More adventures in camping with toddlers

Our new tent trailer has been getting quite the workout! And luckily, we’re learning more each trip about how to successfully camp with toddlers — something that is not for the faint of heart.
For our third camping trip, we hit up a spot called Elm River that has a lot of history for our family. It’s the same campground I used to visit with my dad, sister, and stepmonster — in the exact same trailer, since as you may recall, the trailer was gifted to me by my dad earlier this summer. 
Darling Husband and I also went to Elm River to camp with friends during university. I don’t remember too much of those trips, except that (A) they were fun, and (B) we thought we were flat-out GENIUSES for tying bags of beer to our inner tubes as we floated down the river.
Good ol’ Elm River in Debert, Nova Scotia
This trip went very smoothly, so let’s get to the rundown so we can see how we did! (Remember you can go back and view the first rundown and second rundown, if you’re looking for lots of toddler camping advice and what-were-we-thinking moments!)
What went wrong:
  • We arrived at lunchtime. Check-in time was noon, and the campground is only about 10 or 12 minutes from our house, so we sort of ate a quick snack at home and then arrived promptly at noon. The kids and I ALWAYS eat lunch at noon, exactly. So … yeah … We intended to BBQ up some hot dogs as soon as we arrived, and that didn’t happen, so there was probably a hangry moment or two.
  • We forgot the bed-rail for D. Luckily, we didn’t need it. We just piled up pillows from the trailer’s bench seats, and we had no issues with him falling out of the (very high) trailer bed.
  • It was a bazillion degrees. Of course, we had no control over this, but I still wish it hadn’t been quite so hot. Seriously, people should schedule their vacations around our camping trips, because we accidentally seem to pick the hottest days of the entire summer. For non-outdoorsy people like me, camping is not a good place to be when it’s 30C or above. There’s no AC, that’s for sure.
  • I forgot a book (like a real, paper book). I guess I’ve been relying on electronic books too much lately, and I forgot a real book. That would have been nice to have, especially since …
  • … my phone got water damage. When we were in the pool, I left it (far back from the edge!) with our towels, but some asswipe’s cannonball must have splashed it. It screwed up for the rest of the trip, and I didn’t have rice to leave it in, so I left it on. I was in need of an upgrade anyway, for other screw-ups it was doing, so I ended up getting a new phone earlier this week. I got to see some interesting patterns on the screen, though, while it dried out!
What we did right:
  • We packed lots of Froot Loops. Apparently, this is my favourite part of camping, because I VERY MUCH looked forward to eating two mini-boxes of them the following morning. Delicious.
  • We have dinner down to a science. Easiest camping dinner ever — we bring steaks, steak spice, and a packet of roasted potatoes that I’ve precooked in the oven at home. The steaks are done on the portable BBQ, and the tinfoil packet of potatoes is tossed on the grill to warm up. HEAVENLY, and very, very easy.
Ooh yeah, baby!
  • We set up the dining shelter. This was a huge source of conflict, er annoyance during our first trip, because we were attacked by bugs and didn’t have a safe spot for the kids to run around outside. Darling Husband made sure to set it up this time, and it was perfect. We had a place to leave our giant tupperware bin of food, the cooler, etc. It was like a little outdoor living room. The only downfall is that both kids can unzip it to escape. Maybe a padlock is in order?
  • We made Jiffy-Pop. Another food-related highlight! I’m not sure why it is so special, because it is essentially just microwave-like popcorn, but … it’s awesome.
  • We picked a campground with a pool, a playground, and a river. There was never a time we felt bored, or didn’t have something for the kids to do. Critical when you’re camping with a one-year-old and a three-year-old.
  • We had reinforcements! My lovely Little Sis was camping at the same campground with her awesome friends (we crashed their trip, YOU’RE WELCOME!). So it was INCREDIBLY AMAZING to have babysitters nearby. We tried not to overstay our welcome when we visited their tent site (I think), and they were so sweet about playing with the kids. We even got to hang out with them in the river for a while, as they tubed and floated (and drank beer) and we kid-wrangled and floated (and deposited our kids in their inflatable boat for rides). It was so fun for D and C to be able to go on “adventure walks” to find their Aunt Lely’s site, too. And they had a prettttty awesome time playing with the water spiggot, too.

