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Car Camping With Kids

Tips for Car Camping with Kids

Summer in Washington is a great time to enjoy the outdoors with your family. The weather is usually mild, winter snow has melted away, and campgrounds are open. If you and your family are looking for a fun, relatively inexpensive get away to explore the beauty that Washington has to offer than car camping may be just what you’re looking for.

Setting Up Camp
Helping set up the tent during a camping trip. Camping is a great way to introduce kids to outdoor adventures. Photo by Joanie Robertson.

Car camping offers opportunities for families to get closer to nature, spend time together, and yet still have some of the “luxuries” such as running water, toilets and perhaps even showers. Campgrounds amenities can vary from primitive campsites to sites with water and electric hook ups. With a little research you’ll find a site that suits your family’s needs. Here are some suggestions and tips to help you plan your next family outing.

Make a reservation. Washington has some amazing public campgrounds in county parks, state parks, national forests, and national parks. Many campsites can be had only through reservations, which can be made online. Depending on where you go, campsite fees range from $12 to $35 per night. Take time to research where you want to go ahead of time. It can be tough to find a camp site on a weekend if you get to the campground late in the day without a reservation.  Reserve Washington State Parks at and U.S Forest Service and National Park Service campgrounds at For more helpful information about reservations click here.

Four Great Car Campgrounds:

Create a checklist. Many families have found that making a checklist that includes things to take camping is very helpful in preparing for the outing. The checklist could include sections such as: directions and reservation information, cooking, clothes, bedding, shelter, personal, first aid, and miscellaneous.  

Practice before you go. Knowing how to set up your tent before you leave home will help alleviate frustration once you arrive at the campsite. Prior to your camping trip, set up the tent with your kids. Let them explore inside the tent if it is their first time using a tent. Perhaps even have a camp-out in your backyard before you leave home. Tip: set up all of your gear ahead of time to make sure all the pieces are there and working. It’s a real bummer when your camp stove doesn’t work and the kids are hungry.

Pack strategically. When loading your car for the trip, take a moment to think about the unload process once you arrive at the campground. Most likely you will have kids antsy to get out of the car and move around. If you pack the tent last it will be the first thing to get unloaded and set up at camp. Then you can unload your personal belonging right into the tent. Tip: get a tent that is one person greater than your family (four person tent for a family of three). 

Many families enjoy the familiarity of returning to a particular campground year after year.  Other families choose to go camping on a particular weekend each year. Once you decide what works best for your family remember to be creative and make each trip a special experience for your family to share and enjoy together. Happy Camping!

For suggestions on trails near campgrounds click here.

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