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If you have more than one child, and your family loves to travel, a lightweight double stroller is a necessity!  As a twin parent, we have always needed a double stroller, and let me tell you, we do NOT like the size of most double strollers.  

But there are so many truly amazing double strollers out there now.  Strollers that are light on … well.. weight, and heavy on features.  They are easy to push, easy to fold, but with all the features you’d expect even in a regular stroller.  In fact, for many families, a double umbrella stroller end up being the only stroller you ever need (IF you pick the right one)! And we have found some lightweight double strollers we KNOW will be amazing for your family!

What We Were Looking For

Truly Lightweight

This one is obvious, right? If you want a light weight stroller, you want it to REALLY be lightweight.  

While traveling, the strictest stroller limit we’ve encountered is American Airlines 20 lb limit policy. Strollers over 20 lbs should be checked at the ticket counter. And you aren’t going to want to limit which airline you can fly on, or end up buying ANOTHER stroller, we aimed to find strollers under that 20 lb weight limit. 

Truth be told, there are not a lot of double strollers out there that are under 20 lbs. So, we will recommend some that are over. BUT our top picks are under 20 lbs because we feel that weight limit is important.

Weight Capacity and Range

The truth is double strollers are expensive.  So if you are going to invest in one, you’ll want it to LAST.  We love strollers that can be used from birth all the way until you DEFINITELY don’t need one anymore. 

Though it’s rare to find a double umbrella stroller that can be used from birth, we found the next best thing.  And we even found a few that will work from birth, just in case that is a sticking point for you. 

And don’t forget about the other extreme – years into the future.  When your kids are big and still need a stroller!

For our family, a lightweight, umbrella stroller is used primarily for travel. And even now that my boys are 4.5 years old, we STILL use a stroller for travel periodically even though we haven’t used one at home in ages.

With Disney trips, long airport treks, or red-eye flights where the kids really need to be sleeping, strollers can really come in handy for travel.

Weight capacity, on the low end AND on the high end are HUGE when it comes to picking a double travel stroller. You don’t want to end up buying a SECOND lightweight travel stroller when your kids outgrow the first, and you realize there is no end in sight.

Disney-friendly

For many parents, a Disney-friendly stroller is on their must-have list.  Since double strollers can be SO massive, we were sure to consider Disney limitations. Every stroller we recommend is perfect for Disney parks!

Features

While traveling, you might wind up pushing your double lightweight stroller for full days, as you stroll through tourist attractions, and theme parks. The stroller becomes a coat rack, a water bottle and purse holder, a nap space and more. 

For my frequent-traveling family, we find that we use our travel stroller, and each of it’s features, WAY more than our heavier, at-home stroller.  And the great thing about a lightweight stroller – there is no reason NOT to use it at home, as well as on the road.

Size When Folded

One of the main issues we’ve had with double strollers is that they take up SO much space! If you don’t drive an SUV or a minivan, it can be tough to find a stroller that’ll even fit. Even when looking at lightweight double strollers, the folded up size can be massive!

Ease of Folding Up

When you have twins, or two young children, you just don’t have time to fight with your stroller every time you need to open it up, or fold it away. So a stroller that can be folded up, or opened up one-handed, or in one quick step is a huge advantage!

Our first travel stroller was hard to open, and after trying to open it in the jetway, with two sleeping babies, and line of people waiting for us to move, we learned the hard way JUST how important it is to have an easy to open and easy-to-fold stroller. Learn from our mistakes. Get a great double umbrella stroller that you can fold up, or open up in a SNAP!

Manueverability

A double stroller can be a beast to push around. The best lightweight double strollers should go through all standard-sized doorways, and be reasonably easy to push, turn, and maneuver. We were looking for something you won’t hate pushing around, even when your kids are bigger, and heavier.

One common problem with double tandem strollers is that the standard 6-wheel design means you have the center wheel right in front of you when you are walking. Often, you’ll end up stepping on the wheel, or tripping on it a lot while walking. Because of this issue, we find that tandem strollers with a 4 -wheel design are easier and more comfortable to push.

Off-roading?

One thing we wanted to mention is that these stroller are all amazing strollers that can be used for travel and for everyday use around your neighborhood, or WHATEVER. But really none of them are great for trails, gravel, or kind-of off-roading. It’s sort of an unfortunate reality of a lightweight stroller. There are, however, many that have higher-end tires, and a minimal amount of suspension, and we’ll point that out where it applies.

Top Pick: Zoe Twin+

The Zoe Twin+ is the clear winner when it comes to double lightweight strollers. This stroller is packed with more features than any other double umbrella stroller out there. And at only 19 lbs, it weighs less than essentially every other double as well! 

This twin stroller really is a game-changer! It folds up small enough to fit in the trunk of most cars, or it can even be carried in a backpack! This stroller also has tons of high end features, so you will totally forget you are using a lightweight stroller.

One HUGE bonus of this stroller: it’s one of the only double strollers out there that meets American Airlines super strict 20 lb limit policy. As a twin parent, you KNOW that checking the stroller at the ticket counter can be a deal breaker. Trekking through the airport with two babies and ALL the gear can feel close to IMPOSSIBLE. So you probably won’t want to take any chances on the limit and will want to make sure you are under it, if you ever fly American.  

I do have one SLIGHTY nitpicking complaint about the Zoe Twin+. My kiddos are big. Bigger than average kiddos, and as Disney lovers, we really need a stroller even at age 4 (and probably at age 5, maybe even age 6. Pretty much I want one as long as I can find one my kids’ butts will fit in). This stroller has a generous weight capacity of 45 lbs per seat, but my 4-year-olds are already too big. The UPPAbaby double, for example, goes up to 55 lbs per seat, which really extends the life of our travel stroller for things like Disney.

Features

Included Accessories

Pros

Cons

The Jeep Scout Double stroller is a great options for families needing a budget pick. This stroller is the lightest stroller we found, even beating out the Zoe Twin+!  This stroller easily meets American Airlines super strict 20 lb limit policy, making it a great stroller for flying.  

It’s super lightweight and easy to push.  However, you’ll notice while the stroller does have all the features you need, including storage, a cupholder, and sun canopies, you won’t get as many features as you’ll find on the Zoe Twin+.  BUT you also pay less than HALF the price of the Zoe.  

Again, we don’t LOVE that the weight limit is only 35 lbs per seat. The average child will hit 35 lbs around age 3, and big kids could reach it by age 2, so this stroller might not last as long as you hope.  

Features

Pros

Cons

The UPPAbaby is a beautiful, and functional stroller with tons of bells and whistles you’ll love. One of the biggest reasons we love this stroller is because it can be used for babies as young as 3 months old, and all the way up to 55 lbs per seat!  Even big kids likely won’t hit the upper limit of this stroller until after their 5th birthday.  

This stroller has tons of higher-end features, like a fantastic under-seat storage basket,  a large canopy with UV protection, adjustable foot rests, and adjustable 5-point harness.  It’s a great choice for families who need a great balance of features and weight, and won’t compromise on higher weight capacity!

Features

Pros

Cons

For many parents, finding a stroller that can be used FROM BIRTH is a sticking point. And I get it.  No one wants to buy gear, then end up replacing a couple of months in.  Yes, baby-wearing can help but not all parents/babies tolerate it (and baby wearing twins can be tricky!)

We love that this stroller reclines all the way flat, and the leg rests lift up completely so even a brand-new baby can ride.  In fact, this stroller can carry TWO brand-new babies (HELLO twin parents) without car seats. It does NOT have a way to clip in your car seats, but if your babies hate car seats as much as mine did, having a safe spot that is not the car seat is a huge bonus. 

At 26 lbs, this stroller can’t compete with some of the lightest weight strollers, but we felt it was a good balance of weight and features

Features

Pros

Cons

This stroller has so much going for it.  Like many of the lightweight double strollers we’ve recommended here, it has WAY more features than you really expect in an umbrella stroller.  

Most moms really want a stroller they can click their infant car seat into, and this one delivers! However, there are two important notes here: 1.  It only works with Graco SnugRide Click Connect, Chicco KeyFit 30. Chicco Fit2, and Baby Trend Secure Snap Gear 35.  And 2, this stroller can only accommodate one car seat, and one without a car seat, so it may not be a great option for twin parents. But great for parents of a newborn baby, and a toddler or preschooler.  

The stroller also folds up really small, and though it is above our 20lb limit, it’s still really lightweight at 23lbs.  It can be folded up one-handed, and opens just as easy.  Plus it folds up the short way, which, to me, is easier to manage.  

Features

Pros

Cons

Tell us in the comments which double umbrella stroller you chose!

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As your toddler or preschooler grows, and starts to crave more independence and responsibility, getting a special toddler backpack to begin to carry their own things can feel great for both the parent and the child.  

But with a million options out there, which backpack will be perfect for your toddler?

Whether you are a family that loves to hike, a family that loves to travel, or you just need a backpack to bring things to and from school (or maybe you need a backpack that is great for ALL these things), we’ve got you covered.

We’ll start off by telling you a little bit about how we chose the best backpacks out there for toddlers and preschoolers.

