Camping Vacation - Successes and Fails

I am finally getting around to sharing about our vacation! I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to spend a week camping in South Dakota.  Overall, we had a really nice time! The kids loved sleeping in a tent and running around outside, getting dirty. I love waking up to the sun shining through our tent.  Though, for half of our vacation it was not sunny when we woke up, so that I did not love.  But we decided to escape the rain the last day and spend some time in Wyoming, which made me love it again!

Overall, there were a few things I think we did right, and a few things I would do better.


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What We Should Have Done Better

1. We didn't have to make reservations for the whole week.  The campground we stayed at was alright (and there were friendly bunnies running around that the kids loved to chase).  But the owner's attitude toward the patrons could have been better, and there were some other campgrounds that I think we would have liked more for other reasons too (better playground, for example).







Unfortunately, we had made reservations for the whole week, so we were stuck where we were.  We figured out that for tent camping, you really don't need reservations at campgrounds.  There are always spots available, and there is usually another campground someplace if worse comes to worse.

2. We should have stopped when we had a chance.  We were thinking we would arrive in South Dakota with plenty of time to make a Walmart run, since we forgot our pillows - but then we arrived at 9:30 PM and spent the first night with no pillows, and now batteries to blow u our air mattress (which is a necessity to me, especially at 6 months pregnant).  We made it work, but we definitely should have stopped at the first available place instead of waiting!


3. We should have checked road conditions before we left.  We didn't realize until it was too late that the route we were trying to take was closed!  And not temporarily, but indefinitely.  We ended up having to take a big detour, which is why we arrived 3 hours later than we thought we would.

4. We should have researched a bit more.  We decided to just play this vacation by ear, which made for less stress up front, but it also might have led to a bit more disappointment.

For example, we decided to try a tour of a mine where you just walk in - I thought the kids would be okay with it, but our tour guide...let's just say he shouldn't be a tour guide.  Then the mine narrowed, which the kids wouldn't tolerate, so we left the tour early.  I don't know if research would have remedied this, but it might have.  We did some "gemstone mining" after leaving the tour, which redeemed the activity a little bit, at least for the kids...







We also didn't know how much all the fees would be for the state parks - $15 for the Badlands! We may not have gone there had we known, since Derek and I are still trying to figure out what is so special about the Badlands (but then we would have missed out on Wall Drug, so maybe it was still worth it).  The Badlands, that is a place that desperately needs a (good) tour guide, so we know what we're looking at.


What We Did Right

1. We packed a lot of food.  We didn't even have to eat out much because of all the food I packed.  And let's face it, good food makes everything more fun.  The campfire was one of the best things we did, and the kids loved their s'mores (Clyde even got his first roasted marshmallow).




2. We had a campground reservation the first night.  This was a lifesaver, because on the way out we figured out that the route we were planning to take was closed!  We thought it was just a temporary closure, but when we got to the town we realized no, this was not temporary.  So we had to take a long detour through Nebraska, and we ended up not even getting to the campground until 9:30 at night.



Thankfully we had reservations for that first night, and the campground had an after-hours check in!  I don't know what we would have done if we hadn't reserved the first night, because all the campgrounds were closed by the time we got there.

3. We spent a day doing nothing.  Our first day in South Dakota, we planned . . . nothing.  We woke up and decided to go to Walmart in Rapid City for some ice, then we grabbed some breakfast and saw signs for a free Air and Space museum.  We made our way over there and checked it out, and it was a hit! Probably one of the more fun things we did while we were there.



After the museum, we made our way back to our camp, ate lunch, took a nap, had an early campfire, and watched a movie in our tent before bed.  It was so nice to have a day with nothing on the agenda, just goofing off (and we wouldn't have discovered the Air and Space museum otherwise, and the kids had more time to chase bunnies).  Isn't that what vacation is for anyway, to goof off and relax?

4. We had a detailed budget.  We actually planned out each section of our vacation budget this time - how much we planned to spend on food, activities, souvenirs, etc.  We've never really done that before, but it is so much easier to keep track of what we are spending when we have a specific amount for specific things.  And we didn't go over our budget at all, as we so often do on vacation!  I think we will be more specific in our budget plans again the next time.

5. We knew when to cut our losses and bail.  The first two days in South Dakota we had nice weather . . . and then it got cold and rained.  For the next 2.5 days.  We saw Mt. Rushmore (which Wyatt found very interesting), but only for about 5 minutes before a cloud covered those presidential faces.



Thankfully we had some indoor activities planned for the rainy days, such Reptile Gardens, which all the kids, and especially Wyatt, loved!


But by the third cold morning I was just done.  I didn't even bring a cute sweatshirt, because I thought we'd have good weather.  Note to self: always bring cute sweatshirts when camping.  Especially when you are pregnant and feel less glamorous to start with.



Anyway, we decided to make a couple more stops and then drive part of the way home that day.  It was a good decision, and probably our most fun day of vacation.  We stopped at the Flintstones Theme Park in Custer (so. much. fun.  I think this was the highlight of the whole trip, just because the kids loved it so much).



Then we went to Bear Country (also a hit), and ended up camping in Wyoming that night - at the best KOA I have ever been to!  At least it seemed that way because the contrast between the KOA and our other campground was stark.  But they had a bonfire by the river, within sight of our tent.  How fun is that?  And no one was using it!  Derek and I were going to sneak over there for a mini date after we got the kids to sleep (surely they would sleep, because we tired them out with swimming and everything), but it got windy and the kids wouldn't go to sleep.  So our plans to make out in the dark were spoiled. *wink*



It was just a really nice campground though, and I was so glad we were able to redeem the last day of vacation before the long drive home.  It ended on a high note!

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Overall, it was a fun, adventurous vacation!  Maybe a bit dirty for having a half-term baby in your belly, but there is something so nice about watching campfire embers fading into the night, and waking up in the morning to birds chirping (or a child crawling onto the air mattress with you, as the case may be).  We are already making plans to buy a bigger tent that will sleep six (on air mattresses and cots, of course) for future years!
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8 comments

  1. Although there were a few hiccoughs, it seems like it was a great trip!

    My husband and I have been living in Paris for the last two months (we've been here since May 5) before we move onto Den Haag in the Netherlands for an addition two months (the husband's doing research for his PhD!). I can definitely tell you that having a detailed budget makes things a lot less stressful! I pretty much budget for every trip we make, but obviously this one is pretty extensive.

    I also think whether you're doing a small trip or a big one, it's important to not plan anything for the first day o or so! I haven't gone camping in a long time - I used to camp in both the winter and the summer months - maybe next year :).


    Now you'll be able to look back at this post before your next trip as a reminder of things to do to prepare!

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  2. Camping has been on our wish list for a while now. I would love to hear any tips for camping with little ones :) And I LOVE LOVE LOVE Gwen's little teal outfit and hat. SO cute.

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  3. Sounds like a ton of fun - even with the mishaps!!! <3

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  4. We are heading camping Sunday! I am nervous but excited! Just a 2 night adventure!

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  5. Oh, good luck! I think camping is so fun - and your kids will have great memories!

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  6. Thanks, Veronica! And check back on the 6th, because I am hoping to have a post up by then on tips for camping with toddlers. :-)

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  7. I agree! We usually jump right into activities, but it was so nice to not have anything specific planned that first day this time. I think that will be our rule from now on. ;-)

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