camping with a toddler

our family

since i had chosen to go back to work part time after my maternity leave with baby bird, our finances have obviously changed. we knew a family vacation would be a small, local trip for a few years (we did a big trip to hawaii last october) while we adjust to family life and a new financial life too.

my husband and i love to camp, so we opted for a camping locally in our province for a week. not only did it fit our budget, but we both love the outdoors and want to instill that passion into our daughter as well.

so, after we packed everything up into our trusty little matrix, maddy, off we went on our family adventure. we had a fantastic week of camping, and visiting with some family as well. we went camping last summer when baby bird was under a year, and it was fun, but she wasn’t mobile, so it was quiet.

and i apologize for all the iphone photos, but since i was so focused on packing every thing for the trip, of course i would forget one thing … the camera. sigh.

maddy all loaded

we used every inch of space in our beloved matrix, maddy, and the rooftop box. i am a bit obsessed with organization and it was my mission to make this vehicle work for us, as financially we do not want a car payment if we went for a newer and larger vehicle.

camping with a toddler was so fun, active and just plain old awesome. baby bird loved being outside 24/7, she loved checking out nature, helping us cook on the campstove, visiting neighbours (especially when they seemed to be eating …) and sleeping in a tent! she had so much fun that on our first morning home she woke up and asked, “mommy, outside?” she did not understand what we were doing back home and why we were not outside anymore!

we started our trip at gorgeous otter lake, just north of princeton, in the town of tulameen. we had heard great things about this lake, and the drive alone had us hooked. when we arrived, we hopped out and popped down the lake immediately to give both baby bird and the dog a chance to stretch and move.

we were not sure how setting up camp with a toddler was going to go, but baby bird wanted to help so much, that we put her to work. she helped daddy put the poles together, and lay out the tent. she thought is was so much fun! let’s hope she continues to think this way when she is say, twelve? well, she did grow board of the setting up part and eventually we had to bust out some colouring. she kept herself quite busy with that and we were able to whip up camp quickly.

setting up distraction

the first night was a disaster sleep-wise.

come’on. it is camping with a toddler, you had to know there would be some negatives!

we were not prepared for how cold it got at night, so we were all a bit chilly that first night. baby bird ended up in our bed, as did the dog. you know how once you are really cold, no matter how much snuggling will not warm you up. well, baby bird and the dog were snuggled in between us, so they were toasty, but my husband and i did not warm up as well, or get much sleep that night. there was some crying (from baby bird, not us) throughout the night, as she is not used to sleeping with us.

thankfully we had wonderful and understanding neighbours. we chatted with them the next day, and there were three families who have been camping once a year together for over ten years. they all had teenagers now, but they all distinctly remembered the baby/toddler stage and camping, and shared some funny stories. they made us feel better about the crying every two hours, all night, that i am sure kept many of the campers up!

second night she was out like a light at 8 and slept until 6:30 … no issues!

here are some highlights from otter lake:

breakfast time

what is camping without bacon & eggs?

bike ride

ready for a bike ride!

thumbs up

thumbs up to a great ride!

beach time

beach time! we swam later in the day when it was warmer!

sheep farm

checking out the sheep farm.

next stop on our adventure was our favourite beef jerkey & pepperoni place. we stop here anytime we are nearby!


our next camping spot was going to be in summerland at the rodeo, however en route, we stopped in naramata to check out some wineries. we have done a lot of winery tours but had never made it to naramata. so, we knew we had to stop as our schedule was very open.

we picked a few wineries, but our fave turned out to be the one shown below.

why? they have a patio with fabulous views of the lake, fantastic all-fruit/no-grape wines, they welcomed dogs happily and provided a water bowl and treats, and the best part of all, they had a whole play area for kids with a giant stuffie tea party all set up! how do you attract families (with either two legged or furry kids)? you provide these kinds of things!

elephant island winery

their pear wine is seriously amazing!

great wine, great toys

parent heaven … thank you elephant island winery!

we camped out at the rodeo grounds that night and it was quite the experience. a friend’s dad runs the rodeo ground for the city, so we were able to have a nice quiet spot, with showers and toilets, right on the rodeo grounds.

rodeo grounds

sunset (top) and sunrise (bottom) at the rode grounds campsite.

despite being told there were rattlesnacks on the grounds, we were right in the middle of nature at night up in the mountains of summerland. we did not see a single rattlesnack (that does not mean i was keeping my eyes wide open looking for them every second of our stay), but we had a late-evening visit from a couple cowgirls on their horses and were informed of a local bear who was visiting the neighbouring farm. the bear did not cause us any trouble if he did visit, but we were serenaded at 2am by a large pack of coyotes. we could not even be upset about being woken up at 2am because the sound they were making was so beautiful and wild. it was quite the experience. and, if you see the photos above of the sunset and sunrise, we were spoiled with fantastic weather.

and no stop in summerland is complete without hitting up my absolute favourite winery, dirty laundry.

dirty laundry

this winery, like it’s wine, keeps getting better with age. they did some reno’s and have expanded. seriously gorgeous. we wanted to get married here years ago, but they do not do weddings … at least not yet!

next stop was mabel lake, near lumby. now, we had heard amazing reports about this lake for a few years but had never made it that far. well, we were not disappointed. we have officially found our new camping lake, and will return here as often as we can! gorgeous lake, beautifully kept campgrounds, and well laid out for families!

mabel lake

view of lake from our campsite. and the great green space for playing on!

camo baby bird

decked out in her camo fleece. the temps were not as cold as otter lake, but still cool in the mornings


there was a fantastic playground at the campground, which baby bird thoroughly enjoyed!


“time tunnel!” baby bird kept hollering this as she crawled threw. i think she has seen dinosaur train a few times.

family shot

we did a lot of walks, especially before nap & bed time. and maybe some silliness occurred.


snack time, and she’s calling her friends to come visit on her “cell phone.” it s actually a great little counting toy (she can count to five).


the beach at mabel was fantastic! the lake was such a great temperature on a hot day!

on the way home from mabel we planned a short visit with my auntie and uncle in vernon. my uncle was diagnosed with blood cancer three years ago, so their visits to us on the coast do not happen as much anymore. so, we try to come to them as often as we can! baby bird and i visited them last summer, so they were excited to see how much she has grown! we had a wonderful visit with baby bird’s gruncle and grauntie (great uncle and auntie).


listening to one of gruncle’s stories!


playing dolls with grauntie, and snuggling!

we departed from gruncle and grauntie’s early to beat the typical summer weekend traffic home. we stopped at a farmer’s market to capitalize on the delicious okanagan fruit (the peaches are to die for), and made great time to kamloops, where we stopped for some fuel and lunch.

back on the road, we hit a slight snag in the “arrive home early” plan. there was a serious accident on the highway between merritt and hope, and we were at a dead stop on the highway for about an hour and a half. you can only imagine how this might be with a toddler. baby bird did so well during that time, we stopped in hope for a treat at dairy queen. she got a cone and we shared a blizzard. the dog may or may not have gotten some of baby bird’s vanilla ice cream …

surprisingly, baby bird was a real champ after being on the road for what should have been about a four and a half hour to five hour drive, which turned into an eight and a half hour trip home. during our last forty five minutes she started to show signs of truly being done with the road trip part of our vacation.


here is to family vacations, road trip/camping-style, and many more fun adventures with my little family!


11 thoughts on “camping with a toddler

  1. It looks like you two know how to camp the right way!! Your trip looks so fun!!
    PS: I see you have the Diono car seat too, my little guy will NOT fall asleep in it, in fact he hates even getting into it! I read such great reviews, but he hates it so much, just wondering how your little one does with it

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