In a world where vacation prices seem to keep increasing, having an affordable family travel option is more important than ever. Camping gear is a one-time investment you can use again and again, and camping with kids can create memories that will last a lifetime.
If taking small children with you on a camping trip seems intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. We’ve compiled a list of camping hacks with kids that will make your trip exponentially more manageable and enjoyable.
Read on to learn how to make camping with kids a breeze!
Keep It Planned
1. Choose Campsite Wisely
When camping with kids, it’s essential to choose your campsite wisely.
If your kids are young and newly potty trained, getting as close as possible to the bathhouse should be your goal. The last thing you want is to be trekking across the entire campground for an emergency bathroom trip in the middle of the night.
Older kids may not need the bathroom proximity, but all kids would enjoy being near a playground! Being near the playground means you can give your kids a little independence by sending them on their own while still being able to keep an eye on them from your site. It’s a win-win!
2. Try It Out at Home
Your family camping trip shouldn’t be the first time your kids sleep in a tent.
Take a trial run in the backyard. Set up the whole shebang– tent, sleeping bag, night light, all of it.
This way, your kids experience all the “new” that comes with camping in a low-commitment situation. You can add some light to your trip if it’s too dark. You’ll know to bring a sound machine if the noises are too loud. You can bring thicker jammies if the sleeping bag isn’t warm enough.
Most of the problems you may encounter are easy fixes. Practicing will alleviate the frustration of trying to solve them on the fly.
3. Pre-Prep Food
Camping with kids is a hands-on activity. The less time you spend prepping meals at the campground, the better.
Some easy meals can be prepped almost entirely before you leave your house.
- Pancakes– Measure out pancake mix and put it in a Ziploc bag. Bring a liquid measuring cup, add the needed water, and mush it all together in the bag. Cook on a cast iron skillet over the fire.
- Burritos– Pre-make burritos (breakfast or regular) and wrap them in foil. Reheat them over the fire and enjoy!
- Chili– Pre-cook the meat and either pre-slice the veggies or buy them presliced. Add the meat, vegetables, beans, and broth to a cast iron dutch oven and let it all heat up together before enjoying.
- S’mores Kit– Pack sandwich baggies with two graham crackers, a marshmallow, and a piece of chocolate for a ready-to-roast s’more.
4. Invite Friends
Life is more fun with friends, and camping is no exception! A hack for camping with kids is doing it with another family.
Not only will your kids have built-in playmates, but the parents can also split the load of caring for everyone. Plus, you can put the kids to bed and enjoy a drink around the campfire together at the end of the day.
5. Pack Outfits in Baggies
Pack each child’s daily outfit in a zip-top bag to make getting ready each morning a breeze. Small children’s outfits will fit in a quart-sized baggie, while older children may need gallon-sized. Include a top, bottom, pair of underwear and socks in each bag.
When it’s time to get dressed, grab a single bag, and you’ll have everything the kid needs for a fun day of camping!
Keep It Easier
6. Glowstick Bracelets as Tent Pulls
While we’re including this in a post about camping hacks with kids, this is a handy tip for any camper, no matter their age!
Once the sun goes down, campsites get dark. To make getting in and out of your tent easier at night, put a glowstick bracelet through the hole in each zipper so you can easily see and grab them.
They’ll stop glowing by the morning, so bring enough to put in each zipper each night of your trip.
7. Pool Noodles Over Tent Lines
If you’ve ever been camping in a tent, you’ve probably tripped over a tent line. To make camping with kids safer, make those lines easier to see!
Before your trip, pick up a foam pool noodle for each line on your tent. Use a knife or sharp scissors to cut one side and slip it over the tent line once your site is set up.
The pool noodles are much larger and brighter than the thin tent lines, making them much easier to avoid.
8. Pack Lots of Layers
There is some deeply engrained hatred of coats inside most children. They think they’d rather freeze to death than wear one. But the truth is, if your kid is cold on a camping trip, nobody will have fun.
Instead of fighting the coat fight, take a layers approach.
The same kid who won’t wear a coat probably won’t bat an eye at wearing a long-sleeved thermal tee and a sweatshirt.
