I’m so happy about the upcoming Victoria Day weekend it’s not even funny!  And the kids are anxious too; they’ve been staring longingly at the trailer since December. I love pulling into a campground, setting the kids loose, unpacking the chairs and sitting down to take it all in. I love crisp sunny mornings when I can sit outside in the sun with my coffee & Bailey’s and just breathe without thinking about traffic, school, work, laundry or any multitude of mundane things.

lee and billy readingI was introduced to camping later than most people. As with many immigrant families, we didn’t camp when I was a growing up, so I didn’t try it until I took Outdoor Education in Grade 8. My class did the Alberta Hunter Education program and we went to Camp Caroline where we hiked in our gear, slept in lean-to’s that we built, got to shoot a rifle (I sincerely doubt they’d let kids do that these days!), learned how to identify animal tracks and (theoretically) how to survive in the woods. We had such a great time running around, joking around by the fire, and enjoying time with our friends; I was smitten.

My husband also likes camping, but we were not able to go tenting often when we were younger because he worked construction to pay for school. Road construction in Calgary means 80 hour work weeks from May to September. Not much opportunity to go camping when your only time off is between 8 pm Saturday night and 6 am Monday morning!!

We started trailer camping about 6 years ago when my in-laws bought one and were generous in lending it to us. It was great; we’d put the baby to sleep in the bedroom, and then move her to the living area when we went to sleep. But as she got older and was later joined by her brother, it became a pain to move both of them and their bedding around the trailer.

kids sleeping in trailer

So after much discussion we bought our own second hand bunk bed unit two years ago. While it was a big expense for our family we feel it’s worth every penny! (Are you thinking of getting a tent trailer or hard sided RV?  A great resource is www.gorving.ca and going to an RV Expo is always fun) We now comfortably enjoy time outside in new places, beautiful scenery, lots of fun and most of all, uninterrupted time together. That’s priceless.

Camping is not for everyone. It involves lots of planning, packing, you still have to cook and there’s no dishwasher.  Kids need to be watched, bugs bite, the weather can turn, tempers may flare and someone always forgets something important. But with some organization and a sense of humor, camping can be a very satisfying adventure for your family.

I humbly offer a few random suggestions/tips for camping with kids.

  • Make a master list of everything you need to take with you, i.e. toiletries, gear, toys, clothing etc. Update and reuse this list every time you go out. Create a separate list for packing food once you determine the number of meals you will be having and plan the menus. I am a control freak with a short memory, so this works well for me…
  • Forget about set bed/nap times and let the kids go to bed when they’re tired. I used to struggle with this because all I wanted was for them to go to sleep so I could unwind but I’d get so tense and crabby about them resisting it that my husband and I would end up fighting over my inability to let it go. Think about it: they’re out of their environment, excited as heck and want to be in on the action. Let them. If they play until 10 pm and fall asleep in your arms by the fire, is that really the end of the world? My friend Carol’s rule for camping is the kids have to BEG to go to bed and I’ve tried to adopt that philosophy.

around the campfire

  • Having said that, prepare for the inevitable toll of sleep loss. Compensate, if possible, by laying down with the kids to induce napping, or taking them for a car nap if they are totally out of control. Bottom line; go with the flow.
  • If you plan on camping a lot during the season, buy smaller containers of condiments, i.e. jam, ketchup, mustard, etc, that are compact for the cooler or RV fridge and can be easily stored at the back of the fridge at home. It’s easier than carting the large containers around especially since space and weight are always a consideration when camping.
  • Along the same lines, get smaller containers of toiletries; items like shampoo, soap, toothbrushes/toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen and bug spray. These are easy to leave in a bin or the bathroom and it’s nice not to worry about forgetting these small, but essential-in-an-enclosed-space type items… Again, it’s easier than lugging these items back and forth, and it simply saves time having dedicated items for camping.
  • Pack the bad clothing for children. We all have a box or bag of clothes that the kids have stained or ripped; put it in the trailer/camping bin. I always pack the schleppy clothes for the kids because they inevitable spend their time in dirt, mud, water, bushes, grass and heaven knows what else and will otherwise totally ruin ‘good’ clothes. No one in the campground cares if there is a button missing or a hole in the sleeve. If you will be venturing into civilization, pack nice stuff for those outings.

muddy kids

  • Speaking of clothes, bring lots of layers! You cannot count on the weather report, ESPECIALLY in Alberta! You can go from minus 1 to 27 degrees to a monsoon and back again in the same day. Planning for it all means everyone will be comfortable.

Have fun! Camping is lovely! Enjoy piney air, amazing views, wildlife, crackling fires, a few sociables, and most of all, each other!

voula and helen at the fire