What We Were Looking for

Versatility

Kids outgrow their things so quickly, it feels like you need a new whatever every time you turn around.  As a twin mom, trust me I KNOW.  I can’t even pass things on to the next kid because they are the same size!  So we assumed that most parents won’t want a backpack that is great for hiking, a separate backpack that is great for travel, and a third for bringing a few toys to a friends house.  We need one backpack that is great for everything my 3-year-old could need to use a backpack for.  And for that matter, it needs to work for everything they need at age 4 too. Maybe even age 5. 

Comfort

Sure a new backpack is fun for awhile, but if it’s uncomfortable, or won’t stay in place, a toddler won’t wear it. We wanted something sized right, and comfortable to wear even for a few hours at a time, or longer.

 

One thing we love to see is a chest clip or a waist belt to keep the backpack on and in place. However, most toddler and preschooler backpacks don’t have either, so we’ll negotiate on that one for the right backpack.  

Durability

My toddlers are tough on gear.  They drag things on the ground, throw them, and generally tests the limits of everything they own (despite my constant attempts to teach them to value their things).  Toddler-tested gear that can stand up to their abuse is important.  

Fun

Let’s be honest, if your toddler was choosing the best backpack, they are choosing 100% on how fun or cute it is.  And toddlers love something that’s just for them.  So we need to at least consider the cute factor when choosing a backpack for our littles.  

Capacity

We wanted to check out these packs’ real-world functionality.  So I pulled out a few of my kids regularly packed items; lunch boxes, water bottles, and jackets, to see what fit, and how easily these items could be stuffed in the backpacks.  

 

To test these out, I used two styles of lunch boxes; a large, insulated lunch box (ours is the Pottery Barn Classic Lunch Box ), and a smaller, bento-style lunch box (ours is the Bentgo). We also stuffed our big kids fleece jacket (kids size 6), and used our Contigo water bottle to check out the side pockets.

Our Picks

The Wildkin backpacks are amazing.  With tons of fun prints and matching lunchboxes, and napmats (sold separately), these are sure to be a hit with the kids. They will fit even younger toddlers well due to the more square than rectangular shape.  And even though the backpack is small enough to fit little guys, it really has a ton of capacity.  The main compartment is deeper than its competitors, so your toddler will be able to stuff some snacks, a jacket, or a few toys in there easily! 

 

We personally tested the Wildkin 12 in. backpack. However, we checked in with the manufacturer to make sure the Wild Bunch was the same design. The only differences are that the front pocket on the Wildkin 12 in. is insulated, while the Wild Bunch is not. For us, the insulated front pocket isn’t a big deal either way, but if it is for you, stick with the original 12 in. design. The Wild Bunch line is new and SO adorable! We know you and your kiddos will love the fun new designs. The hardest part is choosing just ONE design.

Capacity Test

We tested this backpack with our large, insulated lunch box, and a large fleece jacket, and they fit, no problem. It was easy to stuff the items in, and tons of room to spare. Even better, the backpack stands up when full, zipped or unzipped, which is huge for helping toddlers manage the backpack on their own.

 

Our water bottle also fit in the side pocket really well. The pocket is deep enough that the bottle won’t fall out during play or flinging the backpack around.

Pros

Cons

Wildkin packed up and ready to go. And it even stands up on its own!

Who is this Backpack for?

Best Splurge: Osprey Hydrajet 12

Osprey is my go to brand for backpacks for myself because they make such high quality backpacks, and for me, the most comfortable backpacks out there (and trust me, I’ve tried them all!).

 

When it comes to kids packs, Osprey does just as great a job. These backpacks are a whole new level of quality, with carefully thought out tech features.

 

We love the  stretchy outside pockets for stuffing jackets, dirty shoes, or beach treasures and the chest clips to keep the pack in place.  The mesh back panel is also a really great feature to keep your child cool and comfortable. 

 

It even includes an Osprey hydration pack, which is great for kids who love to hike.  Though I should warn you, those hydration packs are SO fun for young children to drink from, you MIGHT want to plan on taking a couple of extra potty breaks.  The hydration pack is easily removable, and the backpack is great to use with or without the hydration pack.  

 

For families who do a lot of hiking and exploring, or maybe those who go to nature preschool like us, or just those that really appreciate the quality and features of a higher-end backpack, this one is gold!  However, the price tag can make it a tough sale for many. 

Capacity Test

The Osprey Hydrajet 12 passed the capacity test with flying colors. It easily fits a large, insulated lunch box and a fleece jacket without any difficulty and with space to spare.

Osprey backpack, loaded up with a jacket and a large lunch box with TONS of room to spare!

Our water bottle fit easily in the stretchy mesh side pockets. The pockets are deep enough that the bottle is held in place, even if the backpack is tipped upside down, or your child is climbing or even doing somersaults.

Pros

Cons

Who is this Backpack for?

Budget Osprey Choice? Osprey Daylite Kids

If you love the quality of Osprey backpacks, but can’t stomach the cost of the Hydrajet 12, be sure to check out the Osprey Daylite Kids Backpack. This backpack still has high quality Osprey materials, and the amazing, and SUPER comfortable Osprey fit, but it won’t have every feature that the Hydrajet 12 has.

DayLite Kids still has tons of great features including:

Probably the biggest difference is that that Daylite does NOT come with a hydration pack. You can add one later one, but they cost upwards of $30. So if you PLAN to add one later on, you’ll end up paying about the same price as the Hydrajet 12.

Hydrajet also has an extra large mesh pocket on the front, higher quality straps and back panel, and a wider opening for the main compartment.

Best for Small Toddlers: Deuter Pico

The Deuter Pico is tiny, but packs a big punch. It’s a super high-quality pack with tons of great features. And for a backpack designed for tiny bodies, it can carry a surprising amount of gear. It has all the high end features you can expect from Deuter, including well-padded, contoured shoulder straps, a comfortable, padded back panel, a chest clip, and a wide opening with high quality zippers.

Deuter Pico is ADORABLE- so tiny, and such a great overall backpack

Capacity Test

We were pretty impressed to see that such a tiny backpack could fit a small lunch box, and a big fleece jacket (this is a kids size 6 fleece, so you can expect that the intended wearer of this backpack would have a much smaller jacket).

Though our other picks could carry more gear, this backpack was SO much smaller, and intended for a smaller child, that we felt pretty good about the capacity for the size of this bag.  

Our water bottle did not fit in the side pocket. We went looking through our cabinets for an alternative bottle, and found that a Replay Sippy Cup fit comfortably in the side pocket. If you intend to use the side pockets for water bottles, you’ll definitely want to keep in mind that you’ll need a narrow bottom bottle around 2 – 2 1/2 inch diameter at a maximum.

Pros

Cons

Straps are super padded and comfortable for little shoulders

Who is this Backpack for?

Budget Runner Up: Skip Hop Toddler Backpack

The Skip Hop Zoo Collection Backpacks are so adorable!  Each one is designed to look like an animal, and there are 16+ delightful choices.  Each has fun details, like rainbow pulls for the unicorn, or honeycomb pulls for the bee backpack, and bright, playful colors.  

 

They are totally functional as well.  They have stretchy side pockets for water bottles or snacks.  Large zipper pulls make it easy for little hands to open.  And the simple design, with one large main compartment, and one smaller front compartment, works well for packing a lunch box, a jacket, or a few small toys- basically anything that a toddler would need to pack.  Straps are adjustable and padded for comfort.  

Capacity Test

The Skip Hop is definitely a smaller backpack, but if we REALLY stuffed, we could get our big fleece jacket, and a large insulated lunch box, but it barely zipped, and it would be tough for a young kid to get these things in, or out. A small lunch box and a jacket fit better.

The Skip hop was VERY difficult to zip with the large lunch box and a big fleece jacket
A smaller lunch box and jacket fit much better

Our water bottle fit just fine, but the pockets are shallow, so the bottle will easily fall out (and potentially get lost).

Pros

Cons

Even after LOTS of use, these things have held up well, and are still totally cute!

Who is this Backpack For?

Splurge Runner Up: Deuter Schumusebar

Deuter, like Osprey, is a high-end backpack manufacturer and makes high-quality packs with lots extra features that will truly make life easier. The fabrics are durable, and the straps are contoured and very well padded.

 

We also love that Deuter took the time to add some kid-friendly prints to up the fun a little bit, and even some reflective details for added safety.  The Schmusebar is clearly an extremely well-made backpack that will easily stand up to years of abuse, and fit comfortably the whole time. 

 

The design of this backpack is pretty unique, for a kids backpack as well. Rather than a traditional zipper, it has a cinch interior close, with a buckle bucket top. The buckle opens and closes really easily, so even young kids will be able to get in and out of this backpack without any trouble. And even if your child forgets to properly close up the back, we love that the lid sort of falls into place, keeping at least MOST of the contents IN.

Capacity Test

The biggest issue with the Deuter Schmusebar is it’s long, narrow shape. Though it does have a reasonably large capacity, the narrow bag, and particularly narrow opening meant we could not fit our large lunchbox in this bag at all.

Our large lunch box was too wide to fit through the opening

The smaller lunchbox, plus a fleece jacket fit well, however.

