Family Camping With Kids Tips


Camping with kids is one of the most enjoyable experiences. Both of our kids started camping while they were still in diapers.  I can still remember their faces when they jumped into a tent for the first time.  Both kids treated the inside of the tent like one of those birthday party jumpers. My wife and I enjoyed watching our children have the time of their life.

How To Get The Most Out Of Family Camping Trip

It has been my experience to not over plan or force activities on children. I can vividly remember my father telling me how much fun a certain activity was as he forced me to do it. We like to give our children a few options to choose from when we set up camp. For example, last summer my kids both expressed some interest in fishing. I purchased 2 inexpensive rod and reel combos at Walmart for my 2 boys to use. We camped near a lake in Oregon that had excellent fishing opportunities. Both boys fished relentlessly for an hour or 2 and then gravitated to the nearby playground because there were many children playing there. I did not force them to stay there and fish. They went to the playground and enjoyed it so much that they were no longer interested in fishing that day and likewise for the remainder of the trip.

Early on I had to make the decision that the camping trip was more about letting the children experience camping in a way that allowed them to express their own interest. I did the same thing for my wife. I have always been more of a nomadic hard-core camper that likes to backpack into remote wilderness areas where few people venture. I had to keep myself in line and not try to force this type of camping on my family. Car camping was something totally new to me. My backpacking buddies and I would prefer to this method as “luxury camping”.

Luxury camping became my MO for our family. I made sure that we always used the best equipment to make it an enjoyable experience for all of them. My wife always puts together what she calls “treasure bags” for the boys while traveling in the car. She puts in miniature cars, books, snacks, and other knickknacks that interest the boys is we travel in the car. We like to stay away from videos and video games as we travel because we have noticed that her kids become addicts. We do not want entertainment to babysit the kids as we drive. The kids are always so excited about what mommy is going to put into the treasure boxes. They still like the little bug catchers that we have been using for the past 9 years. My wife buys these cheap plastic bug catchers from the dollar store and the kids go crazy over them. They have a magnifying glass on the top is enlarge the bugs.

A Family Camping Trip Is Not A Cross Country Race

Fathers, pay close attention to this advice.  Most of us men want to put as many miles behind us in the shortest period of time.  From my experience, my kids and especially my wife did not enjoy sitting in the car all day trying to get to best camp site.  Slow down and take your time.  Some of our best camping experiences have been our stay in local city and country parks.  If you are going to drive for long periods of time, do it in the morning while every is still tired.

Make Campsite Reservations For Popular Parks And Campgrounds

If you will be camping in a popular area with a lot of visitors, then be sure to make reservations.  We have been using ReserveAmerica and to make reservations at popular National Parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Grand Canyon.  I recently booked a cabin a National Forest cabin 4 months in advance of our stay.  Popular yurts in Oregon usually are reserved 6 months in advance.  It's like bidding at Ebay-you have to keep you eye on the clock and reserve exactly 6 months in advance to reserve a yurt.

What Equipment Do I need To Bring On A Family Camping Trip?

When you start to make plans for the type of  camping equipment that you need to bring on a camping trip, it's easier to start with a big list and then work your way down to a small manageable list.  I have a general rule that I follow-It's better to have and not need than to need and not have.  If we forget something or need a certain piece of equipment after we have left our home, we can always buy it later.  More often than not, if we don't bring something, then we probably don't need it.

  • Tents.  Make sure that it's solid, water proof, light weight and easy to set up.
  • Sleeping Bags.  Buy warmer bags than you think you will need.
  • Lanterns & Flashlights.  Bring extra batteries and flash lights.  Stick them in the car, your purse, glove box etc.
  • Sleeping Pads/Air Mattresses.  You will be sleeping for 1/3 of the trip.  Spend some good money and sleep comfortably.
  • Camping Stove.  We cook better on the road than we do at home.  Food seems to taste better when camping.  Buy a stove that has readily available fuel.
  • Small cooler to keep your food from spoiling.
  • Stainless steel water jug and water bottles.
  • Small fanny packs to keep your valuables organized and safe.
  • Fuel-white gas, kerosene, propane cartridges, etc.
  • Frying pan.  Pots and pans.
  • First aid kit.
  • Maps.
  • Power inverter to charge flashlight batteries, cell phones, Ipods, etc.
  • Soap, toothpaste, tooth brush, towels.

Secrets To Sleeping Comfortably All Night On A Camping Trip

A good quality sleeping pad is what separates you from rocks, sticks, and twigs.  Young kids can sleep easily on a light weight foam pad because they are usually light weight.  Adults on the other hand demand more comfort. I like sleeping on the self inflating REI Camp Bed.  It's a self inflating camping mat with a self inflation foam core. The REI Camp Bed reminds me of a giant sponge. A sponge is always large unless you squish it make it small. The REI Camp Bed can be made through the small by compressing it.



  1. Thank you for your lovely information about making a camp trip pleasant! I will have to have my husband invest in a great sleeping pad. I am gonna go with them this summer and I am a bit nervous. He said I could bring along my Tailgater since I love watching TV so much. It’s a great addition and has an easy set-up. I might even ask a co-worker at DISH to join us.

    • Enjoy yourself with or without TV. Bring an Iphone or Internet connection and you will be set!


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