Camping 101: Camping with Kids (+ 10 of our favorite camping with kids products)

A list of products linked in this post is available below.

Disclaimer: The products linked in this post are items we have tried and liked. We do NOT receive any payment (financial or in-kind) from any of the links in this post nor do we have any partnerships with any of the product manufacturers.   


I often get questions from fellow parents who would like to start camping with their young children, but don’t know where to start. So, I wanted to share a few of our tips and tricks that have helped make camping with kids a bit more enjoyable.

We bought our first camper when our youngest was 3-months-old and our oldest was three. Through a good bit of trial and error we found some strategies that help make camping with kids a little bit more enjoyable.

Sleeping

One of the main challenges of camping with kids is ensuring sound sleep when the whole family is confined to close quarters. Our first camper was only 19’, so we didn’t have room for a play pen for our then infant. Instead in the early days (before he could roll) he used a portable infant sleeper on the converted dinette.

Once he got a little older we custom built a swing gate to cover the opening to one of the bunks. When we upgraded to our current camper, the boys each got a double bunk, and we mounted a baby gate over the opening to the toddler’s bed. Our 5-year-old sleeps in the top bunk in an inflatable toddler bed that has built-in bumpers. The air pump that came with the bed also works great for inflating water toys and tubes. An added bonus of using the inflatable bed is I can slide it out to change the sheets rather than having to climb up in a bunk. It’s also a lot easier to clean if your kiddo is prone to overnight accidents.   

We also make sure to bring the boys favorite lovies and a portable sound machine from home to help encourage a good night’s rest.

Diapering

Another question I see online from time to time is: What do you do with diapers? Our solution for dirty diapers is a “trasharoo” mounted on our spare tire on the back of the camper. We simply put a trash bag in the trasharoo at the beginning of the trip and put anything we don’t want in our inside trash in that bag until the soonest opportunity to haul the trash off.

We also make sure we keep wipes and diapers in the car or our “go bag” for when we are on a hike or adventure and need to make a quick stop.

Safety

Safety is another top concern when camping with little ones. One modification that we made that has been great for ensuring our peace of mind is the addition of an extended hand rail. Some campers come with the larger hand rail standard, but if you have one with only the small grab handle, head over to Camping World or Amazon and purchase the upgrade.

Not only does the hand rail help the boys steady themselves as they climb up and down the stairs it also can serve as a way to block the screen door from opening. If we are in the camper, but want to enjoy the fresh air, we slide the handle in front of the screen and the toddler can’t open the door and fall out.

Another safety tip that I swear by is dressing the boys in bright clothes and/or hats. Choosing items that stand out from the natural landscape help make it easier to keep my eye on the boys as the play at the campsite or explore a scenic destination.

When our toddler was younger we also traveled with a playpen (I actually found one with a sunshade at Aldi, but it was similar to the one linked) and a baby seat that we could use to keep him more contained. When he was infant we snagged a used BabyBjörn bouncer. It was perfect for camping because it folds flat when not in use and the cover is washable. When he got a bit older we used a Summer Infant Pop and Sit Portable Booster.

Also make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in your camper. We keep kits in the camper and in the car at all times.

Miscellaneous

At times it may feel like you are packing your whole house to take a quick weekend trip, but after some practice you’ll figure out what you don’t need and what can be left in the camper. We typically leave at least one outfit per person, jackets/sweaters, a few toys, diapers, swim diapers, water toys, sunscreen and bug spray in the camper. Another product that we really like, especially in the summer, is our Thermacell lantern. Our 5-year-old is a mosquito magnet, but the Thermacell helps keep them at bay.

Also, if you are a family that allows electronics, we find letting the boys have a tablet or watch TV in the camper occasionally can be a sanity saver. Most of the time we encourage them to be outside and enjoy nature, but sometimes it’s nice to let them watch an episode of their favorite show in the evening while we enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. It can also be helpful when storms roll in or the temperature drops and outdoor activities are off the table.

We don’t take a ton of toys, as we’ve found the boys typically find ways to entertain themselves with rocks and sticks and other items from the campsite. However, we have found bubbles are a great way to entertain kids at the campsite. We recently bought an inexpensive bubble gun that the boys love!


