Camping with your kids is an awesome experience, but it can also be pretty scary the first time. The key to making your first family camping trip is: preparation, preparation, preparation! Taking the time before your trip to really plan things out will make everything just go so much smoother once you’re out at the campground.
We’ll take you through the most important things you’ll need to do to prepare for your camping trip including where to go, what to bring, and how to the kids ready. Once you know the basics of how to prepare, you’ll be all set to get started and make that first trip a huge success!
Where to go
Picking a campground is the first step in your planning process. For your first trip, it’s probably a good idea to pick a campground with some modern conveniences like flush toilets, running water and maybe even showers available. State or National Parks or KAO campgrounds are good options because they are usually pretty kid- and family-friendly and pretty inexpensive to boot. My biggest tip for your first camping trip is to pick a campground pretty close to home. If you get out there and have tried your best, but the trip ends up a disaster, you can pick up and head home quickly.
What to bring
There are of course the basic camping supplies you won’t want to forget – tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, food, cooking and eating gear. But you’ll also want to tailor your packing list to your kids a bit. Being out in the wilderness overnight for the first time can be a bit overwhelming for little ones, so bringing some comforts of home will help make the adventure a little less scary. Be sure to bring some of your kids’ favorite foods and some familiar toys and games, and for goodness sake, if your kiddo has a lovey (special blanket or comfort object) don’t forget it! Getting that babe tucked in and realizing you don’t have that lovey could spell disaster and bring your camping trip to an abrupt halt (ask me how I know). You’ll also want to plan to bring some non-electronic entertainment options, balls, jump ropes, bikes, scooters, board games, card and dice games, books. These are all great things to bring to keep kids busy while they’re not exploring the great outdoors.
There are lots of sample lists out there to give you an idea of what all you’ll need to bring on a camping trip. Take a look at a few lists, add or subtract to customize for family and you are one huge step closer to a well planned trip. One more tip here, you might want to consider making two copies of your checklist, one to be checked off as you’re packing, and a second, with the most important things not to forget highlighted, to check off as you’re loading into the car, that way you know you haven’t forgotten anything (ask me again how I know this is a good idea).
How to get the kids ready
One of the most important parts of getting kids ready for anything is to get them involved. Give them their own packing list and have them pack their own bags. You can, of course, double check that they’ve included everything, but having them do the initial packing will give them a sense of ownership and independence. Let them also help plan some of the menu or the activities you’ll be doing, again giving them some ownership over the trip and making them feel like they’re a part of it rather than just tagging along for the ride.
One really good idea for preparing kids is to do a dry run. If you’ve got the yard space, set up your tent and camp out for a night. The kids will get a sense of what it’s like to sleep outside and you’ll get an idea of whether they (and you) can handle the real thing.
If you want to have a great first camping experience, you need to do a lot of prep work. Like the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So fi
gure out a good place to camp, get your checklist (or lists) ready and get your kids involved in planning, and after your dry run in the yard, you’ll be ready for an awesome family camping trip!