Camping with Kids: Getting Comfortable Outside Our Comfort Zone



Last weekend, we did it: we camped for 3 days and 4 nights with our four kids. What started as a whim while I was reading a magazine review of campsites, led to a vacation that was WAY outside my comfort zone. I’m not really a “camper” – I like things like beds and clean bathrooms and I had definitely never spent an extended time away with our kids without these basic amenities. But we all survived…and even if not every part of the trip was comfortable, it was still fun and left us with many memories! The kids are already asking when we can go back. I, however, may need some more time to recover before planning the next trip.

Although I’m not expert, I’d like to share some advice that made our trip a success in case you’re thinking about getting out there too!

1. Research campsites.

There are SO many different types of places to stay from the rustic to the resort! We were going to be in Maine visiting with family, so we chose our campground primarily based on location. Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport was great for our first time camping because it had things like a brand new saltwater pool and kiddie pool, multiple and very clean bathhouses, a location close to the beach, and running water and electricity at each campsite. This, my husband assured me, was “glamping.” We brought our own tent and supplies, but you could have rented a safari tent, lodge, and even a covered wagon if your heart desired. I found Sandy Pines in an outdoor magazine, but a quick search on google can help you find family friendly sites that are thoroughly vetted by other families on Trip Advisor.

2. Make sure you have the right tent.

When I casually brought up camping, my husband jumped on the idea and splurged on a pretty elaborate tent for our family of six. It was money well spent to have plenty of room to store three blow-up mattresses and all our clothes and gear without feeling cramped. More importantly, it kept all of our stuff dry when some unexpected thundershowers blew through on our third day. If you don’t want to commit to buying a tent, it’s possible to rent them as well. Some sites have permanent shelters that you can rent much like a hotel room- complete with beds and dressers if you really don’t want to rough it too much!

3. Know your limits.

I love to be outside and I was excited to have places our kids could feel independent to go on bike rides on their own, a private spot we could build campfires and cook out over an open fire, and access to beaches and pools to beat the summer heat. I also know that I can’t go too long without a clean shower. It was important to me to stay somewhere where we could get clean – especially since we were spending our days biking dirt paths and playing on sandy beaches. A clean tent is a happy tent – and that goes for the people in it as well!

4. Stretch your limits.

It took me a full day to really settle in to camping. The first day I was obsessed with keeping things organized, making sure my kids weren’t getting too close to the fire or making too much of a mess. To be honest, I almost lost it a few times. But that night, my kids were elated getting ready for bed. My 5-year-old told us this wasn’t just fun, this was super, duper, DUPER fun. He assured us it was the best day he’d ever had. My daughter told us it was way more fun to be in a tent together than in some “plain old hotel room.” I relaxed. Yes, our trip was chaotic. But it was also really special to all be right on top of each other. Boundaries were down and we told ghost stories, ate s’mores, and slept on our shared mountain of air mattresses and blankets.

5. Really think through what you pack.

My husband wins the award for packing the most things into a car. He managed to bring a huge tent, 5 bikes, 2 bike trailers, a double stroller, a small grill, all our clothes, towels, blankets, pillows…needless to say it’s a lot of stuff and we used most of it. Prioritize what’s most important if you can. We didn’t need all the clothes we brought, but the extra blankets were a godsend since temperatures dropped into the 50’s at night.

6. Let it go and enjoy!

It’s special to have a trip where everyone feels like they are pitching in to help. Our kids felt a real sense of independence picking out the things we’d need for our trip and helping us set up the camp space. Little things like biking to the bathrooms or heading out at night to take a shower were exciting to them. So was making our own meal over the fire. Just knowing how much the rest of my family enjoyed being outside together helped me let go of the little things and enjoy being together instead.

Have you been camping with your family? What tips and tricks do you have?


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