Camping With Infants and Toddlers – RV, Tent or Travel Trailer?

Taking a baby on a camping trip can present a challenge to the camping experience. Choosing the right camping situation will help keep baby safe and secure.

Parents have several choices when considering the best way to camp with small children. They can choose to camp in an RV, a tent or a trailer. Families without access to their own camping gear can stay at a campground that offers amenities like on-site cabins or park model trailers.

Some campgrounds even offer on-site recreational vehicles that are available for rent. This option can allow a family to get their feet wet and have the campground experience without having to purchase a tent or a camper.

Recreational Vehicle Camping

Recreational vehicles, also known as RVs, provide easier and more practical camping trips with babies or toddlers. The solid walls provided by recreational vehicle create a nice sound barrier for a sleeping infant or toddler. Solid doors that lock prevent small children from wandering off.

These campers have beds for the family to sleep in, and RVs with wider aisles will usually fit a portable crib. The family will have a full-size refrigerator for toddler snacks and a full kitchen to work in. Cabinets and closets provide lots of storage for toddler gear, while a full bathroom allows easy clean-up after a fun day outside.

Camping Trailer

A camping trailer can have solid or canvas sides. These campers also have doors that lock, an important consideration when camping with young children. A camping trailer requires a truck to tow it, so larger families might run into problems if the truck doesn’t fit everyone in. The upside to having a separate vehicle is that the family can run around without driving a huge RV around.

Camping trailers can hold a lot of gear. The canvas sides don’t block sounds as well so crying babies, or loud neighbors are something to consider. Most solid-wall camping trailers have showers and toilets. Pop-up canvas trailers sometimes have showers or toilets of some sort, but most aren’t as elaborate as those in a trailer or recreational vehicle.

Tent Camping With Toddlers

Tent camping is the most inexpensive option to choose when camping with small children. The tent can be set up in many different locations and situations. Most toddlers will love the experience of sleeping on the ground with the family. A child with a tendency to wander should be placed in a portable crib so he can’t get out of the tent while everyone else is sleeping.

Plastic totes can be packed with each person’s gear. These totes can be placed in the family car or left in the tent. Bathroom facilities are usually nearby in the form of a bathhouse. Food will have to be carried along in coolers and bags, and cooking will be done over a campfire or a grill. Toddler-friendly finger foods will make the tent camping experience easier.

No matter which option a family chooses – RV, tent or a camping trailer – the experience will provide a wonderful memory for a family with small children.

Tips for Camping with Toddlers

Camping is a wonderful, affordable family activity that creates wonderful memories and offers a variety of new experiences for infants and toddlers. Parents are often reluctant to take young children camping but with a little bit of advanced planning, camping can be a special experience that toddlers will love. Camping will encourage a love of the outdoors in toddlers and contribute to a more active and healthier lifestyle in the long term.

Deciding Where to Camp with a Toddler

Unless your family is used to more rustic activities, it is best to choose a campsite with running water and clean restrooms that include showers when camping with a toddler. Many campsites offer swimming pools and playgrounds that make camping with a toddler much more enjoyable. Some campsites are more family-friendly than others.

If possible, get a word of mouth referral for a nice, clean campsite that attracts other campers with young children. Many campsites offer the option of camping in small cabins that often have heating or air conditioning. This is a great option for a toddler’s first trip if you are camping without a pop-up tent or trailer.

Preparing for a Campout with a Toddler

Going anywhere with an infant or toddler requires extra preparation and a camping trip is no different. Plan out each day of your campout to be sure that you have enough supplies, including clothes, a change of clothes since the first will most likely get dirty, diapers, wipes, and snacks that your toddler is used to.

Be sure to bring enough water to keep your toddler hydrated since even if you are staying at a campsite with running water, the water may not be drinkable. Water bottles are convenient to carry with you if you plan to do any camping or off-roading during your camping trip.

Don’t forget any comfort items that your toddler uses at home. Bringing familiar items will help alleviate any anxiety your toddler has about going on a camping trip. If you have an infant carrier or toddler backpack that can be very useful since most strollers will not work on more rugged terrain.

Sleeping with a Toddler while Camping

Toddlers are often used to their normal bedtime routine and may have difficulty sleeping in a new place. Don’t be afraid to bring a port-a-crib if you have room for it inside a tent, cabin, or camping trailer. Infants and toddlers may sleep better if given their own space and parents will sleep better knowing that their child is in a safe place during the night.

Many toddlers become afraid as the sun goes down because they are not used to being outside after dark. If possible, bring a small flashlight to let your toddler use after dark in addition to the larger ones used by mom and dad. Toddlers will feel more secure being in control of the darkness by holding their own flashlight.

Comfort items that your toddler uses for bedtimes such as a special blanket, stuffed animal, or pillow should be brought to make bedtime as close to normal as possible. If your toddler is used to falling asleep with a bedtime story bring a familiar children’s book with you on your camping trip.

Some toddlers who have difficulty falling asleep on a camping trip can be lulled to sleep by the movement of the car. A quick scenic drive around the area may help your toddler fall asleep peacefully and allow you to gently lift him into his bed for the night. Toddlers may feel more comfortable sleeping as close to mom or dad as possible and having access to their flashlight throughout the night. A small flashlight hung from the top of the tent and left on makes a wonderful nightlight during a camping trip.

Toddler-Friendly Camping Activities

Toddlers love being outside, and some of the simplest outdoor activities will thrill them during a camping trip. Give your toddler a container to start a rock collection since he will most likely find rocks that are not available closer to home. Go on a short hike to explore new areas. If hiking is too tiring for your toddler, try using an infant carrier such as the Ergo baby carrier or a toddler backpack to allow him to enjoy the hike without wearing himself out. Build a campfire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows or make foil dinners. Reading books or telling stories around the campfire is a wonderful family activity and can often help toddlers wind down before bedtime.

Camping is a wonderful family activity that will create family memories that will last a lifetime and expose toddlers to new places and experiences. Enjoying the outdoors as a family is a healthy activity that will encourage a healthy lifestyle for the long term and help toddlers develop new interests and hobbies. Don’t be afraid to take your toddler camping with you. While it does require some extra planning and there may be a few moments of frustration, you will help your family draw closer together and be able to enjoy each other away from the stress of everyday life.


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