Camping With Young Kids – Frugal Folly?

by Mike Holman

My wife & I have two young kids, age three and four. One family activity we’d like to get into is camping. As in sleeping in a tent, campfire, cook your own food on a Coleman camping stove. Of course, not everyone likes camping, but I think it’s a lot of fun.

Camping is much more affordable than staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. That said, camping isn’t necessarily all that cheap. We were fortunate to get most of our camping gear as hand-me-downs, but we are still buying a few items. If you have to buy all the equipment new, it would be fairly expensive. Camping site fees are not that cheap either.

Last fall, we went camping one night at Darlington (a bit east of Toronto) as an “experiment” just to see what it would be like with the kids. It was close enough that if things went too far downhill, we could easily bail and go home. As it turns out, it was a lot of fun.

So far this year, we camped one night at Glen Rouge, which is right inside Toronto (Kingston Road at the border of Scarborough and Pickering) and will be doing a weekend trip to Awenda (two hours from Toronto) in August. I wasn’t that impressed by Glen Rouge and would rather drive the extra 20 minutes to Darlington in the future.

I had hoped to go camping more frequently this summer, but after the Glen Rouge trip, it was apparent that maybe we aren’t ready for regular camping trips.

The kids had fun, but just because they are having fun doesn’t mean they were well behaved. :) Camping is a lot of work – you have to bring the shelter, food, cooking utensils and doing everything yourself. Having everyone in close quarters can take a bit of getting used to. Add a couple of young kids to the mixture and it can be quite a challenge.

I’m hopeful that as the kids get a bit older, it will be a bit easier to do a proper camping trip and we can go more often.

In the meantime, one option is to just do day trips to local parks. This doesn’t work that well for Toronto, but we were recently in Northern Ontario and spent part of a day at Fairbanks Provincial Park . It is a beautiful park and has a great beach which is perfect for swimming. There are canoes you can borrow and a few trails to explore. We checked out the campsites and there are a lot of nice private sites.

If you can do a day trip to a park, then you get enjoy some of the good things about camping, but there is a lot less hassle.

Have you tried camping with young kids? Was it fun or a disaster?  Got any tips for me?

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