I remember sitting around a campfire with Mike many drunken moons ago talking about how wonderful it would be to take our eventual children camping. We would go hiking, sleep under the stars, and teach them how to read a compass properly before we even taught them to read books. We would all pile in the car at a moment’s notice and land at whatever wonderful woodland scene the wind blew us to. What a nice idea!
Back in the Day
B.C. (before children) all we needed to pack with us for a weekend in the woods was 24 pack of PBR, some cold KFC and a couple of sleeping bags.
Once our eventual children became actual children, we discovered quite quickly that a successful camping trip with kids is less about romantic whimsy and more about exhaustive planning. Organization, from your sleeping situation to your sandwich situation, can keep your outdoorsy outing from going south and still leave you and your little with plenty of time to work on those compass skills.
Here are a few of our favorite tips to keep you and your family out of the woods when camping:
I’m a bit of a girl scout when it comes to packing prep. During camping season, we keep a large Tupperware in our garage fully stocked for our trips. In it, we include pantry essentials like salt, pepper, olive oil, and instant coffee, cooking prep items like foil, silverware (plastic melts!) and a good sharp knife (with a cover), and outdoor essentials like insect repellent, fire starters, headlamps, batteries and chargers. It makes organization effortless and always gets us on the road faster.
Catch Cabin Fever
Chasing after kids in the forest is roughing it enough for any parent. If you don’t want to go full Bear Grylls with your cubs, go ahead stay in a cabin! Plenty of state parks have comfortable, affordable accommodations that give a family just the right balance of outdoorsy fun and indoorsy convenience. Some local Luckett faves are Pickett State Park in Tennessee and Vogel State Park in Georgia. They have cabins built right in the CCC areas, which makes for historic beautiful, interesting, and educational family time.
Campgrounds can be noisy places, from the tipsy guitarist two sites over singing Sweet Home Alabama at the top of his lungs to the choir of crickets that just won’t quit. We always bring a battery operated white noise machine along with us to drown out any sounds of the wilderness that might get too wild. And to help keep Shep cozy, we always bring his very own child size air mattress equipped with bumpers from Hiccapop.
At some point in your journey, you might stop to fill your gas tank and your bellies. Instead of catching lunch at the Shell station we call an order in to a favorite sandwich shop ahead of time and pick it up on our way. Tasty, quality food can make the difference between quiet kids and cranky kids. For longer trips that require multiple stops, we try and plan a picnic at a park with primo play equipment so that Shep can have some fun get all of his wiggles out.
Stay Close to Home
Though it can be tempting to trek cross-country to a national park or faraway forest, the outdoorsy options right in your area might be worth a try. A long drive time can really be a killer with kids no matter how many Goldfish crackers you give them. Try looking for spots within a three-hour drive from home to give everybody as much time in the woods and out of the car as possible. For our Nashville neighbors, here is a list of our go-to destinations:
Forest Gully Farms – 1 hour
Land Between the Lakes – 1.5 hours
Cumberland Falls – 3 hours
Pickett State Park – 3 hours
Vogel State Park – 5 hours
I hope you and your families a get a chance to hit the trails and get outside this spring. Here’s to happy campers all around!
Founder | Designer | Wine Expert | Problem Solver at January Moon
Wife to Mike | Mom to Shep and Delaney at Home