Running water is THE BESTEST!
  • C had her very first S’more! I hadn’t really planned on giving my 15-month-old a S’more, but it happened and I was fine with it. She ate it very, very slowly and seemed to think it was the best thing ever. I didn’t even eat a marshmallow this time, so I felt very un-camping, but really, they are just so sticky and gross to me. Should I eat one per trip, just to fit in? Maybe.
Darling Husband has a tradition of spending all of our cash on firewood (two huge reams!) and proceeding to use every stick of it, no matter what. Our fires are large.
“Dis is delicious!”

Experienced S’more eater

  • We achieved the perfect balance of “exhausted but not overtired” with D. On our first camping trip, D slept perfectly through the night. On our second — which was at his grandparents’ cottage and involved copious amounts of TV and candy — he was up screaming throughout the night. The third time was the charm, thank God, and he slept perfectly again. The trick for him is lots of fresh air and activity, WITHOUT the sugar/cartoon frenzy that leads to these nighttime wakeups. (We did, of course, wake up to see a gigantic adult-sized poo floating in a lake of pee inside his “trailer potty,” so he was clearly up during the night, but I’m grateful he did his business quietly and then got back into bed on his own. I don’t think I can get used to the trailer smelling like an OUTHOUSE every morning we camp, though …)
  • We packed the right amount of clothes and bedding. We had warm PJs, we had enough quilts, and we also had bathing suits. Success! But I didn’t overpack, either, which was another win. I think I’ve discovered that the trick to packing for a camping trip is to pack a variety of clothes, but not a lot of clothes. A sweatshirt for everyone, a bathing suit for everyone, a pair of warm PJs and a pair of light PJs, but not three or four of each. If something gets wet, you can hang it on the clothesline. It’s not a fashion show (or so I’ve been told … but yes, I still do my makeup first thing ever morning!)
    • The scene at camp (Hiyo, dining shelter!)
      What we’ll do differently next time:
      • Bring a couple of tarps. We still haven’t brought one along, even though we love the idea of setting one up right outside the trailer so we can step out onto a “front porch” of sorts. I also want to spread one out as a floor inside the dining shelter. C drops a LOT of food on the ground, and then tries to pick it up and eat it — and gets a mouthful of grass and dirt, too. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to scoop little bits of food off of the GROUND but it’s rather difficult. 
      • We’ll bring more daytime snacks. We had all of our meals covered, but for snacks it seemed like we had nothing but Goldfish for the kids and chips for us. Not a problem, but we should have packed granola bars, apples, and other easy-to-eat things.
      • I’ll bring a book. Not that I had much time to read, but it would be nice to have the option just in case.
      • Buy a second cooler beforehand. We only have one cooler, and it’s way too packed during our trips. We have a bunch of icepacks in there, plus all of our milk, juice, meat, fresh fruit, butter, Darling Husband’s beer, and — most importantly — my Diet Coke. The tent trailer also has a tiny fridge, but it doesn’t seem to get very cold. I think we need to buy a second large cooler, so we can have one just for drinks, and one for food. They’re probably on sale now, too!
      • Bring Diet Coke cans, not bottles. Speaking of Diet Coke, this is a very, very important reminder to myself, and to all other Diet Coke drinkers. Do not bring a two-litre bottle. It is a HUGE pain in the butt to have to pour drinks when you’re camping, because (A) all of the cups are crappy plastic thingys, and (B) there are limited hard surfaces on which to balance the aforementioned crappy cups, and (C) you can’t just grab a can and head to the river, playground, etc. Bring cans camping, if that’s the ONLY piece of advice you remember.


      We are getting better at this camping thing, and these posts are proof! Darling Husband is working a lot throughout August, but we’d like to try to sneak away for another trip soon — even if it’s just one night in the middle of the week.

      We think we’re even ready for multi-night trips, if you can believe it. The set-up/tear-down process of a tent trailer is really a lot of work, and I think staying for two nights would allow us a little more time to enjoy camping — rather than feeling like we just got settled, and having to take everything down again.

      Happy trails!

      One Comment on “More adventures in camping with toddlers

      1. I am super impressed! i am not super outdoorsey but with two boys i think im outnumbered and will need to camp at some point! you are brave and im glad to see its getting better


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