How I Survived Camping with a Toddler

We recently took our 2.5-year old camping for the first time. My husband was surprised I agreed to go camping in the first place, because I’m six months pregnant and not usually into tent camping. I LOVE being outdoors in the fresh air, disconnecting from daily life and electronics, but I’m more of a “cabin camping” gal. I need a comfy bed, a shower, and a toilet especially when I must use the little girls room every 20 mins. Some good friends invited us to go and I thought, let’s give it a go. I can rough it for a couple nights so my daughter Mila can experience her first camping trip before her little sister arrives. They grow up so fast, and I didn’t want to miss this experience with her.

I’m happy to report we had a great time for most of the trip and the tent sleeping part wasn’t as brutal as I’d thought it would be. After making it through two nights in a tent with a squirmy toddler and a horrific drive home, here are a few tips for anyone else planning to take a toddler camping, especially while pregnant.

Have a good blow up mattress for both you and your child. Don’t share! Sharing a bed with a toddler is like sharing a bed with a drunk octopus. They twist and turn in all directions and have no concept of personal space. To avoid this scenario, I got each of us our own twin blow up mattress. This way, every time one of us turns over, it doesn’t feel like we are sleeping in a bouncy house. This one from Amazon was surprisingly comfy even for a pregnant gal. Intex Prestige Downy Twin Airbed Kit with Hand Held Battery Pump.

Bring WINE. Lots of it. One of the ways I’ve taken the edge off while tent camping in the past, was by enjoying a great bottle of wine or frosty beer. Let’s face it. No one gets a good night’s rest while camping unless they are one of those lucky “good sleepers” who can sleep through a hurricane or dump truck in their living room. I am not one of those people so I will have a few drinks to help me drift off to sleep in a tiny sleeping bag peacefully. A lot of camping is sitting around the campfire and its WAY more fun to have a drink to sip on. Since I'm pregnant, I had to go with the non-alcoholic version. I’ve tried both non-alcoholic bottles below and they aren’t bad! In fact, they are pretty good. Sure, you are basically drinking grape juice sans the alcohol but they do have a nice taste that makes me feel like I’m participating with the rest of the adults. Try the Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay or Ariel Non- Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Bring a comfy pillow. In my case, a giant pregnancy pillow. It will take up half the tent but at least you’ll be able to support your hips and back. I couldn’t fit myself and my huge pregnancy pillow in my sleeping bag but I think it lead to a more restful night’s sleep. It was 97 degrees out during the day, so I didn’t have much need for a sleeping bag anyway. I don’t leave home without this bad boy. Restorology Full 60-Inch Body Pregnancy Pillow with Washable Cover. It also comes to hotels with me.

Bring a mechanism for making good coffee. If you can only enjoy one cup per day, then you want that cup to be damn good. Instant coffee isn’t going to cut it because you’ll be tired. Our lovely campsite neighbors woke us up at 5am on the last day as they chatted (yelled) for an hour while they packed up. It was so thoughtful of them. Not. We brought a Coleman Stove which is pretty standard camping equipment , some freshly ground coffee and a French Press and made a delicious Cup of Joe to compensate for this early wake-up. Can you see a theme here? I like wine and coffee. Beverages are important to me. It sounds high maintenance but it made all the difference.

Bring outdoor toys. Lots of toys. As a rookie “Mom Camper”, I made a total oversight and forgot all our outdoor toys. The other kiddos we were with had scooters, bikes and other plastic toys and Mila had nothing. Mom fail. They shared of course, but the trip would have been way easier if Mila had her own scooter, helmet and toys for digging in the sand. The great outdoors offers a lot of adventure for little kids, but eventually they get bored and a few toys go a long way.

Expect the unexpected, like your child getting car sick and vomiting everywhere. Pack to be prepared. This was the major kicker of the whole trip. We are learning the hard way that our toddler gets car sick. I mean really car sick. Especially when we are on mountain roads. About 20 minutes into the two-and-a-half-hour drive home Mila got sick all over the car, herself and her car seat. We made an emergency stop on the side of the road and were frantically stripping her down and taking her car seat apart so we could clean up the mess. Suddenly, a nice man who lived on the hill above, ran down to tell us we were in the middle of a mosquito hot spot and should move on quickly. My husband looked at my back and I was covered. I looked at him and he and our daughter were also covered. After freaking out and swatting off hundreds of mosquitos, we threw all our gear back in the car and headed for a nearby stream to clean up. A stream was the only option close by. For anyone who’s taken apart a convertible car seat, you know that it isn’t fun with a bunch of pieces to disassemble and reassemble. Especially when its covered in throw up. One-and-a-half hours later we were finally back on the road with a grumpy toddler in a wet car seat. No fun. Next time, I’ll pack Dramamine.

Overall, we had a great time and I survived. Next time we’ll be more prepared. Do you have any great camping with kiddo stories? We’d love to hear yours. Leave a comment below and Happy Camping!




1 comment

  • Dave Smith

    We took Lauren camping when she was around 13 or 14 years old to Sequoia National Park. Because of the large bear population food was locked in metal containers and NO makeup was recommended. Even though she was told NO Lauen was told not to bring any she and her girlfriend brought a bag full and kept it in their tent. Fortunately no bears at our site but they checked out a few sites away. She also took about thee showers a day because camping made her dirty. That’s my camping story!

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