Camping with Kids – 30+ Tips for a Stress-Free Camping Trip

Written by: Karyn James

Think camping is just for adults? Think again! If you have kids, camping with kids can actually be a lot of fun. There are a lot of camping experiences that your kids will love – camping in the backyard, camping at a festival, camping on the beach, etc.

If camping isn’t an activity that you regularly do or even think about doing then take some time to consider camping with your family this summer. Your kids will thank you!

Camping with kids can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these tips for camping with your kids for a stress-free family camping trip! You’ll enjoy some time away from home and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Why You Should Try Camping with Your Kids

Camping is a great experience for the whole family. It gives children an opportunity to be more independent by camping out in the wild or camping near home. For adults, camping gives us a chance to rest, relax and recharge without pressure while enjoying outdoor activities with our kiddos.

Camping can benefit both you and your kids since it helps strengthen the bond you have as a family while giving your kids early exposure to nature. Children are able to learn independence, experience nature firsthand, and develop their self-confidence while camping as a family and away from civilization.

Camping provides exposure to fresh air, and sunshine and it also benefits children’s fitness by allowing them to partake in outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and swimming. Camping also helps kids appreciate nature and be more appreciative of the basics – food, water, and shelter.

A camping trip with kids can go a long way in teaching them about traditional camping skills, such as cooking over fires and pitching tents on camping sites. They will understand what it means for this generation as well as future generations to conserve resources such as woodlands, wild animals, and natural beauty spots so they too can enjoy camping experiences for many years to come.

What is a Good Age to Take a Child Camping?

Kids of all ages can enjoy camping but children aged 5 or older are able to appreciate it even more because they can participate in most camping excursions and activities. 

In saying this, you can take children camping as young as three years of age, but you need to know they will not be able to help with pitching tents or camping out in the wild where there are no amenities or services nearby.

It’s more of a supervision issue than anything else. There are camping activities that younger children can do but if you want to be able to relax, you need to make sure you’re on a safe campsite, away from any hazards. 

How Many Days Should you Camp With Kids?

This is a common question that many people with young children ask when planning a family camping trip. 

The first time we took our kids camping, we did an overnighter at a campground near our house. We were a bit more relaxed knowing we were not too far from home if anything went wrong. In the end, it worked out just fine. Plus, the girls absolutely loved it and that gave us the confidence to go for longer trips afterward.

So there really isn’t one answer that will fit every family, however, there are some guidelines you can use to help determine how many days of camping your family should plan on. 

The first thing you need to understand is that the first time being in a tent can take some adjusting for children. Camping often takes place in the woods and not all children are used to this.

Some people will recommend that families plan on staying in the woods for at least five days or more, but I’d say two to three days is enough time for everyone to warm up to their surroundings. It also allows you to adjust if your kiddos happen to become sick of being outside.

How Do You Camp With Kids Safely?

Camping with children is a fun way to get away from home for a few days but it’s important to take some basic camping safety precautions so camping can be safe and fun for you and your kids.

Find out what the camping rules are and set ground rules

Before camping with your family, you should know about camping rules at the time of arrival.

Tell your kids not to wander off without telling adults where they’re going because this is important during camping trips more than any other time since it’s easy for children to get lost in the woods.

Consider camping in a large outdoor space where your kids can roam safely if they get lost. A good start would be to pick a campsite that is gated. 

Set ground rules about where your children can roam before heading to the campsite. If camping near home, make sure they understand not to wander beyond their boundaries without supervision or your permission.

Discuss camping rules about using matches, starting fires, and cooking over campfires before you go on a camping trip especially if it’s their first time camping with you -this will help set boundaries early on.

Pack Emergency Supplies

Give each child a whistle and teach them how to use it when separated from your group during camping trips. Instruct kids to blow the whistle if they need rescuing.

Bring a first aid kit, camping supplies, and other camping equipment such as matches, flashlights, as well as camping tools. Prepare an emergency camping kit for your children to carry with them in case of emergencies. 

Ensure your camping trip is safe by packing all required camping equipment so you can enjoy your time together while camping without worrying about what’s left behind at home or running out of first aid material. 

You should bring a camping first aid kit that contains antiseptic wipes, bandages, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, bug/tick spray, and basic medication like ibuprofen just in case someone gets injured during your camping trip.

Bring along cellphones with chargers since service may vary depending on your camping location.

Where To Go The First Time When Camping With Kids

Choosing the right camping location is essential when camping with kids to make sure all goes well. It’s important to know what camping equipment you need depending on where you’re camping, what the weather will be like during your trip, etc. 

Camping in your backyard

To camp, you don’t have to pitch a tent in the woods or camp out on a campground. You can camp right at home, even if it’s just your backyard.

