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If your child is getting ready to go to summer camp (I don't mean the kind where they stay clean and neat), don't buy them nice new things to wear, it's not going to come home that way! Pack their oldest socks and underwear for them to take, so that when (IF) it comes home, you just throw it in the trash! You can do the same thing with shorts and t-shirts too, just don't send torn and stained stuff that will embarrass them.
This tip also works if, like our family, you're going to visit someplace where the kids are going to be playing outdoors and getting very dirty. My mom's place is in the Arizona country where she has red dirt that stains. My kids played outside all day and would get filthy. I'd take play clothes specifically that I planned on throwing away instead of bringing home. Going to the Arkansas Diamond mine is the same, only it's not just the kids that get filthy digging in the dirt and mud. EVERYONE'S clothes get thrown away when we leave the hotel!
When my three boys go to Boy Scout camp every summer for a week, the stuff they bring back is like toxic waste! Boys don't shower at camp, because the adults don't make them. Really GROSS! This stuff sits in the heat and humidity of their tents for a week, in a trunk. Their dirty stuff goes into a black trash bag, where the damp, dirty clothes ferment - the smell when you open the trunk after they come home is enough to knock you over! And the socks and underwear are ALWAYS stained with dirt and sweat.
I used to try to bleach them clean until I realized it was easier to throw them away. When I sort through their clothes in the winter/spring, I always save the socks and underwear that is getting worn or a bit small and would normally be thrown away anyway, I set them aside for camp. I do the same thing with shorts and t-shirts I've saved from last year. When I'm going through them in the beginning of summer to see what still fits, I set aside the shorts that might be getting just a bit short or worn and the t-shirts that are a bit faded, stretched, or I know won't fit much longer - but I make sure it's nothing that is going to get them teased about the condition. All of this gets packed for camp (or vacation as mentioned above).
When they come home, it doesn't even come in the house! The trunks are set in the driveway, where I plug my nose and open them. I sort through and salvage what I need to, such as their uniforms and bed sheets, which go straight into the washing machine. The rest goes right into the trash can outside for the unfortunate garbage men who have to empty it on the next trash day, LOL! Doing it that way also limits the possibilities of ticks, chiggers, and spiders making it into my house!
By Judy = Oklahoma from OK
Use sidewalk chalk to mark the boundaries of where your kids can play or ride their bikes around your campground. Another family did this where we recently went camping and I thought it was a brilliant idea. They had also setup a start and finish line for a race (which I had to run with my five year old many times). I will be adding sidewalk chalk to my camp boxes for next year.
By Stephanie from Hillsboro, OR
It's really nice is if you have a small extra tent you can put up on your site. If you have a child who needs some time to be alone or if they get bored, they can always go into the tent to play, color, read, whatever they need to do. This gives them some quiet time.
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I am planning a month long camping trip through several different states. I have twins that will be close to 4 by then. Any tips on keeping it cheap? And sane?
I went on a long caravan-ing trip with my daughter when she was 18 months old and a portable DVD player worked a treat when she was grizzly. Most of the time there was plenty to see and do.
Happy camping, Anna
Check out National Parks. They are cheap, clean, and usually close by local attractions.
You don't say when you are going, but when my kids were young and we had little money, we LOVED to camp on the beach at Assateague Island, Maryland.
It is very close to Ocean City, the wild horses roam through, they have clean, hot shower facilities. You have to call in JAnuary to make reservations and if possible, go early in the summer because the mosqitoes can get very bad.
Here is a link to check it out http://www.nps.gov/asis/
State parks are a good place to camp. My main advice is to just not try too hard to maintain the same standards you do at home. A little sand in the sleeping bag won't kill anybody, going to bed without a bath doesn't mean they won't wake up in the morning, and hot dogs two meals in a row won't destroy their good health forever. Been there and thought all that but now my youngest boys are 22 and 21 so they survived numerous camping trips...and I did too after a fashion! Have fun!
With small children you cannot go wrong with camping in state parks. They are well lit, most have security checks and have nice bath houses, safe paved roads for bike rides(I would take there bikes and helments) they are very low in cost per site. You can find most on line and call to reserve or at least find out the amenities they offer. A lot of those offer putt putt, have pools, play grounds and even rent VHS tapes if you are in a camper with your own VCR or most have lobbies where they have free use of there TV /VCR game rooms,laundry rooms all geared for family fun together.
With small kids I would take lots of coloring books, books, jump rope, side walk chalk, Frisbee, some of there favorite toys. Most likely they will play harder and tire out faster than at home and will be ready for bed camping when its time. Give them there on flash lights for fun too.
