Camping with kids

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

My husband, Kevin, and I had the most fun traveling pre-kids during our camping trips.

We had a big travel trailer that we would haul around to all sorts of different destinations. We would leave on Thursday afternoons and come home on Sunday nights. It seemed as though the entire summer literally was a vacation for us.

We loved going to state parks: Anything in the Wisconsin Dells, Door County, Lake Michigan. We traveled all over the Midwest. The memories we made were priceless.

I don’t think we knew how easy we had it either. We could park, set up and crack a beer all in an hour’s time.

Things have changed a bit for us. We had to sell our 27-foot camper when we found out that we were having kids. We knew we would likely not have time to camp. Even if we did find the time, we could not afford that big camper with me having to quit my job.

After the first set of twins came, we were determined to become avid campers again. The summer the boys turned 1, we got the old tent out, the air mattress and the Pack ‘n Plays.

Was that ever an adventure.

We had to take two vehicles just to fit all of our kid stuff. I don’t remember a whole lot from that first camping trip with kids, except that they cried all night long, and I feared the neighbors around us would be giving us bad looks in the morning. We packed up almost before dawn and headed home.

We decided to wait a few years to head out again with the next set of twins. The big boys were 5 and the babies, 3, when we decided to pull the trigger and buy another camper. But instead of a brand-new travel trailer with a bathroom, shower and kitchen in it like we used to own, we bought a 1999 pop up. No bathroom. No kitchen. No nothing.

We are having fun, and memories are being created with each trip. But things have changed a little bit since those years of just being Kev, me and the dogs.

Camping before kids:

Set up. Sit down. Have a beer.

Camping with kids:

Set up. Unpack. Get everyone a snack. Get bikes out. Ride to the park right away. Check out the pool. Head to the jumping pillow. No sitting or stopping until the end of the day.

Camping before kids:

Eat dinner at your convenience. Don’t really plan meals. Warm up whatever you have on the fire when you decide you’re hungry.

Camping with kids:

Have every single meal planned that always contain fruits and veggies, so we are not on a sugar high all weekend long; constantly prepping food; then feeding; then cleaning; then doing it over and over again, basically all day.

Camping before kids:

Fall asleep by the fire or in the camper — whatever and whenever is fine. You have no agenda. You can sleep in tomorrow. No need to worry about it.

Camping with kids:

Pray that everyone will be so worn out from the day that they go to sleep at a decent time, so you can have one drink together by the fire. They insist on staying up for s’mores. The sugar keeps them awake later than you would like. You fall asleep laying with them. No drinks. No fire. No alone time.

Camping before kids:

Wake up and have a coffee outside casually and whenever you want. Take in the views and the fresh air. Maybe you will have breakfast or maybe you won’t. You’re not really sure of how the day will play out. You might not even get dressed or move from this chair by the fire that you slept in last night.

Camping with kids:

Set your alarm for 5:30 a.m., so you can have one cup of coffee in peace before you have to start the process all over again.

As you can see, camping for us is not quite as relaxing as it once was. But the memories we are creating for those kids is worth all of the work Mom and Dad have to do to make it happen.

Addie Graffin is a freelance columnist and blogger based in Platteville, Wis. Read more at

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