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Top 5 Camping Tips for a Fabulous, Family-Friendly Adventure

Ahh, camping. The sheer gorgeousness of the outdoors. The gooey goodness of s’mores. The peace that comes with hiking for miles on forested trails with your kids? 😯

While having the moon and stars as your nightlight may sound like a heavenly end to an amazing day, things can quickly go south without the right preparations! This is probably one of the first, most frustrating lessons I learned when I went from traveling single mom of one to a blended family of seven.

What was right for my son and me was no longer adequate for us, my new baby girl, husband, two additional kiddos, my mom, and our pets. The great thing about this not-so-great thing is that it isn’t hard to scale your prep up or down as needed. Once you know what to stash, that is!

Here are my top 5 favorite, tried-and-true tips for a fabulous, family-friendly, camping adventure no matter how many (or how few!) you are taking with you:

1. Glow Sticks for Fun and Safety

Glow sticks are a camper’s best friend! We like to stock up on as many 20pk glow sticks as we can whenever Dollar Tree has them in stock.

  • Avoid tripping over staked wires by snapping a bracelet around the base of the stake.
  • Keep track of your kiddos in the dark! Give them a handful of sticks and let them get creative with their glow-y jewelry.
  • Toss a glow stick or two into the tent or just outside of the tent to use as a nightlight.
  • Clip a few glow sticks on your pet for evening walks.

2. Different Sized Tents

From smaller, core family outings to “OMG – everyone’s coming!”, it’s great to have options. Even if you are in an RV, there will be times when someone is going to want (or need) their own space. Yep, even when you are camping.

  • One Room
    A single room tent like CJ’s is ideal for the times when we either aren’t taking the entire family along or we want extra room for privacy or storage. We are always super excited to unroll and set her up because of how much easier she is to set up! Two people can have her up in no time but, with a bit more effort, even one person can set her up too.

    Our single room Ozark Trail was CJ's first tent - a Christmas present in 2012. | Let's Go Camping! Top 5 Favorite Tips for a Fabulous, Family-Friendly Adventure |
    Our single room Ozark Trail was CJ’s first tent – a Christmas present in 2012.
    CJ sharing his tent with his little sister, Skylar Marie and their kitty, Princess Peaches Renae (formerly Zena Mittens). ❤ | Let's Go Camping! Top 5 Favorite Tips for a Fabulous, Family-Friendly Adventure |
    CJ sharing his tent with his little sister, Skylar Marie and their kitty, Princess Peaches Renae (formerly Zena Mittens). ❤

    We didn’t have a trip planned for this weekend so we actually just set her up for a good cleaning in our yard. 😀

  • Folding Home
    We added a 3 room easy-set up (with 3-4 people helping) monster sized tent to our camping arsenal even though our original little girl is still going strong. While a 3 room tent won’t let us give each person their own room, we can get the the girls in one room, the boys in another, and still have one of the entry ports for gear storage. When not in use, the rooms (with convenient zipper panels) double as private changing areas or quiet corners when someone wants to take a togetherness time out.
    Even though it is a giant pop-up camping tent, it does take at least 3 of us, preferably 4 to get the tent pitched quickly and in the right position. I haven’t decided if that’s because we need to practice taking it down better or if our tendency to arrive late (as in, darkness has fallen upon the land) deprives us of the light we need to see clearly. It may be a combination of both! 😳
  • Utility
    Another MUST HAVE tent option to have is a privacy tent. Whether you get a single for changing on the beach/showering or housing a camping potty OR invest in the double and go for a 2-in-1, these tents are a lifesaver!
    Don’t worry, I won’t get gross here but I will say this: we travel with an assorted age group from 2.5 years old to 73. This includes 3 teenagers and 2 thirty-somethings. In addition to the usual male/female issues, some of us can apparently tolerate a little stink and dirt better than others. 😉
Regardless of which camping tent you choose, in order to maximize your enjoyment and stretch out your equipment investment, I highly recommend a few practice setup/takedown runs in your backyard, waterproofing the heck out of it (especially seams and zippers!), and investing in a quality, well-fitting ground tarp.

3. Snacks!!!

What would any family gathering be without the delicious munchies? Whether your crew is all about trail mix and granola bars, MRE’s and instant meals, or meat market bbq meat packs and grocery store pit combos, there are a myriad of choices to help banish the hangry in all of us.

The key to great snackage? Packing! It’s all in the way you plan your meals and pack your foodstuffs. In general, we use frozen items to help keep the cooler cool and eat things in the order they go bad.

A meal plan … ? * shudder *

You are probably already using a meal plan even if the idea of creating one plan just gives you hives or if you prefer to freestyle based on how you and your traveling companions feel. You are obviously choosing what to take somehow so why not pay attention to how you plan and go from there?
It doesn’t have to be crazy specific with minutes and seconds ticked off. I mean, it can be if you want it to but for the most part, we are just trying to take enough. Not too much and not too little of what everyone can enjoy.

4. Accessories

Going to the beach is very different form going snowboarding! Do you need sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses, and flip-flops or snow pants, thermals, snow shoes, and amazing gloves? Does your camp site have a pit or do you need to pack your own? Is fresh water easily available or would your family need to haul in some potable gooness?

Deciding what to pack can be a big deal. Actually, if you aren’t careful, this stuff can make up the bulk of what you are taking on your trip! On the other hand, not taking the right thing or not taking enough of it can make your adventure a lot less enjoyable than it could be.

5. Emergency Supply Kit

Grab a Rubbermaid tote and toss in some fire starting supplies, a first aid kit, a couple of good LED flashlights, some baby wipes, a gallon of drinking water, a flare or two, emergency reflectors, a few solar blankets, a bundle of multipurpose rope, and/or whatever else your family may need in a pinch. Obviously, you don’t want to overload your vehicle or overwhelm yourselves with unnecessary gear but you do want to make sure you have the basics covered – just in case!

Toss in a few s’more ingredients and you can turn a not-so-great situation into a somewhat pleasant learning experience. 😀

All kidding aside, having some non-perishable, energy boosting snacks on hand is a good idea. A coloring book, colors, and a handful of toys from the dollar store can help distract, entertain, or redirect younger children as well.

Whew! It may seem like a lot to think about – maybe even a lot to pack! – but once you’ve got a pre- and post-trip routine, the dust settles and the good times start rolling.

Let’s Keep The Conversation Going!

Do you have any favorite camping tips and hacks? Don’t be shy! Share them in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check back regularly for more tips and tricks on how to create the life of your dreams before, during, and after the awakening!

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