So We'll Be Taking Our First Big Family Camping Trip

Updated on January 13, 2012
L.M. asks from Hicksville, NY
10 answers

Hi all! This summer we're taking our first big camping trip with the kids to Acadia National park in Maine. We're going in August. The girls will be 5 and 6 and the baby will be 16 months old. We're planning to bring a playpen for the baby to sleep in inside the tent. We're buying new sleeping bags and cots for the kids. Etc.
My hubby's an Eagle scout and he camped with his family ALOT. So he's very experienced.
I am NOT.
Any advice from camping families who have done it with little ones?
Any must haves? Life saving things you brought?
Thanks mamas!

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answers from Beaumont on

When we camp it's all about SIMPLE regarding the toys...i.e. beach ball, frisbee, jump rope, easy to clean and hard to lose. Anything with lots of little pieces, I would forbid because something would get lost. We also played, "I'm thinking of a number between 1-10" or red light green light, some interactive games around the campfire. I've been wanting to go to Acadia also. Looks wonderful! Have a great time! Oh...and take flashlights for everyone for flashlight tag at night!

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answers from Kansas City on

You CANNOT over pack camping utensils!
If you go with air mattresses...don't be upset when the brand new sucks!
Lots and lots of bug spray.
Don't take your good toothbrushes...they get lost, broken. No such thing as not enough TP.
Take board games the older ones will like.
Take the stroller for the little one.
If there is swimming, get extra towels, life jackets, water toys...

I buy colored trash is for trash...yellow is for dirty clothes/towels etc.
That should get your list started.

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answers from Eugene on

Get more baby wipes than you ever thought you would need. They are good for everything in campgrounds without facilities. Many toilets do not have soap or anything to wipe your hands on. Inspect as soon as you arrive so you know what you might need.
Get an LED light for inside the tent a big lantern. I have several. It helps at night and when it's raining.
I have a few rules about camping with or without children. I only cook vegan food on the trip because most animals, particularly bears aren't interested in it and the clean up is so much quicker and easier.
For family camping a bigger tent is a great help. We bought one with dividers so the children might not be bothered by our activities after they went to sleep.
Fishing first thing in the morning is a good activity.
I bring bear mace to spray the ever aggressive raccoons with. If you have potatoes they will want them and break in to get them. I do not keep food of any kind in the tent.
Your idea for the baby is the best one I ever found.
I do not let small children the ages of your girls go to the bathroom or anywhere without an adult. When they have more experience and are older they can walk around the campgrounds.
If there is a place to swim that is a good activity.We let our grandson bring one electronic toy to Canada when we were camping up there. He was six and needed to have something from home.
He hiked with us and went out to star gaze after dark.
We camped across Europe and Asia with our 7 year old daughter. As my kids got older we hiked into places to camp that were off the beaten trail.
Do you have a good quality easy to carry pack for your baby to hike her in and out with?
Enjoy your new found hobby.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

all i can say is prepare for your kids to get DIRTY! my husband and i took daughter #1 when she was about 16 months, and she looked like a slum child from the streets of india the whole weekend...dirt permanently on hands, feet, face, mouth, hair, you name it. and sand, as we camped near the beach (we live in cali). we just had her sleep in a sleeping bag in our tent and did not bring a playpen, although i think it could have been useful as a place for her to hang out instead of the dirt :) do you have a little stove? that def makes meals easier to cook fast. i made a lot of food at home (tomato salads, grains, roasted veggies) and then brought stuff for sandwiches, hotdogs, marshmallows...bring quarters/dollar bills to make change for hot showers (if your camp ground has them). as stated before, lots of trash bags, kitchen towels, paper towels. wine. at least you have tons of time to plan! have fun!

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answers from St. Louis on

pre-prep a lot of your foods. Have all of your vegies & fruits washed, prepped, & in ziploc bags....inside plastic containers. Double-layering produce helps keep cooler water out of the food!

& I have to admit, I double-wrap most food items...

Most of our resources come from Scouting info, but I do know that Coleman has great info on their website. You might want to check it out!

A general packing list for us includes:
bug spray 1st aid kit + wraps/meds/etc sunscreen
multiple boxes of matches + lighters, all in ziploc bags
spare camp fuel + extra charcoal + kindling for starting fires
plastic tarp for under the tent
plastic tarp for over the tent, in case of rain
rain ponchos for the entire family
spare trash bags
something to ease sunburn + other burns
camp lanterns + battery-operated flashlights
a multitude of aluminum foil, ziploc bags, & disposable paper products
& there's a whole lot more....I could go on & on!

