Camping With Toddlers
Quote of the Week
“We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.”
When it comes to camping in general it’s easy to under do it or over do it. With Toddlers it’s usually the latter. And in our case we over did it with every thing except the essentials… enough clothes to last a life time.
We brought rolls and rolls of toilet paper, waaaaaaaaay too much fruit and chips, and not NEARLY enough clothes for any of us. I forgot my toothbrush. We didn’t bring anything to wash our dishes.
We had fun though. Enough to want to do it again packing much smarter than we had.
As most things there are pros and cons to a Camping trip with toddlers.
- Inexpensive. Our camp site cost $8/night.
- Easy to bail - once we decided we had enough, we loaded up the car and were on our way home.
- It’s a great way to get the family out of the house for a weekend and explore the neighboring outdoors. Gives you and your kids an appreciation for nature. We had to teach them about keeping our environment clean and why it was important.
- Turn off. Devises do not work in the great outdoors. We couldn’t sit there and play on our phones. We got to sit around campfires and tell stories and connect with old and new friends.
- Packing. Unlike a trip to a hotel you need to bring everything, including the kitchen sink (quite literally).
- If you don’t have it, it’s not easy to find unless you’re with friends you can borrow things from. We ended up at a gas station who luckily had toothbrushes and some other bits and pieces.
All in all we had fun. It was hard, but I think with some practice it’ll get easier. We didn’t do a great job packing this time, so with some tweaks I think it’ll go even better the second time around.
Here’s what I’d pack next time:
For Toddlers (I’m Not Exaggerating)
- 4 Pairs of Underwear for each day
- 4 Pairs of socks for each day
- 4 Pairs of pants for each day
- 4 Shirts for each day
- 2 Hoodie/pullover for each day
- 2 - 3 wind breakers
- 1 - 2 Hats with 50+ UV protection
- 1 - 2 pairs of sunglass
- 2 - 3 pairs of shoes
- 2 Bathing Suits
- At least 2-4 pairs of footie PJs (depending on how long you’re going)
I will say there is very little worse than cold kids while camping. Having been out of warm clothes by the morning of the last day we had no choice but to leave straight after breakfast. My kids literally put themselves in the car.
For Adults For us it’s really just about the layers. We don’t play nearly as hard so having to bring so many outfits a day isn’t necessary, but making sure we’re warm enough is. I forgot my rain coat, a sweatshirt (or 4), and socks. Needless to say, I was freezing.
The KISS rule never applied so hard. I thought my kids were going to be WAY hungry than they were. Here were the meals I made for the two days we were camping:
- Dinner the first night we at a nearby restaurant
- Breakfast: Eggs, Coffee from a coffee press, tea
- Snack: Annie’s “Energy Bar” and an Apple Sauce Pouch
- Lunch: Grilled Cheese, peppers and hummus
- Dinner: A friend of ours orchestrated an entire meal of steak, skewers of peppers, and roasted mushroom.
- Snack: S’Mores and Banana with Melted Chocolate
- Breakfast: Eggs and Sausage
I had all these intensions like making homemade guacamole and sharing chips and fruit with friends that just never happened. We also brought Mac and Cheese for the kids and a whole carton of milk we never even cracked open. Hot dogs and bacon we never cooked.
Next time I’m going to stick to more dry foods and less fruit. The Apple Sauce pouches for sure. The grilled cheese was actually a great idea for lunch. One bag of chips and one bag of pretzels next time along with our energy bars.
And I really recommend straight up meal planning and not diverging from it. Know what you’re going to cook for each meal and bring only what you need. Try and use similar ingredients for multiple meals - like we used the cheese, butter, and eggs for multiple meals.
Eating out the night we got there really helped with how much we had to pack and made the first night go a little easier than if we had to cook on top of setting up and getting the kids down for bed.
- This little cooking set was a GOD send and came with everything including plates, sporks, flipper, cooking/serving spoon. Our friend’s had this one which came with 4 cups as well and like the other one packed up nicely.
- Tongs (BIG ones for flipping and also for moving wood in a fire around)
- This little tin boils water super fast on a stove and comes with two cups. Our friend’s used this which worked well if you don’t need a stove.
- I love this French Press and now use it at home. I made a pot in the morning and it lasted me all day and stayed hot for hours.
- This stove was awesome and seemed to the be the stove of choice where we were.
- Propane for the stove
- Two wash basins (one for boiled water and soap, another for rinse) - we forgot this and washing dishes was a huge pain.
