My parents never took us camping; it just wasn't "a thing" growing up in South Florida. But, a decade of living in the Pacific Northwest later and I've lost count of how many camping trips I've taken. From a very pregnant Crater Lake tent trip to this past weekend with my babies, grown to ages 2 and 5, we've had our fair share of family camping trips. I figured I'd share what makes it most enjoyable for us to get outside for a weekend away.
1.) Go with friends and meal share
Camping just the four of us would be great, but it's really fun to gather a group to join us. Extra friends to chat with around the campfire and all the kids for our kids to play with make it an obvious choice. We take it a step further and plan ahead with our group to split up the meals too. One family makes dinner Friday night, another Saturday breakfast, Saturday lunch, and Sunday breakfast. I don't know when it became tradition, but we tend to potluck it Saturday night and this always works well. Even when this last trip we left accidentally left the bulk of our potluck offerings in the fridge at home, there was plenty to go around and we all ate like kings. I don't know why food tastes better outside by a campfire, but it's probably scientifically quantifiable that it does.
2.) Go for more then one night
One night to test the waters may sound easier, but with all the prep, set up, break down, and clean up, it's really not worth it for just one night. With two nights, you get at least one full day of waking up to the sound of birds singing only to fall asleep to the river rushing by, or whatever natural setting you've immersed yourself in. With small children, tents are really fun, but yurt, cabin, and teepee rentals are deluxe! In Oregon, yurt rentals need to be made 6 months (or more) in advance if you plan on going for a weekend, so be prepared to pick a date and then cross fingers for decent weather. The yurts sleep our family comfortably, with a twin over full bunk and futon that pulls out into another full size. You bring your own bedding, but the heat and outlet make it very comfortable.
3.) Don't bring too much for the kids
The idea for us it to get the kids outside. It's ok for them to get bored, they quickly make up a game or find someone new to play with. The flashlights use batteries, but otherwise, we're happy to turn off and tuck away anything that makes too much noise (even our *gasp* phones). Amelie likes to bring strings to make friendship bracelets with friends, all kids (1-6 years old anyway) still seem wildly amused by bubbles, coloring books kill time if it gets rainy, and glow-sticks after smores are always a big hit. Bocce balls and frisbees, and if you can fit bikes and scooters in the car, go for it. This trip, the girls learned to make daisy-chains and explored under a bridge too!
Beyond the bubbles and glow-sticks, our favorite camping items are out teton double flannel-lined sleeping bag, set of roasting sticks, and turtle light that projects stars on the ceiling of the tent or yurt for bedtime. (These are not affiliate links and I'm not earning a percentage of sales, just sharing to share products we genuinely enjoy).
Hope this was helpful and inspires someone to get outside with their kids! It's such a joy to watch them run around, explore, get muddy, and play for an entire weekend. It's some of our family's best bonding times and our kids get just as excited for these trips as they do for the ones to Disney. At $45/night for a yurt rental, it's a small fraction the cost too! Thanks for all the fun, friends. And happy birthday again, sweet Djuna! <3