Before camping outside for the first time, you should check to make sure your camping equipment and camping gear are at home so you can set up a camping area right in your backyard.  

Try camping out indoors yourself first before taking your children camping for the first time. This way they will know what to expect because after all camping is meant to be an “adventure.”

– Camping inside your house

The idea of camping in your backyard doesn’t have to be limited to camping outside. You can also bring camping gear inside and pitch a tent right in the living room or even the basement, depending on the space you have.  

Camping with kids inside your home is a great way to get used to camping before going for something bigger and better. It’s also a good idea to have a test run at least once or twice before taking them camping in the woods. 

Having a camping experience in your own backyard or inside your house will help prepare you for camping in the wild when comes time for your family camping adventure!

camping at home

– Camping near your home

If you choose to camp nearby, consider camping at the local park down the street that is gated so your children have boundaries when camping among other families.

If it’s an open field surrounded by trees in your area, choose this spot intentionally so your kids can roam safely while learning about camping and its rules before venturing too far into the woods.

Family-Friendly Campgrounds

Make sure to look into campgrounds before planning your trip. Camping facilities may vary depending on where you go. Some campgrounds only offer very basic facilities like bathrooms and parking spaces while others offer more luxury like showers, grills, and even swimming pools.

All over the country, there are several popular types of family-friendly campgrounds to choose from. Whether you’re looking for lakeside camping, beachfront camping, or off-the-grid locations; you can find it all!

Private campgrounds

We recommend that you choose this kind of campground if you’re new to family camping. A private campground is one that has set fees for overnight camping. These campgrounds are usually quite safe with some offering gated areas and security check-ins.

Private campgrounds provide amenities such as showers and bathrooms, not available at public campgrounds. There are also often plenty of fun things to do for kids such as games rooms, parks, and swimming pools! But bear in mind that these places tend to book out months in advance though so you need to plan ahead to secure a spot.

State Parks and National parks

Some national parks allow you to stay in designated areas overnight for free; others charge fees for use of their campsites. State-run sites are often open to visitors who wish to camp for a long period of time (up to several months). A few require fees, but most don’t!

The facilities vary from one campground to the other with some that don’t have power or running water and are only suitable for tent camping. Others can accommodate tents as well as RVs with water and electrical hookups. You can visit the website to get more details.

Dispersed/Free camping sites

These run on a first come first serve basis. You can find some non-designated camping in some areas for short periods of time. Generally, you are expected to keep your campsite clean and not bother others with loud noises such as generators.

Here are some useful links for places to go!

Family Camping in the USA & Canada

Family Camping in the UK

Family Camping in Australia & New Zealand

large campsite for family camping

Choosing The Right Campsite When Camping With Kids

One of the most important decisions in camping with kids is where to pick your campsite. There are many things you need to take into account when choosing a campsite, including these three factors:

  • Safety
  • Privacy
  • Nature

1. Choose A Campsite That Is Safe To Visit With Kids

The safest campsites are those that have roads on three sides and the ocean or lake on the fourth side. These sites mean that there will be less wildlife wandering around them, which is good for kids. 

Another advantage of choosing this type of site is that if it’s raining or storming, your vehicle can act as shelter while you wait it out.

 On the other hand, when you’re looking for a campsite that is safe to visit with kids, remember that you might want to choose somewhere with less cover. 

The reason for this is because if the weather changes suddenly, there will be more risk of flash flooding or dangerous winds knocking things over or damaging nearby trees. 

2. Choose A Campsite That Provides Privacy

If you’re camping with kids or teenagers and you don’t want them to feel like they’re missing out on the joys of camping by being forced to hang out with you all day, then it’s important that you choose your campsites carefully. 

Pick a large enough campsite that can accommodate more than one tent so that older kids feel they have their own private area.

Try not to pitch your tent near large groups of people either – pick something secluded instead if you can. 

You could even consider pitching up in an unpowered campsite that is exclusively for tents. This would rule out all the RV campers and noise coming from air conditioners or TVs.

3. Choosing a safe campsite around wildlife

Planning a family camping trip can be fun, but you do have to take some safety precautions. It’s especially important when traveling with children who might not understand how wildlife can be dangerous.

Avoid setting up camp near bear territory

First of all, ensure that your campsite is in an appropriate place. You do not want to pitch up near bear or big cat territory. Before you even go to sleep, remove all food from your tent and store it in a bear-proof container or inside of your car.

However, don’t feel discouraged from going camping with kids in bear country. If you take certain precautions, you can make sure to stay safe if a bear does show up. 