But here's one more thought which I have always loved: if you have a thin sheer curtain, it works great as netting over the playpen.....& as netting over the food! Enjoy & have fun!

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answers from Kansas City on

first advice - relax and enjoy it. it really is SO MUCH FUN! your kids will have the time of their lives - as good as disney :)

and sooo much cheaper and easier lol.

stuff to sleep on, bedding, tents, clothes, sunscreen, bug repellant, food, marshmallows, hotdogs... :) not tons of toys - LIMIT THE ELECTRONICS. they will be playing with bugs, sticks, in the water if there is any. let them use their imaginations.

you're going to have a blast!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We love to camp, but it is always more difficult when the little ones are VERY little! I agree with the bug spray part, and try to find natural sprays so you don't feel like you need to wipe it off before they climb in the tent for the night. I like the Naturpel Wipes, and usually can find somewhere online to order them.
Also, I have friends who have camped with little ones and used the PeaPod travel bed for babies, seems like it may be easier inside of a tent instead of a playpen!
Try not to worry too much and enjoy your time! You guys will make some great family memories!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

We've been campers for years and Acadia is fabulous. You're going to love it there. August is blueberry season so familiarize yourself with what wild blueberries look like so you can snack along the trails as you hike.

Absolutely get yourself a comfortable baby carrier or backpack if you don't already have one.

Years ago I found picnic table covers in one of those catalogs that sells all sorts of stuff. They are made out of plastic tablecloth material with a cotton backing and have elastic that runs around the outside edge. Like a fitted sheet. There's one for the table top itself and 2 for the seats. These are one of the first things I unpack and set up. They cover the seats so you don't have to worry about sitting in sticky marshmallow residue or grease left there from the last campers. They wipe off with a damp sponge and I feel much cleaner eating off of something from home. If you're handy you could make some with oilcloth and elastic.

I also try to prepare a lot of food ahead of time. We learned the hard way that the sun goes down earlier in the campground and cooking in the dark with hungry kids is no fun. One of my families favorite camp meals is chicken in gravy over noodles. I precook chicken at home (either boneless or removed from the bone after cooking), and freeze it's if a meal for later in the week. We can use this chicken for sandwiches and for the meal. I shred the chicken into a pot, add the gravy and heat over the camp stove. Cook the noodles per package instructions and when done layer in their bowl or dish. Serve with raw baby carrots or other easy veggie. There never seems to be enough.

We also freeze water in cleaned out 64 oz. juice containers and use these instead of ice in the cooler. They take up more room but are less messy and you can drink the water as it thaws.

Bring simple card games like Uno for in the tent before bedtime. You'll need a good LED lantern in there too. And flashlights for going to the bathroom during the middle of the night.

I pack everything in separate plastic bins with labels because I couldn't stand not knowing where everything was. Shoes and outerwear go in one bin. First aid in another. Clothes, extra blankets, food, cooking stuff, toys and balls. Each get their own bin. Also bring a small one for inside the tent for cell phone, wallet, glasses, etc. at night.

Someone had a great idea with the sheer curtain for a bug net. Wish I'd thought of that.

Wet ones or baby wipes are a must too. Oh, and clips for chip bags.

Now I'm excited about summer! Have fun!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I used to be a "Holiday Inn" camper but we started camping about 5 or 6 years ago and now I'm a camping junkie. We absolutetly love it and go 3 or 4 times each summer. I agree with the other posts. Make a check list! When you're packing up the car it always seems crazy and a list will help. Try to prepare as much food before the trip as possible. I make stew and freeze it before hand. Marinate your meat, dice veggies. I take pasta salad and make it before hand. It's a ton of work but it allows me to enjoy the trip a lot more if I don't have to prep/cook all that food without my kitchen. Bring lots of good snacks. For some reason camping makes kids super hungry. Biggest thing for me was letting go of being dirty the whole time. I try to think of it like this... The dirtier we are the more fun we're having. Have fun!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I am not a fan of camping, never mind with little ones. I would try to find a servival kits if they sell them. I do not want to dampen your trip. So all I am going to say is please have everyone sleep in the same tent so everyone is close together.

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