Outdoor Day Trip Tips from a Camp Enthusiast and Mom of 4!

Well, the end of summer is here.  Tomorrow, Linker Academy will jump back into the rhythm of school. Granted, it will still be hot here until October or later, and I will probably come up with excuses to sneak off to the lake from time to time, but there’s something about the start of school that just kills the spontaneity for me.  Like the fact that we have responsibilities and places to be.

And here is my confession:  I am not a particularly flexible homeschool mom.  As in, we have a school room and that is where we do the majority of our work.  We work on a schedule and I make lists of goals for the year and dad gum it, WE ACHIEVE THEM.  When we are invited by other homeschoolers to do fun things during the school year, I often decline because we (read: I) need the consistency of a predictable schedule.

But in the summer?  IN THE SUMMER.  This is when I “let my hair down” and we go off and have FUN!  There are probably multiple reasons for this:

  • I’ve already waxed poetic on here about how much I love camp and all the summery activities that come along with it.  You can get the counselor out of the camp, but you can’t get the camp out of the counselor.  Or something like that.  #camp4life
  • I often end up with child-sized visitors during the summer, and I feel like we should show them a good time.
  • It’s really mentally easier for me to get us out of the house than for me to deal with bored children in my house.  This might not be the best motivation, but there it is.
  • Also, if I’m in my house, I need to be cleaning it.  Can’t do it if I’m not there!
  • I bought that bathing suit on clearance at Target at the end of last summer, and we’re going to get some use out of it!
  • We don’t have a pool.  Which I’m 297% ok with – I really don’t want a pool.  But since we have lived in regions that tend to feel like the surface of the sun, except more humid – we have to go elsewhere if we want to cool down.

Because of these reasons, and because money doesn’t grow on trees and Josh usually needs to work all the way through the summer, we go on a lot of day trips throughout the summer, most of which involving the Great Outdoors.  Back in Tally, a lot of our outings involved inviting friends to join us.  But since we moved we’ve pretty much been on our own!

And I get it.  It’s hard to get out of the door with kids of any size, but especially with babes in diapers or worse, potty trainers!  (**shudder**)

So I now have a few tricks up my sleeve to make your Summer Day Trip a little smoother.  Maybe these are elementary thoughts, but it’s taken me 9 years to develop them and I’m sure I have lots more to learn!  (And I realize that you probably won’t be needing these tips until NEXT summer.  But I’ll forget by then!)

Kara’s Outdoor Day Trip Tips

  1. Get a Bag System and Keep Your Bag(s) Ready.  In Florida, if you needed a towel between April and November, it was very likely that I had one in my car to lend you because I actually kept a loaded bag in there in case we ended up at a water front.  Although I am not THAT prepared, currently, I do have a Bag System that is working well for us this summer.First of all, I finally came to terms with the fact that we are now a Two Beach Bag Family.  There’s just not enough space in one bag to carry essentials for 5 – 6 people.  SO, I now use my big, pink, oversized beach bag for our beach towels, and our blue and white striped bag for sunscreen, goggles, swim diapers, extra clothes, etc.  The bags stay packed throughout the summer, so that all I have to do is ensure that the right number of towels and undies are in the bags before we load up and head out.But DON’T PANIC.  If you are in a situation where you become a Two Beach Bag Family, that doesn’t means you will always be lugging around two beach bags.  It means that you have at least one child who is now old enough to carry at least one bag!

2.  Develop a Preparation Drill.  When we are preparing for a Day Trip, about 15 minutes before we leave I send the kids to put on their bathing suits and bring me their extra dry clothes in a plastic shopping bag (which I place in Beach Bag #2.)  I have the kids put their clothes in individual shopping bags because, when they are ready to change, I can send them to the restroom with their individual bag.  It gives them a place for their dry clothes (bath houses can be icky!), and then they can put their wet suit and towel in the bag and bring it back to me, so it is less likely that they will lose something.

Of course, this might have backfired the other day when we brought some swimming trunks home from the community pool….that did not belong to us.

3.  Develop a Laundry System.  I am TERRIBLE at keeping up with laundry.  I typically wash about every 9 days, which means that Laundry Day is a big project.  HOWEVER, during the summer I like to have the bathing suits and beach towels ready at a moment’s notice.  So when we get home, all the wet things immediately go into the wash.  A lot of times, unless there is a Laundry Day interruption, they just stay in the dryer until we need them again, eliminating the folding/putting away process.

This system also works especially well if your kids are doing a daily Day Camp that involves swimming or taking swimming lessons.

4.  Don’t Forget Lunch!  An important factor to keeping kids happy is being able to provide food at the right time.  I know not everyone will agree with this, but I like to keep some pre-packaged things in the summer to make this process easier.  (Squeeze apple sauce, Goldfish crackers, chips, gummy snacks, etc.)  I also prefer peanut butter sandwiches because they don’t require refrigeration.  Our picnic lunch system is a cooler for water bottles, drinks, and sometimes string cheese (don’t forget an emergency Cherry Coke for yourself!), and a reusable shopping bag of sandwiches, carbs, and a roll of paper towels.  And a big ol’ bottle of hand sanitizer never hurts!

5.  Trade in that diaper bag for a backpack STAT!  I have an adorable diaper bag, but if we are going to be hiking, playing putt putt, walking around camp, etc., I make a switch to a backpack.  (I also have taken the padding from my camera bag and put it in my backpack if I happen to be bringing my big camera.)  Also, tuck a few diapers in all the beach bags/backpacks so that you won’t have to walk all the way back to your car to retrieve a diaper or lug the diaper bag in addition to your other bags.

6.  Strategically plan your treats and bribes.  This is most likely the most important tip I have.  This summer, on two separate occasions, I took my kids plus a few extra on a 3 mile hike.  I made it clear at the beginning of the hike that having a good attitude and not complaining would result in a treat afterwards.  We made it through both hikes with minimal complaining, which, considering they both involved Egan, is saying A LOT.

(I may have also threatened to strap the 30 pound toddler I was wearing to whoever complained.)

Our favorite treats are Sonic Happy Hour (slushies for less than $1!), ChikFilA ice cream (kids’ cones for less than $1!), and Icees.  Health food families…I’ve got nothing for you.

7.  Don’t forget to Instagram!  I rarely bring my real camera when I’m the only adult because, well, toddler.  But that doesn’t meet I can’t record the memories!

8.  Have music both you and the kids can agree upon.  One of my favorite memories of this summer was watching 5 kids jam out to Aviici in the rearview mirror!

9.  Proper shoes are essential.  I can get away with forgetting clothes, but the right shoes are important!  If it involves water, flip flops are needed – no one wants to try to wedge a child’s wet feet back into their stinky tennis shoes!  If there will be hiking or a lot of walking, though, good tennis shoes are needed.  And if the trip involves both…bring both.

On our first hike this year, one child arrived without shoes at all and one had Crocs (which I approved) that ended up rubbing blisters.  Ooops and double ooops.  Don’t repeat my mistakes!

10.   Don’t stress out when things go “wrong.”  If you take a lot of Summer Day Trips, eventually you’re going to hit some rain or forget to pack lunch.  If you maintain a positive attitude and make it feel like an adventure to the kids, they will still have fun!  And, who knows, that thing going “wrong” might end up being their favorite memory of the summer!

Just ask my kids (or Tiff’s) about the time I got pulled over driving to camp 3 years ago!

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