My husband and I recently took our four children (all aged ten and under) camping at the beach for the first time. It was, shall we say, not the optimum trip—imagine sweltering temperatures, mutant mosquitoes that bit through clothes, and bathrooms that may not have been cleaned this year, let alone the weekend of our stay. I came away a bit traumatized, but thoughtful regarding the things that could have made our trip more enjoyable. I pen them here for your reading enjoyment and, hopefully, to make your own camping trip, wherever it may be, a bit smoother.
1. Pick the timing of your camping trip wisely. We went camping in a southern part of South Carolina in early August. In retrospect, the outcome of our trip could have been much more pleasant had we experienced cooler temperatures. Instead, we baked inside our “tent oven” each night while trying to achieve some semblance of sleep.
2. Thoroughly research your campground and, more specifically, even your campsite choice. When we booked a campsite for our two-night stay, we were under the impression that each campsite provided the same amenities: water and electricity. We were wrong. When we pulled up to our campsite and began to unload our mountain of supplies, we searched diligently for the electric box, only to discover that our campsite was a “primitive” campsite—no electricity at all. This would not have been a huge deal, except for the fact that we had planned many of our meals around the ability to use an electric griddle. We also packed a fan for heat relief, which we were not able to use in the least.
3. Select your camping paraphernalia with convenience in mind. I am not a big fan of traveling with everything plus the kitchen sink, but there are certain items that can either make or break a camping trip. Things such as bug repellant to divert the mutant mosquitoes mentioned above, flashlights and batteries for midnight trips to the bathroom, trash bags for carting garbage to the waste disposal site, and cleaning wipes for when our son got sick and threw up in our tent (true story!) all kept us from completely losing our sanity. Think of things that you absolutely could not do without, and make sure to pack those things. Even if they stay in the car and never get used, it will be well worth the effort to take them in case of emergency.
4. Plan for the unexpected. This is a must when camping. There are so many variables with a camping trip, and many of them, such as weather, cannot be controlled. But you can greatly increase the enjoyment of your stay by preparing as much as possible for unexpected situations. In our case, as I mentioned above, the bathrooms were definitely below acceptable. I expected the camping bathrooms to be on the same level as the bathrooms at our neighborhood pool: wet, to be sure…but clean. They were not. At all. In retrospect, I should have brought some pre-moistened baby wipes for the kids to use in lieu of them taking showers during our two-day trip.
5. Don’t forget your sense of humor. This is critical: I cannot tell you how many times my husband looked at me during our camping weekend, and we just shook our heads and laughed. He asked me before we left what my hopes and expectations were for this family vacation, and I replied that I hoped we would come away from the weekend with some fun memories. We did indeed, in spite of all the challenges, and I hope this list will help make your camping trip—maybe your first one—a success that is full of beautiful memories that will last a lifetime!