In the mood to get away and enjoy the great outdoors? Camping can be a fun inexpensive summer getaway, but if you’re not exactly the outdoorsy type (ahem, me), the very idea of going off the grid for the weekend can be a bit intimidating.
My husband, son and even my daughter have done quite a bit of camping and seem to enjoy it. My daughter has been begging to go camping as a family?, I finally caved, and we decided we would go this summer. I thought it would be sensible to be prepared for our little camping adventure and decided to share what I’ve learned with you.
Here’s a few handy tips that will help your family have a fun, safe and sane time on your next camping trip.
1. Pick the right location.
Before you do any other planning, discuss what type of camping spot is important to you. Do you need…Privacy? Quiet? Near a lake or river? What activities do you plan on doing once there? Hiking? Biking? Kayaking? Fishing? Once you decide on location, think about the facilities. Do you want running water, electricity, bathrooms? This will help narrow your search significantly. Keep in mind that many parks fill up quickly during peak seasons, so it might be necessary to reserve a spot in advance.
There are plenty of beautiful county parks and camping spots within a short driving distance from the Des Moines area. Visit My County Parks to research local campsites and make reservations.
2. Be prepared.
Summer in the Midwest means the weather can change on a dime. I’m not saying you should pack a parka, but be sure to bring enough sunscreen, bug spray and extra layers. Bring along a First Aid kit, pack more water than necessary and if you’re camping with young kids or infants don’t forget to pack all their necessities. Stay safe by keeping lanterns, flashlights and extra batteries at the ready.
In addition to the items that you need to bring, you might want to consider what your sleeping arrangements are going to be. For example, if you are a family of four, and you need to purchase a tent, a six-person tent would be ideal. You will need that extra space for storage and play. Depending on the ages of your kids, you might even consider a separate tent for the older kids.
No matter your level of experience, you will bring stuff you don’t need and forget things you wish you’d had. We’ve all done it! Active Kids has put together this extensive Family Camping Essentials Checklist, that will help you be prepared on your next camping trip.
3. Try a practice run before the real thing.
If you’ve never been camping before, it can seem exciting and fun for older kids, but might be daunting for little ones. Before hitting the road try having a camp out in your backyard, so that kids can adjust to the idea of sleeping outside, become familiar with the sounds of outdoors nightlife and you can address other concerns they may have.
If you’ve done a little camping and you’re planning an extended trip this summer, it might be wise to do a weekend trial run, just to get back in the rhythm of camping and to double check that you have everything you need.
4. Keep meals simple and bring lots of snacks.
It’s not practical to cook up elaborate meals when you don’t have an actual kitchen to work with, but you can still enjoy tasty food while camping. Some of my favorite memories of camping growing up, was all the fun food we got to eat. Go old school, think hot dogs, foil packs, s’mores. Let kids pick out special snacks such as sting cheese, energy bars and trail mix.
The Iowa DNR has some great camping tips and recipes.
5. Have some good old-fashioned fun.
Turn off your electronic devices and bring on the fun activities and games. Your days will likely be filled with hiking, swimming and sightseeing, but you’ll also want to be sure to bring along easy-to-pack things to do, such as a ball or Frisbee for playing catch. Kids will inevitably become bored with the great outdoors after a little while so bring along books, a deck of cards or board games to keep them occupied without resorting to the iPad.
6. Have high hopes, but low expectations.
Things will not go according to plan. Any number of issues can arise when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings with kids, especially when there’s no Wi-Fi and air conditioning! Don’t expect camping with kids to go perfectly, but embrace the time you’re spending together. Be prepared to be unprepared and roll with the punches.
7. Most importantly, don’t forget to relax, breathe and play.
After all, these are summer memories that will last a lifetime.
What are your tips for camping with kids? We’d love to hear them!