Thinking about taking the kids on a camping trip? Once you’re packing for a family, camping is definitely not something you want to do on a whim. This is doubly true if you are a beginner. If you weren’t all that outdoorsy before becoming a parent, you definitely want to know a few things about how to camp with kids before you set off. 

Craving a night under the stars? Here is everything that you need to know about how to camp with kids.

When Should Kids Start Camping?

Kids can start camping at any age. In fact, the sooner you start camping with your family, the easier it will become. If kids start when they are very young, they will develop those essential outdoor skills and a passion for camping. 

Of course, the exact age to start camping really depends on your family. It will be difficult with very young kids who are still nursing and potty training. Beyond that, though, it’s wide open. 

Before You Consider Camping 

The best way to decide if your kids are ready to start camping is to do a trial night. Set up a test night at home. Simply put up a tent in the backyard or even in your living room. Cook over a campfire and use flashlights. 

Tip: You don’t need to go anywhere to get away from it all. Even if you’re in the heart of the city, you can use a single-use grill at the park and turn off all the lights. Be creative and just give your kids a sense of what camping is like. Who knows? It might turn into a fun staycation tradition! 

What to Bring for Camping with Kids

If your kids have never traveled before, carefully plan your packing list. During those trial runs, try living out of a suitcase. What do you actually need and use? Write down everything, no matter how obvious it may seem. Save that list somewhere handy so you can keep updating it over time. 

It’s equally important to pay attention to what you don’t use. Overpacking is a major hindrance, whether it’s on a trip to the grandparent’s house or an excursion in the middle of the forest. Camping is a prime opportunity to show your kids that they don’t need all that stuff. Focus on what is absolutely essential. Once you have all that covered, grab those little things they truly love. 

The Essentials for Camping 

If you are new to camping, you might want to look at renting gear. There are tons of great options online and in local outdoor supply stores. Do some smart shopping and look for a place that credits your rental. Camping rental companies will give you major discounts if you decide to buy the gear after renting. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to test the waters. 

Once you decide where you are going to go camping, check out the local resources. In bigger parks, you can grab everything from grills to water jugs on-site. Being able to collect and drop-off essentials at the door can save a lot of hassle. 

Plan for the Weather 

You never know what the weather might be like. While it’s fairly easy to plan for those steamy afternoons under the sun, you might be surprised at how cold it gets at night. Pack plenty of warm gear. Having an icy sleepless night is going to put a major damper on your camping adventure. To limit how much you need to pack, look for smart materials. More than a marketing gimmick, those smart fabrics and textiles that you see in sports stores can be incredibly effective. Do a bit of research before you buy and be sure to also look for truly waterproof, rather than water-resistant, materials. 

How to Camp with Kids: Night One 

Before it gets dark, be sure to have everything setup. And get the kids involved! Try to make it as fun as possible and let them learn how things are done. If you are a bit clueless yourself, check out some tips before you go. 

There are countless tv shows and movies about outdoor life to get your kids engaged. Pique the interest of older kids with shows like Survivorman, Bear Grylls’ different series, Ultimate Survival, and other informative but entertaining series. Bear Grylls has a Survivor School TV series geared toward younger kids, which can be a great starting point. For younger children, you’ll find tons of short and sweet YouTube videos.

How Can I Make Camping Fun for Kids?

While you want to keep it simple, avoid focusing too much on “roughing it,” especially if your kids aren’t the type. Try to make the experience a way to experience more things, not fewer. Find a place that has local attractions and interesting areas to explore.

Getting kids excited about hiking, foraging, kayaking or any activity that clicks is a perfect way to make it fun. The last thing you want is for the whole experience to feel like sitting in the backyard with no power or water. Make it something special.  

Exploring and Learning 

One smart way to get kids curious about nature is with a junior ranger program. The National Park Service offers an impressive array of programs. If you opt to stay in a resort area, you might be able to find local programs or day trips. 

Get creative with the whole thing and be honest about what you’re family is going to enjoy. Look at Airbnb Experiences that will give you a taste of every possible experience you can imagine. Whether it’s getting physical, learning about animals, exploring the underwater world, or collecting crafting materials, there is something that will get your kids excited about life outside. 

Where Can I Take my Kids Camping?

Location, location, location! Finding the right place to camp can make or break your experience. Plan in advance and take a careful look at facilities. If you’ve never been camping as a family, avoid diving straight into wild camping experience. Opt with a place with modern conveniences. The govt parks site has a priceless directory that you will let your search for the perfect spot. 

Before you go, do a digital detox at home. Read up on a few essential tips for keeping your kids busy without screens. Buy the kids a digital camera and let them capture their own experiences. Here is our list of recommended digital cameras.

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