South Florida Camping with Kids

Camping is a great experience for the whole family, and often costs much less than a traditional hotel getaway. Whether camping in a tent or RV, kids of all ages will love spending time connecting with South Florida nature—and their family—and experiencing the outdoors in a new light.

As you plan your trip, consider who will be coming along. Will it be four adults but only one child? Kids will have much more fun if they can share their camping experience with someone their own age. Similarly if the participants are 90% under the age of 10, consider bringing another adult to help supervise and keep everyone safe. Is anyone in the party new to camping? If your kids have never slept in a tent before, pitch one in the backyard first. Get them familiar with the process in a comfortable environment to reduce anxiety later on.

What to Bring

When you’re packing for your camping trip, remember that space is limited. Bring only the main essentials. Make a list beforehand mapping out all the camping supplies you are going to need to bring to ensure you don’t forget anything. Include all your sleeping arrangements, clothes you will wear each day as well as emergency inclement weather gear (rain is a common occurrence here!), what meals you will be preparing and how, and what specialty items you will need for any planned family activities.

Try to keep the technology to a minimum on your vacation. Leave the extra cellphones at home. Bring at least one for emergencies, but try to reserve it for emergency use only. Nothing takes your thoughts back to the daily grind faster than checking the Internet on your iPhone. Allow your mind to calm in the beautiful serenity of the Floridian outdoors. Bring a camera to capture some key moments, but leave the laptop at home.

One item that you will undoubtedly want to bring however is a headlamp. These allow you see in the dark wherever you are facing, while keeping your hands free for other activities. They’re perfect for nighttime reading and even tooth brushing. They also make keeping track of everyone a bit easier, too. If all members of the camping party are wearing a headlamp, you can easily see where each kid has run off to in the darkness.

You’ll also want to bring a good insect repellant with you on your camping trip, since depending on the time of year, there may be a plethora of insects. Summer in Florida is definitely insect central, but during the winter months they are not as bad. Mix some homemade insect repellant up before you leave to avoid using harsh chemical repellants. Simply combine 2 cups distilled white vinegar, 1 cup water, and 20 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. This natural repellant is potent enough to deter mosquitoes as well as fleas and ticks, and yet is gentle enough to use all day.


Awesome Activities

On your family Florida camping trip, there will be a lot of time to do anything in nature you’ve ever dreamed about. So be sure to cram in as many awesome activities as possible. Check out the campground’s website before arriving to see what sort of amenities they offer. In Florida there are many campgrounds within walking distance to the beach, such as Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale. These beachside campgrounds are the perfect place to try out some family fishing, or enjoy a relaxing walk along the shore. Some campgrounds, like Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key even offer scuba and snorkeling amenities. Be aware that Bahia is very popular and sometimes books sites well in advance. Another great family camping activity is bike riding. The kids will love biking around the trails or playing at the mini water park at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, exploring their Floridian environment in a new light.

Help build curiosity in your children by encouraging them to explore a specific natural object on your trip, such as fish, trees or birds. Chose the theme beforehand based on the camping environment, and bring field guides relating to the particular topic. Or if you’re visiting John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, you can stop by their Visitor Center and learn about the local fish and sealife. Then when you’re strolling along Far Beach, try to identify any fish you see in the water. Bring journals so the kids can write down their discoveries for later. Include information about size and shape, where it was found/seen, and any other details you may notice. Your child will always cherish the memory of identifying their first wild barracuda or blue heron.

Before it gets dark, allocate some time for gathering firewood (if your campground allows open fires). Kids will love collecting kindling for the fire, and it’s a fun activity everyone can join in with. Just leave the log splitting to the adults. Teach your kids proper fire safety, as well as the best way to start a campfire. Then when the night rolls around, light it up. Sitting around the campfire is the perfect opportunity to talk and share stories with one another. They can be scary stories, but they don’t have to be! Use the time to get to know your kids better; you may be surprised by some of the stories they have to share.


Keep it Clean

The most important things to remember while camping are to have fun, and to leave no trace you were ever there. Don’t leave any trash or food scraps behind at your campsite, beach, or any of the other locations you chose to visit. Nothing puts a damper on your camping trip more than seeing other people’s trash all over the place. Turn clean up into a fun game for the kids instead of a chore. For each piece of trash they can collect, give them a nickel (or a little more depending on the age). You will be amazed at how much trash they will find when given a little incentive!


Camping, Just Do It!

Overall, Florida family camping trips are a fun alternative vacation for everyone. Relaxing and realigning with the beautiful Florida nature is a rewarding experience for the whole family. Camping will provide unlimited room for the mind to wander and calm itself, creating a more positive perspective. Whether you’re RVing or tenting, you’re sure to create a plethora of happy memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.