I came across this snapshot while looking for a cute camping photo for my previous post (Camping with your Baby or toddler? Remember these tips). While it’s fun to see how tiny my big girl was on her first camping trip (3 mos, near Big Sur), I have to admit it’s a complete shock to see how much younger I look in this photo. I mean, it wasn’t THAT long ago, was it?
(I can hear my mother, who camped with me as an infant, chuckling in the distance…)
Perhaps it was the sheer simplicity of going on a weekend trip as a family without trying to work it into a guidebook or blog post or article. Sigh. I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Well, for the most part.
Sure, some work will still follow, but when I’m not working, I vow to be in the moment. Well, when I’m not behind my camera taking 500+ photos of my amazing children, I will definitely be, for the most part, in the moment. In fact, maybe I’ll even be in the some of the photos this time around?!
There are times I just have to put my foot, and the camera down. But I’m so glad for photos like this!
How about you?
Are you or your partner able to disconnect from work when you travel with your family? I know many of you travel for your work – do you have any tips for carving out some sacred “family time” in the middle of work trips with kids in tow?
This post is part of Photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com.
It’s that time of year again! Are you planning to camp with your baby or toddler this summer? Here is a list of some of my best tips online to help with your planning. And don’t forget the tips in Travels with Baby (Chapter 2 / camping trips, Chapter 7 / managing mosquitoes). I’ve also tucked in this segment I did on View from the Bay just before our first camping trip with baby # 3 – when I think of all I’ve learned between this first camping trip with a baby (above) and setting out on the one I mention (below), it nearly makes my head spin.
- Three campsites to avoid when camping with young children
- Tips for first camping trips with babies and toddlers
- Five easy foods to pack for camping trips with little kids
- Scorpions, ticks, and bears – oh, my!
- Why and how to practice camping with your little kids
There’s plenty to think about when planning and packing for a family camping trip with children under 5 years – especially if this is the first time you’ll be camping with your little one(s). I’ve covered the topic in detail in Travels with Baby, but I was recently reminded how location, location, location can make such a difference when camping with small kids.
When picking your family’s campsite, avoid these locations if you can:
1. Next to water – The lakeside view might be lovely, or the sound of a trickling stream, but how many changes of dry clothing did you bring for this weekend getaway? You may end up constantly chasing your toddler out of the creek throughout your stay, and of course with small kids it could be a serious safety hazard. What’s more, being closest to the water may also put you in the thick of mosquitoes come dusk.
2. Next to the restroom - In the case of pit toilets, the reason may be obvious. But the constant traffic to the john, flushing noises, conversations, and lights can be very disruptive to young sleepers who are already excited enough about sleeping in the tent. Even with a potty trainee along for the adventure, you may rest better a comfortable distance away from the restrooms (and keep your training potty in the tent if you’re nervous about a potential midnight run).
3. Next to the garbage / recycling – Sure, if someone asked you if you’d prefer to be in this site, you’d probably say, “No thanks!” But if it’s one of the last campsites left when you arrive on a Friday evening, just think of those investigative raccoons and skunks that might traipse through your site en route, and the college students who may unload their case of beer cans at an unsettling hour. Try for a different space if possible.
So where does that leave you to pitch your tent or park your campervan? Hopefully at the farthest end of the loop where the bulk of campers, once settled, will be less likely to pass by on their way to the general store, or restrooms, or garbage bins. There will be plenty of time to make new friends when you’re in the mood for a stroll.
For more help planning camping trips with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, see Chapter 2 of Travels with Baby, and check out some of the related posts and pages below. And if you’ve got your popcorn ready, here’s my segment from View from the Bay.
Pack this! DEET-free mosquito repellent wipes
Tip #34: Fall in Love with Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Tip #35: Scorpions, Ticks and Bears—oh, my!
Tip #31: Practice Camping
Review of the hands-free Beam N Read LED light
Ask Shelly: What to do with car seats at Yosemite?
