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Camping with kids

Americans are itching to get out of the house this summer, perhaps more than ever. And while destinations that may have been on your list for a family vacation are still slowly emerging from COVID-19 protocols, there’s one surefire, socially distant option for families of all ages — camping.

Before you disregard this most outdoor of outdoor adventures, consider camping as an extension of the Great American Road Trip. All it takes is a little planning and you can tailor your trip to accommodate the ages and abilities of your entire family.

If you have really little ones (or if you’re just not that into getting primitive) obviously an intense backcountry trip is not the right option. However, you can still experience the nomadic joy of camping by sticking to established campgrounds that contain the amenities necessary to keep everyone clean and happy. Nothing beats a day of sitting around a campfire like a warm shower! If you don’t have camping gear, consider renting an RV for the occasion. They’re self-contained and really allow you and your family to celebrate the best of both worlds.

Camping spots in Oregon get gobbled up fairly quickly in regular seasons, but with a year off, many are just now coming back online. Visit to check the status of campgrounds in Oregon, from the coast to the high desert, and everywhere in between.

If you’re a camping rookie, there are a few necessities that will make your family’s trip enjoyable:

Make sure everyone has adequate bedding, whether that’s sleeping bags or blankets for a camper. If you’re sleeping in a tent, consider an air mattress or bed roll, and make note of the temperatures where you’re going.

Bring a first aid kit. Many campgrounds also have a camp host that can direct you to a healthcare provider or urgent care if a family member requires more than a Band-Aid.

Remember your sunscreen. Pack sunscreen for every activity, including water sports and hiking, and reapply as directed. A painful sunburn can ruin a trip quickly.

With the exception of bikes or skateboards, limit kids’ toys to just what they need in the car to stay entertained between destinations. Riding a bike around a campground, where speed limits are low and strictly enforced, is a great way for children to have a little freedom.

Let there be light! Don’t forget a battery-operated lantern or two: one for the picnic table, and one to accompany campers around the site and to the restrooms.

Pack drinking water for all, if you’re headed off the beaten path. Established campgrounds may offer a potable water source; bring a large container for filling up your family’s supply.

Keep food simple. Part of the joy in camping is the distinct difference between being at home and being in nature. Hotdogs are a campfire staple, as are foil packet meals that you can make ahead of time and cook right on a fire (if forest regulations allow) or over a camp stove. You might find that kids are so engaged with “playing” that they don’t ask for as many snacks as they do at home.

Remember, getting there is half the fun. Take time to stop at roadside attractions along the way. It’s often the moment in between the moments that make the best memories.


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