 

It also easily fit our water bottle in the side pocket, and the pockets are deep enough that the water bottle stays nicely in place under (almost) any circumstance.

Even though this bag didn’t look great in our capacity test, it still can hold some gear. But if you are wanting a backpack that carries lunch boxes, or any other large, non-squishy items, this one might not be for you.

Who is this Backpack for?

 

Toddler and preschooler backpacks just keep getting better and better, so we know you’ll find one that you love. Let us know, in the comments, which one you picked and if you love it as much as you hoped!

Bellingham is a funny little college town that will totally charm you, if you give it the chance. On the surface, it seems like a town mostly set up for college kids or active young professionals. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find Bellingham has TONS to do for families with kids!

Bellingham is in a bit of a rain shadow, and, although it’s often overcast in the winter months, the temperatures are mild, making Bellingham a great place for year-round outdoor activities.

And we think what makes Bellingham REALLY special is all the amazing outdoor activities. However, we have included a number of fantastic indoor activities that are totally worth your time as well.

These are our 50 FAVORITE things to do with kids in Bellingham.

Visit a Playground

1. Whatcom Falls

Whatcom falls
Whatcom Falls

This park is probably Bellingham’s most popular park. And for good reason! This park is a fantastic way to feel like you are deep in the forest without getting more than a mile from your car.

This park has EVERYTHING. First, for the kiddos, you’ll find a toddler-sized playground down at the main parking lot. At the upper parking lot, there is a second playground great for older, more adventurous kids.

Families with younger kids will love the short loop trail that takes you past Whatcom Falls, and a number of smaller water falls, and the Derby Pond. At the Derby Pond, take a break and check out the ducks before continuing on. You may notice the fish hatchery on the maps, but unfortunately, we haven’t seen fish there in years.

Playing in the river at Whatcom Falls Park

There are, in total about 4 miles of trails to explore in this park with tons of sights to see along the way. Some, but certainly not all of them are stroller friendly. So consider babywearing if you want to get out to explore the WHOLE park. Also, in the summer, there are some beautiful slow-moving (and not too deep) swimming holes are a ton of fun for kids (and adults!).

2. Bloedel Donovan Park

Bloedel Donovan is basically at the end of Whatcom Falls Park, but the look and feel are totally different. At this park has a nice sandy beach on Lake Whatcom, a playground, bbq and picnic areas, and some small trails where you can stroll around a watch the birds, or just take in the view of the lake.

bloedel donovan
Canoeing at Bloedel Donovan

In the summer, this area is a popular swimming spot. But despite it’s popularity, you can typically find a spot to enjoy the water, go for a swim, or head out in your paddleboard or kayak. Note that all boats have to be inspected prior to going into Lake Whatcom (yes, even kayaks), so just be prepared to drive through the inspection line before putting in.

3. Fairhaven Park

Our FAVORITE thing about Fairhaven Park is the seasonable spray park (open only during the summer hours). It’s simple, but big and TONS of fun for the kids. If you go anywhere near this park, be prepared with a change of clothing for your child because they won’t be able to resist running through.

Fairhaven Park

Fairhaven Park also has an excellent playground and plenty of open space for free play, ample space for picnicking, and some shorter trails in the woods, and near Padden Creek for a stroll.

The entire Fairhaven area is very walkable. You can get from Fairhaven shops to this park in about 10 minutes. And you can connect into the Interurban Trail system as well.

4. Boulevard Park

You’ll definitely want check out Boulevard Park. This adorable little park is right on the water on Bellingham Bay with plenty of space for families to stretch out for a picnic, areas to play on the shore, rocks for climbing, a fantastic ship-themed playground, and EVEN a walk-up Woods Coffee! The park connects to the over-water boardwalk for a fun and beautiful stroll all the way to Fairhaven.

Boulevard Park
The boardwalk at Boulevard Park

This park really has it all, and every part of the park is really beautiful and enjoyable. However, this little gem of a park is far from secret- so expect crowds on weekends, or really nice days. But, with so many things to do, the park is enjoyable even when it’s a bit crowded, just as long as you can find a place to park.

5. Waypoint Park

Waypoint Park
Playground at Waypoint Park

Waypoint Park is Bellingham’s newest park, and one of the first steps in Bellingham’s waterfront redevelopment plan. The area sits on the former location of a paper mill, and, similar to Seattle’s Gas Work’s Park, Bellingham has decided to clean up some of the components and leave in place for residents to check out! There is also a great little playground area that not just a standard structure and pretty fun, plus a rocky shoreline, and walking trails. The Bellingham Waterfront project is definitely still a work in progress, but the park is a great start!

6. Zuanich Point Park

Zuanich Point Park is another great waterfront park located near the marina. There are huge grassy areas for frisbee or other free play, playground equipment for the littles, and a couple of miles of walking trails. We love checking out all the boats from the walking trails. There are some pretty amazing yatchs and sailboats in the marina, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a seal or too looking for scraps from fisherman.

7. Cornwall Park

Cornwall Park is an interesting little park with thick forests, beautiful streams, playgrounds, quiet trails, and even a disc golf course. We love it for it’s beautiful scenery, quiet trails, and the shaded forest gives such a different feeling.

8. Hovander Homestead Park

Technically Hovander is up in Ferndale, but this fantastic park is worth the drive. This park has gardens, tons of trails, farm animals (in the summer) and old farm equipment to check out, and more. Check the calendar because Hovander typically has tons of events, and classes going on.

My family loves checking out the animals, and taking a walk along the Nooksack River, especially in the late summer when the blackberries are ripe. This park is HUGE and no matter what is going on, you can always find a quiet place to relax.

Visit a Park or a Kid-Friendly Trails

9. Sehome Arboretum

We really love exploring Sehome Arboretum with kids because it has a lot of interesting things for kids. At the top, there is an observation tower for kids to climb up. There is a fun little tunnel to walk through, small streams, lots of different trees, rocks, ferns and more. Plus, this trail is remarkably quiet, making it feel more relaxed for families who prefer to take their time.

Sehome Arborteum has 6 miles of total trails, though you can see a good chunk of park walking only about 2. You may want a backpack carrier for smaller children who won’t be able to walk the entire distance.

10. Lake Padden

Lake Padden Trail
Lake Padden

The Lake Padden trail system includes a 2.6 mile stroller-friendly loop trails, access points to the non-motorized lake, playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts, and the list goes on.

Families with babies and stroller-bound younger children will love taking the scenic loop trail. And older kids will love the water access and playground. And if you need a bit of solitude, the back trails (while not stroller friendly) are typically very quiet, or get out paddling on this peaceful lake.

11. Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

The Stimpson Family Nature Reserve boasts some really amazing old growth forest, and is perfect for the nature lovers in your family. The forest is quiet and peaceful, and filled with deer and small animals. Please note that dogs are not allowed in this perfect forest.

12. Northridge Park

This tiny little park is full of unexpected charm, particularly for an evening stroll. The 0.7 mile loop trail is great for strollers or younger hikers who can’t yet take on longer hikes.

There is parking on Magrath Road, on the east side of the park. From there, you’ll walk over a bridge. Listen carefully, and you’ll hears TONS of frogs and toads singing happily (particularly late in the day). At dusk, owls can be easily spotted hunting in the forest, and hooting away.

Like many of the trails in Bellingham, this trail connects into a larger trail system. So if you decide you want to take a longer walk, you can continue on the Klipsun Trail, and then to the Roadroad trail which will take you across town, if you chose.

13. Big Rock Garden

This park is a bit different from most of the Bellingham city parks. This park has beautiful flowers, and amazing sculptures for your viewing pleasure. It’s just a quick walk around, but lots to see, with someone for everyone in your group. Except, of course, you furry family members- no pets allowed in this park, unfortunately.

14. Railroad Trail

This long, wide trail is perfect for family bike rides, walks with strollers, or just getting around town without getting in the car. The railroad trails is one of the things that makes Bellingham special because it connects into trails all across town making it possible to walk or bike through town without getting onto busy streets or sidewalks.

15. Interurban Trail/Arroyo Park

Similar to the Railroad trail, Interurban Trail is great because it connects so many small parks and trail systems, making for nicer walks, even when you are in the middle of town.

As an added bonus, the Interurban Trail leads you right to Arroyo Park, which is a Pacific Northwestern’s dream wit h thick forest, a beautiful stream, and just a LOT of green.

arroyo park
Arroyo Park

Farther down the Interurban, there is a great little mini hike down to Teddy Bear Cove. There you’ll find a picture-perfect little cove, often without another person in sight. Plus, you can get an up close view of the train crossing over the bay. Note that the train is definitely loud, and might be overwhelming for kids sensitive to sound.

16. Larrabee State Park

Teddy Bear Cove
Teddy Bear Cove

For families that love hiking, don’t miss Larrabee State Park. We particularly love the Fragrance Lake Loop, and the Lost Lake Trail. And, of course, you won’t want to miss exploring the beautiful shoreline. Clayton Beach is another favorite, with lots of sand, and driftwood for climbing, plus views of the beautiful Samish Bay.

