I love, love, love camping! I’ve tried to convince my husband to let us just spend the whole summer camping. But he didn’t like the idea of being away from a hot shower for that long…or maybe he said something about needing to work, I don’t remember now. Regardless, my point is that I love being in the mountains, admiring rushing streams and colorful wild flowers, and enjoying the bugs (ok, maybe not so much the last part).
I have wonderful memories of camping when I was growing up, and I was excited to create new memories with my husband and boys. However, I had no clue how much work it is to take a family camping. As an adult having to pack up a 3 month old, a 22 month old, a husband, and myself, I was in for a big surprise. Packing food, clothes, camping supplies, emergency supplies, toys, more food, kid gear and more kid gear, I was exhausted. Then we went camping for two days, came home, and it all had to be cleaned up, aired out, and put away. It was so much work to put a camping trip together, that I was seriously discouraged.
Now my boys are 3 and 4 years old and despite my initial weariness, I’ve persevered and now I’m starting to get the hang of going camping as a family. It’s still a lot of work to get us ready to go and unpack when we return home, but I’m learning to simplify and streamline.
Here are 3 things I’ve learned:
1. Keep meals simple. Very, very simple. I pack paper plates and plastic ware for us to eat off of, so I have little to no dishes to do. I also keep our meals extremely simple. Cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and one pot meals for dinner. Our meals may not be that exciting, but I’m less stressed so that means everyone is having more fun.
2. Keep stuff to a minimum. Kids will be happy to play in the dirt (be okay with dirt!), so don’t worry about bringing much in the way of toys. We don’t have a lot of fancy camping equipment. Just a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, chairs, and a table. I try to keep my camping accessories to a minimum so that there is less stuff to think about and pack. Make it a challenge to see what you can do without!
3. Take your time. When it comes to packing and unpacking, I try to spread it out to make it feel less overwhelming. I make a camping list the week before and work on it bit by bit throughout the week. Then when we return home, I try to have us unpack the car one step at a time. We bring in the suitcase and put that away first. Then we bring in the cooler and take care of that. When I don’t have stuff strewn all over the house, it makes unpacking feel less exhausting and helps keep my house more orderly. At the end of the day, however, coordinating a camping trip is just plain old work. A few years ago, after another exhausting camping trip with my very littles, a friend reminding me that I was helping create memories for my kids. My parents had gone through the work of taking me and my siblings camping, and I had many wonderful memories. Now as an adult, even though camping wasn’t quite as fun for me, I was getting to pass on precious memories to my kids by investing in the work it takes to go camping. Last summer, my boys prayed almost every night “Dear God, thank you for camping!” and during the winter they asked regularly, “When do we get to go camping?” My boys love to camp and it makes the work that much more rewarding.
How about you? Do you go camping? What are your tips and tricks for coordinating a camping trip?