Prepare for the location and the elements
What you need for camping in the mountains during a humid southern U.S. summer will vary greatly from what you'll need for staying in a northern location during the winter.
It's also important to keep location safety in mind. If you plan to go boating, will the rental location have infant PFDs? Some don't. Do you have a fully stocked first aid kit appropriate for a wide variety of needs? Check first before camping in a remote location.
Will you visit the beach or another hot or humid location? Hydration and sun protection are key. You can also provide easy ways for kids to cool themselves off, like reusable cooling towels.
Some of my favorite finds
I've stayed in hotels, gone boating/canoeing, gone on miles-long hikes, and camped by the river, in the mountains and everywhere in between with kids.
It can be a bit nerve-wracking when you first start. (And to be honest, there are still moments that make me nervous.) But checking the forecast and bringing the proper gear makes all the difference in the trip experience, whether you're traveling alone, with one kid or a large family.
I tried to keep the list affordable, but useful. It ranges from compact games to take on the road to bunk bed travel cots. Take a look!
Kids' travel cots
I love the convenience of kids' travel cots.
They can fold down so small and are excellent to bring camping, to hotel rooms or to grandma and grandpa's house.
Compression packing cubes
Compression packing cubes are a great way for both kids and adults to organize their clothes and make it easier to pack.
I love this set since it comes with three different sizes of cubes.
You can find cubes with different designs so each child can pick what suits their personality.
Solid-colored cubes are also an option, and some sets have more cubes in the set.
Swimsuits with rash guards
Amazon has a lot of sun-protective swimwear sets for babies, girls, boys women and men.
The one shown above has a long-sleeve rash guard and shorts.
There are also three-piece girls' sets with a tankini top, long-sleeve rash guard, and bikini or shorts bottoms (the shorts offer more sun protection.)
Similar sets for babies include one-piece options.
Two- or three-piece sets for young children who are potty-training can make the day a little easier.
Portable travel potty
Portable toddler potties are great for when you're on the road or at a campsite. You might be able to avoid rushing your kid for a late-night dash to the camp's restrooms when you can have them use this.
The one above is foldable, making it incredibly compact. It works as a standalone potty or as a foldable seat to go over the larger toilet seat.
I love that this is reusable, but if you need something even smaller, a disposable toddler potty is available.
Traveling with toddlers can be tricky when they're potty-training. They always seem to let you know they have to go after you've already passed the rest stop.
Toilet seats can also be way too large for them to comfortably use. Or maybe you just don't like the idea of them using public toilets.
Foldable beach bucket with sand toys
Packing beach toys can be a pain. They're bulky and easy to crack if something gets packed on top of them.
This set is fantastic. The largest bucket folds nearly flat to fit into the bag. The bucket and molds can be used for sand or snow.
All of the toys fit into a mesh bag that you can shake sand out of before packing.
There are several types of molds included.
Many reviewers double them as bath toys. You can hang the bag in your bathroom using a suction cup.
Frogg Toggs are a lightweight tool perfect for visits to amusement parks, long hikes or days on the beach.
You simply need to wet it in water-- either hot or cold.
According to the packaging, it can cool you up to 30 degrees and they can be trimmed to suit your needs.
They're designed to keep the user cool for up to 30 minutes at a time.
They're also washable, making it easy to toss them in a load at the laundromat while you're traveling.
I love that they fold down small and fit in a pack or beach bag.
Kids' travel journal
I keep a travel journal and find them helpful for remembering details I'd otherwise forget.
I prefer journals that contain helpful prompts but lots of room for actual journaling.
There are several different options, but the one above has a place for kids to rate the trip, note their mood, complete little games and include drawings or photos of their adventure. They could also add a postcard, ticket stub or other treasures to the pages.
This is a great way to have kids practice their recall, writing and drawing skills. It's a great tool to help them remember the trip later or tell Grandma all about it.
Reusable travel bottles
These little bottles are inexpensive, reusable and can be color-coded for each item/kid.
If you look in the travel section at a pharmacy or supermarket, you'll probably find tiny containers of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, mouth wash and more.
We need those things to travel, but it can quickly become expensive to stock up on these. Often, using the tiny bottles uses a lot more plastic than you do when you buy larger bulk bottles of the same item.