Other Outdoor activities

17. Bellewood Acres

Bellewood acres
Kid’s activities at Bellewood Acres

You won’t want to miss Bellewood Acres, especially if you have a change to visit in fall. This beautiful apple orchard has delicious apples of every type plus so many fun activities for kids (and adults), making it a memorable and totally fun place to spend the day.

The fall harvest festival features tons of delicious food and drinks (including their award winning, house made honeycrisp vodka, gin, and apple brandy), corn maze, pumpkins, tractor rides, and tons more. Your kids will love it!

18. Bellingham Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market in Bellingham is a surprisingly great way to spend a Saturday. The farmer’s market runs from mid-April to mid-December and features fantastic locally grown produce, locally baked bread, local honey, and TONS of fantastic local food, art, and clothing vendors. Shop for food, or just for fun, then stop by one of the food trucks for a fantastic breakfast or lunch.

Kids will love checking everything out, and maybe picking up a special treat or something.

19. Taylor Shellfish Farms (and the drive along Chuckanut)

To be honest, Chuckanut Drive, right on the coast on the south-western part of Bellingham, is not for the feint of heart. The winding cliff-side drive gives you some pretty amazing views of the sound, on a quiet forest road (rather than the bustling freeway). Even the kids will appreciate these views. But if you are as afraid of heights as I am, you might ask someone else to drive 🙂

And for a perfect pit stop, check out Taylor Shellfish Farms. If you are an oyster lover, you’ll get to try tons of great local varieties, as fresh as they come. Even if you aren’t a fan of oysters, you can take in the views, and even take a tour! The whole area is really beautiful and totally interesting!

Everything is outside, and really set up well for kids. Even toddlers will be happy exploring this great area.

20. Whale Watching or Fishing

When you are in a town like Bellingham, constantly overlooking the ocean, you’re going to want to get out there! Whale watching, fishing, or just chartered tours are a great way to explore. And because the Puget Sound is SO full of interesting animals, your kids will love it too! Yes, getting out on a boat will cost you a pretty penny, but the experience will be so memorable, we think it’s totally worth the splurge.

Orcas in the san Juans
An orca in the sound on one of our whale watching trips

When it comes to whale watching, there are two main options. The first is a large whale watching group with dozens (or more) other people. These cruises are typically cheaper, and offer amenities like meals and drinks. Check out San Juan Cruises for a great, large whale watching cruise.

The second option is a smaller whale watching boat. For families, or groups of approximately 4 or more, you’ll typically have the boat to yourself. These boats are often simpler, and, while most have a bathroom, you might not LOVE it, and food is rarely part of the deal. But on a private boat, you get a lot more control over how your day is spent. If you opt for a fishing charter, or a charter or any kind, you’ll end up on a similar boat, with a similar situation. Though the prices are higher, my family prefers the smaller, more private whale watching experience, and we love Outer Island Excursions!

One thing to note- getting out into the sound far enough for great orca viewing, or fishing can be quite a drive in the boat (30 – 60 minutes out), which can be difficult for kids. Consider bringing something for them to do during the drive. Seeing that beautiful black fin, or, even better, an orca breach, will make it all worth while, but there can definitely be some tough moments.

21. Bow Hill Blueberries

Ice cream sandwich at bow Hill blueberries
Blueberry ice cream sandwiches at Bow Hill are divine!

If you are lucky enough to be in Bellingham, or really anywhere in western Washington, in late summer for berry season, than you are quite lucky indeed. And Bow Hill Blueberries is one of the best places to enjoy these delectable berries. There organic blueberries are perhaps the tastiest in the area, and, since they don’t spray, you can feel good about your kids eating them right off the bush. After picking, you’ll DEFINITELY want to stop into the store for a blueberry ice cream sandwich!

22. Mountain Biking on Galbraith Trails

If your kids are old enough for mountain biking, you don’t want to miss hitting the Galbraith Trails. These trails are pretty amazing, and you’ll find trails for all skill levels, and all preference levels. But the trail system is complex and can be confusing, so we definitely recommend getting a map from WMBC here, and perhaps talking to some of the people at the local bike shops for some more guidance. With some many avid mountain bikers, you’ll likely get TONS of great biking advise if you ask around.

If you need to rent a mountain bike, we love Jack’s Bicycle Center– they rent out high quality bikes, and do a great job getting you set up perfectly, no matter your skill level.

23. Miniature World

Christmas at Miniature World in Blaine
Christmas lights at Miniature World

Miniature World is a funny little attraction your kiddos will love. They have a miniature train, miniature golf, bumper cars, and a small selection of arcades. The place is a bit dated, but my kids didn’t care- it was a total hit for us!

And don’t miss visiting during the holidays for their Christmas train, complete with a visit to the ‘North Pole’.

Indoor Activities

24. Marine Life Center

The Marine Life Center is a perfect tiny aquarium, set up particularly well for younger children. This exhibit is free, though you’ll want to plan on leaving a donation so that it can continue to run. With fantastic, knowledgeable volunteers, and a touch pool, this place will definitely be a favorite of your children’s’.

25. Spark Museum of Electrical Invention

Spark Museum
Spark Museum hands on activities

This funny little museum will spark (pun DEFINITELY intended) your interest in all things electricity, even if you don’t expect it to. There are exhibits for those who want to dive deep into the history of electricity, or for those just like a little hands on fun. Perfect for kids of all ages.

26. Family Interactive Gallery

Located within the Whatcom Museum, the FIG is a perfect little interactive area for kids to explore. Though the area is small, it’s exceptionally well designed to keep kids busy and having fun. This area is particularly great for toddlers and young kids.

27. Playdate BLI

playdate bli
Slides at Playdate BLI

We love Playdate BLI because it’s such a nice break for PARENTS. Kids absolutely love the play space, with tons to climb, and slide, and run on. It’s a fantastic way to burn off some energy, and SO MUCH FUN! And parents can relax, have a delicious meal, or even a drink- they offer beer and wine. It’s a comfortable place that is designed for parents just as much as kids.

28. Trampoline Zone

Trampoline zone
Trampoline Zone

For a rainy day, the Trampoline Zone is a great way for kids to have a blast jumping the day away. They even offer a kid zone for smaller kids, to keep them safer.

29. Vital Climbing Gym

Vital is a great little bouldering gym (meaning the climbing walls are short enough that no ropes are needed), that allows children, with some restrictions. First, only children over the age of 5 are allowed to climb, or even be on the climbing mats. Secondly, a parent must always be the spotter for their child. And third, only 2 children per adult.

Many children are naturals at climbing, so the climbing gym is a nice way to explore these skills. Plus it’s just fun! Plus, the parents can join in on the fun, and get a little exercise as well.

30. The Upfront Theatre

The fun little theatre, owned by comedian Ryan Stiles, is a family-friendly venue everyone that will get everyone in your group laughing. Check out their current lineup here.

31. Mindport

Mindport is a small, but really fun museum with lots of hands on exhibits for kids, even the older kids! In has unique exhibits- not just the standard things you’d find in every children’s museum in America, and lots of opportunity for learning.

Exploring the area

32. Take a Walk Around Downtown

Downtown Bellingham is thriving, and super walkable, and it’s a great way to check out Bellingham’s college-town, laid back, and truly unique vibe. Along the way, you’ll definitely want to stop at Mallard for some delicious, and at times a bit strange, ice cream. My favorites have been beet, lavender, and white pepper ice cream. BUT if you like your ice cream in the standard flavors, don’t worry- they’ve got you there as well.

Right next door, you’ll find Avellino- in my humble opinion, the best coffee shop in town (by FAR!).

33. Take a Walk Around Fairhaven

Fairhaven is a sort of a second downtown area, with a bit more polished feel. As much as I love downtown Bellingham, I’ll admit that I love Fairhaven more! The area has so many fun shops, great for browsing, even with kids!

Fairhaven- Bellingham
Fairhaven Village Green

We love stopping at the double decker bus, Fairhaven Fish and Chips, for the best fish in chips around, on a sunny day. Waits for food can long, but since it’s outdoor only seating, the kids can play while you wait.

Or, for a sweet treat, check out Rocket Donuts for classic donuts, plus some totally unique flavors (bacon maple, a giant donut, or cronuts can all be found at Rocket), or delicious ACME ice cream.

Head to the Fairhaven Village Green to let the kids run around, or for a picnic lunch. We love to pick up Fairhaven Poke and relax in the grass while the kids play.

And definitely check out the Fairhaven Toy Garden for tons of amazing, unique toys, and Village Books, an independent with a HUGE selection of amazing children’s books.

Go out to Eat

Because Bellingham is such an incredibly casual town, many of the local restaurants are totally kid-friendly. There are definitely a lot of great restaurants, BUT we picked just a few of our favorite kid-friendly and delicious restaurants in Bellingham

34. Old World Deli

This little deli is legit my favorite place in town. Their sandwiches, soups, and salads are SO delicious and full of flavor. I particularly love the Mediterranean Tuna, and, when they have it, split pea soup. They also have some really delicious kids items. And the casual atmosphere makes it perfect for families with kids.

