Getting away as a family doesn’t have to be expensive. Our last campsite cost $14.00 a night. If you can meal plan and pick a spot close to home to save on gas, a camping weekend for a family of 5 could cost you less than $75.00, food included (see below). If you don’t have your own equipment, think about borrowing from a friend.
I should, however, start out with a bit of honesty. I don’t love camping. Well, let me rephrase, I don’t love sleeping on the ground and going on a hike every time I need to use the bathroom. I don’t do bugs and my hair just isn’t made for outdoor living. BUT I do love sleeping under the stars, late nights around the fire, and sticky little marshmallow crusted faces.
We recently went camping with some friends. Yes we took the babies, and yes we slept in a tent. We prepared for the worst and were pleasantly surprised. I mean, I’m not going to lie, I yelled “Don’t put that in your mouth” more times than I can count and it took several scrub downs to finally rid my children of all the dirt that was caked into all of their little crevices. But man is time spent with family and friends good for your soul. Because the best things in life aren’t measured by their price. They are people and memories and pictures. They are moments and smiles and laughter.
There’s something about being out in creation that connects you to the Creator. When I stare up at star-filled sky, or at sunsets over a lake, when I feel the warmth of a fire, or hear the laughter of my kids mixed in with a symphony of the crickets; I can’t help but stop and stand in awe of the hands that made it all.
When I told people we were going camping as a family, everyone treated me like I was a complete loon. “You are taking babies camping? Why?!” Well we survived and I’m here to say, it was actually fun. And, no, I am not being sarcastic! It was worth the extra planning it involved to take the littles. We were out in nature together on a unique family adventure. That’s the thing with camping, each time brings something new.
Here are some tips to help prepare you for taking a baby (or 2) camping:
- Packing: I’m never going to win an award for the lightest packer. But I might for the most prepared!
- Bring everything you would normally need for time away with your people; and a little more of some things. Pack extra diapers, wipes (perfect for sticky hands and messy faces), and clothes. People are bound to get messy and wet.
- Bring clothes for layering. What starts out as a hot day, may turn into a cool evening.
- Bring toys or things to entertain the kids while you are setting up camp and cooking dinner.
- Bring ways to get around the campsite (to bathrooms, playground, trails, lake, pool, etc.) My older son typically brings his scooter or bike. We love our wagon for the littles. It can even double as a portable bed, if you find yourself away from the tent at nap time. If you plan to hike, don’t forget your baby carriers.
- Don’t forget the bug spray, sunscreen, anti-itch cream, Neosporin, band-aids, and Tylenol.
- Refillable water bottles or sippy cups for little hands. Camping isn’t the time to have your children learn how to master the cup.
- I typically bring my air mattress. I know, I know all of you avid campers are rolling your eyes. But a well rested mama is a happy mama! My car has an outlet which allows the compressor to be plugged so I can inflate my mattress. Some of our friends prefer inflatable pads for under sleeping bags or camping cots. But I told you from the beginning, I’m not a roughin’ it type of girl.
- Sleeping: I take sleeping very seriously! My kids are so much nicer little people when they have slept. And to be honest, so am I!
- We recently upgraded our 4-person tent. We’ve added three more people to our tribe since we purchased it; and so we went big. We bought a 10-person tent. There was plenty of room for our bags and our babies. This allowed us to bring our pack-n-play for sleeping. Which can double as a play yard with toys at your campsite. One family with us brought their rock-n-play for their little one to sleep in.
- Bring extra blankets. Temperatures are hard. What one likes is too cold for one and too hot for another. You can always use them as extra padding under sleeping bags. I like to be prepared, so I dress them in pajamas with layers and bring extra blankets.
- Keep your night-time routine if possible. This really only applies to toddlers and babies not children who can understand the change in routine. My babies get a bottle then go into their cribs awake with their blankets and sound machine. So that’s what we did at camp.
- Be easy-going. The above suggestion only worked for 1 baby! Chase struggled with the extra noise and the strange environment. I ended up putting him in the stroller with his favorite blanket and did a couple of laps around the campsite until he fell asleep and I could transfer him to his bed. Our friends put their baby in the car, and drove around the campsite until he fell asleep. There’s always baby Benadryl — Joking! (kinda!).
- Eating: Think easy.
- I found a blog that plans out a weekend of food for a family of 5 for $50.00. And the best part is they don’t use fancy camping gear to cook it, so anyone can do it. Here’s the link.
- Tacos are a go to for us (in life and at the campsite). You can make the beef ahead of time, store in the cooler and then just heat it up when you are ready. Switch out the meat with eggs in the morning and you can re-use your leftovers for breakfast tacos.
- Because we went with three other families, one of our veteran campers made a menu and then sent out a sign up sheet so that everyone could split the grocery list and we ate potluck style. We didn’t spend a lot and ended up having a TON of food to split between everyone.
- Don’t forget, you have to bring all of your paper products, and cooking utensils. Also, how cool are these portable high chairs? We don’t own these, but they are on the wish list.
- If you have a portable canopy, bring it. Having an area out of the sun to prepare food and sit under to eat was really nice.
- Make sure all of your food gets locked in a vehicle at night. Raccoons are sneaky little bandits.
One reason camping has a special place in my heart is because of who we camp with. I’m so thankful for the friends God has given me to do life with. They are the type of friends that know everything that’s wrong with me and love me the same. These people saw my hair first thing in the morning and didn’t flinch. They are the type of friends who text me to tell me which radio station is playing 90’s music all weekend and love your kids with their whole hearts. They are my no matter what people. Oh and they have a boat too, so that doesn’t hurt. There are friends and there is family and then there are friends that become family. I hope all of you can experience the latter.
Life was meant for good friends and great adventures. So here’s to the nights that turn into mornings with the friends that turned into family.