Some families prefer to find a luxury hotel and enjoy being pampered while on vacation. Well, my family likes to go camping. The difference is while others come home from vacation and think about all the luxury they’ll be missing, we come home grateful for all the luxuries we have. You know, luxuries like running water, indoor plumbing, and electricity. So I thought I’d share 10 of our sanity savers we’ve learned over the years.
- Prepare The Car – We’ve learned the hard way after finding my whole family stranded by the side of the road to check out any car issues BEFORE hitting the road. Two years ago our water pump died on the drive to Lake George. Not the best start to our vacation. So this year we took the van to the shop to fix a pully that was failing so that we don’t find ourselves in the same situation and my husband is changing the break pads and making sure our oil and fluids are good before we go. Trust me, save your sanity and check out any potential problems before you pack up and hit the road.
- Prep Dinners In Advance – It’s always super helpful to prep meals at home where you have your full kitchen at your disposal. My husband likes to parboil chicken so grilling it takes less time. It’s also helpful to make some side dishes that only need reheating once you’re there. It makes meal time less of a hassle and you can get to the fun part – eating smores around the campfire.
- Bring Lo-Tech Toys – When electricity is scarce I can guarantee you that you will run out of batteries for electronic devices and it almost always rains at least once during your camping trip. My husband bought Uno and Yahtzee for us to enjoy during the inevitable down time caused by weather. It also gives us some quality bonding time as a family.
- Check List? Check. – You can usually count on forgetting something during the extensive packing required for a camping trip. That’s why my husband and I find good checklists online that we use to remind us to pack those things we would probably forget on our own. We have a long-standing tradition of forgetting the can opener.
- Shop At Home – If you want to avoid the shock and awe of the prices at the grocery stores local to your campground then I suggest shopping at home before you go. Last year, my husband and I found ourselves shocked and out of luck when we HAD to buy groceries at the only grocery store in the vicinity of our campground at almost twice the price of our hometown stores. This time around we’ll be hitting our local stores so we can save money.
- Clean Up The House– I know what you’re thinking, why should I clean when we’re going to be gone anyway? Well for me, nothing sucks worse than coming home from a camping trip to a messy house where dishes have been sitting, laundry is in piles and the garbage has been stinking up the house. It requires more work, but just getting those things in order before you go will make it much more pleasant when you come home. After all, you’ll have enough new laundry to do and an entire vehicle to unpack and put away.
- Invest In A Camping Stove – As much as I hate to say it, grilling doesn’t work for everything. It’s even harder when an actual grill isn’t available and you have to cook everything on a grate over the campfire. Fire is temperamental so invest in a camping stove, especially for your side dishes and veggies. My husband and I bought a used one on Craigslist for $10 and it’s been so worth it. As mentioned above, you’ll probably have at least one day of rain so this way you can still cook without an issue.
- First Aid First – We usually remember toothbrushes, but not the band aids. Trust me, if you have kids you’ll want to put together a basic first aid kit. Don’t forget thermometers, band aids, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial cream, and children’s pain reliever. I usually pack allergy medicine and some melatonin for my husband and myself. I have difficulty falling asleep in a foreign place so melatonin is a lifesaver for me.
- Research Amenities and Kid’s Activities BEFORE You Book – When I look for a campground, the first thing I look for is lots of amenities for the kids. We went to Pine Cradle Lake Campground in PA again this year because of their awesome splash pad, pool and playgrounds. They also have a stocked lake and my kids love fishing with their Dad. Many times campgrounds also plan special theme weeks or events. We went during their PLC 500 race. So we bought stuff for the kids to make little cars. You’ll want to look into any themes as some campgrounds do things like Halloween weekends so you’ll want to pack costumes for your kids.
- Don’t Forget About Baby – Just like last year when I was at the end of my pregnancy we decided to go with a cabin for the extra comforts, especially since we have a toddler now. She’s up and walking and into ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. So there is more to think about when camping with a baby. For starters we had less room in the minivan and more stuff like her pack n play to bring so she had a bed of her own to sleep in. Then I needed to buy shoes as we were outside most of the time. There’s diapers, wipes, swim diapers, sippy cups, etc. to remember. Take a look around the house and especially the baby’s room for those little items that if you forgot them would be the end of a peaceful trip. The other day I forgot to grab the baby’s pacifier before we went to pick up the car from the shop and she cried the whole way there and most of the way back and that wasn’t nearly as far away as our campground.
The thing is it’s a lot of work, but camping truly is a great family tradition of ours. It’s a time to unplug from the world, get back to nature and just focus on our family. There’s nothing I love better than sitting around a fire with my favorite people in the world, knowing that just for that short time we are all we need to have a great time.