Over the weekend, I went tent camping with my boys (ages 3.5 and 2), my mom, my sister, and 12 year old nephew. My husband wasn’t able to go on this trip but I’m so glad my mom and sister were there! I think it would have been impossible for me to do it without them!
The tent sites at this particular campground were small and kind of oddly shaped, so our camp site seemed pretty crowded once we set up my sister and nephew’s tent, our screen tent around the picnic table, and my gigantic 6-person tent. Our setup went pretty smoothly, since the area next to our camp site had some kid’s play equipment (some older Little Tikes and Step2 toys). We had our first meal (hot dogs, beans, and chips) and then as it started to get dark, we walked down to the shower house and took quick showers to rinse off the sweat and grime from the day.
Then we made a fire and roasted marshmallows and made our way into our tents for bed. Just like when we camped in the backyard, I had planned to let the boys watch a movie in the tent as they went to sleep. We rented two of the boys’ favorite Disney movies on the iPad, so we watched Wall-E as the boys quickly drifted off to sleep.
I was awakened around 2:00am to the sounds of drunken shouting from our camping neighbors. Apparently someone had asked our neighbor to keep it down and he responded with loud swearing and threats of violence. I honestly thought someone was going to get shot, so I was formulating an escape plan in my mind as I listened to the escalating shouts. Eventually, Drunk Guy did shut up and go to sleep and I was able to rest as well.
The boys woke up early and we made breakfast (cereal or oatmeal, bananas, orange juice) and after I took a quick shower, we went over to see Cumberland Falls and did some hiking. Spencer was so wiped out from the late night, early morning, and all of the general camping excitement that he fell asleep while riding on my back in the Boba 3G carrier. The boys also got to search for gems in the new mining rough activity at the park. Spencer was so proud of his gems that he wouldn’t let go of his bag of rocks for hours.
After lunch (PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches, applesauce, and grapes), we headed back to the state park to go swimming. Miles absolutely loved it but Spencer was a little less enthusiastic. After a few hours, we were all tired and went back to the campground.
At this point, the boys were so exhausted, so completely over tired that they became escape artists and ran away from the camp site, in two different directions, completely freaking me out because there were cars coming around the little gravel road. I was so exasperated that I let them lay down on a blanket in the shade and watch Wall-E again. Don’t judge.
While they were relaxing, I started making dinner (sloppy joes, corn, and chips) and after that we ate and had some watermelon. It was so hot and there was no shade to escape the sun so we baked in the heat until it started to get dark. Once again, we took showers to cool off and then came back to make s’mores. As soon as it got dark, I brought out the glow sticks I bought for the boys, which was a HUGE hit. They’d never seen glow sticks before and had a great time wandering around in the dark brandishing their pink and purple glow sticks. After a quick trip to the shower house to use the bathroom and brush our teeth, we all sat around the fire and sang songs until Spencer fell asleep on my lap and Miles was asking to go to bed. It was a perfectly peaceful evening and the boys even slept in, joining me on my twin size air mattress sometime in the morning, all 3 of us curled up together for hours.
We ate a quick breakfast and then got to work cleaning up and tearing down our camp site for the 11:00am checkout time. My nephew entertained the boys while my sister, mom, and I took down tents, deflated air mattresses, and packed up cooking supplies. When everything was packed up, I took a quick shower and then we checked out and headed back to civilization for lunch. The boys were asleep in their car seats just minutes after leaving the campground. You know you’ve had fun when you completely wear out the toddler and preschooler!
When we got home, my husband asked if I would do it again. I answered that I would, just not this week. It was fun, but completely exhausting. I will take them camping again, and to help you have an enjoyable experience when you take your kids, here are some quick tips:
- Take Reinforcements! Go camping with a group, take some friends or family members, so that you aren’t all alone. It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain a tent camping site, especially when you have to make meals.
- Make It Worth Your Time. I think you need at the minimum two nights camping for it to feel worth it for all the trouble of planning, packing, setting up, maintaining, tearing down, packing again, and unpacking and cleaning when you go home. I would have added maybe 1 or 2 nights to our trip, to be honest.
- Have a Plan. How are you going to distract your kids while you are cooking on a propane stove? How will you keep them a safe distance from the campfire? How do you plan to get them to sleep if they are used to going to bed on their own in a quiet room?
- Pack Light (if you can)! Somehow I ended up bringing the majority of our group’s camping supplies and food, and with the backseat full of car seats, our Jeep was PACKED completely full both coming and going. Since we did real cooking while we camped, we needed to have dish washing supplies anyway, so it made sense for me to take and use the mess kit bags I made last week. Yes, it took extra time and was a bit of a pain, but we had to clean the pots and pans anyway. We had way more food than we could eat, but that was better than not having enough!
- Enjoy Yourself! This one seems like a no-brainer, but I have trouble relaxing and enjoying myself at times. I get all worked up if my kids aren’t cooperating or if something doesn’t go right, so I have to remind myself of this a lot. The most important thing about our camping getaway was enjoying the time with my kids and my family. Seeing their joy and wonder on my sweet little boys’ faces is more important than whether or not my Rice Krispy Treats turned out on the propane stove (they didn’t, by the way). They’ll remember this trip because of the glow sticks and the fireflies and the campfire songs and the marshmallows…oh yes, the marshmallows.
Do you plan to take your kids camping this summer?