Category: on the go

Camping tips for families

 

We have been camping now for about 5 years with our sons’ cub scout pack.  When we first started, we were really apprehensive about going.  Neither my husband nor I had camped as children, so we really had no idea what we were doing or what we needed.

We knew that we wanted our children to grow up with memories of family camping and experience being out in nature as much as we could. Going camping with the scouts gave us a great opportunity to do this.  We knew there would be people around us to show us the ropes and help us where we needed it. Also, if we forgot something, all the families are so nice and are willing to share and help each other out.   We go twice a year, the fall camp out is always farther away, while the spring camp out is at a local camp ground.  I always watch those families that have 2-4 people in them, as they set up their cute small tents, that take about 5 seconds to put up.  Then they have those 2 chairs neatly out front, one on each side and a small table with a lantern on it, and boom!!!  they are all done setting up.

Well, we camp with a family size of 7!!  There is nothing small about our campsite… it is like moving a small army around.  Our kids range from 4-13, so they all have different needs and interests.  Plus, not all of them love to camp, so having enough stuff to do to keep them entertained during the down time is a challenge too.

We actually have to bring two vehicles with us, when ever we go.  Once you fit 7 people in a minivan, there is very little room for anything else.  You might get the 7 folding camp chairs, the tent and a stove, but that is about it, and we all know that is not enough.

So through the years, we have purchased items every trip to make life a little easier, some we love… some we could have done without.  I’m going to take you through what we bring with us on a camp out.

Of course we have our family tent.

It says it sleeps 10, but we double kids up on cots, so we have room to walk inside.  It is a Coleman tent, and although it is big, it is fairly easy to put up.  The poles are color coded, so it makes matching the poles and the slots they go in faster.  This Ozark Trail one on Amazon is very similar to the one we have.  I like having straighter sides to the tent, so I can really get my cots into the corners. I find it stabilizes the tent better as well.

We use folding cots.

Ok, well it might be glamping a little, but I really prefer to sleep on a cot.  There are 3 reasons I prefer cots for sleeping.

  1. They are easier to pack.   They come in bags, just like the camping chairs, with a strap, so you can carry them over your shoulder.
  2. They are easier to set up than inflatable mattresses.  No need for pumps, taking the time to inflate and deflate, and you don’t have to worry about them getting a hole in them.
  3. You can store your clothes, or other supplies under them, so they don’t need to take up extra room in the tent. It helps to keep things tidier inside the tent, which can become a mess with 4 little boys running in and out.

We have different types of cots we use.  Two of them are Colemans They fold open and then they have a end bar on each side that has to get popped in.  It takes some muscle to get them to pop, and sometimes we just skip that part.  The cot is tighter and more sturdy if the end bars are in.  But, they are a good quality cot and usually run between $30-$40 (same price as an inflatable mattress and will probably last a lot longer).

We recently bought a Rio Adventure Military Cot and we love it!!  It is so easy to set up, just place a loop over each side piece and step down on the pedal and it locks into place.  They are a little narrower than the Coleman, but good quality as well.  Our kids are young and narrow is good, it means I can line more of them up.  If I purchase another cot for us, I will be getting this one again,

Battery operated paper lanterns

I love these and bring them on every trip.  I hang them up inside the tent and they give off a very soft glow at night.  That way if one of the children wake up to use the restroom, the tent is not pitch black inside.  Since they are LED lights, 2 AAA batteries will last the two nights, even being on all night long. The kids love having them on too.  They don’t get as scared and they love the little glow as they go off to bed.  Plus, when you come back from the restroom in the middle of the night, it is a little easier to find your tent, since it will glow, just a little (but not enough to bother other campers).  They come in a variety of colors, so pick your style.

The Camping Drawer

I have a plastic Sterilite Drawer that I use to store all the little parts.  It holds the extra batteries, mallet, extra stakes, zip ties, rope, ziploc bags, small flashlights, hooks, screwdrivers, scissors, all those little things you might need while camping. It is the greatest thing.. we always know where to look to find what we need.  It gets stored on a shelf in the garage, so if I come across something that might work for our next trip, I just have to pull open the drawer and pop it in, and it is ready for our next adventure.  I also bring one for food utensils.  Inside that one, I put things like cooking spray, aluminum foil, paper towel, spatulas, utensils, spices, etc.  It gets set up on our cooking table, so everything you need when you are cooking is right there and contained. They stack, and can be stored under the cots at night, if needed.

Hot Hands Body and Hand Warmers

I will admit it.. I am a wimp.  The only thing I really dislike about camping is how cold I get at night.  It doesn’t matter how warm I dress or the sleeping bag I am in, I get cold.  That keeps me awake and it is the only part I dread sleeping out in nature.  I have bought these hand warmers on past trips just to get that extra little burst of heat.  Wow, do they really heat up too, and they last for about 8-12 hours, so it is perfect!

