You’ve packed the tent, the stove, the screen tent, the reusable camping dishware, the fuel, the hammock, and the cooler. You even covered your bases with flashlights, water bottle, rain suit and rain boots. You think you’re ready to take your toddler on their first car camping trip, but are you?

Camping with toddlers isn’t scary. We just recommend being very, very prepared. Today we’re going to focus on tips to make your next car camping trip with your toddler a huge success. One of the benefits of car camping is that you can bring the kitchen sink with you. While we don’t recommend the kitchen, there are a couple things that will make your trip easier.

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

We cannot overstate how important snacks are. Snacks will allow you to set up your tent, distract your child if they get ‘hangry’, and are a great way to spend part of your day. They are even more important camping than when you are at home. Precut fruits and veggies at home, or make your own trail mix. If your toddler is into applesauce pouches or juice boxes, now is the time to make sure you’ve stocked up. Find the treat that your kid doesn’t get to have often and bring that along. It’ll make snack time extra special.

Toys

I don’t think you need to bring every toy you own, but having a few toys to occupy your kiddo while you set up camp is always helpful. We love toys that you can wash off once you get home. Green Toys are a great choice. Sand toys are also great for digging in the dirt.

Keep in mind some quiet toy activities like coloring books, stickers, and a few sturdy books in case it rains. Plus we always bring the treasured blankie and one stuffed animal for night time.

Reusable glow sticks

My husband is the brilliant guy behind this idea. He insisted they were the perfect gift this past Christmas and he was totally right. We purchased ours here and they’ve pretty much been in constant use since our kids got them. They charge from the sun or a flashlight and make great nightlights. As a bonus the company makes large ones to act as tent nightlights.

Campgrounds are designed by adults for other adults. With the exception of the playground, there is little that is kid size. You might want to consider a kid size chair, a kid toilet, perhaps even the kiddie picnic table. We do strongly recommend kid size sleeping bags. Kids just don’t generate as much heat as adults, which prevents them from warming up an adult’s sleeping bag.

Wipes

Reusable or disposable, everyone I’ve ever polled about taking a kid on a camping trip has mentioned bringing tons of wipes. Which is why they get their own mention.

children by campfire

A place to put baby

A carrier works great on hikes and it also helps you hold your kiddo while cleaning up camp or making dinner. We invested in a collapsible high chair for the baby, to help him eat at the table. Some friends bring the pack n play, which works well especially if you have a crawler. A blanket spread on the ground is a nice place to play with those toys you brought. Lastly, if you are still in the diaper phase do you have a place to change your kiddo?

Extras

It’s no secret that toddlers can create a mess out of thin air. Bring a few extra clothes and hats just in case. Depending on where and what time of year you go camping you might want to think about a hat and extra layers for night time.

The most important thing you can pack when camping with toddlers is a sense of humor and patience. It sounds totally cheesy but the more you are having a great time the happier your kids will be. Enjoy this quality time with your kid. Most kiddos love being outside and there is so much to do and see that you might find you don’t use half of what you packed. Which is just fine.

Images courtesy of Yazmin Palos, Melissa Hollingsworth and Heidi Schertz

COMMENT ON ARTICLE

More in

Geocaching: A Search for Treasure on the Trail

Long before Pokémon Go came along and encouraged youngsters to get off the couch and go outside, geocaching was providing […]

Cold weather camping: Why you should head to the campsite this winter

A few weeks ago my husband, Daniel, came home and told me we could borrow a friend’s T@B trailer to […]