Things to Consider when You’re Taking Your Toddler
Our family recently spent a few days camping up and down the East Coast. It was a blast and we got to discover some new locations for drastically less amounts of money than we would have if we’d stayed in a hotel.
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We saved money on lodging (at least 50%) and major amounts on food, since we took non-perishable items and cooked over a campfire.
Despite the blast we had, there were still a few things we needed to consider before hitting the road with our tent in tow.
Do a Test Run
We did a test run with our toddler. At the time, #1 was about 18 months old (he’s now 3) and we set up our tent in the backyard. We didn’t do anything wild and crazy, we just stuck to our regular bedtime routine, only it was in a tent.
Our neighborhood and fenced in yard prevented any wild critters from getting near us. We were able to have a small fire in our fire pit and we read bedtime stories by lantern.
#1 slept through the night with no problems and that’s when we knew our kiddo could handle a camping trip.
If you’re an apartment dweller, host your test run in your living room.
Fast forward to 18 months later.
If you recall, we recently took a trip to Disney World. And, being the frugal Mama I am, I had to figure out how to do it on the cheap. Enter camping.
I started by mapping out the route, pinpointing a few iconic cities along the way, and googling for campgrounds. Most of what I found were through ReserveAmerica.com. They handle many county and state park campgrounds.
I booked primitive tent sites at all the locations. This usually means they don’t include electric or water, but some of the locations I chose included those amenities anyway. Each location also offered a tent pad and bathhouse. Now, don’t get too excited, those tent pads were nothing more than concrete, but it worked.
I recommend printing off your confirmations for your sites, as service on your cell phone may be spotty when you check-in. You never know if you’re going to need it. Plus, those confirmations will list important rules, like quiet hours, where fires can be, check-out time, and even if alcohol is allowed on site.
What to Pack
Now that you’ve got your camping itinerary roughed out, it’s time to start packing. As with any toddler excursion, I recommend always packing back-up’s and spares, because you never know, your child may decide to jump into a fountain. Believe me, ours did on this very trip.
Here’s the packing list we came up with:
- Shirts and pants that can get muddy, grass stained, torn, covered in soot, the works
- Shoes that can take a beating and dry out by the campfire overnight
- Rain jackets, just in case, and even if the weather doesn’t call for it
- Warm clothing (think pants, sweatshirts and beanies) for chilly nights
- Pajamas, something old and preferably unloved, but still comfortable so your toddler will feel at home
- A second round of shirts and pants, and maybe a third, depending on how messy your child gets
Packing for yourself should be a lot easier. If you’re going camping, you’re going to smell, and that’s okay. Wearing the same clothes on day two is just fine, so long as you’re okay with smelling like a campfire and don’t have anywhere fancy or important to go.
- Tent with stakes and rain fly
- Two tarps, one for under the tent, one for over in case of inclement weather (this was the case for us on day one of our trip and it really helped make things better, and drier. We used the second tarp to form a little porch that allowed us to be outside the tent while remaining dry.)
- Sleeping bags and pillows, (maybe an extra blanket or two for padding and warmth)
- Camp chairs, if you don’t feel like sitting on the ground or your site doesn’t offer a picnic table.
- Dinner: Hot dogs and s’mores, of course. You could also mix it up with Velveeta shells and cheese, black bean quesadillas, or Jiffy Pop popcorn.
- Breakfast: Instant pancake mix is a home run, especially with chocolate chips tossed in. But, cereal with shelf-stable milk or granola bars will work just the same. We always take our french press for campfire coffee, too.
- Lunch: Peanut butter sandwiches, apples, and chips.
- Snacks: Applesauce pouches, goldfish crackers, granola bars, gummies.
- Water! Jugs of water and refillable water bottles for each person.
- Lighter/matches. This really depends on how confident you are with fire-starting. (Whatever you do, don’t use dry leaves, you’re just asking for smoke.)
- Firewood, but remember, don’t move firewood! If the campground sells it, buy it from them, or find a local gas station. If you’re wondering why, click here.
- Flashlight or headlamp, or lantern. Basically some form of light source (with extra batteries).
- Toys that can get dirty and damaged or lost. This will keep your toddler entertained and give them something to play with besides rocks and sticks, though those should be encouraged to be played with, too.
Above all else, you need to set a few rules with your toddler. We abide by the following:
- Set boundaries using large trees and landmarks: “Don’t go past these trees. If you’ve gone past these trees, you’ve gone too far.”
- No touching the fire. We let #1 help gather kindling and cook his own hot dog this time, but that’s as close as he’s allowed to get.
- No shoes in the tent (to keep dirt out).
- The tent door stays shut (to keep bugs out).
- No touching things you can’t identify. (I recommend you do a sweep of the area before setting up camp. If a climbing vine has hairs coming off of it, it’s poison ivy, steer clear! Look for poisonous bushes and animal nests and dens, too.)
With Summer upon us and Memorial Day plans underway, this is the perfect time to being planning your family’s first camping trip. Tell me in the comments how it goes and Happy Trails!
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