We had a great time on our very first camping trip! When people we know heard about this trip, and realized I was going on it, they basically offered hope I could make it through the first night. I had to remind everyone that I was the one who planned this trip from top to bottom! Yes, as a teen I would have never gone camping. It wasn’t my thing. But as we parents know, having kids changes everything and I was really excited about this trip. If you’re thinking about camping but are afraid to pull the trigger, let me assure you – there is nothing to it. Seriously. It’s the most low-key vacation you will ever go on. It’s peaceful and relaxing, a far cry from when I plan our Disney World excursions. There are so many ways to camp too. You can bring a tent and completely rough it. Or you can stay in a fully loaded camper or lodge. Of course all campsites offer different things but there’s no right or wrong way to camp. One thing that annoys me is when people assume because you aren’t sleeping in a tent that you aren’t “really camping”. Uh, not true. I saw some tent campers at our site and they brought microwaves with them. There are all degrees to “roughing it” and if you ask me, not having running water or a bathroom inside your cabin is one of those ways.
The very last night, we did sleep in the tent and can I just say – we definitely earned our “legit campers” badge on this night. At 3pm I was woken to bright flashes outside the roof of our tent. I thought maybe it was just going to be heat lightening since it was so hot that day. But then a few minutes later I heard the loud cracks of thunder and sure enough, the rain started pouring down. We slept through a thunderstorm! It was a lot of fun and we stayed totally dry. The kids each woke up and I just told them what the noise was and they fell right back to sleep. They were wonderful tent sleepers.
If you look around online, you will find dozens upon dozens of checklists for your camping adventure. Some people literally bring their house with them. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. I am sharing our list because it worked out so well for us. My husband and I were both pretty impressed that we didn’t miss any big “Duh, we totally should have brought that along!” items. This was everything we needed to camp for 4 nights/5 days: CLICK HERE FOR OUR CAMPING CHECKLISTS
Let me explain our sleeping arrangements for this trip. When originally thinking about camping, I thought “We will sleep in a tent”. Then I did a bit or research online in regards to the campsite we had chosen and decided that maybe the little wooden cabins would be a fun option. There were two bonuses to choosing the cabin: we had a roof over our head in case of rain (which as it turns out, we slept outdoors in the one rain storm. Go figure.) and a full-sized fridge (excellent!) I asked the woman on the phone if she thought two of my kids could fit into one bunk bed together. My girls have bunks here at home but they are very large, very long twin beds and 3 kids easily fit into one. The mattresses at Yogi were camp-sized. You know those teeny tiny little child-sized ones? So that’s fine and dandy but there was no way my three children were fitting in two beds. (I will elaborate on our sleeping arrangements in a bit). They had a two room option that I chose not to go with because remember, I originally was thinking about a tent and wanted to keep this as basic and no frills as possible. After seeing the two room cabins with our own eyes, I now realize these were on the same ‘frill’ level as one room. It was our cute little rustic, bare-bones cabin with a tiny bump-out in the back. In that area was another set of bunks. Next time, we will be sleeping in the two room. But for this trip, one room it was.
We pulled up and saw the size of the cabin with our own eyes vs. online. We all laughed. It was really small. Adorable. And I admit, inside my mind was kind of in shell-shock mode. I thought “What the hell am I doing?” LOL It was definitely a change of pace from our usual vacation accommodations. I was just hoping I would love it and quickly.
This was the very first picture I took of the kids. Our cabin was on the end of a row bordering a path going into the woods. It was the perfect spot since the kids enjoyed walking down the pat collecting branches for marshmallows and firewood. Just look at all of these awesome trees!
This shot was taken from woods looking up at our cabin. Its right in the center of this frame.
There was a giant boulder right behind our cabin which made the perfect jungle gym for the kids when we were just sitting around.
Here’s a quick shot from inside our cabin. We opted to bring sleeping bags and pillows instead of a full set of linens and it was perfect. No messy beds to make up in the morning and the kids could take their bags into the tent when they wanted.
We got our fire started right away. Our very first campfire! Note: next time we will be bringing a grill top for the fire pit. Then we will be able to cook more food on it.
Vin gets started on the tent.
“Here Dad, lets us help you”. You know, since it was a little hard for me to offer assistant from all the way over here…
“Help! I’m trapped!”
We’re camping… and liking it!
Chicks On Sticks for dinner! I par-boiled red potatoes and marinated chicken cubes at home and stored them in Zip-Lock bags. We threaded them onto skewers as we waited for our little grill to heat up.
We had marshmallows every night.It’s the perfect, quick dessert. I loved having the fire going nearly all day because it was so simple to grab a few marshmallows and roast them when I needed a quick jolt of sugar (I have a ‘thing’ where I need to eat something sweet right after a meal. It’s kind of annoying.)
This one is still on fire.
The BEST way to eat a marshmallow: 3/4 burnt and 1/4 fluffy white. If you burn it totally, you run the risk of eating a pile of ash. Yes, I have worked hard perfecting my marshmallow roasting skills.
By now it was nearing bedtime. Let me jump ahead 12 hours and tell you about the phone conversation I had with my Mom.
Mom: “How did the first night go?”
Me: “Good. Em fell out of the bed and Vin slept in the van.”