Quick List for Camping with Babies and Toddlers
My entire life I’ve watched my family—and later my in-laws—set up camp kitchens in the wilderness to put my own at home to shame (this includes a rafting trip we took through a remote wilderness area where we camped in a different site each night and all the food and gear traveled in our boats). We all have different talents, and I can accept that mine has never been cooking. Rather than beat myself up about it when we pack up for a car camping trip, I like to recall the advice of Henry David Thoreau:
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!”
In that spirit, I offer a handful of our family’s favorites that have vastly simplified car camping trips with our kids. And so far, I haven’t heard any complaints.
- Applesauce Cups – They require no refrigeration, come in their own child-size bowls, work for babies through big kids (and parents), and the cups rinse clean under the spigot and go into the campground recycling bin when finished. Need I say more?
- Bag of Mini Bagels – Get a kid-pleasing variety such as cinnamon raisin or blueberry and set one on top of an applesauce cup and you’ve made breakfast! To fancy it up, set out your jar of peanut butter (the no-refrigeration required kind) or a small container of cream cheese.
- Can of Black Olives – Again, no refrigeration required, and with a pull-tab can you won’t even kick yourself for losing that can opener somewhere in the trunk of your car. Tip: Dump into a bowl and set out as an appetizer before you start cooking to help keep kids happy and out of your cooler until dinner is served. I’m always stunned how they continue to regard this as a treat!
- Pre-Popped Popcorn – Whether you pop your own before leaving home or pick up a bag of pre-popped popcorn from the store (I am hooked on T.J.’s white cheddar!), it makes a great kid snack mid-afternoon or evening campfire alternative to marshmallows. Yes, you can do Jiffy Pop Popcorn over the fire, too, if you’re camping where campfires are permitted. Tip: Since Jiffy Pop seems to be hit or miss with seasonal items at the store, you can always order online if needed.
- Cheese Sticks or String Cheese – Individually sealed cheese sticks or string cheese give a protein boost between meals and keep just fine at the top of your ice chest where they are conveniently located for small snack thieves who might otherwise disrupt the delicate balance of your overstuffed cooler. When heading out for a hike, toss a few in the family daypack.
All content of this blog (c) Shelly Rivoli
It’s not too late to squeeze in a family camping trip with your little ones this summer, especially if you haven’t already made plans for Labor Day weekend with its bonus holiday. I’ve rounded up my assorted tips on camping with babies, toddlers, and little kids from previous sources in the list below, including my discussion on the topic on ABC’s View from the Bay (click to watch).
For more tips on planning trips with happy campers of your own, including back-country camping, see chapter 2 of Travels with Baby.
To complete our Eastern Sierra road trip, I felt it was only natural that we should call upon one of my favorite parks, which we would be “practically passing right by” on our way home, if we just took the Sonora Pass (Hwy 108) and drove a little way north. Famous last words. I remember hearing once that if you could take all the blood vessels and veins in the human body and lay them end-to-end, they could wrap around the earth nearly three times. I’m not sure if that’s true, but as we wound and wound around the hairpin curves of the highway I got the feeling you could pull it off with Highway 108.
Nevertheless, we were all quite pleased to see our “Big Trees” the following day. As you can see, they don’t disappoint. The largest tree in the park is the Aggasiz Tree in the South grove, which is 25 feet in diameter (yes, in diameter) at 6 feet above the ground. But anyone making their first trip to Big Trees, especially with children, should head directly to the North Grove, which is where the story of Big Trees begins.
In 1852, a man was tracking a wounded bear through the area when he suddenly came across what is now called the “Discovery Tree,” a slight misnomer considering what you’ll discover there now. Being 1852 and in the middle of the wilderness, there was really only one thing to do with such a discovery. So five men spent 22 days cutting down the giant so that sections of bark and a portion of its trunk could be sent as far as New York City (by way of Cape Horn) to be put on display. The exhibit was considered a flop, and the lesson to be learned from it was that those who were truly interested wanted to come to Calaveras to see the real trees for themselves, as they still do today.
