Summer is the perfect time to load up for a family camping trip. Especially for us here in Raleigh who could easily head west to the mountains for cooler air, or east for a dip in the ocean. Even better, there are several campsites in the Triangle area for families to enjoy! It can be daunting to take your kids camping for the first time, especially if you still have toddlers (or babies!). Fear, not my friends. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to help you break the ice! Camping is such a fun, affordable activity to do as a family and you’d be surprised how much your kids enjoy it, no matter how young. Read on for some helpful insights when it comes to camping with little ones.
Tips for Camping with Toddlers:
You don’t have to do any elaborate off the grid camping for it to feel fun and rustic. Find a state park near you that has bathrooms and other amenities like grills at your campsite, playgrounds etc. This makes things all the more easy and pleasant. Plus, having your car nearby makes unpacking and packing easy and offers an additional benefit if you have things like air mattresses or phones that need charging. There’s absolutely no shame in a little #glamping.
Attitude is everything
This applies to all areas of parenting but I feel is especially important when it comes to camping or any sort of trip. Kids really do pick up on your vibes. If you’re excited and calm and happy about going camping and while you’re camping (rather than stressed or anxious), then (hopefully!) your children will be too!
You will need lots of stuff but really try to pack as light as possible
My husband and I have like to travel light, even kids in the mix. However oh man, you do need quite a lot of stuff to camp with kids: sleeping bags, pillows, coffee, wine, cooking supplies, smore’s stuff, bug spray, tents, first aid kit etc. My advice is to prioritize and only bring the essentials. On a recent camping trip, we didn’t pack virtually any toys. We were in the woods near water which entertained them plenty, as did the gravel our cars were parked on. We also only cooked one meal and ate the rest at the festival we attended nearby or kept simple (such as pre-made muffins, fruit, yogurt, sandwiches etc.) My advice is to make a list and then see what you can cut but not forgetting that you are camping and somethings are required.
Wear the kids out
If you are worried about your kids sleeping in a tent with their siblings or their parents, tire them out! They may need some coaxing but I find, in most cases, if they’re tired enough, they will sleep! In the same trip I mentioned earlier, we stayed up later than normal enjoying s’mores and most all the kids were fast asleep, tuckered out from the excitement. Do be flexible though. Our youngest Charlotte who’s not yet 2 was pretty reluctant at first to go to sleep in the tent without us (while our oldest couldn’t wait). So my husband let her snooze on him in the chair by the fire until we all went to bed. It was her first time camping and a win-win for all of us to just let her sleep on daddy until we all went to bed.
Talk it up & play make-believe at home
Maybe you already play “camping” at home with forts and “bonfires” in your house or yard. You should if not! If not and you are going camping, now is a perfect time to do so. Pretend to sleep in tents, build campfires, look for wildlife and spark some excitement for their first camping trip. Similar to the second tip, build up some excitement.
Go as a group
Find some friends who want to join you. It makes packing and planning a group effort so less stuff to bring and less planning on one person. Likely, if someone has forgotten something, someone else remembered it and you can all share the load with child wrangling, meal planning etc. Plus the kids can entertain each other!
Even you only plan for one night (we also do two minimum), my biggest advice for things like this is just to do it! Put something on the calendar, get the planning and see how it goes.
P.S. These photos are from a recent group camping trip at Jordan Lake to check out the famous Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival which is a super fun and family-oriented music festival I can’t recommend going to enough!