Camping with young kids can be challenging, but the more you keep at it, the more you figure out what works for you and your family. If you have tips you’d like to share, feel free to comment on this post, or message us on our Instagram @SeekTheScenic or our Facebook page www.facebook.com/seekthescenic. Happy Camping!

I have included a full list of the linked products below:

  1. Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Harmony Portable Infant Sleeper – Amazon
  2. Emma + Ollie Inflatable Toddler Bed with Bed Rails – Amazon
  3. Summer Slumber Buddies Projection and Melodies Soother, Eddie The Elephant – Amazon
  4. Spare Tire Trash Bag, JoyTutus Fits 40″ Tire – Amazon
  5. Extended Lend-a-Hand Rail – Camping World
  6. Summer Pop ‘n Play Ultimate Playard, Green -Play Pen with Removable Canopy – Amazon (We found ours at Aldi)
  7. BabyBjörn Bouncer – Amazon (We found ours on Facebook Marketplace)
  8. Summer Pop and Sit Portable Booster – Amazon
  9. Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit – Amazon
  10. Thermacell Bristol Mosquito Repellent Patio Shield Lantern – Amazon

Choose Your Own Adventure: Twin Lakes Campground (Pendleton, SC)

Some camping trips are filled with visiting a full itinerary of scenic destinations, others are spent relaxing at the campground, and some trips are spent arguing with tiny versions of yourself until you are completely exhausted. (I’ll let you guess which category our trip to Twin Lakes Campground fit into.)

My intent for our trip to Twin Lakes Campground in Pendleton, South Carolina, was to explore an area of the state where we hadn’t spent much time, but once we arrived our boys decided they had different plans.

You see, Everett and Steven recently started watching Bear Grylls’ new, interactive Netflix series You vs. Wild. The show is similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” children books that were popular in the 90s. Everett has watched every episode and has taken to reenacting his favorite scenes. So, when we pulled into our campsite, he was in heaven: the rocks, “cliffs,” and lake were the perfect place for him to test out his newly acquired wilderness knowledge.

Twin Lakes is a 152-acre, 102 site lakefront campground managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. The sites have water and electric hook-ups, and are very economical at $26 a night. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov and a site map can be found here. We stayed on site 33, which is in the middle of five sites out on a point. We had no problem navigating into the site and had plenty of room for our camper and tow vehicle. The site was surrounded by Lake Hartwell on three sides and offered great views of the sun setting over the lake. It also had a large, level living area that included a fire ring and grill. A playground and bathhouse were a short walk from the site.

A gently sloping hill led down to the lake, but accessing the lake was a bit tricky due to a drop-off and rip rap surrounding the point. But Everett didn’t mind: navigating the terrain was a perfect way for him to sharpen his survival skills. However, supervising his antics near the water’s edge about gave me a heart attack. On future trips, I’d like to try a site with a more level “yard” area. Some of the sites in 60s looked to be bordered by a nice grassy area, and were also close to a beach area and playground.

We did convince the boys to go on an excursion to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens on the grounds of Clemson University. It was free to access the trails and there were lots of interesting sights to see. I would definitely recommend visiting the gardens, if you happen to be nearby. We also swung by Mac’s Drive-in, a local restaurant, for lunch. The food was great, but be aware, it’s not an actual “drive-in” and they only take cash or check.

The rest of the trip we alternated between playing “Bear Grylls” with Everett, which entailed helping him decide whether to rappel or free climb, hunt or forage, trap or fish, and on and on, and trying to convince him to leave the campsite. In the end, he had a blast, but we were exhausted. After a particularly overwhelming day on Saturday, we came to an agreement that on future trips we’d have a day where the Mommy and Daddy choose the adventure and a day where the boys get to choose our itinerary.

Camping with kids is an adventure in its own right, and each trip we are discovering what works and what doesn’t work. And even though this trip did come with more parental drama than we would have liked, we still enjoyed spending some time in nature and making memories together as a family. In all honesty, I wish we had gone with the flow and embraced that the boys wanted to enjoy our site. Not every trip needs to be filled with activities: lesson learned.

