I have explored San Diego from many view points: from the air when landing at Lindbergh Field, from the underground cave in La Jolla, from a high rise in Down Town, and I can finally say I've seen it through the mesh of a tent. Our family attempted and succeeded at our first camping trip with a toddler and an infant. Not only did we survive, we thrived. It was enjoyable from beginning to end. I intended the trip to be a trial run of camping, and a way to test our children and their tolerance for bugs, dirt, and s'mores. They were pretty OK with it all.
We decided to head to Observatory Campground (located in the Cleveland National Forest), which includes amenities such as flushing toilets, coin showers, and, most importantly, a breathtaking view of the San Diego night sky. The stars at night were so numerous it seemed as if the whole sky was glowing in bright patches. It is easy to forget the amount of stars that exist beyond the light and air pollution of the city.
The trip must have been blessed by all of our guardian angels, because nothing seemed to go wrong. I prepared for the trip like any other major life event: finding list-based camping blogs on Pintrest, and creating my own spreadsheet to keep organized. The amount of stuff we brought for one over-night trip seemed ridiculous both in theory and in practice, but once we arrived at our campsite it all seemed to fit together to make the whole camping in comfort or 'glamping' experience go as smooth as possible when caring for two young children (one recently potty trained). Among the stuffs brought was a small potty for the toddler, a pack-n-play for the baby, plenty of glow jewelry for night time fun and safety, and lots of food capable of cooking over a fire. Wipes also. Did I mention wipes? Baby wipes. Bring baby wipes.
After reading three or four articles with titles such as, "Surviving Camping with Kids," the suggestions of items to pack started to overlap, and at that time I felt as though my research was coming to a natural end. Thank goodness for those articles. I would have never thought to have lollipops in my pockets during hikes to instantly end meltdowns. Sometimes the "we are going to sit here until you decide to listen to us" method just does not work in certain situations.
Although the research I did was irreplaceably helpful, almost all blogs and articles seemed to leave out what I think are two extremely valuable tips. The first is to have a goal for your camping adventure. Why are you going on this trip? Is it to disconnect from your phone and internet? Maybe you are looking for a way to spend quality time with your family, or even just to test your limits. Whatever the goal is, keep it in mind as a motivator to have a great camping experience. We went camping because we wanted to have fun together. We all came together to have a good time, and made decisions to keep that goal alive. Flexibility and a good attitude are key here. I'm not ashamed to say an iPad was among the stuffs we brought and used. I'm also quite OK that our breakfast ended with some s'mores. Once all safety issues were secured, we relaxed and just enjoyed each other and our surroundings.
My second suggestion would be to have a plan for re-entry. On the drive back to civilization, we stopped for some barista-served coffee and discussed how we were all going to get showered, dressed, and unpacked. I think it is necessary to take a well deserved hot shower and put on some nice, clean cloths after a camping trip. Even my toddler, whom only hours before declared she was ready to make the tent her new home, agreed with a smile that her warm bubble bath was pretty nice. Within an hour of walking into our front door we had all persons washed and dressed. We were also tossing load after load of laundry into the wash and getting gear wiped down and ready for storage. It was the icing on the camping-cake to be able to relax that night knowing the house was clean and all of our things put away.
Our weekend was so successful we are already planning our next trip. What other part of San Diego will we venture to? As long as it has a spot for a tent... as well as a toddler potty... we are good to go.
Please visit my Pinterest board at http://www.pinterest.com/katieglina/camping/
for a list of helpful camping pins.