There are few things that conjure up the image of summer for me more than a tent, s'mores, and a campfire. I know it’s not for everyone, but our family loves to camp. We even took our kids to Yosemite for two nights when my son was not even 2 years old. I’m not gonna lie, though — that probably wasn’t the best idea, as that’s pretty young! But kids love to camp, and it is totally doable if you properly plan for your trip. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your trip:

1. Make sure everyone is comfy! When we went to Yosemite, we only brought the thermarests that go below your sleeping bag. While that’s okay for adults, it wasn’t very comfortable for the boys. In recent trips we've brought a blow-up mattress and, let me tell you — we’ll never do it another way again! Not only did the kids love it, but I was in heaven and slept like a baby. Plus, it makes your kids realize that the tent is meant for sleeping, as it actually looks just like any bed at home! If your family isn't the type for tents, remember there are plenty of companies that rent RVs, such as Cruise America.

2. Make it fun and involve your kids. The bottom line is if your kids aren’t happy, no one is going to be happy, so get their input on as much as you possibly can — everything from choosing the destination to campfire songs to helping set up the tent and picking out a great stick for s’mores. This is where the real memory-making begins.

3. REI suggests practicing camping at home, and I couldn’t agree more. You do not want to take a five-hour road trip only to find out your child is terrified of tents, sleeping outside, fire pits, or all of the above! Make it fun and set up a tent at home, and give it a trial run.

4. Bring a friend and/or activities. Your kids may love the outdoors, but even Mother Nature get boring with a short attention span (which pretty much all children have!). If you can bring a friend for them, that’s ideal. If not, make sure to pack plenty of sporting equipment, games, balls, bikes, etc. A game of cards can be a nice way to wind down later in the day. Forgot your games? Go old school with games like “I Spy,” “Charades,” or even more apropos is “I’m Going on a Camping Trip And I’m Going to Bring...” Have the first person name something that starts with “A,” the second person “B,” and so and so forth, while everyone has to remember what the person named before them. It’s a ball and great for your memory to boot!

5. Keep everyone safe! If you have a plan in place to do so, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself. Make sure your child knows to stay close to your camp and that they know the importance of NOT wandering off! Many campsites are very close to wildlife so this is particularly crucial. As REI suggests, give your kids whistles (for them to blow should they get separated from you) and a flashlight and/or headlamp when it’s dark. Attach them with a lanyard and tie them to one of your child’s belt loops so they don’t lose them. It's imperative for you to be informed about the area in which you're camping, too. For example, Yosemite's campsites all require bear boxes, and every single morsel of food has to be put inside these before going to bed. Trust me — you don't want to find out what happens if you forget!

Some people hesitate to camp with kids but you could be missing out on a great family activity that everyone will love. Make a plan, be prepared, pack up the car, and head out on your first of many outdoor adventures!


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