You should always cook well away from the tent and keep any food stored in a bear-proof container. It is also important to make loud noises when walking around your campsite so that bears do not sneak up on you. We recommend you have a good ol’ can of bear spray on hand, just in case…

– Be mindful of other types of animals in the area

In addition to bears, there are other types of wild animals that could be a danger while camping with children. It’s important to know what type of snake or insect will be native to your camping destination. You do not want any of them crawling or slithering into your tent while you are sleeping (my worst nightmare!).

Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure that you know what kind of animals live in the area or country you are visiting before you ever set out on your trip.

Although being attuned to wildlife could be difficult for children, it’s important you teach them about which animals they should and should not be around. This will make it easier for everyone to stay safe in case a dangerous animal crosses your path while camping.

If you remember these few simple rules, you can enjoy your next camping trip with children without worrying too much about staying safe from wildlife!

I took this photo of our daughter during one of our camping trips in Australia. Seeing Kangaroos at campgrounds is not uncommon, especially in National Parks but as you can see, they are quite friendly.

Family camping trip in australia

16 Things You Need When Camping With Kids

1. A tent big enough for all of you to sleep comfortably – or two tents if you want older kids (or yourself) to have some privacy.

2. Sleeping bags – and please bring a comfy pillow too. Camping doesn’t mean you have to rough it and wake with a sore neck.

3. Cooler filled with water and juices (and some cheeky beers) – you need to keep the whole fam hydrated!

4. Backpack with their favorite toys – Let them be in charge of their own backpack and choose what they want to bring.

5. Plastic Containers – Waterproof containers are essential to take along since you can use them to keep snacks fresh or even as portable toilets for toddlers not yet able to go outside at night by themselves. 

6. A can opener – don’t leave home without it!

7. A Swiss Army Knife – those blades come in very handy when you need them, but they’re also great as toys and will keep kids entertained for hours! Plus buy some spare blades and wrap each one up in a bit of cloth.

8. Toilet paper – although you can use leaves too…

9. Duct tape – you don’t know you need this until you do!

10. Good maps and directions (you can often get them at the campground) – explore the surroundings on foot before going anywhere near your car – it’s amazing what kids will do if they think they can get away with it and won’t be seen by you! 

They’ll want to explore and experience nature without any interference from adults (if at all possible). But always stay within shouting distance as those wild animals may not show themselves just yet but they’re still watching…

11. A first aid kit – Hopefully you don’t have to use it too often but you have to be prepared for anything with kids! In case any emergency happens (even if it’s 3 am and everyone else is sleeping), you will be prepared.

12. A few strong washing line pegs – these come in so handy to hang wet towels, dish towels, and the little clothes you might have to wash during your trip.

13. Something to cook on – something small and easy to set up like a propane campfire or a portable gas grill like a Weber. We’ve been using ours for decades now and it has never let us down.

14. Plenty of snacks and some tasty food for cooking over the fire  – nothing worse than not being able to eat what’s on offer, so take some of your own delicious treats along and don’t forget what you need for S’mores!

15. Warm clothes – even if the sun is shining now, it won’t be later on when dusk sets in so put those warm sweaters on or you’ll regret it – we’ve been there and it’s not fun! It can also be worth investing in an electric blanket, they are great to warm up the kids’ beds.

16. Lots and lots of camping entertainment – Card games, bikes, scooters, music, cameras, coloring books… The more the better! 


5 Tips to Get Kids Involved When Family Camping

When you head out into the great outdoors with your family it’s likely that your kids will want to help at the campsite. Use these tips for getting things done faster, and making sure everyone gets a task or two.

  1. Let kids make their own tent pegs (they love doing this!)
  2. Get them involved in planning meals
  3. Keep tasks short (don’t overwhelm them – even adults get bored of hard work!)
  4. Let your children pack their own backpacks! They’ll feel like they’re part of the adventure. As an added bonus it means you can look forward to fewer hassles when leaving for your trip.
  5. Don’t be overzealous in your matching of tasks to the kids’ ages – some can do more than their years suggest, while others may have a skill that makes them an expert no matter their age. And have fun! 

folding camping table for family

Meal Planning Tips For Family Camping

Camping with kids can be a fun way to experience nature and bond with family and friends, but it can also be expensive and time-consuming if you don’t plan out your activities and meals beforehand. By following these simple steps you will have a fun and relaxing camping trip!

When meal planning for camping trips, follow these steps:

Buy All Your Food Before You Leave

For each day of the trip figure out what you want to eat, break this down into basic ingredients (meat/chicken/fish; vegetables; carbohydrates such as rice or noodles; sauces such as tomato sauce or soy sauce)

Prepare a list of all the ingredients you will need to buy in order to cook these dishes at home before leaving for your trip.

This method may seem time-consuming but it will save you money by not having to spend on expensive takeout meals every day and it’ll also save you time by eliminating the need to shop around looking for numerous different ingredients every day of your trip.

