Whether it’s your first real vacation with baby or your return to an adventurous lifestyle post-child, beach camping with babies and toddlers can be an easy way to get your hands dirty, so to speak. Get your family out in nature again with these tips and great California spots for beach camping.

Beach Camping with Babies

If you’re new to camping with a baby, pick a campground with amenities (hot showers, close bathrooms, general store), and try to schedule your trip in mild weather and before your baby starts to crawl. The lifesavers of camping parents are the Pack ‘n Play, the baby carrier and the Headlamp. The first two are to put your baby in a clean place; the third is so you can perform baby duties like diaper changes and actually see what you’re doing.

To sterilize bottles while camping, make sure you have a pot tall enough for the bottle pieces. While you shouldn’t buy a bunch of outdoorsy things unless you’re planning to vacation this way with an infant a lot, it’s nice to upgrade your tiny tent to one you can stand up in, especially if you will need to walk your baby to sleep at night.

Beach Camping with Toddlers

Parents generally agree that camping (and any kind of traveling) can be a real challenge with toddlers, especially crawlers and those just learning to walk. The best advice for camping with toddlers is to ignore the dirt on their faces, hands and bodies unless it is time to eat or sleep. Know that the tent will be just as dirty as outside. Put your toddler in slip-on shoes like Crocs for easy in-and-out of the tent. Aseptic milk (in your grocery store or online: Horizon Organic Milk, Aseptic Cartons) can save you precious cooler space, and individually packaged snacks will keep grubby hands out of the food supply.

It’s never too early to teach your toddler how to be safe around a campfire. Bring along a booster seat with straps to contain your child while eating and when the campfire is going. If your child is at a particularly difficult age where he or she does exactly the opposite of what you say (The Terrible Twos!), choose to forgo a campfire that trip and spend a fun evening in the tent playing games. Young kids usually love to play with flashlights, so this can provide a lot of entertainment at night.

California Beach Camping Spots For Kids

Click on my links below for a detailed review of each beach.

–For tent campers–

(San Diego camping) San Elijo State Beach: Book early. San Elijo State Beach

(Orange County camping) San Clemente State Beach: Easy beach access, but bring the stroller! San Clemente
(Los Angeles camping) Leo Carrillo State Beach: Where L.A. goes to camp. Leo Carrillo Campground

(Santa Barbara camping) Carpinteria State Beach: The quintessential family experience. Carpinteria

(Santa Cruz camping) New Brighton State Beach: Beautiful on a sunny day. Blufftop campsites look over the beach.

(Mendocino camping) Jug Handle State Reserve: Tent spots, cabins and retreat-like amenities.

–For RV campers–

(San Diego RV spot) Oceanside Harbor: Great retro ice cream shop! Beach review coming soon.

(Orange County RV spot) Bolsa Chica: Close to OC amusement parks and attractions. Huntington Beach

Adorable Flickr Photo by eccentriccx