I didn't grow up camping. Actually never camped a day in my life until after I was married. Our first camping adventure didn't go so well. I had a 1 year old and a 3.5 year old. It was dusty, it wasn't a very pretty setting. When I heard beach camping, I thought we'd be ON the beach. Nope, it was kind of far from the beach. Needless to say we didn't camp for quite some time after that.
We tried again when Greta was 2 years old, and it was a success! We chose a very pretty, woodsy area to camp in, with flush toilets, hot showers, and not a lot of people near by. In fact, you couldn't even see your neighbor campers. It resembled Yosemite without the long drive. And we've been going back every year since.
I have some tips for those who would like to venture into camping but it's a whole new and scary world to them.
I recommend going in a group, it's always good to camp with friends, and in a group you're bound to have a few experienced campers present. With experience comes the answers to various questions like: where do we put our food at night? where does the trash go? what does poison oak look like? Along with the answers to these questions they will have equipment too that will make your life easier: burners for cooking, camping utensils, a basin for dish washing, etc.
Some of my tips for families who are travelling in a group?
~ divide up the meals. If you are traveling for only 2 days and have 4 meals to account for, give each family a meal to be responsible for for the entire group. It's much easier to cook one big meal than 4 meals just for your family. And the quality will be good because each family only is focusing on just that meal.
~don't sweat the dirt. Just accept the fact that your kid will be dirty. Don't stress about them having to go to bed freshly showered. It'll alleviate your anxiety to know that no kid has ever been harmed going to sleep in a tent dirty. We shower the day we leave for camping and the day we get home. The days in between are purely optional. Especially since we camp near a creek where the kids cool off once, I really don't care that their hair isn't washed. Bring wipies instead to wipe their hands and feet down before bed.
~bring extra socks. Socks are something that we go through a lot camping. You can rewear jeans easily, but something about clean socks make you feel good.
~bring a few fun quiet activities for the kids. Markers and paper. Playdoh. Figurines. Nothing too big and too messy. But in the afternoon when some will want to nap or rest, it's good to have some quiet activities the kids can do on their own. For the most part my kids just want to play with rocks and sticks and explore. But a few organized activities are always welcomed. I love Oriental Trading Post for things like this. This year we brought compass canvas bracelets and fabric markers for all the kids to decorate and it was a fun camping theme type activity to do.
~rainboots. We bring rainboots for Greta and myself every year. And we always end up wearing them multiple times. When you want to just tuck your pants in your shoes and you don't want to care about getting dirty or wet, rainboots are the way to go. Whenever we get ready for bed and their pajamas are on, we slip rainboots on and it helps keep their pants from dragging in the dirt, fire, mud, etc.
~glowsticks are a fun fun thing for kids. When the sun sets and we are finished roasting smores for the night we pull out glowsticks and the kids have a ball. You can't imagine how much the $0.99 pack of glowsticks from the party store will be loved.
~bathing suits. Whether you are camping near a creek, river, or lake or not, bring bathing suits. You'll never know when it's going to be hot and the kids will need to splash around in a big tub or basin of water. It does wonders for littler kids' temperaments too to just play in water.
~first aid kits are a necessity. Tweezers for splinters are a must. Bandaids and neosporin and some type of cleansing wash are important.
~washcloths. When you go to wash your face in the morning and the evening you won't want to lug your big towel with you especially since there really won't be anywhere for you to hang the towel. So throw some wash cloths in your travel bag and use those when you wash your face/brush your teeth.
~safety talks with your kids. When you check in at the ranger station ask the rangers the type of wildlife in the area and have them go over with your kids the best way to avoid bad situations. It always comes with more authority to have someone else give them rules. When we camp we have a no child alone rule, mountain lions and bobcats are in the area and little kids alone are in danger. So kids can never walk off alone or wander off by themselves. Also, have candid and open talks with your children about fire safety. There will be fire pits all over and kids need to have a healthy respect for fire. Not dreaded fear where they avoid it at all costs, but an understanding of what can happen if they don't respect what fire can do to people and things. So if kids put sticks in the fire, the stick must stay in the fire. If they were to pull the stick out, the end could burn someone even if it doesn't look like it's hot.
These tips have been invaluable for our family and have made camping very enjoyable for all of us. Hoping it helps you too on your next (maybe first) camping adventure.