I was cracking up telling her this story! When he went to go sleep in the van, I pulled out an old Chris Farley SNL skit and told him he was “livin’ in a van down by the river!” (anyone?) Remember the small cabin issue? Vin slept the first night in the van and then in the tent on the air mattress (that was picked up after a Walmart trip on vacation).
Our “luxury” mobile.
It was actually awesome having this with us because it gave the kids an extra place to rest or play.
While Vin was setting up the mattress and new charcoal grill (also a Walmart purchase), I got started on breakfast. We had oatmeal, fruit and waffles (our cabin had a microwave). Then we walked down to the Yogi Theater and the kids colored t-shirts. Every day they have a craft activity. We chose to do all of them. They also had daily wagon and/or firetruck rides.
Lunch was grilled cheese. I asked Vin to pick up a pie iron before we left and I am so glad we did. Now that we know it works great, we’ll pick up a second. Some friends have given me other great ideas to do with this pie iron that we’ll definitely be trying on our next camping adventure: Nutella/bananas/bread and bread/apple pie filling. Yum!
white bread + olive oil spray + cheese = lunch!
Regarding the olive oil spray:
1) It was probably the BEST food item we brought along. We used it on the grilled cheese bread, the foil pans so food wouldn’t stick, etc.
2) One of my favorite memories from this trip was when Vin came out of the cabin one morning and told the kids to line-up to get sprayed before the pool. I very calmly and seriously said “Is there a reason you are trying to spray my kids with olive oil?” LOL! He thought he grabbed the sunscreen.
Andrew cooks his own lunch.
The girls enjoy their lunch.
Don’t forget to pack a few simple outdoor activities to keep the kids busy. Our kids were giving us a little of the “What do we doooo?” for the first two days. They are used to a busy, NY lifestyle. We don’t have much down time. But they soon got the hang of it. We had them each bring some books for reading, we brought along a deck of cards, two travel games, a coloring book for Grace, a ball and bat, football and we picked up some of those little tubes of goo that you blow balloons with after a Family Dollar store run on a windy afternoon.
Daddy having a catch with his girls.
I also printed scavenger hunts at home before we left. Each kid got one hunt for the campsite and one for the car ride, which we always do when we drive 4+ hours to Lake George. The kids love doing them!
The kids were very excited to try this dinner. There are 1,001 ways to make Hobo Stew (or, Hobo Soup if your name is Grace). The one that included creamed soup sounded appealing to me since I didn’t feel like bringing along spices. We separated a pound of ground beef into 6 pieces and placed them on 6 sheets of heavy-duty foil. Each piece of meat got topped with soup, potatoes and carrots (all canned. Don’t forget your can opener!) They get double-wrapped in foil and cooked on charcoals for 25 minutes.
Dessert this night was grilled peach slices and whipped cream!
We played Bingo at night. This particular Bingo was Candy Bar Bingo. You had to bring a bar for every card you wanted to play. They divided the stash into 6 piles and the winners of each game got the candy. Grace was bored out of her mind checking off one box at a time. Later that night, we laid in bed together and I asked if she was having fun. I said “What is your favorite part so far?” and she said “Not the boring game with the bars!”
This photo cracks me up. They are both so serious about Bingo! Emily was one number away from a full card.
One of the crafts was tie dye. We are big tie dye making people in the Summer. :)
Grace wrapped her shirt in a spiral pattern.
Emily wrapped hers in a bullseye.
Someone’s shirt getting dyed.
Someone elses shirt getting dyed.
Andrew’s striped pattern is revealed!
Grace’s spiral is revealed!
We rented paddle boats but the only photos I have from that are from my iPhone. After, we went swimming. The campsite has a great pool area with a sprinkler section for little kids.
(Emily and Andrew standing to the right of the pole).
The kids did water relays. This is Emily swimming back with two beaded necklaces she found underwater.
We went back to our campsite and had what would be our favorite meal: pizza! I brought along some Boboli crusts, a jar of sauce and a bag of shredded mozzarella. So easy and delicious!
Surprinsgly enough, our one failed meal were hot dogs! LOL We tried them on sticks but the sticks caught fire and broke, thus dropping the hot dogs into the fire, before they were done cooking. Next time we’ll invest in some metal skewers.
After a fire truck ride with Yogi and Boo Boo.
This was our favorite rock on our path we had to walk to get to the activities. See the eyes? It reminded us of one of our favorite creepy, awful movies: Return To Oz. Every time we walked past it, I would say in my scary voice: “Dorothy Gale is headed to the Emerald City. And she has a chicken!” (Has anyone ever seen this bad “sequel” or do I look nuts right now?)
A fast, easy breakfast: cinnamon rolls! I woke one morning to my husband already making these. :) You just have to watch them closely and turn them over mid-cooking. They burn fast.
One of our many late-night marshmallow roasts.
Right before laying their heads down for a night’s sleep in the tent!
We did it! We went camping …and liked it! So much so, that we have not one but TWO more camping trips booked for 2012!
Thanks for peeking in on our family’s camping journey. :)
Sarah Davis says
Thanks for taking me back to MY childhood! I camped a few times at a Jellystone in Cincinnati Ohio. Your post motivated me enough to find a Jellystone here in Florida. Thanks for the awesome tips and resources too, it’s been so long I’m sure I’ll forget one thing…or more.
loved all the great ideas! we love camping… but I’d never thought of some of your pins and activities!
thanks for sharing and for all the pictures!