Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tips for camping/road trips for families

This summer our family took a giant road trip! We drove from Indiana to San Fransisco and back within 2 weeks. WITH KIDS!!!!!  I know what you are thinking, "What are you, crazy????" Well yes, we pretty much are, but we also know our kids. These 2 are amazing little travelers, and love to see more and more of the world. With our budget we need to be creative with our exploring because we don't have extra cash for airfare, hotels, and fast food while on vacation. So we drive and camp.

We decided to take this trip for a few reasons. 1. Adam and I took this trip on our honeymoon and this year we were celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. So why not take the trip again but bring the kids with. They have heard our stories for as long as they have been alive, and were so excited to see some of the places from the stories and pictures. 2. Adam has been friends with Andy since they were kids, Andy and his wife Monica now live in the Bay area and were saying that no one comes to visit. We really wanted to be able to visit with them and change this. So off we went!

Scouting camp sites:
I kept our receipts from our last trip for some reason, and went online to check to see if they were all still there and how much the price has changed. Adam wanted to camp in new locations, and he ended up stumbling upon an amazing resource! has lists of free or cheap campsites listed according to state. The site gives tons of info on each site, price list, reviews, and links to the campsites own web pages.

This was a tricky one. Adam was adamant that we would not eat fast food the whole time we were gone, which is great, but with camping AND car snacks, I had to really think. We did most of our shopping at Aldi, Meijer, and I scored some giant bags of candy on clearance at Walgreens.

While packing the food, I divided big packages into smaller containers. I found that Crystal Light containers worked amazingly!!!! I filled them with candy (Skittles, Life Savers, and Gummy Bears), Goldfish crackers (so they wouldn't get crushed), pretzels, and dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. I also found that containers a friends gave me leftover after using Dole Shakers, these were also great for the above, but I had stashed creamer, condiments, and napkins.

Now for breakfast, I knew it had to be pretty easy and possible to eat in the car. I made a double batch of blueberry banana muffins (to use up freezer stuff), and then froze them. We also had mini bagels with a jar of peanut butter. But the one I am most proud of was that I prepped scrambled eggs for us to have on the 3rd travel morning. I had a dozen eggs that I wanted to use up before we left, so I cracked them into a freezer safe plastic container, added a splash of milk, salt and pepper, and whisk until beaten. Now put on the lid, and pop in the freezer before it is time to go. We kept them in the cooler, and by our 3rd days they were mostly thawed, still chunks that were frozen and still very cold. We brought a vintage Colman stove that I had picked up at a garage sale for $5 a few years ago, and I picked up a nice deep skillet from the thrift store for cheap so that we could cook on the stove. We warmed up the muffins in this pan as well.

For lunch, I picked up flat sandwich buns, and we had turkey lunch meat in the cooler. We made quick sandwiches at a stop along the way for the day. Add whatever fruit and chips/popcorn/pretzels that we had in the car.

For dinner, Adam insisted on bringing rice dishes. I had also brought a package of turkey hot dogs. To keep the buns fresh, I also stuck those in the freezer before leaving.

For drinks, we used our 4 reusable drinking bottles the entire times. I picked up 2 jugs of drinking water to have in the car. This was used to refill anyone's cups, and also for cooking and cleaning while we were gone. We were able to refill our water jugs along the way at various camp sites or rest stops. I had made a batch of my homemade iced coffee, and kept it in a reused juice bottle in the trunk. That way we could have our morning coffee with little fuss. I also picked up some Starbucks Via to have on hand for the ride home. I was not a fan, too much caffeine in those gave me a massive headache.

To set up our cooler, we place 4 plastic cups open end down in the bottom of the cooler. We then added a bag of ice, and then a large flat tray on top of the cups. This way we could add the food into the cooler without everything getting soaking wet. The cooler stayed really cold this way still. Anything that needed to be the coldest like the eggs or yogurt tubes or lunch meat, went on the bottom of the stack. The breads and things went toward the top of the stack.

We did make a fire each night, but did not carry our own firewood. We used downed or dead branches, logs, and sticks. We also made s'mores almost every night. I kept the graham crackers and marshmallows in a large plastic container, and the chocolate in the cooler. To make roasting the marshmallows easier, I brought with bamboo skewers. That way when we were done we could just toss into the fire to help us leave no trace.

Two reusable bags were used to hold food items, another was used to hold all eating/cooking supplies (I found enamel camping plates at the thrift store for $.50 each), and then we used another bag to hold extra camping supplies like matches, flashlights, lanterns, small camping axe, weather radio, and thin floor mat (put at the door of the tent on the outside to help keep dirt out).

This was hard!!!! We had to pack for weather anywhere from 65-100 degrees!!!! Plus limited space!!!! YIKES!!!! We used the kids smaller rolling suitcases. I knew that when we arrived at our friend's house in the Bay area, we could do laundry. I just needed enough for us to all have clean clothes on the way out. We have 1 pair of pj's, 1 pair of jeans, and 1 sweatshirt for each of us. To pack the clothes, I actually rolled all the items for one outfit together in a small roll. This made it easy to pack in the case, plus when it came time to grab clothes in the morning, I could hand each kid just one roll and they were off.

A BIG suggestion, practice packing your car before you leave!!!!! This way you will have an idea where everything needs to go, and if you can actually fit it all. We have a smaller SUV, we were cramped at times, but we had everything we needed and everyone was comfortable the entire time.  

And last but not least, activities for the kids in the car. We had devices with us, but they were not allowed to be on them the entire time. Each kid had a fully charged Kurio tablet , and brought with the charger for when we arrived in Cali. They played them until they ran out of battery life. We also brought our first generation iPad that I had loaded with a few episodes from 3 of our favorite shows, and a few new games. We also had a portable DVD player, and each kid was allowed to pick out 3 DVDs to bring along. (The whole family sang along to the movie Frozen a few times). I had kid friendly headphones for each kid to use while using these devices. In addition, I had 3 chapter books for each child, a Highlights hidden picture book, a National Geography Kids Atlas,   Summer learning books, we made a print out Google map of each travel day, dry erase markers, a small pad of construction paper, kid safe scissors, glue stick, colored pencils.

Hope this has helped some. We did our best to do this as cheaply as we could. We also practiced Leave No Trace as best as we could. In fact, we cleaned up other sites that were left behind. I'm sure I will think of more things we did along the way, and will try to add them in as I remember.


Related Posts with Thumbnails