 

Single Burner Stove Top

We have a full cooktop from Coleman and have really enjoyed it, but we are trying to downsize where we can, and this worked out perfect for us this trip.  The butane canisters are smaller than the gas ones, and seem to last just as long.  We brought along our cast iron skillet and made all our meals on it. We cooked hamburger and hot dogs, taco meat, then made quesadillas and for breakfast we had fluffy pancakes. As you can see from the picture, they turned out really well.  It comes with it’s own little case with a handle, so it travels really easily.  We are thinking about bringing it to the beach with us next time. Although it is small, it was enough to cook for our whole family, and left extra room in the cars for other essentials.

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Rug

It’s always a good idea to have some type of mat in front of your tent.  You can leave your shoes on it before tracking dirt into the tent.  We bought a large one from COSTCO a few years back, and we love it.  It gives you a soft place to rest your feet, and gives your little ones a place to sit and play, if you don’t want them in the dirt at a certain time.  It really cuts down the amount of dirt and dust that come in the tent as well.  It is able to be folded, so it packs nicely into the car. When we get home, we get the vacuum out and clean it up and store it for another camping adventure.

 

Bring toys

Yes, we know that the kids will be busy exploring the great outdoors, but there is some down time at camp and kids still need to have things to do. When we go camping with the cub scouts the boys play,play, play.  When we don’t bring toys they just pick up sticks and run around with them.  We have found that Poke-mon cards and NERF guns are the toys of choice.  We have also done R/C cars and of course different types of balls to play with.  For the little kids we pack bubbles, a dump truck so they can collect things and push them around. This is our youngest, ready to defend the camp.  The boys run around ALL day like this.  They have so much fun.

 

 

 

glow sticks

I like to bring glow sticks with me to camp.  The kids love to wear them at night, and it helps me to find them easier.  We bring either the ones that can be connected into necklaces, or the ones that have a large glow stick on a string that can be worn as a necklace.  I have also brought these with me to Las Vegas when we went walking on The Strip.  It made it easier for me to see the kids walking on such a busy street at night.  The kids think they are fun to wear, so I don’t get any push back from them about wearing them. Win-Win!!!

 

Neon shirts

This is a great tip I saw another parent do this past camp out.  Her son had the brightest neon yellow shirt on.  It was actually a scout shirt but you could see hi from a mile away,  Since we have 5 kids, running in 5 different directions during our camp outs, it gets hard to keep track of them.  Although they all know not to go past the camp site or explore anywhere without an adult, we still like to do the “count the kids” drill every once in awhile, just to keep tabs on their location.  If you put them in the brightest shirt possible, you will be able to look out on the field or in the cluster of trees and find your child a lot faster.

Bring a Folding Wagon

These little guys are life-savers.  It doesn’t matter where we have camped, we have always had some type of walk to make to the campsite.  Bringing a wagon with you makes transporting all your gear to the site so much easier.  By having a wagon, you can also enlist the help of your children.  It is sometimes hard to get the kids to help once you have reached the campground.  They have been in the car for awhile, and they just want to get out and play.  But, you still need need help unloading the cars!!  Well, the kids love pulling wagons, so you can usually get them to help more if you add a little bit of fun to the chore.  These little wagons are really durable and you would be surprised how much stuff you can pile on top of them.  We have a wagon with the thinner wheels, but if we were to purchase another one, I think I would definitely spend a little extra and get the ones with the wider wheels on it.  They can maneuver across sand and gravel a lot better than the thin wheels.  The wagons are also a great play thing for your kids while you are camping.  They have so much fun loading it up with their friends and then taking tuns pulling them around the campsite.  It’s also good for transporting tired little ones back and forth to outings, since you may not have a stroller with you.

Of course you will need to bring more items with you camping, like the basic sleeping bags, flashlights, chairs and more.  These are just the items that we have found to be extremely useful for us, since we camp with many children of different ages.

Camping is such a great family outing.  My children have wonderful memories of camping with the Cub Scouts.  If you have never gone camping before and are apprehensive about it, I say “GO FOR IT!!”.  Pick a campground close by, borrow equipment from friends to see if you like it, go with a group so you can learn and ins and outs, but just try it.  Who knows you might love it.

Did I mention that we kinda “Glamp”??  Yes, this is our Pack having a movie night at our camp out, complete with popcorn.  We did pick a “scouting-like” movie, Disney’s UP!.  Russel is the ultimate Wilderness Explorer.  Who says you can’t have fun while camping too.

An outing at K1 Speed

 

My son was invited this weekend to K1 Speed in Anaheim for a end of year celebration.  We have never been to one before, although we have passed it many times on the 91 fwy, so of course we jumped at the chance.  The closest my son has come to driving anything is Autopia at Disneyland, and well, lets say you can’t go far with those cars, with a track down the middle.  Plus, you can’t go very fast in them either. Needless to say, he was very excited to be going.

