We also prefer not to be close the entrance because traffic is usually heavier there.
8. Plan meals before you leave for your trip. We have brought crock pot meals already prepared and ready to cook. We have had food on the grill, or mountain pies and hot dogs on the campfire.
Planning your meals in advance will allow you to do the prep work before you leave the house for vacation, and make vacation so much more relaxing. This is especially helpful if you are staying in a tent or a very basic cabin, where you do not have a sink or refrigerator.
9. Pack appropriately. It took us a long time to figure out the basics of what to pack for a camping trip. We would have saved ourselves a lot of money, and heartache if we would have done a little bit of research and planning when it came to packing. Some basic must-haves:
- tons of baby wipes
- bug spray
- plastic tablecloth for your picnic table
- roasting sticks
- citronella candles
- a couple of toys for the kids
- a lantern
- extra flashlights (my kids are so excited they got headlamps for Christmas!)
- garbage bags
- and some card games (our favorite is UNO).
There is, obviously, a lot more to pack, but that’s a start!
10. Include the kids! We love planning a camping trip. The possibilities are endless, and there are so many amazing experiences to enjoy. We have started to incorporate the kids into planning our trips.
We ask them where they want to go, and what they’re hoping to do. Of course, we have the final say, but they really enjoy talking about what they would like to do, and giving us ideas. Planning the trip should be as fun as going on it– well, almost!
Have you planned a camping trip with your family? What’s your best tip?
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