Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things I Learned While Camping with a Toddler

We just returned from an amazing 4-day trip to Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan. While everything was still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few tips I learned last week about camping with a toddler.

1.) Baby wipes are your friend.  There wasn't really a place to bathe our toddler at the campground, and it was far too cold for most of our trip to do so in the great outdoors.  So he took a lot of mini-baby-wipe baths.  I had wipes everywhere--in the camper, in the car, in my purse, near the fire, etc. And we needed lots of 'em.

The arrow snacking.
2.) Pack diaper rash cream.  What goes along with a lack of baths?  Diaper rash.  Fortunately I had packed it, but I don't always do that when we're away for a few days.  I'm so glad I did, because we battled a rash throughout the trip.

3.) Plan for a variety of temperatures.  I knew ahead of time from weather.com that our trip was going to start out warm and end cool.  I didn't plan on a 50-degree swing in temperatures, though, and all of us could have really used some warmer clothes (especially pajamas). In the pic to the right, our 16-month-old is wearing a size 6x kids sweatshirt, which was the smallest we could find at a nearby store!

4.) There will be a lot of snacking going on.  From 3 p.m. on, our son wanted to eat pretty much every hour until bedtime.  This was fine with us, because when he was snacking, he was contained in his high chair and not wandering to different campsites or teetering around the fire. (We love this portable high chair.*)

The arrow skipping his nap.

5.) Forget the schedule.  I'm a schedule person, and our son is usually on one.  But while we were camping, I found it best to just let sleep happen whenever.  One day he didn't take a nap.  One day he took two.  One night he went to bed right on time.  One night he stayed up really late.  Doesn't matter.  He was happy.

6.) Consider day trips.  We have always done this when camping, even before our son was born because we like to use our campsite as a home base for exploring other areas.  But I think it is even more essential with a toddler.  I think he enjoyed relaxing in the car on the way to various destinations, staying warm inside some places, etc.  Everyone needs a break from the campsite, and few little mini-trips will help.

7.) Figure out where the closest retail store is in advance.  Without a doubt, you'll forget something or need something.  We almost traveled 30 minutes south looking for a big box store when there was one five minutes north.  I should have looked that up ahead of time.

8.) Get a site somewhat near the playground.  Most campgrounds have a playground.  It's a nice option when you need to kill 20 minutes.  For us, it came in really handy when my husband was trying to pack everything up--I took our son to the playground so he was out of the way.

9.) Cancel the noise.  The campground was full most of the weekend, and therefore pretty loud at times.  I was so glad we had electricity and our son could listen to his lullaby music at night and during naps.
The arrow snuggling by the fire.

10.) Find a travel guide/magazine/brochure for the surrounding area.  I did some research in advance and had written down some numbers and addresses.  But it was really helpful to pick up the local tourism magazine once we were there for a more robust info source.  Remember, camping = no internet.  Which is one of the beautiful things about it, in my opinion, but it also means the answer to every question might not be at your finger tips. 

If you're looking for more helpful tips on camping with young children, you might enjoy some of my other posts:

Are you an outdoorsy family that loves to spend time in nature with your kids? These posts might also catch your interest:

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  1. Congratulations to you for a successful trip! Couldn't agree more with your tips about having a distraction like a playground at the campsite. Natural elements like a beach, sand area or river would also be wonderful.

  2. Love your blog! We live parallel lives. I have a family camping / back-country packing tip that goes along with your laundry post as well: I invested in a set of Outdoor Research stuff sacks that are color coded for everyone in our family in a small and large size. Small ones get used for bitty things, big ones for the big stuff or in the case of my youngest - for diapers and wipes mostly since his clothes are little. For front-country trips I also use them and at the end of the adventure code the colors for things that are clean and can be put away and items that need washing. I can immediately find everything I need for each kid and know that items are protected from bugs and are relatively waterproof in the case of a sudden downpour. Also super easy for the kids to pack themselves ; )