It’s hard not to get goose bumps as you stand atop the massive stump that remains from the Discovery Tree, which marks the beginning of the North Grove trail. After climbing the stairs up to the top, you’ll see that a handful of minivans could be parked across the surface (thankfully they’re not). Don’t be surprised if you see a troop of Boy Scouts atop the stump as you arrive—but don’t be shy, there will still be room for your family to join them up there.
The North Grove trail is a level, 1.5-mile walk between giant sequoias and massive coast redwoods. Though the distance sounds short and the trail is actually wheelchair accessible, don’t be surprised (as we were) if it takes you 2 hours to complete the loop with small kids. If you’re exploring the loop with a baby or toddler, you might want to bring your stroller along, especially if you have the all-terrain or jogging variety, so that you can load up with plenty of water and snacks for everyone and avoid carrying your tired-out toddler the last half of the loop.
Before you start down the trail, be sure to use the restrooms at the parking lot since there won’t be any along the trail, and pick up your 50 cent guide to the trees that may be in a box at the trailhead and is also available at the Visitor Center. There are expensive bottles of water and sodas in a machine near the Visitor Center, but that’s it for food or drink. So bring your picnic, beverages of choice, and plenty of drinking water.
Highlights of the North Grove include the Empire State Tree, which is the largest in the North Grove with an 18-foot diameter; the Three Graces; and the “tunnel tree” that lies alongside the trail and even adults can walk through the interior of with stairs steps up from one end—your kids may need to spend a bit of time at this one. Don’t forget your camera.
After your walk through the North Grove, enjoy your picnic in the area adjacent to the parking lot, or venture farther into the park and check out the picnicking areas along the river. If you come in late spring or early summer, you may catch the Pacific dogwoods in bloom, which flourish here beneath the giants. There are several varieties of California wildflowers as well. In fall, you may be dazzled by the color of the changing leaves, usually best in late October. If you like cross-country skiing, you might check out the North Grove in winter.
If you’re interested in camping in Big Trees Calaveras State Park, watch for my next post.
For more information:
Whether you’re gearing up for your first camping adventure with your baby or toddler, or you’re pondering how best to do it now that your child’s a toddler or a preschooler, you may all be happier campers on your trip after a little practice run at home. Sure, pitching the tent in a backyard overnight is not a bad way to reintroduce your child to camp life after a long winter, but if you don’t opt for that, you might want to at least run through some of these situations to help your child–and yourself work out some of the potential kinks in camping with small kids:
Using the portacrib or travel bed:
If it’s been a while, or you need to perfect the art of making a “tent within your tent” to help keep the air around your child warm in the night, be sure to figure out what works best for your situation–and to pack all of the pieces (best blankets, bunting, clips, etc.) with you.
Transitioning to sleeping bags:
When your child is ready to use her first sleeping bag, let her try it out and get familiar with it at home first. It can be quite a change of sleeping habit for toddlers still accustomed to cribs and rolling around freely in the night without much need for blankets.
Sleeping in the same room:
If your children normally sleep in their own room at home, you may want to practice sleeping in the same room so that it’s not such an exciting novelty when it’s time for lights out in the tent. If you’re worried about picking up permanent roommates on the home front, I recommend using the living room for this special event.
Preparing for safety issues:
With toddlers and preschoolers, start discussing camp safety concerns early, like respecting the campfire and resident wildlife, and avoiding poison oak. You’ll still have to be on your toes, regardless, but it can help to have kids thinking about these things ahead of time, rather than getting the first explanation in the thrill of the first moments at camp.
With a forecasted low of 39 F for our first night in the tent this year, sleeping in hoods has also been a helpful pre-trip topic of discussion at our house. Not to mention, it’s been great fun to practice.
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