Takes lots cereal and just buy milk for easy clean up, dried fruits save well, peanut butter and crackers, most campgrounds have a microwave in the lobby you could easily heat up those soups to go in heat able mini plastic tubs. Don't forget there vitamin pills. Let each one have there own tote with there on bath house needs in it like tooth brush, paste shampoo etc. Walmart has the 50cent bin with all these things in it and just the right size for each for months usage. Don't forget a blow dryer. Even camp tent sites have an elect plug.
Check out your good will and buy a tiny electric heat plate for the cost of a dollar or two. Use it to heat up any thing that is in metal cans.
Don't hesitate way ahead of time to email any campground you may want to stay in to see what they offer they will glady help you. Give them each a disposable camera and let them take there own pictures along your trip.
Most people think you have to have all the nice a ties of home to cook while camping which could not be farther from the truth. A heavy rool of aluminum foil is all you need to cook with on the hot plate outside or grill.
Make 2 layers and fold up the corners for a pan to fry sliced potatoes in or bacon do the same thing and add can biscuits to it and cook on low covered then flip and cook the other side. Just by adding butter to your home made pan you can cook eggs bacon, gravy etc.
Kids love camping if they are included in the decisions of it and will have a memory of the fun times journey that will last them forever. Have Fun!
Most places offer cabins to rent for $25 if you tire of tenting. let each one have there on long one person pool float to serve as the matterass to be more comfortable too.
I also meant to say buy food in bulk verses you usually small amounts. Its cheaper and anything left over still comes back home. The walmart super centers have an isle with just bulk items, like oatmeal, cereal, etc.
And while camping even though you will have a water spiket this idea comes in great from moving to each campground. Take a large laundry plastic bottle (with the spiket type end) and wash it out good and fill it with fresh water as you need it and tape a bottle of hand pump soap to its side and each time you need a quick wash up you have a place to do it.
Take bubbles for the kids too they love them to blow, add some food coloring to it for added fun.
Thanks, there is a lot of good information here!
I camp with my 2 young kids a lot and no matter how many toys we take them they usually end up playing in the dirt with a shovel and bucket! I also like to take glow bracelets to put on them at night so I can always see where they are at! Have fun!
Before you leave on any trip with kids, Go to a dollar store & buy one toy for each day you're on the road, for each child & tell them "Be good & I have a special gift for you" & give them one of these little dollar toys for being good. They'll just love it! Make sure they know the rules to follow to get one of these little gift-treats, like no fighting in the car & no yelling at each other, etc. My mom would do this with us kids before long trips. Make sure they don't see these gifts before you leave or before you surprise them with their toy.
With twins, I would suggest buying the same toy for each child but in a different color.
One suggestion: For girls, at Dollar Tree they have these small & soft newborn baby dolls & you can buy different outfits for them... But, obviously, no play dough in the car! And, make sure these little toys are QUITE toys!
* These little trinkets also save you from them begging you for little trinkets at any gas, stations, stores or restaurants along the way.
When camping with little people I like to bring a small portable pool. The kind where the sides of the pool inflate. Water play is so much fun and it can double as a tub if you use warm water. It is also a good toy box if you want them to pick up their out side toys. You may also choose to do laundry in it (kids and all). Moat of all have a great time. Journaling is also lots of fun. They could do a page a day.
I don't know how much of your own 'camp cooking' you intend to do, as opposed to buying fasr food/take away/ but there are some really great, helpful sites on camp cooking, (and some amazing things I would never have thought of!) Just put 'camp cooking' into your search engine and be wowed with hundreds of easy, nutrious meals to make while camping.
My tip is for saving money - potentially big money. If you are camping in a motor home, truck camper or travel trailer of some type (anything but a tent) - go to your local Wal-Mart and purchase their Wal-Mart Atlas ($6.00). This atlas shows every Wal-Mart and Sam's Club location in the United States and has an index that gives the exact exit number off the highway and how far off the highway, whether it has a gas station etc.
The best reason this is so amazing is the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club allows campers, truckers etc to park overnight in their parking lots. I know it sounds a bit weird, and my husband was very against doing this at first. We planned a 14 day road trip with the goal of spending a total of 7 days in our destination of Yellowstone National Park. We were only needing a place to sleep at night and after paying $20 to $40 dollars for a 8 to 10 hours in a campground he finally gave in. We parked in several Wal-Mart/Sam's Club parking lots to sleep for the night. Bonus - you get to use the restrooms - which saves on your campers waste system!
Oh, we also discovered that the State of South Dakota has RV dump stations in every highway rest area - no fee to use them!
Good Luck - and have a great time!