We went to a wedding in Iowa City at the end of July and decided to break the 13 hour trip up into two days. Being unemployed and all, we opted for a $17 camp site stop over rather than a $90 hotel. Plus, some of the best memories come from crazy things like this!
We decided on Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It was on the way, is a national park, and was recommended over the Ozarks by a couple of friends on Facebook. We made sure to arrive early because we’ve camped enough in the past to know that setting up a tent in the dark is miserable. The girls “helped” daddy set it up while Ransom and I got tickets for the cave tour.
Check out this tent we borrowed. Isn’t it amazing? It actually had three different rooms and you can stand up in it! (And isn’t Ransom’s little mini tent adorable too?)
We took the cave tour that afternoon so we could get an earlier start the next morning. Jonathan loved the tour. I on the other hand, felt slightly underwhelmed; maybe because I was wrangling kids instead of listening to the tour guide.
When we got back to the campsite, we got dinner together. Jonathan went into “jungle boy” mode (recalling his 2 years living in the Peruvian jungle) and found us some wood and lit a fire. We went simple and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
We stayed away from graham crackers and chocolate and just went for the marshmallows. Our kids didn’t know the difference, and the clean up was much easier for us.
Ransom observed from a safe distance and was entertained by his sisters.
Rory would roast a marshmallow, bring it to me and trade me for an unroasted marshmallow to eat.
The girls went to sleep when it got dark and actually slept really well. Of course, we woke up at the first light of day (5:15 I think) and probably woke the rest of the camp site up too. Through yawns from mommy and daddy, we snuggled up in our warm clothes and ate pancakes I packed the day before.
We also had an up close visit from some local wildlife. The girls didn’t think much of it at the time, but now it’s the first thing they mention when talking about our camping trip.
Really, we had a blast and would definitely do it again.
For those of you thinking about camping with kids, here’s what I would recommend:
- Reserve a site close to the bathrooms and water. We went to the bathroom like 1596 times and it was great that it was just a short walk away. (Close enough to get there quickly, but not so close it smelled.)
- Pack a travel potty. We borrowed one like this that you can attach disposable liners to, but you could even probably use a potty training potty. It’s great for those middle of the night potty runs.
- Pack simple, non-messy food. We grilled hot dogs that were pre-cooked, avoided the chocolate part of smores, and ate pre-prepared food in the morning. If it was a longer camping trip, we’d probably pack more food to cook, but we were just trying to have fun–not be hard core. The kids just loved camping and eating outside.
- For the really little ones, bring something for them to sit in/lay on. I wish we would have brought our Bumbo, but Ransom did great just hanging out in the stroller the entire time.
- We are also completely crazy about the kids PeaPod Sleeping Tent. It’s been recalled, but if you can get your hands on one, I highly recommend it. It’s enclosed, protects from mosquitos, and packs super tiny. It rocked our world in Uganda and hasn’t failed us in America either.
Has anyone else camped with kids? Any other recommendations?