35. Aslan Brewing

This family-friendly brewery is bright, and beautiful, with tons of outdoor seating. I’d call the menu modern comfort food, and it’s really quite tasty. Plus, they have a huge selection of beer for mom and dad, and I don’t mean just 18 types of IPA- they actually make other beers too.

36. Jalapenos

Jalapenos is a local chain, with 3 restaurants in the Bellingham area, and all are great. The food is tasty, and has tons of kid-friendly options. Portions are HUGE so you can easily just share your dish with your kiddo(s- they are really huge portions!), if you can agree on the meal. Or order off the kids menu.

37. Twin Sisters Brewing

This brewery is another super family-friendly choice. They have a really great outdoor space, giving wiggly kids the space to get out of their chair and explore a bit, so parents can actually have time to eat a meal, and maybe even enjoy a beer. The outdoor space is comfortable even in the cooler months, thanks to a great warming (kid-safe) fire pit.

Or eat inside, in their beautiful open dining room. Still kid friendly, but without the flexibility to let the kids move around.

38. Bayou on the Bay

This fun little cajun restaurant has a surprisingly kid-friendly menu (best ever mac and cheese, or chicken tenders!), and is again, so casual that no one cares if your kids are a bit.. noisier. Everything on the menu is delicious, and fun- you can even get oyster shooters, and beignets!

39. La Fiamma Wood Fire Pizza

The crust on a La Fiamma pizza is enough to get me in the door. The pizzas, more of a traditional Italian style, are by far the best in town, with lots of unique toppings, as well as the standards. The place is fun and super kid-friendly- you’ll definitely love the whole experience. One note- this restaurant is popular, so waits can get long quickly. But for families with little kids who eat at 5 pm, it’s perfect.

40. Fiamma Burger

Owned by the people as La Fiamma pizza, this amazing burger joint is perfect for families who want a delicious, but quick meal. Fiamma Burger is a counter-service restaurant, with some a mix of smaller tables, and larger, communal tables, or you can take your food to-go. The offer burgers of every kind (including vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian-friendly, or gluten free options), that you and your family will love.

41. Kuri Kuri

Kuri Kuri is a conveyor-style sushi restaurant, making it a quick and easy spot for lunch or dinner. They offer a huge variety of options on the conveyor ( including tons of kid-friendly options), or you can order off the menu if you want something specific. The prices are good, and the small plates mean you never get too much, or too little to eat. Plus you can be in and out quick if the kids get bored.

42. Thai Busara

This restaurant is delicious- everything single thing. Plus, the owner is really great, making you feel relaxed and at ease no matter what. This was the first sit-down restaurant I went to with my twins when they were infants. They cried (a lot) and I did a lot passing babies around, standing up and bouncing them, nursing them, whatever, and I felt completely comfortable there.

43. Pho Bubble Tea

This tiny little Vietnamese restaurant is full of charm, and great food. I’ll warn you- it’s a tiny little shop, that looks a bit out of place near a modern strip mall, and the appearance might throw you at first. But the food and service are good, and if your kid’s haven’t tried pho yet, you might be surprised by how many kids LOVE it. We also love the Vietnamese Sandwiches (banh mi) for pick up as a far-superior-to-fast-food quick lunch.

44. Food trucks

Food trucks are big in Bellingham. There are a ton of really great trucks, and just so many to chose from- check out this guide for more information.

One tip: A couple of the local breweries, including Kulshan and Wander, don’t have kitchens of their own, but they invite a couple of food trucks to come and serve their customers. They both are family-friendly and offer ample outdoor seating to enjoy a quick meal and a beer.

Day trips from Bellingham

Bellingham is in a really beautiful section of the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll definitely want to check out the surrounding area is if you get the chance. These are our favorite day-trips from Bellingham

45. Mount Baker

Mount Baker WIlderness

In the summer, the snow melts enough that the Mount Baker Highway can open, all the way up to Artist Point. And both Heather Meadows and Artist Point are spots you definitely will not want to miss. In this area, you’ll be able to see glaciers, beautiful glacier fed lakes and streams, wildflowers, wild huckleberries, and epic views.

chain lakes loop- mount baker wilderness
Chain Lakes Loop Hike

Even better, you can see ALL those things just a mile or two (or less!) from the car, making it totally accessible even for families with younger kids. There are tons of longer trails, and backpacking routes available. But you can definitely just can wander around for a bit, and see SO much.

46. Anacortes

Beach in Anacortes- Rosario
Rosario Beach in Anacortes

Just an hour away from Bellingham, this tiny little island town is full of charm. It’s a perfect place to head out for a sea kayak ride, hang out on one of the many beaches, or just take in the views.

47. San Juan Island

San Juan Island
Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island

From Anacortes, take the ferry out to the San Juan Islands for a super memorable day. San Juan Island is the most populated of the San Juans, with tons of great restaurants, state parks, hikes, and SO much more.

48. Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass Bridge

This park has some excellent trails, a scary, but beautiful state park, tide pools, beaches, and the best spot to watch the sunset. It takes about an hour to get there from Bellingham, and it’s well worth the drive!

49. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park
Diablo Lake

This underrated National Park is free to enter, and a full of sights you really can’t see anywhere else. Don’t miss the peaceful mountain trails, and bright blue water of Diablo Lake, and really every stream and lake in the area.

50. Vancouver, B.C.

Canyon LIghts
Capilano Suspension Bridge, lit up for the holidays

Bellingham is less than 30 minutes from the Canadian border, so you may as well pop over and explore this beautiful city. We love the Stanley Park, the Vancouver Aquarium, VanDusen Gardens, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Science World, and SO many others.

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Camping with kids is a great way to get out as a family. It’s budget-friendly, and helps kids (and adults) get the outdoor time they crave and really need! The forest is soothing for the soul, and means kids can run, jump, and scream without constantly being hushed, and slowed down. Camping is the perfect way to maximize your family’s time out in the forest.

But the fact is, camping with kids can be tricky! Taking away all the little tools and conveniences that make life with kids, feels intimidating. Plus, dirt-averse parents may cringe at the thought of being out there with no way to shower. But with this clever camping with kids tips and tricks, you’ll be ready to get out and truly enjoy yourself!

1. Keep Meals Simple

The internet is full of elaborate and fun camping recipes involving cooking in the fire, fun outdoors themed meals and more. But if we are being honest, cooking while camping with kids isn’t really that fun.

We love getting out and spending our time playing in the dirt, the forest, the water, whatever. So being stuck close to our camp kitchen chopping, waiting for elaborate meals to cook in the inconsistent heat of the fire, etc. is NOT as much fun as it sounds. Plus, cleaning up after is much tough than cleaning up at home.

Simple Meal Ideals

Simple meals are our jam. Meals that can be thrown together with limited counter space, with only a few dishes, and with only a few minutes. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Hot dogs and fruit
  • Grilled chicken and burgers with raw vegetables and hummus. Prep and season meat at home, and store in disposable bags so you won’t have to wash anything with raw meat.
  • Camp nachos: Cook meat, if using, and shred cheese at home.
  • Chili made ahead of time (for cooler days)
  • Tacos: cook meat, shred cheese, and make pico at home. Then just meat/beans and tortillas will need to be warmed before serving.
  • Chicken kabobs: Cut and prep the ingredients and put them on kabob sticks with ends broken off. Store in a disposable bag so you won’t have to wash anything with raw chicken.
  • Breakfast burritos: I actually find it easier to just prep and cook at the insides at home. Warm and fill your tortilla at camp.
  • Yogurt parfait: Add granola and fruit to yogurt for a special, and simple, breakfast.
  • Pasta Roni with added vegetables and protein for a complete meal
Simple camping meal- hot dogs, raw vegetables, and fruit

SUPER Simple Meals

If you want to simply even more, consider dehydrated camping meals that only require hot water, or foods that require no cooking what so ever and don’t even require refrigeration, so you won’t have to worry about a cooler!

When choosing dehydrated meals, one important thing to remember is that you do give up something when you opt for a simple, only-need-hot-water meal. And that thing is typically texture. One good rule of thumb- a meal that makes good leftovers, easy to reheat and just as good the next day, is a LOT more likely to make a good dehydrated camping meal.

These are some of our favorite EXTREMELY simple meals and snacks.

2. Stick to the Routine for Great Sleep

Getting the kids to sleep while camping can feel a little intimidating for many families. So you’ll want to do whatever you can (within reason) to keep your sleep routine normal. Obviously every step along the way is going to feel a little bit different. But we find that we can go through the same basic steps.

At home, we do bath time, put on pajamas, read books and drink milk, brush teeth, then get into bed and sing one song before sleep. Obviously we don’t do a bath, but we do get cleaned up a bit before bed. We can go through the rest of the routine easily. It helps the kids wind down and gives them a sense of familiarity that can really help them get restful sleep.

We also have blackout curtains at home, and living way up north means it’s LIGHT when the kids go to bed. Yes the amount of light is a bit strange, and they take a bit longer than normal to fall asleep, but they definitely can handle it. Plus, we are normally out playing ALL day, so they are exhausted when bedtime comes.

