Well, it’s Thursday again so I have a fun new article for you this week! I’ve taken the previous couple weeks to get really raw about my life but today I’m feeling more of a lighter read. So if you enjoy that kind of content you are in luck. As everyone read in my newsletter or in my article last week, I went on vacation. Well, kind of a vacation, because everything is closed down and the status of our country is very unsure right now we decided to take our little toddler camping. Boy oh boy was that a trip! I fully expected it not to be easy but I think I may have underestimated how hard it actually was going to be.
We made so many memories the four days we were gone it was worth the trip for sure, but we both agreed that camping is out of the question until she gets a few years older. So this week I want to try and help you take a little one camping. Let’s talk about what worked for us and what we wish we would have done differently! Learn from my experiences and hopefully this will make your trip with littles a little easier.
Pick Your Campsite Carefully
Let me start off by saying all the things I absolutly loved about our campsite/campgrounds. First off, we were surrounded by trees so our entire site was in the shade for the most part, not only that but we were super closed to the bathrooms and the whole “lot” if you will was on pretty level ground. There were minimal bugs and the sites were set up in such a way that it made making friends easy! We actually hit it off really well with a couple which was super exciting for me because who doesn’t love new friends, right?
So essentially, the place itself was absolutely phenomenal but if I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t picked it out. Mainly, because it was a 2.5 hour car ride to get there. If you have ever met Juniper, my daughter, than you already know how busy she is, and most of the time busy kids do not like their carseats. Honestly though, she doesn’t mind being in her carseat at all. I have a feeling that it’s because she was stuck inside most of March and April, and she’s just excited to leave the house, but that’s besides the point. She does fantastic on road trips but just to be sure we had a smooth ride down, we decided to leave right at her nap time hoping she would just sleep the great majority of the ride.
Spoiler Alert: she didn’t. Actually she woke up about half way through the car ride and just screamed the rest of the way, and who can really blame her? I don’t like long car rides and I’m not the one who is strapped down in a seat.
So when you’re trying to decide on a place to camp, make sure you note how long of a drive it is. Then decide whether you’re comfortable with that or not, because I probably won’t go camping there again for awhile even though everything else was amazing.
Now what if you have the perfect spot in mind and you really want to go to that place? No problem! Just be prepare. Be prepared, however that looks like for you, because I was not. Like I said I assumed that she would just sleep the entire way there because to her, a 2.5 hour nap is easily accomplished but apparently it was too much to ask for in the car.
When she woke up we pulled off to use the restroom and get fuel but coquincedently she wanted snack at the same time. “Mallory, aren’t you a stay at home mom and know when she should be wanting snack?” Yes kind stranger, you are not wrong. I should have known that she would have wanted a snack but I was not prepared for it.
No problem right? Just pull out one of the snacks I packed and a sippy cup right? NOPE. I packed her sippy cup and not just in her diaper bag. I full on packed it up in a tote, in the bed of the pick up truck. My mistake. So halfway to the destination, at a sketchy looking gas station, in a place I don’t know, we pulled off and pretty much had to unload everything to find her a cup.
Once we found it we reloaded and trucked on down the road heading towards our gorgeous campsite. She was very content with her little snack for about another 15 minutes. Then she was not. She cried. She screamed. She was NOT happy, and this is about when I instantly regretted not bringing the old IPad.
I know some people are going to disagree with me and honestly before I had a kid I would have been the “some people” but now and again a screen is a life saver. Do you have a teething baby and just want to go to the bathroom by yourself for the first time in days? Screen. Did your child’s classroom at church get closed as a precaution taken during the COVID pandemic and you so badly want to pay attention to service? Screen. Are you going on a 2+ hour car ride and you don’t want to listen to your toddler scream the whole time? Screen. Problem solved. Don’t get me wrong screens should be used with a whole lot of moderation but when you need them, they are a lifesaver.
So be prepare. However that looks for you. Pack all the snacks AND sippy cups, grab the screens, or their favorite CD’s or toys or whatever they like. Be prepared that they are going to need things, even if you’re going to plan it to fall during their nap time. Be prepared for that don’t go according to plan sometimes.
Normal Expectations Are Trash
This one sounds bad but it’s so important. Juniper has a pretty tight schedule at home. Like I’ve said previously, I stay home with her and because of that, it’s easy for me to be that structured with her. Jordan and I both knew going into camping that structure was out the window. I didn’t know what to expect and I had no expectation of anything, because their were so many unknowns. Would she take naps? Would she go to sleep in a tent at all? Would we be able to make her sleep before we were ready? What time would she wake up without her blackout curtains preventing light shining through? There were so many questions that swirled around, and mainly about what our sleep was going to look like.
