Sometimes we borrowed a trailer from friends and camped not a half-hour from home. Sometimes we tented in a provincial park. Four years in a row we cottaged at my Opa and Oma's resort up North.
We always come back refreshed and recharged after long nights of story-telling around the campfire, roasting marshmallows, early morning fishing off the dock, burying each other in the sand, and swimming across the lake. It bonded us closer together as a family and we excitedly looked forward to it every year.
Now that I'm married, we're carrying on the tradition with our own family and I have a whole new appreciation for the time and energy my Mom invested each year into our vacations! A summer holiday, especially with small children, requires a lot of work and preparation. There are plenty of ways however, to ensure that Mama enjoys some rest and relaxation too.
Here are 10 tips I learned from my Mom who's been camping with kids for 25 years!
1. Create a master checklist. Include everything from food to clothes and equipment. You may wish to incorporate multiple check boxes beside each item so you can reuse the list each year. Make mini check-lists for children who are old enough to read and be responsible for packing their own clothes.
2. Designate a "Camping Spot." In the weeks before hand, designate a room (or part of a room) in the house as "The Camping Station." Anything on the checklist that can be put together ahead of time can collect in that spot. Mark it off as you go.
3. Pack efficiently. This is especially important if your space is very limited. Camping with 3 kids ages 3 and under this year meant we had to take along many bulky items like strollers, a playpen, bassinet, and lawn chairs. We still had room to spare in our van by using stackable totes and diaper boxes for dry food and clothes, and large garbage bags for things that could be "squished" into awkward spots like blankets and towels.
4. Prepare your meals in advance. If you're hard-core camping (no electricity) this probably won't work. We rented a cottage this year that included an oven and fridge. I froze our dinners ahead of time in disposable foil pans. This made for quick and easy serving and clean-up! The ABC's of Freezer Cooking is worth a read if you plan on doing this.
5. Use paper everything. You're not going to win an eco-friendly awards for doing this, but if you want a real holiday from doing dishes, bring along paper cups and plates, plastic cutlery, and a large garbage bag. I thoroughly enjoyed a week off of dishes this year (and the kids loved having us be able to spend that extra time with them).
6. Prepare for bad weather. Bring along warm sweaters in case of cold and rain. Read-alouds and board games are great for days you're forced to stay inside.
7. Stick to your routine as much as possible. Children thrive on routine! Try your best to schedule meals, nap-times, and bed-time as you usually would for a family of happy campers.
8. Insist on small children wearing life-jackets. You don't want your vacation ending in tragedy! If you're going to be next to water, insist on young children wearing flotation devices any time they're outdoors. Two minutes of being distracted with something else is all it takes for a child to drown.
9. Use the "Treasure Chest" to keep long drives fun. Fill a container with fun finds from the Dollar Store and allow children to pick something new out of the Treasure Chest to play with every hour on long drives. Lap-sized Magna Doodles, snacks, plastic animals, and dinky cars are great hits! Audio books like Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park and Farmer Boy (our choice this year) are great ways to keep older children occupied (and to be honest, Mom and Dad too!).
10. Keep your expectations low. Be determined to make the best of each situation, that way you won't be disappointed when it rains all week, the mosquitoes are vicious, you get a flat tire, and the kids don't sleep well at night. If the point of your holiday is to enjoy bonding time as a family, embrace the opportunities to display a selfless love towards them!
Do you enjoy vacationing with your family? What are some tips you've found helpful in making your time together as restful and relaxing as possible?
In the interest of full disclosure, some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products I use personally. Your purchases through these links help support Growing Home. I humbly thank you for your support.