These bottles are a great alternative. Transfer your kid's soaps or toothpaste into these to take on your trip.
(Watch that younger children don't ingest the contents. If you're going on an airplane, ensure that these or similar products meet TSA requirements.)
Baby or toddler carrier
Baby/toddler carriers are probably one of my favorite inventions.
They're great for walking when a stroller is too bulky, and incredibly helpful when you have a fussy baby who doesn't want to be set down. If you're monitoring another child on the playground, you don't have to worry about looking in two different directions to watch a stroller and the other child.
The LILLEbaby carrier listed above has pockets, a padded belt and a removeable hood for your baby. It's made from recycled ripstop fabric. With the one above, there are six possible carrying positions.
Tula makes some awesome carriers perfect for babies and toddlers. They can hold children up to 60 lbs. and are great for both front and back carrying positions.
These reusable bamboo travel utensils are great for kids.
I normally pack reusable utensils on our trip because it seems ridiculous to plastic utensils once before tossing them.
You can keep these in your bag, a camping tote box, or in your glove compartment for easy access. Since each case has a unique design, they're easy to tell apart.
They're an inexpensive and beautiful way to cut down on preventable plastic waste.
Stainless steel utensils with a travel pouch
If bamboo utensils aren't your style, you might like these simple stainless steel utensils.
Some stainless steel utensils come in bulky plastic containers. While they at least aren't plastic utensils, they still come with a lot of plastic packaging.
Although the plastic containers are easy to clean, they do have plastic and some take up more space than this slim pouch.
This set comes with a zippered travel pouch so you can put them in a bag.
Sun umbrella shelter
This sun umbrella shelter offers some protection from the sun and rain.
It's also relatively easy to adjust as needed.
While I like the look of the gray option, I like the visibility of this one more to make it easier for both kids and adults to pick out the right group in a crowd.
According to the Amazon listing, it has a UPF 50+ rating.
This is a great alternative to beach tents. It provides some shelter but also keeps the front open for those who want a view of the ocean (or just need to keep an eye on kids or pets.)
Guess Who? card game
The original version of Guess Who might be a little too bulky and messy to pack, but the card game is perfect.
This is an inexpensive but fun activity. Kids, especially younger ones, really have to focus on their cards as they play.
This version of the classic game looks different, but it's still fun and keeps kids hunting for details. You can add this and other travel games into a 'boredom bag' when kids need something to do on the road or on rainy days.
Magnetic wooden tangrams
This pack of magnetic wooden tangrams is small enough to take in a car seat or in a hotel room when you need to keep kids busy as you unpack.
I love how compact and portable this is. It's also a fabulous, engaging alternative to screen time.
These come with a booklet of designs kids can try to recreate. It's another good, inexpensive option for a 'boredom bag.'
Since they're magnetic, they're less likely to get lost than a traditional set. (Don't let children who are under the age of 3 or who may ingest them use these.)
Card game collection
This little box holds six classic card games (a memory game, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, a matching game, Slap Jack and Go Fish.
It's another tiny-but-powerful tool to keep on hand for days poor weather or illness prevents you from leaving your room, rental house or tent.
If one game proves too difficult for your child, try one of the other five.
Beeswax crayons are more expensive than a pack from Dollar Tree, but in our experience they last far longer and are less toxic.
We had a pack of Faber Castell crayons in a plastic case. The case makes them excellent for travel, but it is extra plastic. They are thicker than average crayons, but the Honeysticks jumbo crayons pictured here are perfect for tiny hands.
Honeysticks also sells a pack of thinner crayons if you want something more traditionally sized.
More information from the Amazon listing: "Handmade in New Zealand using 100% Beeswax and Food Grade Pigments for Color. Free from the chemical nasties (including petro-chemicals), parrafin wax and fillers used to make some other crayons."
Our beeswax crayons provide a beautiful color and enjoy long lifespans despite a lot of use.
Erasable drawing pad
They can use these easily-cleaned pages to practice spelling, draw things they see on the trip or just doodle.
These are a great compact item to keep in a 'boredom bag' when you need to bring out something fun.
These small drawing pads are compact and inspire creativity.
They're also erasable, so you won't need to pack as much paper for kids to sketch on.