Monday, August 7, 2017

13 Tips for Planning a Family Camping Trip!


I mentioned in a previous post that our family really loves to go camping! Vacationing doesn't always have to mean expensive airline tickets or a resort on a far off island (although, I'm up for that too)!

I'll admit, it took my city-boy husband awhile to wrap his head around the idea. I on the other hand, grew up in Eastern Washington on a lake and we frequently went on weekend camping trips (with a lot of fishing)! Now, my grandma and grandpa had an RV, so it was a little more "deluxe" than simply tent camping. However, living in Orange County (where space is expensive!), having an RV isn't practical. We don't have a huge garage or land to store it on. So, we go tent camping! Which leads me to my first tip:

1. Buy the largest tent you can find! When we began camping as a family back in 2011, I found a 10-person tent made by Ozark Trails at Walmart. It has held up beautifully through 25+ camping trips, and we love it! It's currently out of stock, but this Ozark Trail 10-Person Family Tent seems like it could be a good alternative! Trust me, there's no reason to stuff your family in a little 8 x 8 foot tent. Don't do it!


2. Air mattresses all the way. For each person! We fit three queen sized air mattresses and a toddler air mattress in our 10-person tent. This gives everyone their own space, and almost guarantees a good night's sleep! I find the Intex Classic Downy Airbed, Queen are a good deal at only $22, and hold up well! We currently have three of these and I ordered our little girl the Kids Travel Inflatable Bed Set. She sleeps so well on this when we camp! And, unlike a traditional air mattress, she can't roll or fall off the sides! The interior mattress inflates independently and fits a standard crib sheet. This then tucks into the inflatable bumper and completes the set. Definitely worth it if you're camping with toddlers! (I personally wouldn't use this for a young baby, especially if they aren't turning over well. I was always very cautious about their face getting pressed in the crevice of anything. So last year when we camped, we bought the KidCO Travelpod Portable Bed, Cranberry. It's mesh down to the floor and very safe! We also took it with us to Europe last year because it is only 9 pounds and fits inside a standard suitcase!).


3. Ambient lighting! I ADORE these little Coleman string lights! Aren't they the cutest?! We hang them above the door of our tent and leave them on all night long. It allows just enough light for us to peek over at the kids and make sure they are covered properly and secure on their mattresses! Click the pic below if you're interested - only $16 right now on Amazon! (Make sure you take the batteries out between use or they will potentially get ruined during the winter months when stored).


4. Book your camping spot EARLY! No one wants to pack up a car load of gear and drive a couple of hours, only to find the 5 "walk-up" spots are already taken. I book most of our camping trips on ReserveAmerica and Recreation.gov . If you have campgrounds that are managed within your county, you may want to check their website too! Here in Orange County, our local campgrounds can be booked through OC Parks. Now, when I say book "early", I mean, you should book a full 6 months in advance, and have your window opened and be signed in to your account by 8am when the reservations system goes live. I know it sounds like a lot of pressure, but enjoying the most private, luscious spot will make or break or experience.

5. Before booking campspot #53, take a look at at this website! I love this website! Simply type in the name of your campground, and it'll often give you a rundown of the facilities, and a photo of each and every campsite within the campground! I typically make a list of the "best spots", and then when the reservation system goes live, I have all my first choices in front of me so I can act quickly. There's not time to consult the campground map if you're hoping for that beachfront campsite for a weekend in July. Be prepared!




6. Invest in a dependable camp stove. I can't speak highly enough about the Coleman Classic Propane Stove. This is truly the best camp stove for the money. It can boil a pot of water just as quickly as my gas range at home! And, it uses the propane very efficiently. You won't be sorry.


7. Take your French Press! I love my coffee in the morning! In fact, I have a hard time talking to anyone in my family until the first steaming mug has soaked into my bloodstream. My Bodum French Press has been with me since my junior year of college. I took it with me when I moved to England, Lebanon, back to Washington State, to California, and everywhere in between. And it goes on every camping trip with me as well! I grind a nice ziplock bag full of coffee and take my scoop before we leave, and I'm never sorry! The Coleman stove above will boil up a saucepan of water quickly, and 3 minutes later you have fresh coffee! Camping doesn't have to mean roughing it...


8. Ok, this is gonna get weird quickly. But trust me. You need to invest in a camp toilet. A few years ago we visited a gorgeous campground (actually, the one I featured last week in this post). And I realized I hadn't properly researched the meaning of "pit latrines". And it was just a big no thank you. The stink. The flies. The fact that my little 3 year old had no way to use the bathroom comfortably made me realize the need for the Stansport Camp Toilet. For under $15, you won't regret this. Especially if you have young children who have recently potty trained, or find yourself near pit latrines that may or may not give you typhoid if you get too close. Now, I stock up on the Stansport Toilet Bags, and simply dispose of them after each use.


9. Rooftop Storage! It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive! Five years ago we invested in this Rooftop Bag, and it's been with us on 20+ camping trips. Through rain and thunder storms! For under $30, it is invaluable! We put our tent, sleeping bags, bedding, camp stove, camp toilet, air mattresses and ALL our camp chairs in this overhead storage! It's brilliant. We've never had an issue with rips or tears or anything coming loose. The secret is to pack your heaviest item in the very front (your tent!), so you don't run the risk of getting air underneath trying to dislodge it. This will free up your trunk for your cooler, overnight bags, etc.


10. Some of my friends make fun of me, but I always take my makeup bag camping. But there are a few extras I throw in! I have to wash my face every night and morning, so I buy Neutrogena Cleansing Wipes to use. They're also good for a little "sponge bath" for your children! I also use Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo when camping! It smells great, which I usually need by day 2! Finally, I throw in tons of sunscreen for everyone in my family. I try and keep my face and neck well covered with this Olay Regenerist SPF30!



11. Once you get to your campsite, set up a little station that holds things to wash up and disinfect your hands quickly! First, a full sized bottle of antibacterial soap (90% of campground bathrooms do not have any soap inside). So, you'll want to grab it and take it with you each and every time you walk to the bathroom. Likewise, I keep a bottle of antibacterial gel, a container of antibacterial wipes, and a box of kleenex + a roll of paper towels available for easy access. I also keep emergency burn creams and bandaids out on the table for easy access in case of an emergency.

12. Invest in a decent cooler. This Coleman Cooler is less than $20 and has served us well! And a little tip when packing it: I usually keep my meal for night two completely frozen and lay it in the very bottom. Oftentimes I'll prepare marinated chicken breasts and will keep them frozen when I pack. If you are thinking of roasting hot dogs, throw them in completely frozen, and by night two, they'll be ready!


13. Take a white noise sound machine! We have this Spa Relaxation Machine , and it works brilliantly! It takes batteries, and we usually put it on "ocean" sounds during the night. It helps our tiniest one sleep, but it's also a lifesaver in case you get that campsite right next to the bachelor party!

I hope this post encourages you to plan a camping trip with your family! When we first started camping, we bought everything we needed for under $300. You don't need to buy the fanciest equipment with all the bells and whistles. We purchased most of our equipment from Amazon or Walmart/Target and it has held up great since our first family trip in 2011!

If you have any additional tips for things I may have forgotten, please comment below!

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