Planning for Adventure With Kids

The logistics of single parent outdoor adventures can be daunting to say the least. There’s no partner to help set up camp while the other person cooks. And there’s sure as hell nobody there to help with tear down and the post-apocalyptic level of cleaning required when you get back home. There are times, just thinking about all the work necessary, raises a faint voice whispering “You don’t have to do this!” Thankfully, I ignore that voice.

planning a camping adventure with kids

To make things easier for us, I’ve taken the time to organize our gear into big blue tubs. Our breakdown for the basics of a car camping road trip looks something like this:


  1. Large Blue Tubs

    1. Clothing

    2. Sleeping bags/sleeping pads

    3. Perishable food

  2. Small milkcrates

    1. Cooking utensils/stove fuel

    2. Spices/non-perishable foods (like canned chili, noodles, instant potatoes)

    3. First-aid kit, hats, gloves, sunscreen, bug spray

  3. Camping stove

  4. Camp chairs

  5. Cooler

  6. Firewood/kindling/matches

  7. Daypacks

    1. waterbottles

  8. Books (we’re a big reading family...books come on every trip, even backpacking)

  9. Drawing paper/pens/markers

  10. Camera/Phone

  11. Battery chargers

  12. Road atlas (yes, even in the age of Google...when signal is lost, this thing is indispensable)

  13. Fishing poles/tackle (trip dependent)

  14. Buckets/shovels


I add or subtract as necessary. No two trips are exactly alike, obviously. On any adventure, I try to keep things as simple as possible. We don’t plan for every contingency. We don’t bring the kitchen sink. Our campsites usually look bare compared to other families, and we’re pretty okay with that. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We don’t do gourmet meals, and I try to keep it to simple fast dishes that can be put together quickly for hungry kids. The most important thing when it comes to food is having plenty of snacks on hand between meals. My two kids are voracious eaters when we travel and it can be hard to keep enough granola bars, fresh fruit, crackers, string cheese, and pepperoni on hand to keep them sated for long. All I can do is try.

planning for a camping adventure with kids

I always feel such a pride of accomplishment when the car is packed neatly and the kids are loaded up ready to go. I get a kick out of making it all fit just so. I just wish that same inspiration was present when it comes time to packing up for home! I admit, at the end of a trip, I’m in more of a slapdash toss it all in there somehow mood. It makes unloading the car a bear, and cleaning more challenging as well. This is something I’m working on, but it’s taking time to see improvements to be honest.

The important thing is the going. Getting out there. Creating some Instagram-perfect camping meal isn’t necessary. You can eat simple spaghetti. Heck, you can pick up a pizza as you pass through town and eat it while you set up camp! With more trips comes experience and a better idea of what’s necessary to bring and what’s not. Flexibility and a sense of humor makes all the difference on a successful trip.