I can’t believe that our first camping trip of the summer was not until August — time is in overdrive right now. Fortunately, our overnight was phenomenal given that this may be our only trip this entire season. We lucked out and got the best of the riverside campsites at Wa Ka Yu Hep Loo (Wild River) Campground off Highway 4 in the Sierras.
As much as I’m a luxury hotel fanatic, I also love camping with kids. I know, my friends tell me it’s one of life’s great mysteries. The countless hours spent outdoors in beautiful scenery makes me giddy, plus living simply without endless urban distractions for a few days is rejuvenating.
We’ve taken Devon camping since he was 3 and now it is one of his favorite activities. The s’mores are the highlight for him at this stage, but he also enjoys the ultimate boy experience: dirt, rocks and trees to climb, more dirt, bugs, and more dirt.
One of the things I realized this past weekend is that the most important tip I have to share for camping with kids enjoyment is to let go of the usual day-to-day rules and expectations. Devon showed up for dinner with so much dirt caked to his face that all we could do was laugh hysterically.
1. Everyone in the family is going to get very, very dirty. Know and expect that this will happen and enjoy the freedom of not worrying about it.
2. Camping is work. Make a list and check it twice, but just take the essentials. There is a fine line between what you need to be comfortable and so much stuff that the set-up/clean-up is a huge hassle.
3. Plan meals carefully. It’s amazing what people can bring when they car camp. Elaborate meals are possible, but not necessary. That said, in many places getting groceries is not easy, so bring more than you think you’ll need just in case. Camping seems to be a hunger producing activity.
4. Make reservations for weekend camping. Many of the best campgrounds are first-come-first-serve. This is a huge challenge for those of us that can’t get out of town on a Thursday. Some campgrounds allow you to reserve specific campsites up to 6 months ahead of time. Reserve America is a comprehensive reservation resource.
5. Understand what there is do with kids in the area. By nature, camping is very kid-friendly, but it helps to have kid-friendly excursions within easy reach too — short hikes, fishing, shallow lakes, and safe bike riding to name a few.
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