To take a line out of a popular movie “He had the need…. the need for speed”.

 

 

The pricing for K1 is:

$19.99 for 1 race which is 14 laps around.. I did inquire about a AAA discount, since I saw they offered one online.  It is $2 off one race.

$35 for 2 races                 $48.00 for 3 races

I would look and see if there are any Groupon, or Living Social or other deals before you go.  I have seen them on Groupon a few times. This could cut down the cost of your experience, especially if you have multiple children who want to race.

There is a height requirement.  You must be at least 48″ to drive any of the cars.  They have Junior racers and Adults.  Adults are those races who are 58″ or taller, everyone else is a junior racer.  You also must have closed toed shoes…. no sandals.

The cars are electric.  So there are no nasty fumes in the building.  In fact, the place was spotless.  I was surprised how nice everything was.  There is even a small snack bar and arcade in the corner.

 

 

The track was a lot larger than I expected, it twisted and turned into two areas, and I loved how the cars went through two underpasses lit up with colored lights.  There is a seating area with sofas and TV’s upstairs, and the track passes through it.  The kids had fun watching the cars drive under them.

 

They have 35 locations, in 14 states.  We went to the Anaheim location, located off La Palma Ave. near Kraemer Blvd.  There are also locations in Irvine and Ontario.

After spending 3 hours there, which is WAY longer than we planned, I have some helpful tips for any new visitors.

TIP 1:  MAKE A RESERVATION!!!

Oh my gosh… I cannot stress the importance of this tip.  We did not have reservations.  The worker there said “Oh.. if you come at 10am on a Sunday morning, you should have no problem”  2 hours later my son finally got his turn.  It turned out that another group was there for a party.  So, of course they got to go first.  Since there are two categories of racers (Junior and Adult), they alternate.  The cars are electric so they need time to re-charge between races, which is why they alternate. This means your races will not be back to back. You will have a wait time. The the kids with that party group got to have there 2 races, plus the adults with the party had there races, and so on and so on until we were finally called

TIP 2: Check Groupon and Living Social for deals

I though $20 was kinda pricey to ride a glorified go-cart, but I have seen K1 on Groupon quite often, so if you think you will be going in the future, purchase the Groupon when you see it or look for other deals.  The nice thing is, if you think you will go often, you can purchase multiple races and use them on different dates.  So if you purchase the 3 race pack (they do have larger packs as well) and  you only race twice one day, you can come back and use the race you have left at a different time.

TIP 3: Make sure everyone in your party is around the same height

I know this sounds kinda funny, but our boys were 10 years old, and some where the height to ride with the adults and some were Junior riders.  So they did not get to race together, which was kind of a bummer.  They do not allow the Junior and Adult riders to mix. So just be aware, if you are going as a family or in a group, you night not be able to race against each other.  It seemed like the adult cars went faster too, so I can see why they would not want to mix the groups.

TIP 4: Leave yourself time

Even if you have a reservation, it still takes time.  They only allow around 11 cars on the track at a time.  If it is busy, you will be there for a few hours, specially if you want to do multiple races.  They do have plenty of seating available for you to wait, and they call the names of the next racers over the loud speakers.

TIP 5: Bring your camera

There are a lot of great photo opportunities here.  You receive a head sock to wear under your helmet and a picture of your child in that alone is worth it.  There are also race cars and podiums for the kids to stand on or near, for some great pictures.

so, here is my review….

Did my son have fun??      You bet.

Would it be a great place for a party??  Absolutely

Will we go back??  Probably.  I have 4 sons, so I will be keeping my eye out for a good Groupon.  If I can find one, we will definitely go again.  I don’t know if I would pay full price.

Overall experience:  Good.. except for the wait, which is our own fault for not having reservations, so I cannot fault them for it.  My son loved it!!  I’m glad he got the experience of go-karting.

If you want more information… just check out their site here.

Fire pits at the beach

 

Well, it is almost 11:00 pm, and we just got back from renting fire pits at Crystal Cove.  We had such a wonderful time as an extended family, and I just had to share this activity with you.

When I was in high school (many years ago… but not too many).  The popular thing to do was to go to Huntington or Bolsa Chica Beach and grab a fire pit ring for the night and have a bon fire on the beach at night.  You would grab your pallet, or go to the grocery store and buy your stack of firewood (hoping you would have enough to last the whole night).  I was great, roasting s-mores and going going home smelling like burnt wood.  The problem is, we stopped going.  The fire pits became so popular that you would have to get to the beach super early in the morning to grab an available one.  Stay all day at the beach, with your stuff by the fire ring, so noone took it, and then hike all the way across the hot sand to get to the water.  The beach started getting really crowded too at night, and sometimes not with the best to crowds.

