Our first camping trip as a family was a great success! Jason and I had been on few camping trips in Florida before we had the kiddos, but it'd been 12 years since then. Plus, camping with kids is way different. The kids had been asking to go camping since last summer, so we decided to make it part of our summer bucket list this year. Our trip was 2 nights and I think this was just enough for us. It was long enough to make the effort worthwhile, but not too long to get boring or overwhelming. We went out to Navajo Lake, UT, which is about a 3 hr drive from Las Vegas. This was a good distance for us. Far enough that it felt like a getaway and the scenery was completely different, but close enough that we didn't have to drive for too long.
Of course, I don't by any means think we're camping experts or suggest we had a flawless trip, but I think we did pretty good and I'd love to share some of the ups and downs (but mostly the ups!) of our trip and share 5 tips that helped make our first camping trip fun!
1. Make a list! There are tons of websites you can find online or on pinterest with extensive checklists on what to pack for your camping trip. REI had a great one we used, here. These lists are pretty long and detailed, so you may or may not need all of these items for your trip, but it's a good idea to print one out and use as a starting point. Camping requires lots of stuff. I still can't get over the amount of things you have to take!
2. Prepare! Go on some day trips and/or family hikes if you aren't used to the great outdoors. Our family loves to go on hikes & picnics together, so overnight camping was the natural next step for us. If you're new to the outdoors, start off slow with a picnic at a park and walks through natural settings and work your way up to longer hikes.
3. Go with friends! Even before Jason and I had kids, we always went camping with a group of friends. The more the merrier. Going with another family was perfect for us. The kids had friends to play with, so they weren't always looking for us to entertain them. Don't get me wrong, we did get some, "I'm bored!" What can we do now?" but I know it would have been tons more had it just been the 4 of us.
4. Plan some activities! Yes, I'm a planner and the idea of just going on a trip without any set plans is not within my comfort zone. This trip was pretty spontaneous for us and we didn't have huge plans for when we got there, but the few things we did have planned were just enough. It doesn't have to be anything huge and you definitely do not need to plan every minute, but having a few activities for the kids was super helpful. Jason took some supplies for a little battery-electicity science experiment for the kids, we had them do a scavenger hunt, and the highlight of the day was going fishing! We have an awesome book titled Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide and it's packed with stuff for kids to do on camping trips. (Tip: this book is also great for day trips and hikes)
5. Get the kids involved! Camping is a lot of work. There's the setting up camp, putting up your tents, making a fire, cooking, cleaning, etc. Just unloading and loading up the cars is a lot of work. Kids love helping out and feeling useful, so get them involved in "camp life". We gave our kids small tasks they could handle depending on their age and with some supervision and direction, they were all able to help out.
No trip with kiddos is guaranteed to be stress-free and some trips will be better than others. We had our share of issues from thunderstorms, leaking tents, and a few kid meltdowns! But, nothing we couldn't handle with a little flexibility and a good attitude!
I'll admit before this trip, I was pretty nervous about taking the kids camping. But, with a little preparation, I think we'll be ready to go again soon. There's something special about being outdoors without all the comforts of modern daily living that helps ground you. I think it's important to let kids "rough it" for a few days, get dirty, and disconnect for a bit. I'm looking forward to our next camping trip, for sure. Any expert campers out there have any additional tips for our next trip? I'd love to hear them!