Setting Yourself up for Success when Camping With a Toddler
Summer goes so fast, and one of the ways my family likes to enjoy summer is by going camping. Usually, for us, this means putting up a tent on my parents’ vacation property, but this year we are headed out to a camp ground with my husbands family. This week we are headed to go camping with a toddler for the first time.
This means we will be hours from home, instead of 15 minutes, so making sure we have everything we need is more important than usual. We will be in an awesome looking campground with a large group. Camping in a large group has its benefits, like splitting the cost of fire wood, food, and extra eyes on the kids.
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Here are my top tips for camping with toddlers
Making Your List
I start making my packing list at least a week ahead of time. This gives me more time to locate everything we need and time to add to the list as we remember little things.
Start with the most obvious things. When I start writing my list, I begin with the most obvious things, i.e. Tent, Stakes, Clothing, Bedding. I remember my dad’s hunting list always began with Gun, Bullets, etc. I use this same theory. I don’t want to get so wrapped up in the small details that I forget something obvious.
Even write things down that you may not want. As I make my list I make sure that I include anything we might possibly want. These items aren’t necessary, but we might want to take them, so I write a (?) next to them. This also works for when my husband is looking at the list. He then knows it isn’t something that isn’t essential, but we might want to grab.
Groceries. Making a menu will help reign in on the groceries you will be packing. If you’re camping with a group it is usually easiest to have a menu for everyone to follow and each person or family will bring a portion of the food needed for meals.
Pack as much as you can in totes. Packing in totes (like these ones that come in a case of 6) can be useful in many ways. It will keep your clothes dry in case the tent gets water in it. It can be used to set lights, or fans on. They also hold more than our duffle bags do.
Test everything before leaving. Before leaving test your flashlights, lanterns, and most importantly air mattresses. You don’t want to get to your destination to find out that your mattress has a leak and won’t hold air. This proved especially important when I tested our air mattress out last week, in preparation for camping this week. The mattress deflated in a couple minutes, and we found a large slit in it. This allowed us the opportunity to get a different one before our trip.
Pack fresh batteries. Even if your battery operated items work, bring extra batteries just in case they stop working.
Don’t forget the bedtime necessities. This one is pretty obvious for parents of babies & toddlers. Our Peanut has a couple stuffed animals she must go to bed with and her blanket. These are on my list so as I double check what we have packed I can be sure they are included.
Your handbag. I always take a smaller handbag when we go on vacation anywhere. Now that I spend most of the time with a diaper bag it is a little different, but I still try and be sure that the bag is cleaned out and organized. If we are going to a park, on a walk, or exploring a new town, the last thing I want is to have to carry a bunch of extra weight around with me. I still take a small crossbody purse with me in case we won’t be gone long enough to warrant the diaper bag, but I still need my wallet.
Setting yourself up for a successful trip
Give them space for themselves in the tent or camper. I know, they’re toddlers, so personal space isn’t necessary for them, but we always make sure to give Peanut her own area of the tent. We set her bed up over there, put all her bedtime ‘friends’ there, and any toys we brought. Of course, your tent would have to be large enough to allow this arrangement, ours just happens to have enough space. (Ours is very similar to this one)
Dirty laundry everywhere! Don’t forget to bring something you can throw your dirty laundry into. It is inevitable that your toddler’s clothes will be completely filthy but the end of the day, you will want something to put this laundry in. I like using a mesh bag like this for our family, but a trash bag would also work in pinch.
Anticipate Medical Needs. I swear I pack 90% of the medicine cabinet, but I am one of those people who overpacks, and would rather have it on hand then to need something and have to go buy it. I pack everything from Tylenol and Benedryl to Band-Aids and itch relief gel.
Plan for unexpected weather. Living in Michigan, this pretty much goes without saying. When the weather can change hourly, you need to pack for every type of weather. Which leads to overpacking because there’s probably no need for 2 sweat shirts, but if it’s cold & rainy you’ll want that second one.
Double check your wallet. This goes on my list as well, I always double check my wallet before I leave. I make sure I’m not carrying anything that I don’t need, like my social security card, credit cards I won’t be using (store cards for example) and gift cards that just take up space and add weight. I also make sure I have certain things in there, like insurance cards, the card I made the reservation with, and any cash I wanted to take.
My Packing List for Camping with a Toddler
To make things easier on myself, I create a list in excel or in a google spreadsheet. As time moves on, I can add and delete items from the list, and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time we go away. I am attaching the list here, so you can see what we currently take on a trip, but also so you can download it and use it for yourself. It should be an editable document for you. Just click the link below to get to the spreadsheet.
The Self Care Journey
Have you seen the new ebook & journal from Mommy Takes 5? The Self Care Journey will take you through 30 days of self-care. It is customizable to your needs, and wants, so there’s no worry about me telling you what you will be doing. You can read more about the journey here.