- Water Storage with Spout to keep from having to go back and forth from the water spigot.
- A little set of knives (which we also forgot and had to use a big utility knife for everything)
- Cutting board
- Napkins/Paper towels
- 2 Dish Towels
- Trash bags for trash from cooking and also for dirty Clothes
- Wood, kindling, newspaper,
- Fire starter (matches, long lighter)
- Hotdog Forks - we got luckily where our friends brought these
We brought coal we definitely didn’t need and wouldn’t bring again.
I wish we had a table cloth or something to cover the picnic table. It tended to drizzle in the morning and would have been nice to have a dry place to sit comfortably.
- Tent - this was our first time and we weren’t sure we were going to like it so we crammed in a 2 person tent we already owned. The second night we found having the kids sleep at one end on either side and us sleeping at the other with our feet between them was the best set up. They need their space when they sleep. We slept really well considering. If we go again, our friends had a 6 person tent for the 4 of them. They could stand up, bring their bags inside, and use it for sleeping and privacy. We will probably upgrade next time.
- Sleeping bag for each person. We got these for the kids and they kept them warm and weren’t too bulky given the limited space.
- Pillow for each person
- Each child’s lovey - Obvious but let’s make not of all necessities
- A few books for bedtime and downtime. I did two each - one 5 minute story collection and one smaller book.
- Flashlight for each person and a lantern for the tent
- White noise - I didn’t have this the first night and it took FOREVER for my kids to fall asleep. I played white noise the next day at naps and bedtime and they conked right out and slept through the night. GAME CHANGER.
Toiletries and First Aid
- Toothbrush for each person (pack an extra incase one falls on the floor)
- Hand sanitizer
- For you, momma: ++ Face wash clothes - just makes you feel refreshed before bed and when you wake up. I take these on planes too. It’s a quick reset. ++ Face Cream with an SPF 15+
- Sunscreen for kids wit 50+ SPF
- Bug Spray
- One towel for each person (pack extra if you’re planning on swimming)
- Shampoo and body wash (If there are showers and you’re planning on taking one). We only stayed two nights and it wasn’t worth it to me as my kids aren’t big fans of showers just yet. I washed them and their hair the night before we left and again the night we got home.
- Toilet paper - the bathroom’s at the place we stayed were awesome so we didn’t need to bring this, but doesn’t hurt just incase.
- Standard First Aid Kit
I packed all the toiletries and first aid in one sling bag. It went with me on hikes and on bathroom breaks. It kept all these necessities together so I knew right where they were.
I think we could have brought a few more things had we not gone with friends who thought to bring sand toys for the beach and extra balls and things to kick around. There were a ton of kids there with scooters because there was small paved road that went around the campground. I think our kids would have liked to have had theirs, just wasn’t room to pack them. Maybe next time.
Find Your Happy Medium
Preparation and Packing: Camping is hard work. I think with better preparation and packing it didn’t need to be AS hard. My husband did a great job of packing the car in a very utilitarian way, making sure that we could unpack what needed to get stored in the tent, then made most everything accessible when opening up the trunk.
Roll With The Homies: Per a conversation I had with a friend who has camped with her two kids (7 and 2) lots of times, you have to roll with it. That might mean, acknowledging this time around isn’t working, packing up the car at first light and heading home.
I wasn’t sure my kids were going to sleep the second night with the sky still so bright and so much outside noise. We actually packed up the car just incase we needed to drive home. The first night I went to bed with the kids. I tried singing to them. Carrying them around outside to fall asleep. Telling them stories. All sorts of antics to get them to sleep. I wasn’t about repeat that the second night so I was ready to leave. We got lucky in that they fell asleep and actually slept through the night until 7:30AM, but you never know. Know what you can do and make some plans in case.
Stick to their schedule: I got lucky in that my kids took a 2.5 hour nap. I think it’s important because in a place that’s very unfamiliar, at least their schedule is something they know - eat, play, eat, nap, play, eat, bed (essentially). This also makes going back home easy too because you don’t have to worry about training them back into their routine. It was part of your trip.
Go with a group: This was the only reason why I think we went this year. A group of people we were friends/acquaintances with went and this helped tremendously. You were all in it together.
All in all it was really fun to be on the beach and watch our kids step into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. To watch them eat s’mores and chocolate bananas and run around and play chase with their friends. And get sooooooooooo dirty because they were just having too much fun.
As always, you do you Momma, and keep finding your happy medium one night under the stars at a time…
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