As mentioned above, you have to be prepared to the best of your ability so when we started planning this adventure, I made it my personal mission to make sleeping as easy as possible for her. I bought an extra insert for her pack n play so it felt more like her crib mattress. I bought an app that played a noise super similar to her sound machine at home. We kept her bedtime ritual as close to normal as possible. Lastly, we got rid of any expectations we would normally have for her.
Normally she goes to bed at 7pm on the dot, every night and wakes up at 7am every morning, with a 11:30ish nap time thrown in there. I knew that wasn’t going to be our reality this trip, so we just paid attention to her and looked for que’s that she was getting tired. That way when we put her to bed she wouldn’t want to fight sleeping.
Naps were a little trickier, but I knew we couldn’t do without them. This is when I wish my husband didn’t edit my articles because he’s going to STRONGLY disapprove of what I’m about to admit to… I gave her a paci every single nap we were there. Every. Single. One. She’s been completely off of a paci for about three months prior, but I knew she was going to struggle taking naps, and if we were going to be doing all these fun activities she was going to need all the rest she could get. I wasn’t going to deal with no cranky baby, especially when I could just stick a paci in her mouth and call it good. If you’re worried if I caused a “relapse” don’t worry I did not. She’s a really go with the flow kid. No harm no foul.
Don’t forget that you know your babies the best so try to orchestrate an experiences that will make it as easy as possible to sleep and then just throw any expectations away. By removing expectations your are removing opportunities to get frustrated and leave more room to enjoy your adventure.
I mean it! I went into packing with the mindset of “we’re going on vacation!” No. You are going on a trip where you are going to spend the majority of the time outside getting dirty. Which is a good thing! We always tell our daughter that “dirty” and “messes” equal fun, because you can always wash clothes and memories last a lifetime.
Anyways so when it came to packing I packed like we were going on a normal vacation. So of course I packed all the things I and our daughter would be cutest in, and of course I would need a few extra outfits just incase I wasn’t “feeling it” that day! Nope, big mistake. She literally just ran around in a onesie the entire time because it was way too hot for pants, and I in a swimsuit top or sports bra and shorts the whole time. I packed WAY too much clothes for us to just end up wearing that the entire time.
Even getting away from clothes for a minute, we brought so many toys to keep her busy, but honest to God I think she played with one toy the entire time. THE ENTIRE TIME. We brought fishing gear we didn’t need to bring because I didn’t end up fishing and Jordan only went for like an hour. SO. MANY. BLANKETS. Were brought too and I don’t even know why. Jordan said we would need them but it was like in the 90’s the our entire stay. We were waking up soaked in sweat, blankets were definitely not needed. I think he’s crazy for wanting to bring so many, but I digress.
So remember, when you’re packing, only pack the essentials. Pack light and if you forget something, it’s not the end of the world. There is likely a store nearby where you can pick up what you need.
Just Eat Cold Meals
Again when planning this trip we had the mindset of “Hey we’re on vacation, so we’re going to eat like it” and like I said before that was a mistake. We were not on vacation, we were on an outside adventure with a very small exhausting human. Since we didn’t have enough forethought to think that way, we ended up planning our meals the way we wanted instead of how practical they would be. Not saying our meals couldn’t be made, but they were super inconvenient with a curious toddler running around.
Going back I wish we would have packed completely cold meals that require no cooking and more importantly no fire. Boy oh boy, was it exhausting trying to make sure Juniper was safe around the fire. My daughter is a very curious borderline nosy girl, but she’s also a very good listener. So the first day we struggled a little bit with her wanting to look in the fire pit and touch the fire but then the subsequent days we just had trouble with her not having situational awareness. Which, duh she’s 15 months of course she’s not aware of her surroundings, but it just made it absolutely exhausting trying to keep track of her around the fire.
So if I ever took a toddler camping anytime again I would definitely want to stick to cold meals and only lighting a fire after she went to bed if at all.
These are a few thing that I hope help you if you decide to take your little ones on a stay outdoors. If anyone has any other useful information send it my way, and if I inspired you to try a fun outdoor adventure we your kiddos shoot me a message. I’d love to hear about your fun camping experiences with your littles!
Overall we had a fun filled four days with lots of swimming, messes, and s’mores (at least for mom and dad). We learned a lot over the time we were away but I think the greatest take away would have to be: enjoy the ones you love the most and don’t take for what you have for granted.
If you are wondering whether she ate that whole piece of watermelon or not, I will put your mind at ease… Yes, yes she did eat that whole piece of watermelon, and yes she did in fact ask for more. What can I say? The girl LOVES her some fruit. Oh also, I don’t even know why they decided to eat potatoes straight from the pan either. They were pretty cute doing so, but I ate mine from my plate like a normal human lol