Family Camping Trip

It had been a while since we camped. I suppose the reason is that California weather is a bit more inclined towards sleeping outdoors than the East Coast, and so we did it more often. Also with two kids now, that adds another layer of difficulty. We took Ellie for her first camping trip at eight months, and did two more before she was two. But last weekend, with Ellie at four years old and Waverly at two, we finally got our act together and got out into the woods for the first time as a family of four. Here are a few things I learned during this trip, and the ones before, that will hopefully help you create your own family camping excursion:
  1. Being in nature occupies kids: As we drove to the state park, I wondered what we would do for fun and how we would keep the kids entertained. Much of my job is consumed in this endeavor on a daily basis, and trust me, it is no small task. However, I was delighted to find out that just being around some trees, sand and dirt provided most of the entertainment needed, particularly for Ellie, who spent much of the time pretending to be or do something outlandish and extravagant while we put up tents and cooked food.
  2. Camping is cheap: This should be number one, but I'm trying to get away from that thinking... Camping is super cheap for a family. You bring your own food most of the time, and renting a camping spot can be as low as $15/night (if not lower), which is what it was this time. Compare that to a hotel or taking the family to Disneyland, and you will always come out on top.
  3. Exploring as a family is fun: Katie picked a great spot, right at the back of the lot with plenty of woods to gather fire fuel from. Right away Ellie kept asking, "Daddy, can we go exploring now?" in a cute little way that only a kid could manage. It was the first night and getting dark, and I hadn't caught the lay of the land myself yet, so I assured her we would explore the next day. We ended up going  on a family hike and it was a great experience; educational, fun with a little drama for good measure (some mud we had to traverse). We grew as individuals and together, I think, and so I recommend adding this to your list of things to do while camping.
  4. Baby wipes are crucial: An excellent clean-all for dirty hands and sticky s'more faces alike. You can also toss them into the fire to keep them out of the trash.
  5. Prepare for cold nights: Make sure you have a good tent, good sleeping bag and maybe a mat/air mattress for some underneath insulation -- especially for the kids. The last two camping trips I've taken featured colder nights than we expected (though we were better prepared for this most recent one). You don't want those kiddos catching a cold.
  6. Go with the flow: We forgot to bring phone chargers and both of our phones were dying on the way. Dependent on GPS apps, we nearly became lost and weren't sure how we would get home at the end of the trip. We ended up making it there fine, but about half an hour into the camping, Waverly was crawling around the inside of our car and locked the doors. Unknowingly, Katie got her out and shut them with the keys inside... Thankfully, I had enough battery to call AAA and get us back into our vehicle, where we still had a bunch of supplies stored. It was a little stressful, but something about the quiet of nature beckons you to let annoyances blow away with the wind and simply exist.
Ellie's second camping trip

This really was one of the quietest places I had ever been, particularly at night. You could hear a breeze swelling through the trees before it got to you, as well as the snoring from the tent across the way on your midnight walk to the bathroom. Nature isn't always convenient or easy, but there is a reason it draws us in: we grow, bind with others, recenter ourselves and see God's work. I have many more stories from our short two-day trip, but for now I will just write that you should probably go outside more often, and spend the night out there if you have any interest in doing so. You won't regret it.