Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Camping with Kids - Our Annual Family Camping Trip

This past weekend we went camping with my sisters and their families.  We do this every year for 4 days, 3 nights.  It is A LOT of work but so much fun! I thought I'd share our highlights with you along with some "camping with kids" tips I've figured out throughout the past 8 years!

Now I know that traditionally camping is supposed to be "roughing it."  However, camping with kids is rough enough as it is so I am not ashamed to admit that we have a few "luxury" items we bring along to make us all more comfortable.  The portable DVD player is one of them!  Here the kids are watching a movie before they go to sleep. Having the DVD player kept them entertained, staying still (and eventually sleepy) and gave mommy and daddy some down time too!

We use my in-laws camper which is perfect for us. The kids love sleeping in the camper and cozying up together at night. The camper is air-conditioned (I know, I know...the "roughing it" thing again!) and the noise and cooler air allow the kids to nap comfortably during the day and sleep well at night too.

Our visits to the beach were definitely at the top of our fun list during this camping trip!  The water was warm, the beach was sandy and there were not many rocks!  It was great!

As you can see, Oliver had a fabulous time!

The first day at the beach, he didn't want to venture out very far so he and I stayed at the edge of the water while everyone else played out further.  Alone with Oliver, I couldn't help but snap, oh...about a zillion pictures of him.  It was such a beautiful day and he is such a beautiful  boy!

My nephew Jake looked like he belonged on the cover of "Surf & Sand" magazine or something!

My sister, Julie (the kids call her Gigi) and her baby, Addie!

Addie had such a great time at the beach.  Oliver loved having her there to play with!

Gigi said this was the best day of Addie's life! She didn't stop smiling and squealing the whole time.  She LOVED the beach and to make her day even more perfect....she never had to get in her carseat, which she hates!

My sister, Cherie and I take tubs to the beach filled with everything we need..

-beach towels
-beach toys including buckets and shovels for everyone
-water floaties
-life jackets for tiny ones
-swimmers diapers for tiny ones
-beach blankets
-beach umbrella
-everyone's water shoes
-bottles of cold water and snacks (we throw in before we head out)
-camera (we throw in at the last minute too)
-bathing suits for everyone we wore to the beach

The tubs have labels on them reading "BEACH" and we have taped a list to the inside of the lid of the tubs that have all of these items listed on them.  So...with 6 kids, even when everything is chaos in the excitment of going to the beach - we can still make sure we remember everything we need! After the beach trip, everything is cleaned up and placed back into the tub so it is ready for next time!

Our yearly tradition - we take a photo of the kids sitting at the edge of the water.  We have put these four kids in the same order each year...

Summer of 2009

(FYI - No photo for Summer of 2010 as I was having a baby at that time!)

Summer of 2011
Summer of 2012

This photo is far more important to us moms than it is to the kids.  If you have children, you can clearly understand the challenge in getting a group picture like this.  I snapped lots to get at least a couple good ones...

My own three munchkins...
Claire 3 1/2, Hugh 9, and Oliver 23 months.

My sister and brother-in-law having some fun alone time with their youngest, Nicholas!

The boys ganging up on Uncle Dan!

With three families camping together, we get sites all together and create one eating area and one campfire together with the our campers all around the outside of our "meeting" area.  We also plan our meals ahead of time and all eat together.  Here is the menu we made this year- it is color coded to show which family provides which meal to share with everyone. The X in some boxes indicates either we hadn't arrived at the campground yet (Th) or we were leaving (Sun).


Blueberry pancakes and sausage, yogurt, fruit cups.
Egg and cheese English muffin sandwiches, yogurt parfaits with fresh blueberries, strawberries and vanilla yogurt.

Choice of biscuits and gravy or chipped beef on toast.


Grilled chicken strips and wings, macaroni and cheese, carrot and celery sticks.

Choice of steak and mushroom kabobs or turkey sandwiches.
Hot Dogs on campfire,
chips, baked beans,  fresh blueberries and

Meatballs, pasta salad, broccoli slaw, corn-on-the-cob, watermelon, chocolate chip cookies.
Daddy Meal – dad’s make the meal (Always a surprise!)

We also all brought coolers of drinks that we all shared together.  The drinks included milk, pop, apple juice, juice boxes, lemonade, Gatorade, bottled water, and adult beverages for the evenings!  Julie and Andrew also set up a little coffee bar at their camper and provided freshly made coffee and chai tea lattes (yum!)

Baby Addie loved camp food!  Camping is truly her thing!

Bike helmet, butterfly shirt, dirty child with a scrape on her elbow, eating watermelon -

With all three families living in three different areas and very busy most of the time, it is such a treat to take a few days to devote to being together...

We have 6 children ages 9, 8, 4, 3, 2, and 1.  When  you have this many children, this young and you are heading out on a camping "vacation" you must be aware that it is ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!  This really is no "vacation" for the mamas! If you head into the trip with that mindset and are well prepared for constant kid entertainment, then everything will run smoothly.  Some things I recommend packing...

