After coming home from a wonderful camping trip with my kids, I was greeted by rolled eyes and the admonition, "That's not real camping" by friends who will not be named. Not real camping? I had never considered the possibility that our time spent hiking through the woods, fishing in the lake, and time spent around our cozy campsite to be anything less than camping.
My friends consider any trip including vehicles, plumbing and grills to be fake camping, but I will defend my method of camping with kids. It is easier and less stressful to plan fun adventures with small children, and teens alike, when there are safety nets firmly in place.
I would rather get under the stars more than worry about whether or not my camping style is real or not so the following tips are my favorite low maintenance stress free camping tips for a stress free adventure.
- Try car camping. Alright it sounds ridiculous, but for the simplest of camping trips completely skip the tents. Sleeping bags in the back of a truck or van with the doors open is a novel way to camp with kids.After arriving at our destination too late, too hungry and too tired, sleeping in the vehicle was simply the best choice for all. My oldest two started in their sleeping bags under the canopy of trees, but soon joined us in the makeshift "tent."
- Stay packed. Stop dreading the massive amount of packing and unpacking necessary. Over the course of time, gather all you need for a basic camping trip in containers. I have three containers designated to hold all the essentials and a first aid kit for the car. Advanced planning makes spontaneous weekend trips possible. One manageable sized Rubbermaid tote holds all the towels, toiletries, bug spray, cups, plates and other non-perishable essentials. A cooler carries the food and another tote holds clothes. Large baggies keep everything dry and contaminant free.
- Trade off. If you know another family with the same basic camping style consider taking turns doing the planning. The families can alternate choosing the location and bringing all the food while the other family simply brings themselves, sleeping bags and personal items. This idea really gives mom a chance to fully enjoy camping at least every other time. Plus it creates a support group to fend off the naysayers!
- No gear fun. Sure you want to share your love of rock climbing with your children, but gathering up all the necessary gear can suck all the fun out of a family camping trip. Besides, your toddler will not get much enjoyment out of the experience. Limit yourself to activities that require little to no gear; swimming, walking on trails, taking photos. This should go without saying, but leave the handheld games at home.
- Stay close. If at all possible keep your camping excursions close to home. Look for camping sites within an hour of your home to make the entire experience less stressful. If you know you are close to home a possible broken bone does not seem so disastrous. You will also be more inclined to camp if the drive time doesn't suck up all your funds.
Finally, personalize your camping to your particular family, keep it simple, and make memories!
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