6 Keys to a successful camping trip with a 2-year old
My wife and I live in Oregon with our 2-year-old daughter. People in Oregon camp. It’s what we do. And while I’ve been camping plenty of times as a kid and adult, I’d never been camping as a parent until recently. I beg of you, fellow parents, learn from me, a parent who’s now “been there, done that” and lived to tell the tale.
1/Pray that at least one parent is a planner
My wife has a movie producer's mentality. She spent hours upon hours googling and reading reviews and going to message boards to research camping gear, campgrounds, and meal planning. She made the reservations and the lists. If you have a person in your family who's organized and likes doing these sorts of things, let them and try not to get in their way.
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2/Do an overnight test run
A few weeks before our week-long adventure, we did a quick overnight trip to a campground close to our town to test all our new gear and to see if we could pack everything that we'd need in our Subaru Forester plus cargo box. We also wanted to see how our 2-year old would handle the whole idea of camping before we drove 450 miles from home. Fortunately, she loved it! And we discovered a few things that needed replacing before the big trip, namely a leaky air mattress and a way-too-small cooler.
3/Take a huge tent
Ok, there’s only three people in our family, but we took a 9-person tent. Seriously. It was 14 feet x 9 feet and worth every square inch! I‘m 6’ 2'' and having a tent that I could stand up in was pretty amazing. Plus with a kid, you're going to be spending time in your tent changing diapers, getting her dressed, and getting yourself dressed while she plays. You're going to have blankets and bags and clothes and diapers and shoes and books. So having lots of room in your tent is key to staying sane. Some people may give you crap about your tent being a “palace,” but who cares? What do you have to prove? You're not doing some sort of extreme survivalist camping, where you're hiking in several miles up a rugged mountain with your light-as-a-feather, 2-person tent. You're camping with a toddler next to bathrooms with full plumbing and hopefully, showers! Give in to comfort.
4/Camp next to bathrooms with full plumbing & showers
Make sure you can use a real flushing toilet and take a shower while you're camping. Again, what do you have to prove? You're going to be too exhausted chasing your toddler for five days to also have the mental energy to deal with vault toilets.
5/Book a cool campground near cool stuff
We camped in the Burlington Campground in the Avenue of the Giants at Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California. The campground itself is beautiful and has one of the biggest Redwood trees that we saw on the whole trip. There also were hollowed-out Redwood stumps and downed trees for my daughter to discover. We explored the visitor center and the many trails within walking distance of our campsite. We found even better walks and bigger Redwoods within just a 10-minute drive and well within a toddler’s attention span.
6/Bring a tablet, just in case
It’s possible that parent-free distraction could be accomplished with a favorite toy, book or coloring book, but we took a tablet, just in case. It’s your call, but we decided to use the power of electronics for good. With help from Elmo, the tablet gave us 20 minutes of peace to cook, clean up or simply use the bathroom alone!
Writer Nate Baker lives in Oregon City, Oregon, with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. After having a kid, Nate and his wife figured that they should stop watching so much TV and start making some childhood memories for their daughter!
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