Perfectly Imperfect: Myrtle Beach State Park (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

(We also visited Myrtle Beach State Park in June 2019. To read more about that trip, click here.)

In today’s age of social media, we’re constantly barraged with “perfect” images. The flood of curated and filtered content can make us believe our lives need to be Instagram-worthy to be worthwhile.

So, as I reflected on our recent trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, I fixated on the foreboding forecast that delayed our arrival, the less than ideal weather, and the lack of sleep caused by our testy toddler. It wasn’t until we’d been home for a few days that the fog of unmet expectations lifted, and I began to see that our weekend was actually perfectly imperfect.

The forecast got worse and worse in the days leading up to our departure. We don’t mind rain, but riding out high winds and possible tornados in a tin can is another story all together. After being racked with indecision for several days, we finally decided it would be best to wait until Friday morning to head over to the campground. Our decision was ultimately fueled by the thought of having to shelter in a bathhouse with two kids during a pandemic. The risk wasn’t worth the reward in my book.

But, then, conditions changed and the storm shifted to the east. After carefully watching the radar, we accepted that South Carolina had dodged a bullet, which allowed us to head over Thursday night instead of waiting until morning. Hooking-up was easy since we’d already packed everything earlier in the day. Traffic was lighter than usual too, since we were leaving later in the day and many people were waiting out the weather indoors.

We arrived at our site, and made quick work of setting up before settling in for the night. We stayed on site 295, which was on the more spacious back loop. The site was easy to navigate into, even in the dark, and had a large outdoor living area. It was also full hook-up, which is always a nice find at a state park.

We woke to unseasonably cool temperatures and overcast skies, but thankfully the rain held off. We decided to bundle up and head to Murrell’s Inlet to explore Brookgreen Gardens with my Dad and his girlfriend Diane, who were visiting from Indiana. Brookgreen is located almost across the street from Huntington Beach State Park (which you can also visit for free, if you’re staying at MBSP). We spent several hours exploring Brookgreen’s beautiful sculpture gardens before the kiddos hit the wall. We’ll definitely visit again to see the rest of the grounds, which include a section on local history, a small zoo featuring local animals, and even an educational boat tour. (Note: Your ticket, which we found to be very reasonably priced, is actually good for seven days.)

When we got back to the campground, we decided to embrace the weather. Steven built a roaring campfire and whipped up a delicious, five-bean venison chili. I also made a pan of cornbread in our camper oven, without burning it! In retrospect, it was nice to be able to enjoy a few more days around the campfire since the oppressive heat of summer in the South will soon be upon us.

Saturday was chilly too, but the sun finally peaked through the clouds, which lifted our moods considerably. Since Dad and Diane were nearing the end of their trip, we spent the day soaking up the park. We visited the Nature Center, took a walk on the beach, and watched seagulls land on the pier. Everett was captivated by the challenge of completing the park’s scavenger hunts to earn a patch from the Nature Center, and Jase insisted on trying every slide on the playground.

For dinner, Dad visited a market and stocked up on local seafood, which we boiled over the fire. The result was delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Our trip may have been marred by some less than ideal circumstances, but we enjoyed good fellowship, great food, and beautiful sights. Real life is messy, and sometimes it takes the storms to truly appreciate the sun. Now we’re counting down the days until our next perfectly imperfect weekend.

Rest and Relaxation: Table Rock State Park

This year has been mentally exhausting.

The shift to remote work meant the lines between my home life and my work life blurred beyond recognition. My brain is constantly abuzz.

Which is why I treasure our camping trips. Yes, the packing and planning adds to the chaos temporarily, but once we are settled into our campsite so much of the stress lifts. For a few days the only decisions I have to make are what’s for lunch and what scenic destinations we should visit next.

Our recent trip to Table Rock State Park proved to be a much needed dose of stress relief. We came very close to cancelling when it looked like Tropical Depression Iota would make the trip a washout, but once again the camping Gods smiled down on us. And, we ended up with sunny skies, warm days and crisp evenings.

This was our first visit to Table Rock, and like many of the other parks we’ve visited, we were pleasantly surprised. The park itself was large, secluded and beautiful. After doing some research we chose site 84 in the White Oaks Campground. Our site had a shallow creek running behind it (which the boys loved!) and a large wooded area on one side. We had to a bit of leveling, but overall the site was well maintained.

