When I tell people about our camping adventures with our large family, I often hear, “But how do you do it, with so many kids?!” The answer is, well… we just do! For cheap family vacations, camping can’t be beat. The key to making it fun for the parents as well as the kids is PREPARATION. Here are some tips for successful camping trips with a crowd!
1. Plan ahead for bad weather, even if you think it won’t rain. Nothing ruins a camping trip faster than all of your gear getting soaked by an unexpected rain storm. On our first camping trip as a new blended family, several years ago, we had an unexpected downpour which soaked everyone and everything… we had puddles in the tent, no dry towels, and most of our clothes got wet. It was quite an adventure! To minimize the chance of this happening, make sure your tent is well-protected with a good rain fly or a tarp, just in case. Cover your picnic table with a tarp or canopy, to keep your stuff from getting soaked if shower passes through. Store clothes and towels in the car. Also, keep all your firewood under cover, as it’s hard to start a fire with wet wood. After all, camping wouldn’t be camping without a campfire!
2. Pack lots of diversions. We have each child fill their backpacks with books, small toys, cards, etc. Plus, we bring a few travel games. These keep the little ones occupied while the adults and bigger kids are busy setting up, as well as providing us with fun things for all of us to do together while hanging around the campsite.
3. Plan your meals ahead of time. This is good advice, in general! But when you are packing food for a whole weekend for a large family with no refrigeration, it’s essential. We usually have a cooler for the food that must stay cold, and a very large bag for non-perishable food. I make food prep at the campsite easier by chopping things up ahead of time at home, and storing them in containers in the cooler. Keep it simple! And don't forget a couple of loaves of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, for quick, easy lunches.
4. Bring lots of snacks. We usually pack trail mix, granola bars, pretzels, nuts, etc, along with a small cooler full of fruit.
5. Don’t forget to pack the first aid kit. It’s a good idea to be prepared in case one of the little ones gets a scraped knee, or someone gets a blister while hiking. Also be prepared with antihistamine (such as Benadryl) in case of an allergic reaction to poison ivy or bug bites. You might not need it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so you aren’t driving around looking for a pharmacy in the middle of your trip. (Yes, this happened to us once. We were nearly an hour from the nearest pharmacy. It was not fun!)
6. Plan fun things to do, but leave room for change. Many family campgrounds have lots of fun things to do in the area… hiking, swimming, and even some tourist attractions. Plan out what you’d like to do ahead of time, but be flexible in case the weather changes.
7. HAVE FUN! Relax and enjoy being in Nature with the ones you love.
Next post, I will share my recipe for homemade pancake mix… perfect for camping trips, or quick breakfasts at home!