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5 Tips for Camping with Kids and Loving It!

A family camping surrounded by tents and trees.

Camping can be a great way to spend time together with your family.  You get away from the distractions at home.  You can unplug from the constant barrage of notifications on your cell phone.  You can see new places and experience new things.  Excited, but not sure where to start? When you are preparing for your first camping trip, your experience might go something like this:

Step 1 –  You and your family decided to give camping a try.

Step 2 – You picked out the perfect RV. (Stuck on this step?  Stop by RV Wholesale Superstore)

Step 3 – Your brand-new RV is sitting in front of your house.

Step 4 – You get stuck trying to think of an amazing trip that would be fun for the whole family.

Now how do you make sure everyone in the family has a great time on that first trip and can’t wait to do it again?

Camping allows you the concentrate on the thing that really matters, your family.  After several years of camping with my two children, I have found that the following five tips will help everyone enjoy the experience and look forward to doing it again.  My kids love camping now and can’t wait for our next adventure.

Tip 1: Make Sure Your Destination Is “Kid Friendly”

Person standing in grass next to a sign that says "Please Keep Off the Grass"

For the last four years I have visited the Jellystone Campground in Freemont, Indiana.  They have several swimming pools, waterslides, baseball, basketball, jump pillows, playgrounds, planned activities and more.  My family looks forward to our trip there every year. Here are other things to consider that can still make it a great kid-friendly destination without all the amenities.

Other Things to Do

Besides the pool and playground, think about what your family and children enjoy doing. Is it hiking, fishing, boating, or exploring historical sites?  The great thing about camping is that you can go just about anywhere.  So, figure out what you enjoy and find a campground that has it, or is near what you want to do.

Places to Avoid

There are a few things that you should avoid when camping with kids. Not everyone campground or tourist site is kid-friendly. Sometimes the campgrounds prohibit activities that would be fun for children. Occasionally, campsites are also frequented by young adults or campers who may not foster the most family-friendly environment.

How do you avoid these pitfalls? Start by checking the campground rules on their website.  Another great resource is tripadvisor.com.  There are a ton of campground reviews on trip advisor. Any time I’m traveling somewhere new, I make sure to check it out.

No Fun Allowed

This may be a slight exaggeration, but some “high-class” RV parks don’t allow bicycles or skateboards.  If your kids like to ride just make sure it’s allowed before making your reservation.

Warning: Rowdy Seasonal Campers

I visit a lot of state parks, usually state parks don’t allow alcohol, or at least open consumption is not allowed.  While I enjoy a cold one myself, these rules do keep things from getting out of hand.  In some campgrounds most of the sites are occupied by seasonal campers.  While that’s fine in most cases, I have been to a couple of campgrounds where the majority of the campers were just there to party on the weekend.  That’s not the kind of place you want to take your family for a weekend away.

Tip 2: Don’t Plan Too Many Activities

So, you just arrived for a week-long stay at that new destination.  You’ve been planning the trip for months and know all the things to do and places to see.

What’s the problem?  On the way to your campsite your little ones saw the great swimming pool and splash pad full of other kids having fun. They can’t wait to jump in, but you’ve already planned something else for the afternoon.

When visiting new locations, I have planned so many activities that it didn’t leave much time to relax or “wing-it.”  Remember to plan plenty of free time. Then if you want to go do something, great, if not that’s fine too.

If you don’t see everything, you can always go back again.  That’s one of the great things about camping.

Tip 3: Camping Rules Are a Little Different Than Home

"Know the Rules" Written in chalk on a chalkboard

I am still learning this one along with my kids.  There are “rules” I never even thought to tell my kids until it was too late.  Here are a couple you might want to share with your family before you set out your first adventure.

Quiet Hours

Most likely you don’t have quiet hours at home, but almost every campground you visit will.  You know how kids are, one minute they are quietly playing, the next you can hear their scream from a mile away.  When quiet hours start each night, just remind them to try and keep it down and your neighbors will appreciate it.

RVs Are Not Built Like a House

Kids love to run and jump. At home this might not bother you too much, but in your RV it might feel more like you’re on the ocean than dry land.  On the first trip in our fifth wheel, my son jumped off the top bunk.  It sounded like he was going to crash through the floor.  Make sure to explain to your kids that they need to take it a little easy inside the camper, if they get too rowdy, just send them outside.

