10 Tips to Prepare for the Spontaneous Camping Trips with Kids

10 Tips to Prepare for the Spontaneous Camping Trip with Kids

camping with kids

Lets be honest there is not a lot of spontaneity when it comes to camping with kids. It takes planning and preparation to get the whole family packed up and headed out to the lake for a few nights. Because of our work schedules we aren’t so lucky to pre schedule all of our camping. Generally, we look at the weather Wednesday night and head out that Friday. But we’ve got a fantastic system down that allows us to be able to pick up and go on an (almost) last-minute notice. Here are some of our tips and tricks to preparing your camping gear so you can take those spontaneous weekend camping trips with your kids this summer.

1.       Bins and Storage. I love bins like Marie Kondo loves bins.  We have all of our camping stuff in 2 large bins in our garage. It is key to have everything in one place, and easily transportable to your car or trailer. We keep everything but our sleeping bags and food in there. All of our cooking, campfire, and cleaning supplies are all in the 2 bins. We also put our clothes, shoes, food and sand toys in bins! #ilovestoragebins

2.       Check your camp spot availability. Thanks to the smart phones you can check out and reserve camp sites in the car on the way to the lake. My recommendation, as soon as you know you’re going camping get online and check out what is available. If there is a spot available to reserve online, reserve it! There are also several campgrounds that have spots available for phone calls too. If there isn’t anything reservable then know how many first come first serve sites there are as well as the next closest campgrounds. Nothing is more frustrating then driving around on a Friday afternoon from campground to campground looking for a spot. We’ve done it, its not fun, I recommend being more prepared then we were.


3.       Easy Food Prep. We generally eat a very plant heavy diet in our house. Camping is no exception; I tend to keep camping much easier and a little more “pre-packaged” heavy. I am a big fan of freezer meals from Trader Joes for camping. Should you eat them every night of your life? No. Will they be perfect, delicious and easy for camping? Yes. They fit well into a cooler, heat in little to no time and make clean-up easy. Bagged salads also make adding some veggies easy.  There’s always a bag of frozen ice in our deep freezer as well. We also tend to indulge in a few extra treats while camping, we like to roast turkey dogs over the fire and of course some s’mores. Buy a pair of roasting sticks and skip the “find a stick in the woods thing”. Washable, compactable roasting skewers are worth every penny!

4.       Have specific camping items that you buy seasonally and are ready in your bins. I restock on batteries, sunscreen, bug repellant products, sponges, paper towels, baby wipes, cooking oils, and fire-starters every season. These are always kept in our bins and don’t leave. This keeps packing easy and all I have to focus on is food and clothing for last minute camping trips. PS I love camping with baby wipes. They are so versatile!

5.       Layer clothes, pack lite and put everything into one tote bin. A big plastic tote bin is the perfect place to keep your camping clothes. We fit all of our camping clothes in one bin. Shoes in a separate one. Keeps it easy to pack, easy to separate and easy to load in and out. The bins do well in the dirt and keep our suitcases clean for other travel. I also bring a mesh laundry bag to throw dirty clothes into, that fits right back into the bin for traveling home.

6.       Make sure your pjs are warm to keep your bedding load lite. With 6 people it is easy to end up with 6 sleeping bags, 6 pillows, 6 blankets, 6 stuffies and 6 extra warm blankets. It’s a lot. So we have the kids dress in extra warm sweats/pjs to limit the amount of blankets we end up bringing. One good sleeping bag each, a pillow and stuffed animal (because we can’t go anywhere without a herd of stuffed animals).

7.       Rain boots. We bring rainboots on every trip. They are easy to slip on at night to go to the bathroom. Great for keeping toes warm in the chilly morning and great for tromping around the camp site. Of course we bring hiking boots and some flip flops as well, but nothing is more versatile then some good old fashion plastic rain boots. My husband hates rainboots, so he opts for slippers with a hard shoe sole.


8.       Preplanned pet care. If you’re lucky you can bring your pup with you camping. We have a dog who barks and just doesn’t do well camping. So we have multiple levels of back-ups for pet care for last minute trips. From house sitters to kennels we are always able to jump on a sunny pup-free weekend. Get the pets taken care of the moment you start planning your trip! We also always make sure our dogs vaccines are up to date so we don’t have to fit in a last minute vet visit for a required vaccine before leaving.

9.       Post camping clean up. This is REALLY important. The reason we are able to jump in the car and go, is because our stuff is clean and ready before each trip. I don’t do a single dish before we go camping, ever. After each trip we take all the dishes into the house and clean all of them. We restock anything that needs to be restocked and we pack it all back into our two handy tote bins. Yes this takes some time, but its way better to do it post trip then to stress about it before your next trip. We also keep a shopping list in the camping bins so we can write things down while we’re out so we don’t forget them for next trip.

10.   Know your firewood situation. Nothing is more of a bummer then getting to your campsite to realize they only take cash in exact change, or discovering you had to bring your own, or that fires are off limits and your over-the-fire dinners aren’t going to work. Fires are a big deal around here and you must be prepared for taking care of your fire as well as following the rules set by your campground or forest district about fires. We also carry a hatchet, fire starter and plastic water jug.

11.   And the last freebie is to relax. Camping is such a great way to let kids be kids. It has always been our “factory reset”. We love the late nights and the dusty children and the adventures we share together. Leave your expectations, work and worries at home and just enjoy being with your kids. They don’t need a fancy trailer or a fancy camp dinner, they just need you! Extra points for being out of cell service and enjoying a media detox as well!