3. Prepare for Temperature Changes

Even for summer camping, you’ll often have temperature swings of 30+°F. When looking at the forecast, be sure to look at the highs AND the lows. It’s also not a bad idea to look at the hourly forecast to see what time temperatures begin to climb in the morning, and when they start to fall in the evening.

When you are out in the weather, dressing in layers is always a good idea. Pack clothes that work well for layering, consider bringing an extra warm layer just in case your only warm clothing get wet or whatever.

Bedtime Temperatures

Younger kids often go to bed before temperatures really drop for the evening. And without air conditioning, getting to sleep in the heat can be TOUGH. Make sure you bring pajamas that are suited for warmer weather. A portable, electric fan like this one can also really help as well.

And if you are nervous parent like me- don’t worry about them getting cold! As long as they have a decent sleeping bag or some warm blankets you can pull over them before you go to bed, they will be fine in summer temperatures. As much as I feel like I want to put them in thermals or at least really warm pajamas, it’s totally not necessary.

Morning Temperatures

Us LUCKY little kid parents have the pleasure of getting up early enough in the morning that temperatures are probably going to be near their minimum for the day. So even if you are camping in the summer, in many climates, you can expect a couple of hours of cool temperatures (50s-60s°F or lower). So don’t forget some warm, comfortable clothing.

Bring thermals, or something warm, and stick it inside the sleeping bag. That way, when you wake up in the cold of the morning, you’ll have some pre-warmed clothes right there ready for a quick change. Or just slip them over the top of whatever you wore to bed.

Breakfast at the campsite
Breakfast by the fire, on a chilly, early morning

4. Bring the Little Potty

For many of us, camping means using the outhouse for the bathroom, or just going outside. It’s not super pleasant, but it’s a part of camping life. But for little kids, NOT wanting to use the outhouse can be a reason to just try to hold it as long as they possibly can, resulting in potty accidents, tummy aches, whatever. Bringing a little potty training potty like this one can really help! A familiar potty, or at least a comfortable potty will put them at ease and make them more willing to go potty right when they need to. For easy clean up, line the potty with a disposable potty liner, or just a small garbage bag- these work well for us.

5. Bring Little Lanterns for Everyone

For late night potty trips, snacks, or just to avoid tripping on the walk from the campfire to the tent or camper, it’s nice to have a small light of some kind for everyone. Headlamps are great because they are hands-free BUT little kids might just spend the night shining them in other people’s eyes. Little lanterns light up the area, not just the exact spot where you are shining them making them a great choice for kids. We love these lanterns because they close up small, and they are durable and super bright.

6. Solar Lights for Common Paths

For paths you expect to be taking frequently, especially at night, it’s nice to keep them lit so that kids don’t trip or get scared. This is especially important if you are camping in the winter, or even spring or fall, when you can expect to be out when it’s dark a lot more often. Solar garden lights are a perfect solution to keep things JUST bright enough.

7. Bring Ziplocs for Cleanup

At home, we rarely use disposable plastic bags, like Ziplocs. But for camping, big gallon-sized bags make things SO much easier. They can be used for almost anything, and help you keep things clean and sanitary.

Since you won’t have a variety of Tupperware, washed and ready to use, like at home, so if you have any extra food that needs to be stored, a large ziploc is perfect.

If you kids have a potty accident, or just end up with clothes soaked in mud, stick the wet clothes in a ziploc to avoid getting EVERYTHING else dirty and gross.

If you need to store garbage close to your camp, putting the particularly smelly things in a ziploc first, then in the trash can help minimize the smell (and the animals).

We always just pack a few, and ALWAYS end up needing them.

8. Don’t Forget to Set up a Spot for Hand Washing

Things like handwashing are so easy to forget since it’s something we just don’t really have to think about at home. Little kids just aren’t able to do a good job washing hands with a less than ideal hand washing station. And chances are good those same little guys are out digging in the mud and NEED the handwashing the most.

We use a water jug like this one with a spout, and bring a pumpable, biodegradable hand soap (and remind the kiddos not to use WAY TOO MUCH like they love to do). And don’t forget a quick-dry hand towel and maybe even somewhere to hang it. Try a Command hook attached to the water jug for an easy hanging hook.

If you are going to need to use an outhouse, I also like to bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer than I can stick in my pocket and use as I’m leaving. I REALLY don’t like outhouses so lots of hand sanitizer and handwashing is part of the process for me.

I also like to do a more thorough hand washing once a day using warm water. We warm water on the stove (then use cold water to cool if it’s too hot) and use a pot or bowl or basin of any kind for washing.

9. Try a Solar Camp Shower

If the whole skipping a shower while camping thing is a deal-breaker for you (or even if it’s just not your FAVORITE part about camping), think about a solar camp shower.

We have this inexpensive solar shower, and LOVE it. Just fill it up with water, leave it in the sun for a couple hours, and you can take a WARM shower while camping.

Obviously, the water pressure isn’t much, and it’s not a TON of water, but you can certainly get cleaned up while camping.

It’s super nice for kids as well. They just get SO dirty and it’s the easiest way we’ve found to at least get them cleaned up enough to avoid dragging 5 pounds of dirty into their sleeping bags.

10. Minimize the Toys

For us, camping is about enjoying being outside. My kids are BIG toy lovers, and we almost never force them to go without ANY toys, but being outside is fun with or without toys. And bringing just a few makes camping so much simpler (and maybe even more fun?)

Bring just a few toys that can be played with a few different ways, and that are tough enough to get dirty and wet, and not too small to get easily lost, or so valuable that you can’t replace if lost or broken. For us, monster trucks, and little construction trucks are favorites.

And even if it seems like you aren’t bringing enough to entertainment, remember, there are sticks and rocks and dirt all around. A tree stump can become a rocket, leaves can become a plate to serve you ‘lunch’. It’s so great for their brains to think creatively, and they will love doing it.

Camping toys
T. rex enjoys camping too!

11. Bring Some Rope and a Couple of Bungee Cords

It’s tough to define exactly WHY you’ll need rope and a couple of bungee cords, but we know you’ll end up needing them for SOMETHING. They are the types of items that come in handy for a variety of things, and are really tough to do without.

Both ropes and bungees can be used to tie down gear in case of high winds.

Either can be used to make a makeshift gear drying line for wet jackets or clothing, towels, swim suits, etc.

Either could aid in the repair of a damaged tent.

A bungee could help keep a food or garbage storage container closed, if raccoons are in the area.

Either can be used to tie your lantern to the top of the tent so you can read your kids a story

Bungees might be necessary to tie down items in your truck for the trip home

If you are bringing pets, a rope tied between trees, with a leash looped around it, will help the dog avoid getting their leash tangled in everything.

And the possibilities are endless. Just bring them 🙂

12. Picnic Blankets for a Clean(er) Spot to Play

Little kids are all over the ground ALL THE TIME, and while camping, it can get a bit old. Sometimes even little kids crave a spot out of the dirt to play or eat where they aren’t covered in dirt.

13. Bring a Table Cloth

Campsites almost always have a big picnic table. However, it’s out the weather, covered by the last campers old food, bird poop, dirt, whatEVER. The point is, it’s not clean. And kids just don’t GET that they can’t eat food that has fallen onto the very dirty table. Bringing a table cloth makes the whole thing MUCH more pleasant.

14. Use Rug for Outside of the Tent or Camper

The amount of mud and dirt you’ll track into your tent or camper can be SHOCKING after really just a few days. Taking shoes off every time you get into the camper or tent helps a TON, but not always easy with little kids. Having rug to knock off at least some of the dirt and mud will make a huge difference as well.

15. Set the Safety Rules Ahead of Time

Camping introduces a few hazards that might not be a part of your regular life. Many kids are more than capable of managing these, respecting the rules, and staying safe. But it’s a really great idea to set rules ahead of time and make sure your expectations for your kids are clear ahead of time.

Fire

The campfire is a camping stable, and a favorite for many camping families. But the first time you light a fire with your child present can be a little bit scary. But even young kids can understand really clear rules and be safe around the campfire. Set clear boundaries, a LITERAL line in the sand marking how far they must stay from the fire. Even at age 2 or 3, kids can understand the seriousness of these boundaries.

Kids around the campfire

Rocks and Sticks

I am forever thankful for my kids’ nature school for setting rules with rocks and sticks that we are able to easily follow while not at school as well. And just as an example of rules that might work for your family, here are ours:

Rocks may never be throw in the direction of a person. While throwing rocks, you need to be at least an arms length away from anyone.

The end of a stick should be touching the ground while walking or playing with others. If more than two arms lengths from anyone, sticks can be up and swinging around.

16. Don’t Forget a First Aid Kit

Little cuts and scrapes are bound to happen when you are out camping. Don’t forget your first aid kit for minor patch ups, bug bites, or whatever. And make sure your camping first aid kit includes something to clean the wound. While camping, any little wound is bound to be caked in dirt.

17. Keep Food and Garbage Cleaned up

When camping with kids, it’s EXTRA important to be vigilant about keeping the camp clean, or at least clean from food or anything that smells like food. Kids are savages and will spill and leave leftovers out all over the campsite, if you let them. If you are in bear country, it can be quite dangerous. But even if you are not, it’s important to keep extra food closed up tight, and garbage and scraps picked up and stored securely to avoid having any unwanted visitors!