My Mom and Stepdad were camping with us and were on site 86, which was on the other side of the wooded area next to our site. The arrangement worked fine, but if we went again, we’d probably do sites 83 and 84 or 86 and 87, just to be a bit closer to one another. We did drive through the Mountain Laurel Campground and though it had beautiful views of the mountains, it felt a bit more crowded and noisy. All the RV sites have electric and water, but are not full hook-up. The dump station is located in the Laurel Mountain Campground, but was easy to access.

Going with the theme of rest and relaxation, we spent most of our weekend enjoying the park itself. The only hiccup we had was firewood that refused to burn, but after scavenging some downed branches, we were back in business. We’d been warned that we wouldn’t get cell signal in the campground, and I was actually a little disappointed that our AT&T phones actually got a good signal at our site. I’d been looking forward to a forced detox. Though the boys did enjoy that they could watch our new FIreTV after the sun went down (which was surprisingly early this time of year!).

On Friday, we decided to venture out to see some nearby sights. First we visited Twin Falls, which was a 15-minute drive from the park. The falls were a short walk from the trailhead parking, and were absolutely breathtaking. The recent rains had the water really rushing. And though we were disappointed that the active hurricane season had taken a toll on the fall foliage, the sparser trees did make for great views of the falls.

Once I’d taken an excessive number of pictures and Steven was able to drag me away from the falls, we headed to the Sassafras Mountain Overlook. The overlook sits atop the highest point in South Carolina, and straddles the South Carolina and North Carolina border. On a clear day you can see 30 to 50 miles into the distance. We soaked up the views and enjoyed lunch on Papaw’s tailgate before heading back to the campground.

Saturday, Grandma and Papaw went out to do some exploring of their own, and ended up at my favorite place Jumping Off Rock. While they were gone we enjoyed a lazy morning, and then decided to conquer one of the park’s trails. We chose the Carrick Creek Trail, a moderate, 2-mile loop. We were quickly reminded that we’re used to flatlands and that our toddler is getting heavy, but the reward was worth the effort. Most of the trail follows Carrick Creek which is full of waterfalls and other scenic features. My Mom and I set out to do the Lakeside Loop later in the day, but were thwarted by a road closure and the quickly setting sun. Next time. We’d also love to eventually make our way up to the top of Table Rock, but that trek might have to wait until the boys are a bit older.

There is so much to do and see in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I hate leaving. But, alas, there always comes a time to return to reality, chaos and decision making. So, we savor the time we get enjoying the great outdoors.

EASYRunner Overland is now Seek The Scenic!

When we decided to start a blog and an Instagram account to record our adventures, we chose the name EASYRunner Overland. “EASY” was an acronym of our names: Everett, Alyssa, and Steven Yancey. “Runner” referred to our Toyota 4Runner that kick started our love of exploring as a family. And, “overland” referenced our love of vehicle-based exploration.

When our younger son Jason was born, we questioned if we should change our name to incorporate him. But, nothing seemed to fit. When we started doing more camping, we again considered a name change. Then when we traded our 4Runner in for our Grand Cherokee earlier this year, we knew it was time.

We pondered what we wanted our new name to be for months. We wanted something timeless that would stay relevant even if things in our life changed. We brainstormed ideas, but nothing stuck.

Finally, one day I was thinking about what is at the heart of our adventures. Of course we like traveling back roads and camping, but our true passion is finding beautiful and unique places as a family. And, so our new name was born: Seek The Scenic!

Stay tuned for more updates! We hope to offer some new swag soon. Until then, don’t forget to seek the scenic!

Unintended Consequences: Crooked River State Park (Georgia)


Skip to the bottom for a review of Crooked River State Park in St. Marys, Georgia


When Steven first started talking about buying a camper a few years ago, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I was pregnant with our youngest at the time, and I was already anxious about how we’d adjust to being a family of four.

So, we agreed to hold off on adding anything else new into the mix for a few months.

Then, when Jase was a few months old, we found a good deal on a lightly used “starter camper,” and I agreed to give it a try. Everything didn’t always go smoothly, but we still fell in love with camping. Not only has camping brought us closer within our own family, but I also feel like it has given the boys the chance to build stronger relationships with their grandparents.

