Camping with Toddlers- Tips & Tricks

Contributing Writer: Virginia Davidson

We went twice to the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan – one night at a time. They were mini – training nights for both kids and parents. Here are a few things I learned while camping with my little ones. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but some things I will be sure to do again. (The pics are from both trips, so don’t be confused.)
this is actually Muskegon Lake that connects to Lake Michigan. This was right across the drive from our site.
Coffee – don’t forget the coffee. We forgot it the first time. Never again. End of story. Next time we had the Jetboil Coffee Press

2 tents – 1 for play and 1 for sleep. We threw a bucket of easily washable toys with a few board books in the tent. It kept them from sitting in the dirt and playing. They think it’s so cool they get their own spot. It was really nice when preparing meals. I knew where they were and they weren’t getting into trouble. The sleeping tent was only for changing and sleeping. I can’t tell you how much I like sleeping without sand at my face. 
Bug Spray & Sunscreen – It seems obvious, but we gotta protect our little ones.
Anti-Bacterial Wipes – the liquid is nice, but not for camping. Who wants to eat with muddy hands?
Keep your nap/sleep schedule as close to the same as possible. If not, just carve out 2 days of craziness when you get back. Did that. Won’t do it again. It’s too easy to say “well, it’s just 1 day, we’re on vacation.” Not worth it for you or them.
We didn’t have to do the bath/shower thing, but our “neighbors” did outdoor sponge baths with their toddlers at their site. That would probably be more my style. Have I told you how much I hate public bathrooms? I did bring the soaped up wash cloths by Johnson and Johnson. They are disposable, dry and pretty sturdy for a quick washing.

Bikes – bring bikes and a kid carrier. We threw them in when they wouldn’t fall asleep for their afternoon nap. A short ride around the park and they were out. This made trips to the bathroom faster as well.

Kid Carriers –  Deuter Kid Carrier to be exact.
They fit so nicely and the kids love being up high. This allowed us to walk across the sand and on the boardwalk without being in everyone’s way. These hold up and wear much more comfortably for just a bit more $. Totally worth it if you’re looking to buy and you’re active.

Bathing suits, life jackets & swim hats.  Leave the cute stuff at home or for photo ops (you know how fast they get wrecked in the sand/dirt).

The first thing I did when we arrived at the site was walk my toddler around and show her the boundaries of our site. Literally walked them. Not to say that she didn’t test them at points, but she knew what they were.

Eagles Nest Outfitters Hammock  – these are just fun & relaxing. We sat around and watched the boats and people go by. They pack into these tiny pouches and all you need are two trees. We bring them everywhere and have them up in our back yard quite often.

Baby Jumper
Jump and Go We didn’t bring this the 1st time and I wanted 1 more thing for him to entertain himself. It was better for us all to have 1 more dust free “station” for him. You can just hang it up on a tree limb. We set it in the shade and he had a ball.

Organizing Bins
I love bins. These are made by Eagle Creek, but we also had just some Sterilite bins as well. Bins that held food, snacks, beach items, etc. Everything has its place or it turns to chaos.

High Chair
We didn’t bring this the 1st time, but learned quickly that it’s a must have. I attempted to feed him in his stroller, but really it wasn’t much fun for any of us. He’s not the biggest fan of his bumbo either so, we threw this in.
I strapped it down twice to the picnic table so it could slide or flip over in any direction.


Mini quiche that I made at home & stuck in the cooler. We ate those for breakfast (eggs, veggies, cheese, a little biscuit on the bottom).
We brought fresh veggies from the farmer’s market so we didn’t have to use a cooler. We made fresh salsa and brought chips! 
Before we left I also made mini turkey burgers that had veggies, fruits & the baby cereal inside of it. They just need to keep refrigerated, but I froze them kept them in the cooler. They were thawed by the time we needed them.
Snacks – we cheat and do the organic puffs, crackers, fresh fruits, and squeeze pouches of apple sauce.

We also used the Hobo Pie Iron and made some yummy biscuits & cheese. We used the refrigerated dough in the cans and spread it out on the maker, added cheese. (we were lazy) but you can make pizzas or stick in some sandwich turkey, etc. Yummy! I want to try avocado in there next.
MISC.: Bring Non-Stick Spray and Dish Soap and Bin to wash dishes.
Get Creative Forget something? Make do or meet your neighbors. We forgot a cutting board so we used a laminated game rule page.
Do you have any camping tips?
Cheerios and Lattes has compiled a list from the internet of yummy 10 Campfire Desserts !

Design Dining and Diapers has compiled a list of Camping Crafts from the internet for your next camping trip.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your camping gear. I really want to get that hobo gadget for my camping hubby for Father’s day!

  2. Pingback: Camping with Toddlers- Tips & Tricks | Inspired By Family Magazine | Camping Tips

  3. Thank you for all of the awesome tips and gear! They will come in handy for me on my family’s next camping trip. One thing that was really helpful for me a few weeks ago was the Tailgater. It is a small box that connects to the HDTV in my RV and it kept the kids busy watching cartoons while we were making dinner outside. I was planning on watching a bit of ESPN while the kids swam in the lake, but they wore themselves out riding bikes and hiking, so it was relaxing for them and that’s all that matters. I will miss the silence when I return to work at Dish, but I know I’ll have another trip to look forward to this summer with my family!

  4. this is helpful! we are headed to cabins soon (not tents, but rustic–no heat/ac) and I’ll look back at your tips when I’m packing!

  5. I love all these ideas! We are planning on taking our kids camping this year and I love all your ideas to keep them entertained! Thanks

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  7. Loving these pictures, yes we used to go camping with our pack and play:) Our kiddos grew up in a tent! Thank you for sharing these great ideas at Freedom Fridays. Have a super terrific week!

    • Thank you! I know it’s hard when I think the $ per wipe, but we’re on vacation and my sanity is worth the $5 😉

      Sent from my iPhone

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  11. Thanks for all the great tips! I love the border that your set for your toddler. I’ll have to try that next time. What age did that start working? My son is 1.5 yrs and I’m pretty sure he won’t mind a piece of flaggin:)

  12. I love your site. Grandma here. We did a LOT of camping over the years. One of my friends took their baby with them and used an inflatable boat as a crib. My husband bought clear plastic sheeting (from hardware store) with us always. First time we went camping it rained the whole week. He went to the hardware store and picked up the sheeting and tied it with thin rope to the trees and over the tents and picnic table and made clear tarps. You could walk from tents to table w/o getting wet. Gave the kids a place to play and the tents didn’t get wet and muddy. Have fun. Camping made vacations for 5 affordable over the years.