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How to Make Camping with Toddlers Less Chaotic— Just Follow These 5 Simple Steps

Updated: May 16


When it comes to camping with toddlers, never underestimate the power of planning.



It’s no problem if you’re more of a ‘fly by the seat of your pants' kind of guy or gal. Embracing the chaos is probably more your style anyway. However, you can still tame some of the chaos by following these steps.


For those who prefer a little more order in their lives, planning will be your number one tip for success when camping with toddlers.



Follow these 5 simple steps to harness some of the chaos:




1. Make detailed checklists of what to pack:


  • Camping gear (tent, sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights/headlamps, wood, axe, etc.)


  • Clothing list for each family member


  • Toiletries and medications


  • Food list (more on this to follow)


  • Dog supplies (food and treats, leash, poo bags, towel, and blanket)


  • Toys/games/activities

  • Also, make a list of what needs to be done before you leave (trust me, writing down “take out the trash” on a checklist, seems ridiculous, BUT I can assure you it will prevent it from being forgotten, as well as make things more efficient when you’re scrambling out the door).


Photo by Wix


2. Meal planning:



Plan meals out for each day ahead of time— no judging here if you want to have hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day while camping. However, if you are looking for some variety, I suggest making a simple chart with columns for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. If you want to go even a step further, you could plan out the snack choices for each day as well.


Once the meal planning is complete, make another list — YES, another list, of what food you need to buy and what food just needs to be packed from the pantry or fridge from home.


It doesn’t hurt to pack a couple of extra meal choices as well. Whether it’s a picky toddler or someone left the cooler out for the raccoons, it’s nice to have backups just in case.



3. Research the campground you’re staying at ahead of time:

  • What facilities are offered there? Coin-operated showers? Bathrooms with flushing toilets and sinks or outhouses? Pack accordingly.


  • Can you get ice and firewood there? If not, bring your own wood, and ensure you have another means to keep food cold for multiple days. Or bring less perishable items, or look into how far it is into town to pick up more ice and firewood.


Photo by Wix



  • Activities nearby for the kids? Parks, beaches, trails for hiking, bike paths, etc. Know what’s there so you know what to bring and what can be left at home.






4. Look up the forecast ahead of time and plan for the weather conditions:



If you’re going camping in a mild climate, you probably won’t have to worry much about this step, however, if you’re camping on the Westcoast like us, you might have to prepare for rain, sun, and snow, all in one camping trip.



Although the weather forecast isn’t always reliable, it’s still beneficial to see what weather might be coming your way so you can pack appropriately. Are you bringing rain gear and boots, or bathing suits and towels? Possibly all of the above!




5. Lower. Your. Expectations



Now read that again.



Lower your expectations.



When it comes to all the advice we were given as new parents, I wish someone would have told me those three words.



Parenthood can be an extremely difficult journey, we need to be kind to ourselves and expect less. As parents, many things are out of our control, so lower your expectations and continue those low expectations into the outdoors.



Camping is chaotic with young children, keep that in mind and embrace it. Things are going to go wrong, there are going to be some meltdowns, whether it’s from you or your toddlers, or both; it comes with the territory.



You will enjoy camping much more when you go with low expectations, and hopefully, you will be pleasantly surprised by the end of it.



When you’re lowering your expectations, you can celebrate the small wins, like getting out camping in the first place. Things will also feel less scary when you’re prepared for chaos and don’t have these high expectations set.



For example, don’t compare yourself to those on social media. Many people only share the highlights and fail to include the lows of the trip. That’s just setting yourself up for some serious disappointment.



Just lower your expectations and go with the flow.




Although we are all for embracing the chaos when camping with toddlers, following these 5 steps can make it more manageable, so that there will be many more family adventures to come.




Subscribe to Camping with Chaos and receive a bonus step for making camping less chaotic, and a printable camping first aid kit checklist, exclusive to subscribers.


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