Fun story- we once left this camp organizer and storage container outside at night, zipped up. We were nowhere near bear country, and thought things were closed up enough. That was until we awoke to the sound of a raccoon snacking on chips. It had carefully unzipped the container, pulled out and unzipped the drawer, and pulled out its favorite snack to enjoy at our campsite.

Don’t be like younger-me. Use hard-sided containers, and store them securely (inside your vehicle will often work fine). And keep the camp area clean.

18. Embrace Being Dirty

Remember, it’s camping. It’s dirty. It’s best to plan on it, embrace it, and learn to live with it. It’s ok if you clothes are not super clean, or if your kids go to bed still dirty. That’s part of the fun of it, and the sooner you learn to enjoy it, the more you’ll enjoy your camping trip. If you spend the entire trip trying to keep things pristine clean, you will make yourself crazy.

Camping with kids

Any other tips that work for your family? Comment below!

Looking for a great Pacific Northwest camping destination? Check out our top PNW vacation ideas here.

Traveling with your family is a great experience for bonding and really getting time to focus being together. But coming up with money to travel is tough! Vacations can feel impossibly expensive and make you feeling hopeless.

But with these tried and true money-saving tips for family travel, you’ll find a way to cut your budget down to something you can afford so you can actually get out there and travel with your family before the kids have grown up!

1. Drive rather than fly

Road tripping, rather than flying, can help save money on family travel
Family going on summer vacation. Car travel concept

For families (especially big families), driving is almost always going be a LOT cheaper than flying. You pay for gas (and wear and tear on your car) only once for the whole family, and don’t have to worry about all the little costs that go into flying; parking at the airport, renting a car at your destination, overpriced airport food and drinks, and more!

Sure those long family road trips can be tough. But when you consider that you have to arrive at the airport nearly 2 hours before your flight PLUS flight time PLUS the time it takes to pick up luggage and get a rental car (typically over an hour for us), driving starts to seem a bit more tolerable.

2. Rent a condo or a house rather than a hotel or resort

For bigger families, going on vacation can be hard- you need 2 (or more) hotel rooms, which means $$$$$. Plus it’s just inconvenient to have your family spread out in two spaces. Most hotels can’t guarantee adjoining rooms, or don’t offer them at all. So larger families are forced to book costly suites, or have everyone squeeze in and sleep on the floor. Even for smaller families, hotel prices at popular vacation destinations can be extremely expensive.

Sometimes, hotels just aren’t a great option for families.

Renting a condos or rental homes on VRBO or AirBnb is a wonderful family-friendly option when traveling. Often the cost is lower than a hotel, and you can get a bigger place with a kitchen and more!

3. Cook as many meals as possible

Another benefit of renting a vacation home is that you will likely have access to a kitchen. Cooking some of your meals, rather than going out to eat can reduce your costs BIG time.

For younger kids, or picky eaters, it can also be really nice to stick to your normal routine and a menu rather than trying to find something acceptable 3 times a day, and begging them to eat.

Even if you don’t have a full kitchen, you can buy supplies to make sandwiches for lunch, or just have some hearty snacks around. Even those smaller steps can make a big difference!

4. Skip the rental car

Between car rental fees, parking fees, and gasoline, the cost a rental car can be significant. If you aren’t doing a lot of driving around, take a look at public transit options, airport transfers, and what is in walking distance.

If you are going straight to a resort, or a have a hotel in a great location, there is a good chance you can get by without your car, and save some money.

5. Minimize the souveniers

Take tons of photos, and you’ll always have the memories. You won’t need the souvenirs!

Let’s be honest- most souvenirs are cheaply made, and end up just taking up space when you get home. I know some people adore their souvenirs, and maybe it’s worth the extra money to buy a few. But for many of us, it’s something we feel like we SHOULD buy. But you totally don’t need to! And every dollar you DON’T spend on souvenirs is another dollar saved towards your next vacation!

6. Don’t overpack

Baggage costs add up! Minimize luggage to save money

Bringing a ton of luggage for your family can mean hefty luggage fees that can really make a difference in your travel costs. Be sure to take advantage of any free luggage benefits you might get from your credit card, or loyalty programs. Any suitcases, beyond what you can get for free, get EXPENSIVE fast.

At $30-50 per bag EACH way, the luggage cost for your family is definitely something you won’t want to ignore. And don’t just try to fit into one GIANT suitcase- if you go over the 50 lb weight limit, you’ll have to excess luggage fees of $100 or more each way.

So pack carefully, and check out our guide to packing light even with kids for tips.

7. Travel offseason

When you travel makes a HUGE difference in how much you’ll pay for your vacation. In fact, carefully choosing when we travel is our number one method of saving money on family travel.

Traveling during the high season can mean hotels are easily 2-3 times as much as the low season, plus high season can means crowds are everywhere.

In general, the high season is summer, the 2-3 weeks around Christmas, and spring break (March- late April) – when school is out and families with kids can travel freely.

However, for individual destinations, high and low season don’t always match up. So even if you are bound by the school schedule, just like many families, you can still find a deal if you look carefully.

For example, high season in Hawaii is winter, when many want to get away from bad weather at home for a sunny break. So even though crowds start to pick up again in the summer, you are still in sort of a shoulder season. And if you can get there in early June, you’ll find some great deals.

Summer through Christmas is considered the low season for Costa Rica. Though it’s also considered the rainy season, you can expect to have plenty of sun (typically 5 hours or more a day), and temperatures remain warm at around 80F, so you won’t mind a little rain.

Similarly, Tahiti’s off season and rainy is mid winter. This means lower prices, but still more than 6 hours of sunlight a day, making it a fantastic winter break destination.

8. Fly on off days

Flights can be substantially cheaper if you can fly out on off days, like Tuesday, Wed, or Saturday. MOST people want to head out on vacation on Thursday or Friday, so those flights fill up a lot faster and prices are generally higher.

Google flights has a great feature that helps you compare prices based on the day you leave. If you search in google flights for you dates and destination, and click Date Grid, and then Price Graph, you’ll see clearly which departure days are cheapest.

9. Purchase Flights on Tuesday or Wednesday

The day of the week you actually purchase your flight really does matter! Prices typically go up on the weekends when EVERYONE is browsing flights, and reach their lowest prices on Tuesday or Wednesday. Start looking early, and watch prices for a bit so you can be sure you are getting the best deal for your particular situation.

10. Look for bundles

Bundling hotel, flight, and maybe even car together CAN save you money. Make sure you check for bundles on sites like Expedia, Priceline, or Kayak offer bundling packages that SOMETIMES beat the cost of booking separately. If you have a Costco membership, Costco Vacations has limited vacation packages, but typically good deals on the ones it has.

But keep in mind, these bundles are sometimes a deal, and sometimes they cost more than booking flight and hotel separately. So you have to do your homework and make sure you picked the best option. Also, remember that booking sites often don’t have access to low cost airlines, like JetBlue or Southwest.

11. Use a travel agent

Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But, in fact, most travel agents don’t charge you anything for their service. And as experts in their field, they can find you the best deals. Travel agents can end up saving you quite a bit of money on your family travel! Pick an agent that specializes in family travel and will make your trip EXTRA special.

Many agents post tons of great deals on social media. So pick a few great ones to follow. You might find a vacation deal that you didn’t expect, and wind up booking a dream vacation! Just recently, a travel agent friend posted a fantastic sale at one of my FAVORITES, Aulani, and we had to jump on it.

12. Look at alternative Airports

You never know which airport will have the cheapest or best flights for your particular destination. Make sure you take a quick look at all the airports in your area for the best deal.

We live basically right in the middle between Seattle and Vancouver. So, of course, we always check both airports for the best deal. However, there are two smaller airports, Bellingham and Everett close to us that we always check out as well. And usually, the flight prices and times out of the bigger airports are better. But, sometimes those small airports have AMAZING deals. We find that flying out of Everett routinely saves us over 30% on flights to California.

If your primary airport is a tiny airport, you MIGHT even think about a longer drive to a major airport. For families, especially bigger families, it’s worth the hassle to tack on a few more hours of travel time, and maybe even a hotel room, to save a couple hundred dollars per ticket.

13. Use flight trackers and sign up for flight deal alerts

Flight deals can be totally random, and deals can disappear quickly. To make sure you always know about these deals first, set up price alerts for any destinations you are interested in on one of the MANY sites that do that. Google flights, Kayak, Travelocity and MANY others. Typically, for these price alerts, you can put in your airport of choice, and you destination. Often you can put in quite a few flights you’d like to track. Then you can set it up to alert you when the price drops by a certain percentage, or a dollar amount.

If you are the type of family that just want to go on vacation anywhere there is a deal, check out some of the flight deal sites, like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Next Vacay, Thifty Traveler, and the Flight Deal. These work at a little bit differently in that they show you ALL current flight deals, so you’ll have to do some scrolling to find anything you are interested in. But it’s a great way to be notified of a fantastic deal even if you WEREN’T looking for it.

