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Tips for camping with kids for the first time in a while

We planned our vacations this year and, not sure how it happened, but all our trips are camping trips and we've never taken our kids camping...heck, we've not gone camping in almost a decade!  This could be short sided 😂  They are 6,8,11 so not too young and well used to day hikes and the like.   I'm curious what made your camping trips successful with kids.  What did you discover you needed vs really shouldn't have packed?  Our trips are planned all over, one near Mt. Hood, another in San Diego, and the next in Yellowstone.  Two are tent camping and the other is RV.


We have all the basic items...I think.  Tent, bags, stove (new and need to test run), etc.  I have vague memories of needing a tub for washing dishes, but what soap do you use?  My dad used to have whistles on a string for the kids to wear around their necks...where do you even buy whistles these days?   

TY for your help and advice!

6 Replies

Hopefully they do have fun, I know I greatly enjoyed camping at their ages.  My kids are all younger than that, but they enjoy it too!  I don't think it is short sighted and it sounds like your have the basics taken care of though. If you are camping with electricity, the occasional use of tablet or DVD player may not be too bad.  Especially in the larger parks like Yellowstone where it can be a couple hours to drive between campground and attractions.  Some would say electronics are a no go, but I find they are a fun distraction at night, bad weather days, and in the car.  Toys, coloring, and board games can work too if they like them.

Kids generally love the outdoors, but may be a little weary of some of the odder things about camping if they are new to it.  Bugs, pit toilets, camp showers, the sounds at night, wildlife, etc. can be a foreign experience for first timers.  My kids (and me at their age and older) can spend/have spent hours collecting leaves, throwing rocks in a creek, hiking trails, finding sticks for the campfire, playing in the water (beaches and streams, not geysers or other thermal features which you should never approach off the boardwalks aside from Boiling River which is the only one you are aloud to go in), and watching the wildlife.

Soap is regular dish soap, think Dawn, not dish detergent like for your dishwasher.  Have another tub to rinse off and then a clean towel for drying.

Some daypacks have whistles built into the top clips otherwise you can buy a whistle from REI and many other online retailers.

Yellowstone specifically has some amazing things to see, but make sure you keep your food inside the car or bear box as not to attract bears.  Be prepared for slow foot and car traffic in the summer and early fall.

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You have some awesome trips planned. I’m sure your kids will have wonderful memories. 

When in San Diego check out Mission Bay Park, it’s prefect for a picnic and family bike rides and for an great meal Lucha Libre taco shop. 

Yellowstone gets deceiving cold at night so make sure you have extra blankets. Also some campsites offer restrooms with a sink specifically for dishes. We use Dr. Bonner Castile soap for just about everything when we travel.  Depending on your route you may also be able to squeeze in the Grand Teton National Park for some nice hikes. Jackson Hole is a very cute town with an Elk preserve along the way. 

Have an amazing time!


On the topic of Yellowstone, I highly recommend an app called GyPSy. The $10 you spend on the Yellowstone tour will be the best $10 you have ever spent on an app! It connects to the Bluetooth in your car and gives you an audio tour through your phone's GPS (bring your charger!). My kids (now 7 and 13) have learned a ton about the park, its geological features, wildlife, history, and it helped us from blindly driving around the park. 



Love Gypsy Guides! Used on Maui and it was the best! Do you know if there is one for Glacier?

Yes, I am going to Glacier in a couple weeks and already bought the one for Going To The Sun Road 🙂 They changed the app recently, so now you download the one app and then all the guides are stored right in the one app (when I first got the Yellowstone one, you had to download each individual tour as a separate app). Once you log in they all get bundled within the one app which is lovely! 


I've been camping since I was 3 years old. I have memories of holding my infant youngest sister and feeding her while camping.

One piece of advice from my experience of how my parents worked with us:

The kids have been cooped up in the car for a long time. They need very much to move their bodies vigorously to burn off some of that pent-up energy. We were always charged with some specific task like: gather firewood, go to the country store and pick up something, find out how long it takes to walk to the beach. Something to just get us out of his hair while he was setting up.

In other words, set them free.