We have found a solution that is way better, and the best part about it is, that it is at our favorite family beach!!

Crystal Cove is a wonderful quaint family beach, located just south of Corona Del Mar.   To access the beach, you can either turn right at Los Trancos, go down the hill and unload your car, or you can turn left and take the shuttle down to the beach. ( If you past The Shake Shack, you have gone too far.)  The shuttle is $1.50 a rider each way, and children under 12 ride free with every paying adult. It is lined with historic cottages that can be rented throughout the year and is home to The Beachcomer restaurant.  I will be posting all about Crystal Cove on another post later this summer with all the ins and outs about the beach.  For this article, we are just going to cover the fire pit rentals.

 

Today was the last day of school for my children and last night my incredibly awesome niece graduated high school, so as a celebration my sister and I decided to take our family and celebrate at Crystal Cove. We go here many times during the summer, and have be going there for years.  Last year, The Beachcomer started renting out portable gas fire pits with a grill attachment, so you can not only make s’mores, but you can cook hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill as well.

 

Reservations can be made online. There are 3 packages available ranging in price from $95 -$185.  We did the “Camper’s Delight” Package, for $145.  This package included a 3 hour rental for the fire pit with 4 beach chairs.  It also included,hamburgers and hot dogs for 4 with fixings like lettuce, tomato and onions. As well as 4 drinks (we asked for free refills and they did give it to us). It also includes a s’mores kit for 4 as well.  Even though this might be a little pricey for some, it is so worth it, especially if you share with another family.  It is WAY better than having to spend the whole day at the beach trying to fight for  a  fire ring. One of the great perks about the rental, is that they set it all up for you.  They also clean it up for you too (can’t get much better than that).  Two workers from the restaurant, set up your pit, in the location that you would like.  They bring the food out to you in containers and a rolling freezer chest.  They have all the utensils you need to cook your food and roast marshmallows.  Then they check on you periodically to see if you need anything.  Great service!

Since we were a bigger party (there was 13 of us), 4 hamburgers and 4 hot dogs were not going to take us very far, so we brought extra food to prepare on the grill, and they were fine with that.  The hamburger patties were large, hand formed and seasoned.  These were not your frozen pucks from the freezer section of the grocery store….. kinda like the ones we brought.. ha ha!  The hot dogs were huge and really thick, tasted good too.  They provided nice quality buns and fresh lettuce, tomato and onions.  All packaged in nice heavy to go carriers. You could have the grill in the lower position, and have both the fire pit and the grill going at the same time, or you could have the grill higher (in a more standing position), in which the fire pit would turn off, until the grill was lowered again.  It was so nice to have hot food at the beach, especially since the sun was getting lower and the temperature were starting to drop. The kids were wet, and getting cold from being in the ocean, so it was great to get the changed into warmer clothes and put some hot food in their little tummies.

 

The kids loved putting their marshmallows on their sticks and putting them in the fire till they started to burn, catch on fire and turn black and crispy.  After all that IS THE best way to eat a marshmallow.  We brought our own really long sticks with us, but the kit does come with metal skewers that elongate to roast with.  By the end of the night, we learned that kids really love to put wooden sticks into the fire and watch them burn. Then take them out and watch the end of it glow red, wave it around and then stick it in the sand to put it out.

 

The sunset was amazing.  Sitting there on the beach, with the the sounds of the ocean, waves crashing, fire pit going and a beautiful setting really makes you aware of how blessed we all are to be living in Southern California.  After sunset, the frogs start croaking and it is like being on the being part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.  The frogs are in the marshy area that runs along the pathway that leads to the beach.  It was a great soundtrack to our night.  We all gathered around the fire pit. My niece brought out her ukulele, played a few songs for us.  We put on our Beach Boys play list (a lesson from my earlier article about “making a soundtrack for your life”).  We also told scary ghost stories… ok, well maybe not SO scary, but the kids loved putting the flashlight up to their faces as trying to come up with some type of story. TIP:BRING A FLASHLIGHT OR LANTERN WITH YOU.  It is dark when you leave, and it is no fun to try to find your shoes and all your gear in the dark.  So, remember this little helpful tip.

At the end of the night (rentals only go till 9pm), the kids had a great time, the adults got to relax and talk, and we were ready to face all the adventures the summer has in store for us. It was a great way to kick off their summer vacation and celebrate all their hard work at school. I love it when we can all get together and all the cousins get to play and bond.  I know they are building memories that will last a life time.  We will definitely be doing this again before the summer is over. It is a California tradition,and this time, noone goes home smelling like a forest fire.  It is a must for the summer!!!

If you would like more information about Crystal Cove or the fire pits, just click here.

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