Layering their clothes will help them feel independent in choosing what to wear while ensuring they’re warm enough to have fun.
9. Overpack Snacks
If you think you’ve packed just enough snacks for your camping trip with kids… You probably haven’t.
This isn’t a rule you should follow on a daily basis, but when your kids are completely out of their routines and norms, snacks can save the day!
Grumpy? Here’s a tasty snack.
Scared? How about you have a snack?
Bored? Perfect. It’s snack time.
Do you get where this is going? Bring more than enough snacks for little campers!
10. Solar Lights Around Campsite
If you’re camping with kids after a time change when the sun sets well before bedtime, having solar lights around your campsite will make your trip much more enjoyable.
A solar lantern can provide light for games at a table or preparing marshmallows for roasting.
Use yard lights along the perimeter of your campground. In addition to providing extra light, this will help keep little ones safer through a visual boundary line.
11. Throw It ALL Away
Camping with kids is not a time when we must think about saving the planet through reusable dinnerware. This is a time when convenience is king and disposable is your friend.
The one reusable item still recommended would be a water bottle. Children are notorious for opening up a plastic water bottle, taking one sip, and forgetting about it. Don’t waste your money or storage space on those when you can bring one bottle for every camper.
Keep It Clean
12. Stop the Bathroom Stink
If you’re at a campground with vault toilets, they’ll probably stink. To help alleviate a fight to go potty with little kids, bring along something to stop the stink.
A dab of chest rub right under their nose will block the nasty odors with a pleasant minty smell. Just wipe it off after washing their hands.
13. Bring (a TON of) Baby Wipes
Baby wipes are the Swiss army knife for camping with kids.
They clean dirty faces. They freshen up stinky bodies. They clean off dirty tables. They wipe down dirty toys. They do it all.
Bring a pack, or five, on the trip with you.
14. DIY Single-Use Soap
To save space and the potential of spills, make your DIY single-use soap from any soap bar you’ve got around your house.
Use a cheese grater to slice a thin piece off the long side of the soap. Make sure the bar is completely dry. One slice should be enough for a single shower, so pack accordingly.
15. Clean Hands & Feet
Keeping hands and feet clean as much as possible will help your camping trip with kids be much more enjoyable.
Use baby wipes to clean off hands before meals and getting into the tent.
Have a rug outside your tent to wipe shoes off and a bin to keep them inside the tent, by the entrance. Don’t let them walk around the tent with shoes covered in dirt and leaves unless you want to feel the grime in your sleeping bag all night.
Keep It Fun
16. Don’t Rely on Outdoors for Fun
They’re not called the “great” outdoors for nothing, but even the most extraordinary things can lose their luster after a while.
Don’t assume your kids will have a blast building houses out of the sticks around your campground for hours. It’s wise to come prepared with some other fun.
Bring card games, bubble guns, yard games, and coloring books to supplement the outdoor fun.
A set of walkie-talkies will give older kids and tweens the opportunity to be independent and explore a bit on their own while still being in contact with you.
Send them on a walk around the campground or to the playground while you enjoy a book by your tent with peace of mind.
18. Have a Screened-In Play Spot
This camping hack for kids is especially for little ones but benefits anyone. A screened-in spot to play will provide shade and respite from annoying bugs.
Take the experience up a notch with a rug similar in dimensions to the screened-in tent to give tiny toes and knees a break from the rough ground.
Wrapping up Camping Hacks with Kids
While camping with kids may present unique challenges, you shouldn’t avoid it. Don’t wait until your kids grow up to go camping as a family. With the proper preparation and a few camping hacks with kids, you can start creating memories right now!
To make family camping even better, check out our guide to FREE camping in the US!
- About the Author
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Stephanie Lamberth is a writer who enjoys exploring new places and helping others feel prepared to make incredible memories.
While not a seasoned wilderness expert, Stephanie has enjoyed and learned a ton on the camping trips she’s taken and has a unique perspective as the child of full-time RVers. With firsthand exposure to the RV lifestyle, Stephanie has insight into the comforts and challenges it can bring.
Stephanie can help bridge the gap between rookie samper and seasoned outdoorsman to help you make the most of your own camping adventures!
She currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and three children.
Stephanie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org