Tip #1: Make a list. And check it twice.
Long gone are the days when all you needed to pack for a camping trip was a pair of hiking boots and a sleeping bag. Camping with kids is a big responsibility, and there’s simply no way to successfully pack without a written list. You can't afford to forget your camp chairs and sleeping pads—or snacks! Write down all your camping gear and check things off as you put them in your vehicle.
It's best to separate your checklist into household categories like "kitchen" and "linens" and then tackle each individually. Don't forget an "entertainment" category for those long hours on the road.
As you travel, make notes about things you wish you’d brought along or things you wish you’d left at home, so you can refine your packing list over time.
Need help getting started? We've gathered the expert opinions of seasoned travel pros and created the Packing List for Camping with Kids to help you stay organized and safe.
Tip #2: Expect broken objects and dirty clothes.
As a parent, you're well aware that when kids are around, there are a lot more accidents. When you’re packing the RV, make sure you’re prepared for accidents––anything from a broken tent peg to a broken doll.
Bring a toolbox of essentials and spare parts for any important hardware or electronic devices, so you can repair anything that breaks. You should also bring rubber bands, tape, scissors, rope, cords, and anything else you might need to create a makeshift quick fix.
When it comes to the kids, bring twice as many clothes as you need for yourself, as well as a hefty first aid kit for any scrapes, cuts, or burns. It’s time to channel your inner Boy or Girl Scout and be prepared. You don't want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere without having what you need.
Tip #3: Bring stuff to hold your stuff.
The easiest things to forget when you pack your RV are those little organizational devices that make life so much easier, things like:
- Food trays to carry items to the picnic table.
- Plastic storage bags to keep small objects and food organized.
- At least one bucket to help you hold stuff, wash stuff, and carry water.
- Large trash bags to throw away trash, but also to store dirty laundry or extra stuff.
- Large bowls to serve salad, hold cutlery, and collect food waste.
- Reusable bottles or jars to hold water, juice, leftover soup, whatever.
- Clipboards and folders to hold papers, artwork, magazines, and maps.
These little details can be easy to forget, so follow our Ultimate Guide to Packing Your RV to stay on track.
Tip #4: Don’t make them hangry.
One of the biggest challenges of camping with the family is keeping everyone's stomach full and happy. Since you're going to be responsible for feeding your brood, resist the urge to pack lightly and bring some serious kitchen hardware for camp meals.
If you can afford it and have the space, a cast iron cooking set is great for creating big, delicious family meals over a fire. If you don't have room for a whole set, a cast iron Dutch oven will work for 90 percent of meals.
With mealtime taken care of, you'll still want to prepare easy, portable snacks for the whole family. Homemade trail mix is a great option that keeps everyone full and satisfied as you hike, swim, and climb around the campsite.
Lastly, don't forget to bring a camping-friendly coffee pot so that you and the other adults can maintain your energy—and sanity—as your trail-mix-fueled kids run wild.
Tip #5: Be a power shower family.
Even if you have a shower in your RV, don’t pass up the opportunity to use the spacious camp showers. That way, everyone can shower at the same time with (hopefully) some nice hot water.
When it comes to camp showers, remember a few tips:
- Bring a few rolls of quarters with you. Sometimes you'll need them for shower access.
- Pack flip-flops for every family member to avoid athlete's foot and other grossness.
- Bring along a bucket to hold your shampoo, soap, and brush. You might also want to bring a trash bag for your dry towel and change of clothes; there may not be anywhere dry to store them while you shower.
Tip #6: Don’t forget the fun. Over and out.
Despite the added responsibility, there is nothing more fun than camping with kids. There are a few things you can bring to make the experience even more enriching and magical for them:
- Walkie-talkies for the family to communicate. This can create an authentic camping experience and minimize phone use.
- Bubbles, glow sticks, firecrackers, and anything else that makes for fireside fun.
- Everything you need to make s’mores, duh!
- Individual duffle bags and packing list for each child (a kid’s pack) so your kids can be a part of the packing process. You can even let them pack their own stuff if they’re old enough--just make sure you double check everything before you leave!
- Disposable cameras you can pass out to the kids to capture their own memories. Stick them in plastic storage bags to keep them safe.
- Binoculars, a telescope, and a magnifying glass to view all that beautiful nature up close.
Use our Packing List for Camping with Kids to remember everything you need to bring on your next family adventure, including an entire entertainment section with even more ideas for kid-friendly fun.