Family Travel: Camping with Kids

It can be done, and it can be enjoyable.

This is the most popular post request I’ve gotten from our friends and the Instagram community. Disclaimer – I’m writing this post for those who have never camped before, who may not consider themselves “outdoorsy”, and/ or who might be feeling a bit intimated about staying anywhere other than a hotel (aka “camping phobia”). I recognize that there are many individuals and families who are camping experts, and whom I’d love to learn a thing or two from, but for this post – I’m sharing how my family went from hotel to glamping to camping enthusiasts.  If we can do it, you can too!

Growing up in New England, raised by immigrant Chinese parents , my exposure to camping was fairly limited. My parents did bring my brother and me tent camping a couple of times when were little. But that promptly stopped after we were caught, unprepared, in torrential downpour which leaked into our tent and soaked us and our belongings.  My interest in camping was piqued again years later when I went on overnight backpacking camping trips in West Virginia the summer after high school during National Youth Science Camp.

During college, I intended to join the wilderness club. But then 1) The Blair Witch Project (for those of you who were born after 2000, this was a horror camping movie) came out; and  2) a dancing injury left me with chronic back pain for several years. These derailed my plan to get out and camp for a few years. Then medical school and residency happened, which meant not a lot of time for much else other than studying.

Finally, in 2015, I decided it was time to give camping another go, and I dragged my entire family (husband, toddler, infant, and parents) with me. When our youngest son was 3 months old, we booked a glamping cabin at El Capitan Canyon . It was a perfect intro back into the “wilderness”.  We purchased their BBQ Canyon Tri-Tip Kit, cooked it over an open flame, and then enjoyed S’mores and hot chocolate around the campfire.  We not only survived this wilderness experience, we had a great time.

The next summer 2016, we decided to try again. This time, we stayed in the most adorable and fun vintage trailers in a camp community set up by hosts Andy and Liz of The Holidays in San Clemente.  The four of us stayed in the trailer, and my parents pitched a small tent next to our trailer. Our friends and their boys (new to camping) joined us on this trip as well.  I think the pictures speak for themselves. We had a blast. We’ve returned to The Holidays every summer since.In 2017, my husband and I were trying to figure out what to do for our anniversary (which happens to be in August), and we decided it would be nice to share a new experience as a family. We chose the Crystal Cove Moro Campground as our inaugural tent campsite.  We researched and bought recommended camp gear (will do another post on this), and drove 20 minutes from our home to this bluff side campground with an ocean view. We braced ourself, thinking we’re close to home and it’s just one night.  When morning came, we didn’t want to leave.  Success!  This is another campsite we’ve continued to return to each summer.Since then, we’ve done a few more camping trips throughout Southern California including at William Heise County Park in Julian, and on a private farm in Oak Glen via hipcamp.  This past summer, we glamped at Under Canvas Zion.  It’s safe to say, we’ve become camping/ glamping enthusiasists and ambassadors. We love it, and have convinced several other friends and families to join us.  We hope this post inspires you to give it a try as well!

Oak Hollow Farm
Hipcamping at Oak Hollow Farm
Glamping at Under Canvas Zion

Summary of tips:

  1. If you’ve never camped before and/or do not own any camping gear, try easing into the camping experience with glamping.  There are many great options available these days throughout the US and internationally. A good place to search is Glamping Hub.
  2. It’s important to prepare and invest in the gear that you need to be comfortable. For some, this means a tarp and sleeping bag. For others, it means an air mattress. There is no right or wrong way to camp. Do what works for you!
  3. Campsites with views (i.e. those near beaches, or in national or state parks) tend to be high demand. Research the booking window, and make sure you are ready to book when those dates open (for many places, it is 6 months to 1 year out).
  4. A great resource we love for private and unique campsites is hipcamp.  For $10 off your first booking on hipcamp, you can use the code “EVERYDAYADVENTUREFAM“, or follow this link. There is a range of primitive camping to glamping options available on hipcamp.
  5. If possible, it might be good idea try booking your first camping trip close to home and/ or close to some amenities and civilization. This will reduce your “what if I forgot this, what will I eat, or what if the baby can’t sleep in the tent?” anxiety. We’ve never actually gone home to get anything while camping, but it is reassuring to know that we could, especially when travelling with young kids. When camping with 4 other families this past summer, we brought and cooked most of our camp meals, but it was nice to be able to order pizza for one of the meals. I repeat and stress. There is no right or wrong way to camp. What’s important, is that you try it. If you’re comfortable and prepared, you’ll enjoy it more.
Enjoying Zpizza at Crystal Cove Moro Campground.

This post is not sponsored. All of the opinions and recommendations are my own.  I’ve embedded some links in the post, but here are some links to help with your planning. Happy Camping!

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I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, doctor, adventure enthusiast, food lover, and photographer. I spend a lot of time researching fun things for my family to do, explore and eat - so I created this space to share some information that might be helpful to others.

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