1) This first step is the MOST important. Win at this,and you can stop reading….convince the whole family it would of course be so much more fun to “camp” in the backyard. It’s that simple.
Ooohh…still reading? I see you’ve already failed. That’s okay, I did too.
2) Set your expectations accordingly. It is also helpful if the entire family has appropriate expectations. This helps prevent your husband from looking at you and saying sarcastically, “This is awesome” when your 13 month old won’t stop eating rocks and you’re still at the campsite come noon. I had little sympathy for the man, because what did he really expect. As for you…do not think this is vacation. This is a trip. A trip wherest you go camping and poop in the woods. Don’t bother bringing books to read leisurely by the fire. You could bring some trashy magazines, mainly because they are useful as fire kindling.
3) Toy bin. Bring a big rubber-maid bin filled with books and toys and everything else you you can think of to deter your child from eating dirt. It won’t completely work, but it might help so you don’t end up with worms in your childs diaper 3 months later. That last bit was a helpful hint for my parents circa 1983. There is the added benefit of being able to leave it outside without the precious toys getting wet. We use these bins for everything…kitchen/wood/toys/supplies. They’re super durable and can take a beating.
4) Bedtime. Don’t bother putting baby to sleep until it’s pretty dark. Because guess what?! They won’t go to sleep!! This is when it’s helpful to camp in Antarctica in the middle of winter. For the love of all that’s holy, please DO NOT go to Alaska in the summer. You might as well give your kid a crack pipe.
5) Naptime. You may correctly assume that if your child won’t go to bed at night in a tent, said child will certainly not be taking a nap in the tent. Plan your day accordingly. If your kid sleeps well in a carseat, put him in the car and go on whatever outing you’ve got planned. If your kid sleeps well in a backpack, plan a hike. We ended up putting Lula in the car, with the a/c on, while we packed up for our day trip. She’d be asleep by the time we left. Some days we explored in the car, and some days we got to the beach and we hung out on the tailgate while she napped in the car.
6) Bring your own shade. Because if it wasn’t hard enough to put a baby to sleep in a tent, imagine putting a SUNBURNED baby to sleep in a tent. Now…while some might think one of those overhead shade things that go over are great, let me introduce you to the Sport-Brella XL (make sure to get the XL) No…I’m not getting paid by Sport-Brella, we just really like it. Folded up, it takes up a tiny amount of space, and you can use it at your campsite AND wherever else you go with minimal effort (i’m all about the minimal effort). It also does double duty and keeps the kid contained on one side. Which leads me to my next item.
7) Make your own play pen. Let’s face it…a 13 month old is too smart to be put in a pack & play for extended periods of time. This is when you have to trick them-while you still can. Give them the illusion of freedom and they will be happy. We used the SunBrella on one side, put some old fabric throw rugs on the ground and penned in our little girl with coolers and rubber-maids full of camping crap. The umbrella gave her shade and a wall, the rugs decreased the amount of dirtiness (maybe by 50%), and the coolers/rubbermaids kept her from getting into things she’s not supposed to.
8) Like the FIRE. If you are a better parent than I and your baby doesn’t eat dirt, and the thought of penning them is akin to killing a puppy, please for the love of all that’s holy-contain your fire. Contain your fire pit the morning after you’ve HAD a fire. The coals in a day old fire can be enough to burn a face off. And that’s a real good way to ruin an already ruined vacation (because remember you’re not really on vacation). That’s where the handy rubbermaid bins come in again. Don’t use camp chairs as a fence…they can fold up and fall in the fire and then you’ve got a ruined chair, a ruined non-vacation-trip, AND a burnt baby.
9) Meals: Plan your meals ahead of time. Write down however many breakfast/dinners you’re having and then when husband says, “What’s for dinner?” you can tell him to look at the sheet and make it himself.
10) Wine. Now this doesn’t work the way you think it does. It works by giving you hope throughout the day THINKING about drinking it. You’ll look forward to lounging in a semi-comfy camp chair with a hard earned plastic cup of wine in front of a crackling fire. And it will get you through the day. Just realize instead you’ll be in the bed cuddled up with your kid while your husband drinks the bottle of Malbec you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Or you’ll actually get to drink it and realize the only thing worse than camping with a baby, is hungover camping with a baby.
11) Other Crap. Medicines and other crap you shouldn’t have to think about but sometimes you do. Lula takes medicines 3x/day, and we’ve got a pulse ox monitor to measure her oxygen levels. I got one of those small itty bitty coolers and stuck all her medicines/syringes in it…on it, I put a huge sign with a “wash your hands or die before opening” type threats. The cooler and monitor were in an easy to find bag always with us. So no..you don’t really have an excuse not to camping. If I can’t get out of it…you can’t get out of it.
Any other suggestions to add to the list?