Big River Campground in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest is probably an overlooked campground and I can see why it might be. Our family tends to be spur of the moment road-trippers so we rarely make camping reservations, yet we are able to camp ALL the time. We find places like Big River Campground and which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Now let's get this straight off the bat: I love camping and I actively encourage families to camp but getting used to camping as a family takes a little work and effort. My kids love so much camping that even when we are day hiking they ask to set up their tent so we can camp. Just like everything else in life, family camping requires effort and frequent practice, with lots of my own practice I have found a few "truths" about family camping.
Truth #1: Parents are TIRED and Children are Refreshed
Per the photographic evidence, I have major bags under my eyes; parents usually wake up tired and the children wake up ready to take on the day. Sleep is a struggle for many families when they take the bold leap to go camping for the first time. My first experience camping as a family was awful but a few adjustments here and there made for better sleep.
My family co-sleeps, so our children feel right at "home" when we are all sleeping in a tent but my husband and I wake up exhausted from our children waking us up for WHATEVER (cold, hot, thirst, etc) reason throughout the night. Even though my kids wake up multiple times a night they still seem refreshed in the morning and yet I am not.
Tip: Try to recreate the same home sleep environment and have the kids practice sleeping in their sleeping bags at home! Also including hiking into camping trips helps the kids sleep.
Truth #2: Everything Gets DIRTY!
Cleanliness kind of goes out the window when you are camping, except for food preparation and bathroom policies. When I became a mom I swear I could see the germs crawling on my pristine baby boy, but camping really helped me get over it. I realized the dirt on my children hands, face and sometimes in their mouth was just going to happen. Remember dirt can always wash off, after you get home!
Tips: Empty a camping box aka plastic storage bin and use it as a small bath tub if the kids get too dirty. Baby wipes are also your friend.
Truth #3: Expect and Plan for Sickness
There's nothing worse than being outdoors and not being prepared for someone getting sick. I have been on few trips where someone was sick and our entire camping trip had to be changed. On our first camping trip as a family of four, my son and I came down with a cold on the car ride to our camping location. Even though we were sick we still managed to have one of our most memorable camping trips. Thankfully we had packed medication just in case.
On another occasion I came down with altitude sickness and we couldn't do anything except go to a lower elevation and completely change our plans. If you are wondering about the picture above, I was having and allergic reaction to exercise, no joke.
Tip: Be flexible! If someone in your family gets sick make sure you have alternate plans like camp games so the rest of the family can still enjoy camping while others can recuperate. Research where the nearest hospital or urgent care in case a real emergency occurs.
Truth #4: Forgetting Something Essential
Something will always be forgotten! From a bedtime stuffed animal, baby wipes, salt & pepper to even sleeping bags something is always left behind. It's always better to bring less when camping, so what has help me reduce the forgetting essential items is having pre-packaged "camping boxes" with everything I know I will need. Then all I really need to worry about is bringing clothes, food and my children's "essentials" such as stuffed animals and special items.
Tip: Truly assess what is really "essential" a few days before to reduce last minute car packing panic! Does your child really need all those toys while camping?
Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...
Family camping is fun and worth the tiredness...trust me it does get easier when camping with little ones. In the beginning my kids would not sleep in their sleeping bag and now they love it! We recently spent a week camping and all our "camping practice" had paid off because it was truly relaxing and restful for my family. The truth is family camping just needs practice to work out the bumps to make it truly a great family experience!
Do you have any family camping "truths" that you have experienced?