Before you had children you probably went camping with an amazing group of friends. But what happens when you have a kid, or two or three, and that same group of friends wants to go camping again? A multiple overnight commitment is much more daunting than visiting someone for a few hours, especially when you and your little ones are not in your comfort zone. Do you decline the offer because you are worried about being the only family there? Or do you brave out the uncertainty and risk the kids being terrors for the possibility of a good time. Recently I was in this exact situation, and decided mama needed a little rustic vacation, so I went for it. Boy, did I learn a lot. Here are a few tips if you ever find yourself the only family in a group of campers.
Give a Pre-Trip Low-Down
No one wants to ruin the trip for others. Because kids are unpredictable, especially in an unfamiliar environment, make sure to give your camping crew a bit of a warning about what they could expect from your child. Specifically, mention that night time could be rough and to expect some, if not a lot of, loud crying.
Plan to Trade-Off Late Evenings
If you have a partner to share the parenting duties with, come up with a game plan for who is going to head to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleeping in a tent provides little to no darkness in daylight, and when the sun rises your child is going to think it’s time to get up. Trust me it’s best to make a plan, because 5am comes pretty early after a night of friends and campfire and possibly a few cocktails.
Prepare for Lonely Mornings
One thing I was totally unprepared for was how lonely the mornings are when the rest of your crew sleeps in… (remember those days?!). Most provincial campsites have quiet time until 7am, which means not only do you have at least 2 hours to kill before everyone wakes up, but you have to do something that doesn’t involve noise! One thing that saved my sanity for this time period was having a movie available to watch on our iPad. I almost feel dirty saying that, because camping has always been my time to get back to nature, but I don’t think I have ever been more thankful for technology than I was on those lonely early camping mornings.
Once your crew wakes up, makes breakfast, and gets ready to go, it’s probably going to be your child’s nap time. Naps are another thing you can lay out before you embark on the trip, so your friends know when you are not available. If you have a partner, trade off nap duties so you each get a turn doing something fun without the kids. When it comes down to it, if naps are important to you and your kids just be prepared to roll with the punches, and possibly miss out on an activity for the greater good.
Take Advantage of Your Friends
Just because there aren’t other kids around for your children to play with doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone around. Hopefully there is at least one other adult in your crew of campers who wants to play with your kids. I was lucky and most of my friends spent a lot of time with my son. It actually meant my camping trip kind of felt like a vacation, because I wasn’t having to constantly entertain a little one. And on the plus side, there was no arguing about toys or who was the centre of attention.
Ask For Help
Last but certainly not least, the best advice I have, is to ask for help. No one knows that you need unless you tell them. Even though the friends I went camping with don’t have kids (yet), they were so willing to help out however they could, as long as they knew what to do. Bringing a child camping with a group of adults doesn’t make for the best most epic party camping trip ever, but it creates a new dynamic that is something to enjoy and be proud of, if you let it.