One of the dilemmas of having more than a few children is, “How will we afford a vacation?” and “Wow, five plane tickets costs thousands of dollars.”
Tent camping was beyond out of the question for two toddlers and an infant with quite the elaborate bedtime routine (the little sound machine lamb at the exact volume level, wave frequency and perfect position in the crib, for starters). So, what’s a logical family to do?
Buy a camper! What we should have also been able to buy was a user’s manual for surviving camping (even in a fully-equipped travel trailer) with all these little people. Here’s what it would have said:
1. Expect everything to take longer, but realize you have “longer.”
That bedtime routine that usually takes a half hour? Nah. Add to it the noise of having everyone in one “room,” the friends laughing at the campfire while you rock the baby to sleep, and the general excitement of camping, and you get one (or three) non-sleepy yet extremely overtired kid. Small commonalities to our normal routine have made it more bearable: the pack-in-play in the middle of the camper and the little lamb sound machine that made the journey, of course. So while everything may take a bit longer in nature, you also have more time – no meetings, no schedules, no events to get to. It’s okay to succumb to toddler-time tables.
2. Erase all of your Pinterest mental images of camping.
Smores and toddlers oddly don’t mix that well, despite what Pinterest, camping commercials, and memories from your own childhood may say. They are messy, the chocolate is too big, and the toddlers prefer to eat the ingredients each separately anyway. So let them. Pinterest doesn’t work without wifi anyway.
3. Pack about five extra outfits for kids and five fewer for adults.
Because mud. Because rain. Because aforementioned smores attempts. Yet I seemed to be rifling through my bag in frustration in a tiny camper “bedroom” to find the same shorts I’d been wearing for three days anyway. So why did I bring all these other superfluous items? Who knows.
4. Toddler expectations don’t change just because yours did.
Turns out toddlers can’t actually “hike”… They can walk at a normal toddler speed through the “jungle,” crash periodically and need to go back for a bandaid. And a drink. And a snack. And the bathroom. Oh and all of a sudden, they develop a mud-phobia along the way. So that’s cool. The next trip, our potential hike was more like, “Let’s hike to the campground playset five sites down!”
5. It will be seriously worth it.
In spite of numbers 1-4 above, the tech-free, brothers bonding, nature-appreciating-awe of camping is majorly there even with all the work. If you asked my kids to go 48 hours without TV a few months ago, I’d have laughed and said: “I wish.” Now, it doesn’t even seem to cross their minds. Camp on, parents!