-bicycles for everyone (grown ups too!) and helmets
-bike trailer for tiny ones to ride with grown ups
-a couple favorite toys from home (baby doll or tractor)
-toddler outdoor ride-on toys
-hula hoops
-coloring books and crayons
-large paper and watercolor paints with brushes
-portable DVD player and a few movies to choose from
-butterfly nets
-bug boxes
-pack and play or play pen for babies (keeps them off the ground and safe when you're busy)
-beach supplies (refer again to list above)
-play-doh (my sister made four different colors of homemade play-doh this year)
-story books with beach or camping theme
-chapter books for older kids

Again, "roughing it" takes on a whole new meaning when you have the kids along.  Camping with children is rough enough as it is.  Plan ahead to make sure everyone is either engaged in a fun activity or asleep at all times! :)

We always camp at this same campground so we are very familiar with all the surroundings.  It is a state park that has a variety of kid and family activities going on all the time.  In the past the we have attended arts and crafts programs, recyling programs, and star-gazing on the beach at night.  We also always go on hikes through the woods excited to watch for deer and other wildlife.  There are many bike trails as well. Two playgrounds at the park is just the icing on the cake for us!

Coincidentally, on one of our camping nights my sister had one of her children throw up in the night while one of my children wet the bed.  Bummer, huh?  Especially when you're camping.  All the sheets and blankets all yucky....hmmm...okay, shhhh....Don't tell our husbands but this was actually a blessing in disguise!  We HAD to take a trip into town to the laundry mat.  We left the kids with the dads and headed to find a laundry mat, stopping on the way for fruit smoothies.  In addition to the yucky bedding, we also each took a good book with us. Ahhh...two hours of reading and sipping drinks with the whoosing of the washer and dryers the only sounds to be heard.  Pure heaven, I tell ya! We acted as though it was such a such a hassel but...

ahhh, some mommy time for a bit!  Now that was a vacation!  :)

In addition to the camping fun, the beach, and the biking and hiking, we also went to another nearby town on Saturday morning where they have an amazing Farmer's Market.  We all had such a good time.  I will share more about the Farmer's Market on another blog post tomorrow!

Claire and baby Addie have matching sundresses and Claire was so excited for them to wear them on the same day.  In the picture you can also see the lovely rainbow face painting on Claire's cheek.  She got that at the Farmer's Market!

Traditionally the last night of camping, the dads are in charge of dinner.  It always involves the deep fryer and they REALLY get into it!  Each year they take some time to go fishing so our meals include fish some years.  This year we did have fish but it was fresh fish they bought (not caught) at the Farmer's Market we had attended earlier in the day!  They took the deep frying thing to a whole new level this year.  They deep fried pickles, mushrooms, potato wedges, cod, frog legs (also from Farmer's Market), onions rings, a whole chicken, chicken wings...oh my! None of us usually eats much fried foods so we proceeded with caution and restraint.  The onion rings and chicken were my favorite! They really are good cooks!

Nicholas stayed up later to check out the fried food buffet!
He and Hugh enjoyed the tasty frog legs.  Ugh, not my choice!

Their fry fest went way into the night much later than us mamas could stay up and WAY more fried food than any of us could consume.  They truly could have set up a buffet to offer to surrounding campers.  They had a wonderful time though. We gave the kids chicken (because it was done first) with leftover mac and cheese, applesauce, and carrot and celery sticks.  We set up a little outdoor theater with the DVD player and set up their camp chairs.  They ate and watched Mary Poppins together.  This kept them happy and safe from the campfire and the deep fryer.

Some additional items I highly recommend having on hand when camping with kids...

-multiple pairs of shoes for each child
-multiple changes of clothes for each child
-tons of paper towels
-tons of baby wipes
-kid size camp chairs
-hats and sunglasses
-sunscreen (for every activity)
-family safe bug spray
-cell phones
-portable DVD player (of course)
-bath towels and wash clothes
-a clean empty tub for washing dishes in
-lanterns and flashlights
-glow-in-the-dark necklaces or bracelets
-quarters for the laundry mat (just joking!)
-disposable tablecloths
-paper plates and plastic silverware (cuts down on time washing dishes)
-cheap flipflops for shower shoes for everyone
-first aid kit with the basic essentials
-clothesline rope and clothespins
-leftover birthday party napkins and plates from the past year (super fun for the kids to see their party supplies used again during camping)
-cintronella candles
-walkier-talkies for keeping in touch with older kids so they can explore the campground
-wrist watch for older kids so you can say "Be back at __________ o'clock."
-a basket to put outside of camper to hold everyone's sandy shoes
-a rug in front of camper door
-favorite blankies or stuffed animals (truly will help mom out!)
-graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows (of course)
-thin net to go over stroller or pack and play to keep bugs out (available at Babies R Us or WalMart)
-games for indoor fun in case of rain

I'm afraid my lists could go on and on.  Everyone is different but like I said, if you're camping with children you are not going to travel lightly!  And it is better to be prepared and plan ahead.  If everyone is entertained then everyone is happier.  And happy kids = a happy mommy!

We had a wonderful trip and are already looking forward to our next camping trip!


  1. looked like a great time! Nothing better than spending time with family!

  2. Okay...if you stop your career in teaching, you could be a professional photographer! I want you to take pictures for me!! They are so cute and precious. Thanks for sharing!