Without these sanity-saving hacks, a regular weekend might feel really, really long.
Every year, many a brave Canadian family throws their bags—and their kids—into the car and heads off into the wilderness, leaving civilization (and devices that provide hours-long distractions) behind them. That’s right, when we say brave, we don’t mean because of the bears. But even the most experienced campers will admit that they could do with a Survival Skills refresher course each year.
Whether it’s your first year heading to your favourite campground (with your favourite people), or whether you’ve been doing this since your babes were in your belly, you’ll want to take note of these 11 hacks for camping with the kids.
1. Bring fun activities for the car ride. If you’d like to avoid a never ending encore of “Are We There Yet?” you’d be smart to leave with a few entertaining ideas up your sleeves. (And no, we don’t mean iPads and smartphones—you’ve committed to leaving it all behind for the weekend, right??) Singalongs, memory games and even spelling bees are all great ways to keep your kids busy and use their good old imaginations at the same time.
“When I was a kid, we’d play a homemade version of Bingo. Before each trip, we’d draw pictures of things you might see along the way (think: moose, train tracks, hitchhikers, etc.), and whoever crossed off the most squares before the ride was over would win. Hours of entertainment!” – Kathleen O
2. DON’T pack light. You’ll want to be certain you’ve brought all the right stuff to ensure your time away from civilization goes as smoothly as possible. This includes—but is not limited to—after-bite, after-sun, balls, band-aids, bikes, bubbles, bug spray, buckets, extra clothes, extra shoes, extra towels, a first aid kit, lawn games, shovels, sun block, and even tweezers in case of ticks.
3. Pack even more. As if your trunk weren’t full enough, you still need to squeeze in a few more necessities. Make sure to bring all types of clothing for all types of weather conditions. It can be easy to forget that little ones aren’t great with unexpected changes in weather—a cold rain or a beating hot sun may result in hours of whining (at best), or howling (at worst). So bring hoodies and raincoats for bad weather and loose cotton clothes and sun hats for hot ones!
“While adults can shiver out the cold, it’s not fair for the kids and no fun at all for anybody if you don’t have the right stuff.” – Ariel L
4. Splurge on good gear. This may go without saying but good gear is essential to a successful time in the woods. Make sure that the whole family has a pair of appropriate shoes for forest hikes or sandals for walks on the beach. The most important purchase of all? Your tent. You can’t go wrong with a large one that is easy and quick to set up. Spending a bit of extra cash on a two-room tent that you can stand up in is better than being cramped and uncomfortable the whole weekend. Cabin fever is real, my friends.
5. Carry your baby. If you’re camping with a baby, a carrier is a must! Having your little one attached at the hip (literally) will make it a lot easier—who are we kidding?—will make it possible for you to get things done. Setting up the campsite, prepping dinner, holding your kids’ (or your spouse’s) hands as you go for a walk in the woods… all of these are made possible by this wonderfully convenient invention.
“Bringing a stroller is awesome for naps (tents can get very hot and stuffy) as well as getting to and from the beach and the showers (and for parents to have some talk time in the evenings on an evening stroll before bed).” – Dave W
6. Speaking of hands free… When it comes to that third hand all parents need, headlamps come in close to second to a baby carrier. They’re yet another way to get things done without having to juggle a bunch of things at once—and they definitely come in handy on a pitch black campground. Of course, bringing normal flashlights for the kids is also a must, as it brings hours of fun to the littles (and a little bit of leisure time for the parents).
7. Pre-cook all your meals—so that all you have to do is heat them up. Although it may go against your motherly instincts, hot dogs and Kraft dinner are an acceptable lunch while camping (no mom guilt!). Or consider foods that don’t have to be cooked at all to make life even simpler. Think sandwiches, wraps, salads, cheese and crackers, granola bars, cereal—anything you can just grab from the cooler and fill hungry tummies with… quick! If you love the camping-cooking challenge, awesome. If not, it’s fine to go with the low hanging fruit for the weekend.
“You might think pasta is a bit fancy for camping, but pre-cooked spaghetti sauce makes for a really quick meal!” – Meaghan E
8. Go with another family! The kids can have a little bit of independent fun with their friends and you’ll have your village to keep a collective eye on the kids. And, of course, it gives you the opportunity to hang out with friends you haven’t seen in ages. It’s a trip for you too, after all.
9. Or don’t. For some families, camping is truly about getting away from it all: technology, deadlines and even social expectations. In today’s fast-paced world with limitless distractions, spending the weekend in a tent with the ones you love the most can be just what you need to go back to your old routine, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
“We REALLY love the opportunity to unwind and explore and connect within our family unit—makes for some pretty special times.” – Freya T
10. Relax. Perhaps easier said than done, but that’s what your little family vacation is for, so try not to sweat the small stuff. Lower your expectations when it comes to things like bedtime routines, healthy eating and keeping clean. This weekend is all about having some good old-fashioned fun with your family. So get out there and have the time of your life… until you do it all over again next year.
“They’ll be dirty. You’ll be dirty. Let things go.” – Elise S