However, it’s important to note that all except the Flight Deal are paid services (and Scott Cheap Flights has a paid and a free version), costing around $40/year to be notified of exceptional deals. But if you are a frequent traveler, and consider family travel an essential, spending a little could end up saving you a lot in the long run So it’s something to consider!

14. Shop around for your deals on activities

For families, activity costs can be huge. Those $50 per person tickets to the zoo, or $100+ per person amusement park admission tickets add up FAST, so every bit of cost savings makes a difference, and there are certainly deals to be had.

Purchase ahead of time

Costco often has gift cards that offer a discount off of tickets or admission fees, sometimes 20% off or even more for certain activities. Check your local Costco- sometimes they have surprising deals. Or you might need to hit Costco at your destination.

Sometimes, you’ll even find a significant cost savings JUST by booking online before you arrive.

City Pass or Combos

Many cities offer CityPass deals or combo tickets, where you can get admissions to 2 or more of their main attractions for a significant discount in price. This is only a good deal if you intend to do several of the areas main attractions, of course, so make sure you really did plan to use everything in the combo deal.

We recently used a combo pass in New Orleans to receive admission to both the Zoo and the Aquarium, for $40 per adult. Buying tickets individually would have cost about $55 per adult.

CityPass usually saves you 40-50% off the list price IF you are planning to do all the main attraction. Prices are usually $80-100 per person and include all 4 or 5 of the main attractions for that city.

Membership might make sense?

If you are visiting a zoo, aquarium, or museum, look into memberships. Sometimes a family membership pays for itself with only 1 or 2 visits. For example, if you are a big fan of the Seattle Aquarium, and love to visit with your family of 5 (2 adults, and 3 children over the age of 4), EVEN if you qualify for the Washington resident discount, you’ll pay the same for an annual membership as you would for ONE visit. Plus you’ll get membership benefits (like discounts on food and the gift shop and free guest passes). And if you have a larger family, the membership is actually cheaper than a single day admission.

And some of the membership programs are HUGE. For example, the North American Reciprocal Museum Association has museums, aquariums, zoos, and more ALL over the country. So if you become a member of this association or others like it, you’ll get free or discounted admission to every other participating program. It can add up to some serious savings.

15. Come prepared

Make sure you have water, snacks, diapers, or any other necessities before you get to a resort, or other high-cost area. You can end up paying a significant ‘convenience fee’ for these smaller items if you wait until you are at a theme park, zoo, resort, or whatever. And often, it’s totally fine for you to pack these things in.

It can end up saving you quite a bit of money if you stop by a grocery store for some basic snacks, bottled water (or else we pack our water bottles), and any other necessities we might want.

We’ve found that diapers are marked up 200-300% at resorts. Bottled water markup can be even higher at theme parks, or top attractions. And even just a granola bar for a hangry kid can end up costing $8+. So even these small things can really add up.

If we are vacationing at a resort, we make sure to pack in some quick breakfast foods, easy snacks, and milk, if we have a mini fridge, at a minimum. For visiting theme parks or similar all-day outings, we pack water bottles, Clif bars, and maybe one or two other snacks to keep costs down without much effort.

16. Stay at a particular hotel or vacation rental longer

Hopping around from hotel to hotel, or vacation rental to vacation rental can end up adding a significant cost to your total vacation budget.

Hotels often offer deals if you stay at that hotel longer. For example, 5th night free, deals or discounts on stays at least 4 nights are fairly common if you keep your eyes out for them.

For vacation rentals, staying longer can be even more important. Many vacation rentals charge a one-time service fee, cleaning fee, owners fee, etc. So if you stay only one or two nights, the nightly cost can be outrageous. But if you stay a week, the nightly cost goes down significantly.

Of course you aren’t going to save money by making your vacation longer. But, staying at just one hotel or vacation rental rather than moving around on your vacation can end up reducing the cost more than you’d expect.

17. Consider ‘renting’ a timeshare

There are SO many ways to book lodging these days. Browing different booking sites, or searching VRBO or a lower-cost vacation rental are a given. But did you know that many even major hotels and resorts have timeshares, so you can ‘rent’ the timeshare from an owner, often at a much cheaper rate?

Las Vegas has a TON of high-end hotels (MGM Grand, Venetian, Vdara, Tahiti Village) have a timeshare/condo component. So deals can be found on these resorts if you can find an owner looking to rent them out. Sometimes, service is more limited (no daily cleaning, etc) than just booking a room from the hotel, but the cost savings can be SO big that it’s totally worth the inconvenience.

Disney also offers a timeshare-type program (though they don’t consider it a timeshare) called Disney Vacation Club. The program works a little bit differently than a traditional program in that members purchase points that can be used at ANY Disney Resort. Of course, some members aren’t able to use up all their points, so they can ‘rent’ them out.

Using services like DVC Rentals, you can check prices for any Disney Resort, and request to book rooms, if available. Note that they only have suites and villas. BUT because the costs can be so much lower, suites on at the DVC rental price can be the same price, or even cheaper, than a regular room booked directly.

You might even find that a friend or a family member has a timeshare they aren’t able to use one year. Or, do an online search- there are TONS of timeshares for rent all over the world, often for a great price.

You want to be sure you understand all the differences between a timeshare and a regular hotel. For example, DVC members don’t get daily room cleaning, but they DO get free parking, and garbage removal every day. Each timeshare is going to be a little different, but usually you aren’t giving up anything TOO huge.

18. Understand all the costs

When making family vacation decisions, make sure you understand all the little fees. They can really add up and skew the prices you THINK you are paying.

Sometimes, hotel can tack on daily ‘resort fees’ exorbitant parking fees, wifi fees, and more. So a hotel that APPEARS to be cheaper can actually wind up costing quite a bit more by the time you check out. We’ve seen extra fees over $100/day tacked on at the end of our stay. You defintely won’t want to overlook those costs. Be sure to read the fine print and understand the TOTAL costs before making decisions based on costs.

All-inclusives SEEM like a great deal up front, but when you add up all your costs, you might find that they end up costing you MUCH more than you’d pay to buy everything separately. Now perhaps the benefit of an all-inclusive is more in the convenient than in price, and that’s totally ok! But make sure you don’t fall for the ‘cost savings’ myth because that isn’t always the case! Especially if you aren’t planning to take advantage of all the higher-priced activities included.

On trip to Norway, we were warned there would be tons of tolls, making driving expensive. But we definitely didn’t understand just how expensive it would wind up being. The tolls for a couple of days of driving was around double the price of the (already pretty expensive) rental car cost.

Another example of package deals that don’t always make sense would be amusement park meal plans. If you are really careful, and make sure you use the ENTIRE benefit, they CAN be a good deal. But for most, you end up eating what/when you want. So the meal plan can end up costing more than just purchasing a ‘la carte.

19. Maximize the free activities

The BEST way to save on activities is to not pay for them at all. There are tons of free activities EVERYWHERE you go. Often those free activities are the best ones out there.

Most of the time, heading out to the beach, or the park won’t cost you a dime and you’ll have a ton of fun. Hiking, or exploring the outdoors is a favorite for our family, and it really helps us get to know the area we are visiting. And science agrees – being outside makes kids happy. My kids are TOTAL beach babies, so we can easily spend a week playing in the sand for no cost (beyond the cost of getting there!).

Cities are packed with amazing free activities for families. Many museums offer free days, and some are actually free all the time (though we recommend leaving a donation if you can). Public libraries often have TONS of really great free activities.

Just taking a stroll around town and taking in the sights costs you nothing, and can be a great way to explore a new city.

20. Try Camping

Consider camping to save on family travel costs

The cost of lodging is often the BIGGEST portion of your vacation cost, and can be a killer for families. Even if camping isn’t your thing, cutting your lodging down to a FRACTION of the price might change your tune. Many families that prioritize traveling choose to camp as it allows them to travel much more frequently even if their don’t have a huge vacation budget. Camping can open up TONS of destinations to families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it, and it’s definitely worth considering.

Sure there is an initial investment- you’ll need a quality tent, sleeping bags and pad at a minimum. But you’ll easily pay off your investment after just a skipping hotels just a handful of times.

Other families make the bigger investment of purchasing a camper. That will lock you down to only traveling where you can drive, but staying in a camper is easy and convenient for families. You can keep whatever you need in your camper, and just be ready to go. It becomes a familiar place for your kids, making sleep easier.

21. Plan Ahead

Start the planning process early- we’d recommend 6 months to a year in advance. That gives you plenty of time to browse for good deals, watch flight prices, and never end up in a panic paying last minute prices.

If you have the basics planned, you can sign up for low-fare alerts and be ready to book whenever a good price pops up.

For low season and shoulder seasons, hotels will often offer sales or discounts, but you have to carefully watch for those deals to be announced. Same goes for activities- sales are periodically announced. If you give yourself plenty of time to wait and watch, you’ll be sure to catch any sale that is announced.

Waiting until the last minute, or purchasing in a panic because prices are going up is a sure way to overspend on your vacation. Give yourself plenty of time. Relax and enjoy the process knowing you have plenty of time.

How does your family cut costs on family travel?

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