How to Go Camping with a Toddler (and Actually Have Fun!)

Before we had LC, we ran into a lot of people who would tell us to have fun while we could, because after you have kids you won’t be able to keep up with any of your old hobbies. They would tell us, travel while you can, cycle while you can, go out to restaurants while you can,…because once you have kids, the fun STOPS.

Well I am here to tell you that could not be farther from the truth! Since we have had our son we have been on several long road trips (the most recent one was over 10 days long!), taken an overnight train to Denver, ridden our bikes across Iowa (with help from grandparents), participated in my first Triathlon, and done lots of other fun things as a family.

That being said, one of the things that I was nervous about initially was taking our little guy camping. I rekindled my love for camping and the outdoors during a 2014 road trip and was scared we’d have to put that kind of adventure on hold now that we are three. As it turns out, TONS of people camp with kids and in general, the kids love it! Through lots of trial and error, we have found some sure fire ways for the entire family to enjoy the trip

1.Bring toys, lots of ‘em.

One terrible mistake I made during our first weekend camping trip when LC was solidly into the toddler age was not providing enough entertainment. Just because I like to sit around the campfire and read for hours at a time does not mean that my super energetic 2 year old will do the same. Even his favorite movies on the iPad got boring to him after a while. And word to the wise, even sticks and dirt will only entertain them for so long.

Be sure to bring some new and exciting things such as a new coloring book or a new model car to play with. Bubbles are also usually a big hit. I look for things that are inexpensive (that way I’m not spending a fortune on new stuff) and that we generally don’t do a lot of at home.

2. Creature Comforts

We have lots of little creature comforts for camping. Whether it be a favorite chair, awesome sleep mat, or making sure your favorite snacks are in the food box. Make sure your little one has these too! Learning how to keep him comfortable has definitely increased everyone’s enjoyment on our trips! LC has his own camp chair, cot, and sleeping bag. The cot, in particular has been a godsend. Make sure that for every comfort item you bring for yourself, your toddler has something similar.

3. Good Sleep

If you all have a terrible night’s sleep because you have a toddler who was up half the night beside himself screaming and crying because he’s uncomfortable and in an unfamiliar environment, no one will have fun the next day (I do, unfortunately, speak from experience on this one). Spending $22 on a cot for him was literally one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. He always has his own spot, that he’s now used to sleeping in no matter where we pitch our tent. It’s even gotten to the point that he will put himself to sleep on his cot just like he does in his bed at home!

4. Plan Activities Accordingly

Remember that your toddler is not going to be able to hike/walk for very long. They will get tired easily and if you don’t remember what a disaster that will create, refer to #3. We make sure to either keep the walking short or be sure to bring along our “pack pack” as LC has dubbed it. This was a something of an investment but if you wait for a great sale (that’s when I purchased ours) or look for one used it’s not as tough a pill to swallow.

5. Plan Some Down Time

Speaking of activities, it’s also important to plan some down time, especially if you’re on a longer trip. Before LC, we packed our days full of activities and hikes and Go Go Go! It is a difficult transition, because we still want to see and do all the things, but we all have a much better time if we have an afternoon or morning here and there to just relax! Even just spending a morning in camp lazily making breakfast and coffee rather than rushing off to start that hike at 7am makes a huge difference!

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2 thoughts on “How to Go Camping with a Toddler (and Actually Have Fun!)

  1. BC


    • admin

      Thanks mom!

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