I lost my own Grandma to COVID a few weeks ago, so I have been thinking a lot about the importance of spending time with our extended family. After my Grandma passed, one of my cousins shared a beautiful tribute to her on Facebook. The post detailed her favorite memories of Grandma. I smiled reading through some of the memories that reminded me of my own visits to Grandma’s house, but I also teared up reading through some of the experiences that I missed out on.

I grew up hundreds of miles from most of my extended family. My parents always made an effort to get us together at holidays or for summer trips, but as I got older it was harder to keep in touch. Now that I have lost three of my four grandparents, I wish I would have spent more time making memories with them. And though it’s largely too late for me, there is still what I hope is plenty of time for my boys to form lifelong bonds with their grandparents.

In fact, being closer to our families was the main reason I wanted to move from Texas to South Carolina after our oldest son was born. Luckily, we live within miles of Steven’s parents and extended family. Unfortunately, my family is a bit more spread out.

But that’s why I’m thankful for camping. All of our parents have campers now, and we typically do a trip or two with each of them every year.

My Dad and his girlfriend, who live in Indiana, upgraded from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer soon after we got our first camper, and we’ve been able to meet-up with them for a couple trips. In fact, one of our first trips was with them in Gatlinburg. Then, a few months ago, my Mom and Step-Dad, who live in Florida, decided to get in on the camping too. This past weekend we met up with them at Crooked River State Park in South Georgia. During these strange times, it’s nice to have an escape that allows us to still spend time with our loved ones.

Unfortunately, with the ongoing COVID crisis, we weren’t able to attend my Grandma’s services last weekend. Grandma was always happiest when she was surrounded by her sons and her grandchildren, and often lamented that we didn’t all live closer. So, I knew Grandma would have been happy to see my boys spending time with their own Grandma, who also wishes her kids and grandkids weren’t so far away.

I wouldn’t have ever imagined buying a tin can on wheels would have led to a greater connection with my parents, but I am very thankful for unintended consequences! I can’t wait for us to all meet somewhere down the road again real soon!

About Crooked River State Park, St. Marys, Ga.

We chose Crooked River State park because it was centrally located between our home in South Carolina and my Mom and Step-Dad’s home in central Florida. The park is easy to access of I-95 near the Kings Bay Naval Base in Kingsland, Ga. There’s a Dollar General, Walmart,  and several other stores within a few miles of the park.

The park itself was very peaceful. The sites were large and well maintained. We stayed on site 11, which was a huge pull through with a gorgeous view of the river. My Mom was on site 39, another large pull through site. Site 11 did not have full hook-up. Site 39 was full hook-up, but the sewer hook-up was on the side that faced the woods/river, which meant the living area faced the road. That was only a minor inconvenience though since there was very little traffic and the park was very quiet.

We were a bit surprised to discover the campground was surrounded by steep cliffs down to the river, which meant we couldn’t access the water for fishing or wading from the site. However, after a quick post on the Georgia RV Camping Group, I discovered there was water access from the river trail near the cabins. We spent time exploring the river bank on Friday, and then Steven and my Step-Dad Tim spent several hours fishing from the bank on Saturday.

The campground is near the coast, but the closest beach is the Cumberland National Seashore, which can only be accessed by ferry or private boat. We decided to save the trip over to the island for another trip, and instead went to explore Jeckyll Island, which was about 45 minutes north. The beach was clean and had parking and facilities. Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville is another option from Crooked River, and is about 45 minutes south of the campground.

The park also had several nice playgrounds, which my boys had to themselves, since we saw very few other kids. Near the playground by the cabins we discovered the park was home to several gopher tortoises, who we enjoyed watching. The park also had a number of trails, a nature center, a bait shop, a boat ramp, and even an outdoor gym.

The only negative was the bugs, which we’d been warned about. If you stay on top of using your bug spray and take your thermacell, you’ll be fine, but don’t forget or you’ll be a tasty snack for the park’s resident no-see-ums and mosquitoes. But I’ll trade a few bug bites for some beautiful sunsets and relaxing time with family.