Another tip  – make sure you know how to use your RV’s leveling or stabilizing system.  Some RVs have sophisticated self-leveling systems, while others may only have a couple stabilizer jacks in the back corners.  Whatever setup you have make sure you know how to properly use it to minimize movement of your camper.  There are several aftermarket RV stabilizer systems and accessories available to help firm up your camper and the folks at RV Wholesale Superstore can help you find the right equipment for you.

When and Where

At home your children probably know where then can and can’t go.  I’ll bet they know when they are allowed to do certain things and when they aren’t too.

When you arrive at a campground it’s all new.  Do they have to stay where they can see the camper, can they go to the end of the road, to the playground?  Pick some boundaries and let them know right away.  You can always change them later, you’re the parent, right?

Times are important too.  Some campgrounds don’t allow bikes after sunset.  Also, if you have an early riser like I do, make sure they know what they can and can’t do when they get up.  I woke up to the door slamming at 5:45 AM once.  By the time I got outside I saw my son riding down the road on his bike.  This isn’t a huge deal, but I would have rather he waited until I was at least awake to go for a bike ride.

Tip 4: Be Prepared (Items to Pack)

Checklist and pen on a clipboard

We’ve all heard the motto “always be prepared.”  There are some things that you should have on hand to make the most of your camping trip.

Traveling

  • Snacks and drinks for the ride
  • Something to keep the kids entertained, books, travel games, DVD player or tablet
  • Small pillow or stuffed animal (my 9-year-old daughter sleeps most of the way there on our trips)

In the Camper

  • First aid kit
  • Backpack for hiking (I always carry; water bottles, trail mix and some first aid supplies)
  • Extra blankets if the weather might get cold
  • Extra clothes (I was in the middle of a 3-mile hike once and got caught in a thunder storm, we all needed an extra set of clothes that day.)
  • Games – here are some things I keep in my camper:
    • Corn hole (bean bag toss)
    • Squirt guns
    • Football
    • Basketball
    • Volleyball
  • Campfire desserts – no camping trip is complete without s’mores right?

Backup Plan for Rainy Days

  • Board games
  • Card games
  • DVDs or downloaded movies (remember you might not have data or Wi-Fi)
  • Poncho or raincoat (in case it’s raining when you arrive or are getting ready to leave)

Tip 5: Get Your Kids Involved as Much as Possible

My final tip to make sure your entire family loves camping, and can’t wait to do it again, is to get everyone involved.  Involve your kids from the time you start planning a trip until you get back home.

Setting Up Camp

When we first started camping I would send my kids to the playground or to ride their bikes as soon as we got to camp.  Then my wife and I would get to work setting up.  Now, my kids fight over who gets to help.  They love hammering in the stakes for the patio rug and putting the poles together for the screen room.  You will be amazed at how much excitement a child gets from pressing the button to extend or retract a slide on your RV.  It might take a little longer to let them help, but they are learning responsibility and you get to spend some time making memories with your children that will last a lifetime.

Planning Activities

Let them decide on some of the activities you do.   They might come up with ideas that you wouldn’t have even thought of.   If you want a little more control, come up with 2 options and let them pick one.  If they choose the activity they are more likely to enjoy it because it was “their idea.”

Wrap-Up

Whether you are still considering buying your first RV, or you have a few trips under your belt, hopefully these tips will help you and your family to enjoy camping as much as I do.  Camping allows your family to explore new places and see parts of the country that would be much more expensive if you stayed in hotels.

Although camping can open a whole new world of adventure to your family, if your children hate it, your camper will sit collecting dust.  Make sure to find out what their favorite part is and do more of it.  My kids love hiking, so we always look for campgrounds with some trails nearby.  Keep your kids involved and interested in camping and you will get many years of great experiences together.

One Last Tip:

Never forget the reason you are camping, to make great memories with your family.  There will be times when you get frustrated.  Once my daughter decided it would be fun to dive head first into the sand volleyball court on our way back from the shower house.  I could have easily “lost it,” but she was having a great time and could always take another shower.

Now quit reading, find your kids, and plan your next adventure.

About the Author

This article was written by Jason from weekendrvadventures.com.  Living in Ohio I try to camp as much as possible during the summer months before putting my Cougar 5th wheel away for the winter.  With my wife, son and daughter, I travel around Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and sometimes further in search of great camping destinations.   At Weekend RV Adventures I share camping tips, reviews of campgrounds and some of my favorite camping gear.  Oh, and I almost forgot, I also share some great campfire recipes.