10 Camping Tricks for Newbies with Young Kids + Simple Menu
First-time campers with a 1 and 3-year-old
My husband and I are not campers. We both have been 1 or 2 times as a kid, but never as adults and never together. We went because my daughter’s school does a group camping trip every year and I knew I did not want her to miss out on that opportunity. Let me just say, I was stressing about this camping trip since the first day she started school (9 months prior to camping!). I just didn’t know how feasible it would be with a baby.
We camped at Lake Cachuma; which was great for the camping novices we were. We had a campground that was not too far from the bathrooms and it was right next to a playground, which worked out perfect for the kids.
We decided to buy a 12-person tent because my husband wanted enough space to stand up and get dressed, without crouched and doing everything on top of our beds. In hindsight, this tent was WAY too big for a family of 4! We had more than enough space for a pack in play, two blow up mattresses, a toddler-sized bed and plenty of space in-between.
Here are 10 tips/tricks I learned from this trip.
1. Bring a travel potty for the kids to use inside of the tent. It is far easier to have them use this than to trek across the campground in the middle of the night.
2. Have a lantern to hang in your tent to act as a room light. Bring a small, high powered flashlight for walking in the dark.
3. Have a Jacket with pockets or something that has compartments that you can wear to take things to the bathroom, such as; toothbrush, face soap, soap, wipes etc.
4. A bag or bin just for food and snacks that are nonperishable, so they can be easily put back into the car at night.
5. Outdoor toys (frisbee, kite, ball, bubbles, Velcro catch and throw), glow in dark toys for nighttime.
6. Wagon, push car, or pack in play for your baby to keep them occupied and safe for spurts of time you cannot keep them from eating rocks, dirt, or bugs. Also a portable highchair is great!
7. Charge external batteries for phone and other electronics you may need. I know! I know! Camping is for being unplugged, BUT, you are like me, you use your phone for pictures instead of a camera. We also downloaded a white noise app and used it when putting the kids to sleep to minimize the sound of nearby campers and kids.
8. We made a toddler sized bed with a Yoga mat for our 3-year-old, instead of a blow-up mattress and pack in play for baby.
9. Bring lots of layers at night, it gets cold!!! I did not pack enough warm clothes, because when it is 90 degrees outside, it’s hard to think it will become so cold at night. But it does. At one point, I was wearing almost all the articles of clothing I packed!
10. Make sure to bring any type of medicine you may need for the kids; teething, Tylenol, allergy, sunscreen, aloe vera gel, Band-Aids etc.
Simple menu for two nights:
1. First night: I brought some cans of Amy’s veggie and lentil soup. I served this with quesadillas and sliced avocados.
2. Breakfast Next morning: Egg and sausage muffin sandwiches. I used English muffins, breakfast patties, eggs, and cheese. I served with some sliced watermelon.
3. Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwiches, served with sugar snap peas and watermelon.
4. Dinner: Italian pasta salad. I cooked the pasta at home and brought it in a large baggie. When it was time for dinner, I put the pasta in a big bowl and added an entire jar of Italian dressing, along with 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese balls, a pack of salami, a small can of diced black olives, and a small container of cherry tomatoes. I served this with already cooked chicken sausages.
5. Breakfast our last morning: scrambled eggs with Kodiak Cake Power pancakes.
*Make sure to cut ahead of time any fruit or veggies you need for your meals. Prep as much of your camping meals beforehand, to minimize the amount of work you need to do there.