We went camping for TWO weeks and this is what we learned:
Not surprisingly, we learned that Mom over-packed the clothing. Fourteen days sounds like a loooong time, but how many outfits do you really need? We spent whole days in our bathing suits and wore our clothes for only a small portion of the day and thus re-wore them. As the planner of this adventure, I knew washer and dryer facilities would be available to me at every stop along the way, yet I still packed 14 outfits. Why?! Because I’m crazy. I would’ve been better off just packing six outfits and using the extra bag space for more towels. In fact because I was able to do laundry, my kids wore only half of what I packed! Me too! I came home with four outfits that were never touched. Lesson learned: no more than one weeks’ worth of clothing, especially if you can do laundry!
We also learned I didn’t pack enough….of towels and toiletries. I packed four towels, for four people, but didn’t account for the lack of dry time when you use those towels for the beach, the pool and then need to shower. So we went without showers ahem, for several days. (No judgement!) I also only packed one soap, one bottle of shampoo and not nearly enough sunblock. This may not seem like a huge deal, but when budget is a factor (and really it’s always a factor), buying these items at camp stores or other places along the route is an unnecessary cost. Pack extra and then you won’t have to spend the extra. Extra sunblock was a no-brainer that I really should have checked prior to leaving. I just grabbed our beach bag and didn’t check any of the bottles or spray, which were all nearly empty. So I had to buy a $10 bottle 😦 The one bar of soap/one bottle of shampoo was more of an irritation than a real problem. And I didn’t really discover this until nearly the end of the trip when we ALL wanted to get showers….at the same time. My daughter and I were able to shower, but then the boys had to wait until we were done so I could pass off the toiletries to them. If I had packed extras, we all could have been done at the same time. Like I said, minor irritation, but good to note for next time. Lesson Learned: pack more essentials and triple check!
The next lesson came in regards to food. Not too much or too little packed, in fact we did just fine, but we learned that you get what you pay for with coolers. We own three coolers, all of the same quality level, but took only one on this two-week endeavor. Knowing that I would be able to replenish and restock our food (and ice) at each stop we made, I only needed one cooler. However after having to buy two bags of ice every day, we decided to invest in a higher-end cooler that kept our ice and food cold for days at a time. We had previously talked about investing in such a cooler but this trip solidified the need to finally do it, and now that we have I can’t believe how long we’ve survived without it. One website helped us narrow down the size and price range to fit our families needs. https://bestcooler.reviews/ Once said cooler was purchased, we only had to buy ice one more time and it lasted over five days. To say that we should have done this before we left for our adventure, is an understatement. But, lesson learned!
We also learned how to work together as a team. I don’t mean to sound hokey, but we really leaned on each other and as the days passed, we gelled as a team, not just as a family. It wasn’t the long drives, although those were great bonding times over the Hamilton, Moana and Trolls soundtracks, but it was the camper that made us a team. Everyone had responsibilities and jobs and that made us gel as a team. No one yelled for help; no one was off playing while the others were stuck doing the grunt work. Campers have to be broken down and set up in a specific sequence and it takes many hands to help make it happen. When we first got our camper, my husband did all of it. Then I started to see the steps and started pitching in. Eventually, my son wanted to help and now everyone has a specific job. We’ve grown as campers, but we also grew as a team.
We streamlined our break down and set up sequence for our pop-up. Breaking down our camper can be done in under 30 minutes including hitching it to the truck. Setting up our campsite and the entire pop-up camper (with everyone pitching in to help) can be done in 30 minutes flat. Everyone pitched in and was given particular tasks-including the five-year old! This is integral because my husband and I should NOT be doing all the work. We firmly believe in order to have fun you have to contribute to the work that goes into the set up and clean-up of camping. And although we have been camping many many times before, this trip was different. We were stopping and setting up camp every 2-3 days. That means set-up on day one, break down two days later. Set up again that same evening and break down two days later. It’s tiresome and we told our kids, you have to contribute. We want our kids involved in the process of camping and all that it involves; you can’t just tag along for the fun stuff. We want them to learn how to set up the camper so that one day they can borrow it for themselves. And we were thrilled as parents that they rose to the responsibility. Lesson learned: Make them accountable by giving them a responsibilty and it’s a win-win for whole team.
Finally, we learned that we are in, what many refer to as, “the sweet spot.” This is a new revelation we only recently discovered but was cemented on this trip. The “sweet spot” is defined as a short period of time where kids are not helpless, but aren’t yet ditching family time for their friends. This trip crystallized for us that we are entering “the sweet spot” and we have a very short window in which to make these memories. Our kids are in this age range where they don’t need us, but they want us around. They don’t need help wiping their butt, or their noses, but they genuinely like being with us. We are not uncool, boring parents yet. My son even said unsolicited, “I would want you as a friend, even if you weren’t my mom.” Seriously? (Way to make me cry kid). And I am keenly aware, he will be the first to leave that sweet spot and move into being a sullen, moody, independent teenager who thinks his parents know nothing. So this trip was more poignant, not just because it was our first long road trip, but because we realize our time is short-lived with our kids. Our chances of making these memories is fleeting and we must seize them! Lesson taken to heart.