One-pot Meals

Find recipes that combine all of these ingredients together in one dish (eg. stir fry with meat, rice noodles, and veggies). This will make cooking easier by cutting down on having to prepare multiple dishes separately.

Homemade pre-prepared meals

Cook sauces, soups, and marinate fish or meat in advance, and vacuum pack it. You save so much space and it stays fresh for days!

family camping

Things to Do While Camping with Kids

When you plan your family camping trip, whether it’s just one kid or many children, there are certain things that you should plan before leaving so everything goes smoothly and everyone (including you) enjoys their time outdoors.

If you’re looking for ideas on what can you do when camping with kids, here are some inspiring suggestions:

There are many things to do while camping with kids, as you can imagine. You can play different games such as cards or other board games, go fishing or hiking, tell stories around the campfire, sing songs, roast marshmallows, etc.

You can also go swimming in a nearby river or lake for an hour to cool off after all the hiking and fishing you did that day. You could also play with chalk on rocks or draw on paper using chalk you can purchase from your local camping store. 

Camping stores often sell summer toys like water balloons, inflatables, and paddling pools too!

Waterproof containers are also easy to carry around so kids have their own toys they can play with wherever they are. This way you’re guaranteed to always have something new and fun for them to do even if they get bored of a certain activity you have planned.

You can go exploring with your kids around the campsite or near the area. You could also pack a picnic lunch and take as many adventurous walks as possible before eating! 

Ensuring that you have everything from binoculars to sunscreen in your bag is important so no one gets sunburned or dehydrated on their trip.

6 Tips to Get Kids to Sleep Easily While Family Camping

Having an established bedtime routine when camping is a great way to help children get the most out of their adventure. The benefits of sticking to their usual sleep time routine when away from home are numerous. 

In addition, there are ways to make bedtime easier when you’re in a tent or RV. By following these six steps you and your little one will be sleeping like your baby at home in no time.

1. Stick with what they’re used to

The very first thing you should do is stick with whatever bedtime routine your child has at home. If they usually go potty right before bed, then put on their pajamas right after doing so; if they need three stories before falling asleep, read them all (even if you’re in the tent and it’s dark). If you stray from their usual routine, then they may start getting confused and agitated.

2. Keep Regular Bedtimes

After sticking with their normal routine, it is vital that you keep regular bedtimes while camping–even if they fall earlier than your child would be used to. It might sound difficult, but it’s actually pretty simple when you think about it. 

The best way to do this is to set an alarm for when you want them to go to sleep (use a smartwatch or phone). By setting a goal time like this one, kids will quickly adjust and know when it’s lights out.

3. Swap Darkness for a nightlight

Since it’s usually darker when camping than what your child is used to at home, a simple swap of a nightlight for a flashlight should do the trick. You can even use flashlights in their tent or outside near the campfire so they have something to stare at while falling asleep. This will keep them from being scared while helping them get tired enough to drift off into dreamland.

4. Keep it quiet

Campgrounds are usually quiet during bedtime hours. In order to help lull your children back into slumber mode, pick pre-bedtime activities that take place where there aren’t too many things going on around you (i.e. nature, the campfire). 

You should also consider turning off anything that makes noise (e.g. phones, generators, etc.) after a certain hour so there isn’t too much interference with their rest.

5. Exercise before bedtime

Although it’s usually easy to just cuddle up in sleeping bags and tents, getting exercise an hour before bed can help children sleep better throughout the night since they’ll be more tired. 

Consider some light intensity exercise such as going on a walk around your campsite with your child so they can look at all the scenery around them and feel relaxed enough to go to bed.

6. Eat lighter dinners

Last, but not least, you should try feeding your child lighter dinners than they’re used to at home. Since camping can be quite exhausting due to all the walking and carrying gear around, it’s important that their tummies aren’t too full before bedtime (if anything, just eat a small snack). 

By sticking with easy-to-digest foods like grilled cheese sandwiches or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches early on in the evening, you’ll help make sure they fall right asleep after tucking them into their sleeping bags.

Related: For more tips like these please read our camping tips for beginners guide!

camping with kids

Conclusion: Family Camping

Camping is a great time to have fun, spend time with family and friends, be in nature and enjoy the outdoors. It’s an enjoyable activity that families should try at least once! 

I hope you enjoy your adventures as much as we do! Happy Camping!

If you enjoyed our guide and have any other tips for camping with kids, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. We would be happy to hear what your experience has been camping with your family! 

You can find more of our camping guides here.

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Karyn James

Karyn often went camping and boating as a child with her family where she has learned a lot about wildlife and the environment. Now that she has two very active little kids, she knows that planning is key to a fun and stress-free journey. You can find out more about Karyn here.