When I wrote about our 2015 summer road trip, at least one person commented on the post and others commented to me personally that they were impressed we camped along the way. For us, camping along our road trip route has a lot to do with saving money. Plus, in my mind it's only a little less convenient than staying in a hotel. When you factor in getting all your stuff into the hotel and getting rowdy kids to settle down for the night in a room where they can probably jump from one bed to the next, camping is not that hard.
Now, let me also say that we do not have gourmet meals when we camp. The day we are planning to camp we will stop at a grocery store to buy hot dogs, buns, bagels, cream cheese, and fruit. On this road trip we started with a bag of marshmallows, and we never had to re-stock. We keep the hot dogs and cream cheese in a small cooler in the car, and we refill it with ice from gas stations as needed. (Sometimes gas station employees seemed annoyed that we were getting ice, but usually they didn't care.) We stocked up in the preceding months with ketchup and mustard packets from fast food restaurants, so we didn't even have to worry about keeping the condiments preserved. Even when we are not on road trips we usually opt for hot dogs for camping lest the children mutiny. (This picture is from the 2014 road trip, so the idea of hot dogs on camping trips is very ingrained in these kids by now.)
As far as supplies, we don't have very much. The fact that we eat really basic foods certainly helps. We don't have to take a pack and play for Felix to sleep in, so we can all cram into one tent. The one tent can fit two twin-sized air mattresses side-by-side without much room for them to wiggle around, so we have one large and fairly stable bed. For this camping trip we took fewer sleeping bags and blankets than usual since the nights were not too cold where we were camping. We bought a large wool blanket before our trip, but we could have done without it. We'll definitely use it for other spring and fall camping trips, though.
On this trip, since we didn't have a pack and play, we had plenty of room to take our camp chairs. That was really helpful to my pregnant self. We also pretty much stayed at real camp sites on this road trip. Not all of them had running water and showers and real toilets, but some did. The one time we showered at a camp site we realized that we had failed to bring towels. Thankfully Eric's colleagues had given him a road-trip survival kit as an end-of-school-year gift, and it included four hand-towels that expanded upon getting wet. They were basically life-savers that Saturday night so we didn't seem quite so grimy at church the next day.
I love getting my boys outdoors, especially when we've spent a lot of time in the car. Eric usually takes them for a little exploratory walk, and then they also hang around the site finding logs and rocks to jump from and bugs to harass. It helps them get their energy out before bed.
We lucked out with a couple of really great camp sites on this road trip. Sometimes when you reserve electronically you don't really know what you are going to get. Alternatively, if you just try the first-come-first-served sites, you might not get anything at all. At a couple of sites we were relatively close to a creek, which helped drown out the noises from the other campers.
I was a bit nervous about camping so much for this summer's road trip since I was just beginning my third trimester when we began, but it ended up being fine. Yes, some bathroom facilities were really terrible and stinky. But others weren't bad at all. With both of our boys potty trained, I didn't have to worry about dealing with dirty diapers, which is also a big bonus. And they certainly love the chance to just go wherever they want.
Usually our family woke up fairly early while camping. We'd get dressed and give the kids each a bagel and cream cheese and tell them to sit at the picnic table or sit in the car. Then Eric and I would pack everything up, take down the tent and camp chairs, and load everything into the car. Eric would then tie the canoe down and we'd be on our way again to the next adventure. (To Eric's credit, there were a few mornings where I was totally useless and he did pretty much everything. In fact, that can actually be said of most of our camping trips, regardless of whether or not I am growing a baby.)
We plan to take another road trip next summer, and we will most certainly have to change things up since we'll have a baby by then. But for now, this is how we travel, and it works really well for us.