September 14, 2019

Camping with Young Children

Camping with little kids is no picnic!

This picture was from 2 years ago when we went for a 5 week camping trip to the west coast and back with our five children- our youngest was 5 months old. 

So I know camping season is pretty much over, but I thought I'd better put in some tips here while I was thinking of it.

Dress warm at night. Each of the kids had their own sleeping bag and for the youngest we put him in a snowsuit at night. After they were all asleep we covered them all with a big warm blanket. They also wore toques and sweaters since sometimes their arms came out. It was cold at night!

Give up on potty training. Even my children who were trained started wetting at night. I ended up putting them all in pull-ups at night all the way up to the oldest and some of the younger ones wore pull-ups during the day. We were driving 8 hours or more every 2-3 days and the first day we tried to discourage the day wetting with a tictac each time they went potty but it backfired big time. We were stopping so often to let them go on the side of the road because they wanted tictacs that the drive took twice as long!

Don't try to do everything. The first few places we went, we wanted to go on all the hikes and see all the sights, and by the time we got to the Dinosaur Provincial Park we realized the kids were happier just to play in the muddy creek than go on a hot and tiring hike. And that's okay. They still got to see a lot and when they get older we can enjoy some good hikes. Actually Long Beach was the best because other than sleeping at our campsite we spent all day and ate all our meals on the beach. The kids were so happy just to dig in the sand, and look for banana slugs and starfish. It was their favourite part of the trip.

Bring polysporin and bandaids, and keep nails short and clean. It is inevitable that the kids will get bug bites, but because ours was an extended trip they ended up getting infections in some of their bug bites. We learned to really try harder to stay on top of their nails. Many of the camp sites were all dirt and it was so hard to keep their hands clean. Then they would scratch their bug bites and get them all dirty. Try to keep their nails clean and if they are scratching their bug bites use anti-itch cream or if they are already open sores, use the black tube of polysporin that has an analgesic. It will kill the bacteria and reduce the itchiness. Then cover it with a bandage so it doesn't get infected.

Pack light and do laundry often. We were moving campsites every 2-3 days so whenever we did the drive, we would also stop on the way and do laundry and go grocery shopping for the next site while the laundry was going. Most towns where you can buy groceries, you can also find a laundromat. I packed a maximum of 2 additional pairs of clothing per person besides the one they were wearing. And that worked pretty well. It is okay if they end up wearing their pajamas the last day if we soiled too many clothes! :)

Bring and use the Gravol. The driving days were long and it was not worth having to clean up puke in addition. Bring paper towel and febreeze in case it does happen.

Get a system and stay organized. It is such a small space to keep everything you need right in the back of the van so it is good to have a place for everything and make sure you put it back after. It is not fun to be hunting through the van in the dark for something you put in the wrong place. I had to run back to the van in the middle of the night for a diaper more than once.

Keep food away from the tent. We were really strict about this. The last thing we needed was bears trying to get into our tent because they could smell food. Absolutely no food in the tent and the kids were to stay away until their hands and faces were wiped. We did not want peanut butter hands smeared on the tent. 

Stay at a hotel if you have to. Halfway through the trip my husband got really sick so that we actually ditched one of the camp sites we had planned to go to and ended up staying those two nights at a hotel. He was able to see the doctor and get some sleep on a real bed and the kids were so thrilled to get to watch cartoons and make forts between the beds. I took the opportunity to do laundry, reorganize all the clothes and clean up the garbage out of the van. It was a worthwhile stop.

Make simple meals and don't overbuy. It is so easy to overbuy food when camping. But really, you don't need that much. We planned 3 meals, but some of them were kind of funny. Like one time we had a veggie tray and pepperettes. It doesn't need to be a 3 course dinner. Breakfast was often fruit or yogurt- sometimes cereal, then we had one cold meal and one hot meal. Sandwiches, veggie trays, pizza buns, crackers and sausage work fine. Then there's soup, pancakes and bacon, mac n cheese, hamburger helper, tomato sauce and Italian bread, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Get a good tent. We got a really excellent canvas tent for our trip and I was so thankful. There was more than one night when the next morning the other campers were complaining of water in their tent, but we never had a problem with that. Then in the Grasslands, others with tents had theirs blowing away, but ours was very solidly pegged into the ground. We had a very good tent.

Get a good mattress for yourself. We had these really thick foam/air mattresses for my husband and I and it is so good that we did. If it was only a night or two, we would have survived, but since we were sleeping on it for over a month, it was important to us to have thicker mattresses so could sleep better. They are best if they have time to be left open to inflate so when there wasn't time, there were night when I could feel the ground through the mattress, but still it was better than it would have been with anything else. I had to get up in the night still to breastfeed and often slept part of the night with the baby next to me so I was thankful for a thicker mattress for better sleeping.

What a lot of work it was to camp with the little guys, but they look back on that trip with a lot of fond memories and really want to do it again. 

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