Entertaining & Celebrating

Camping with Young Children

We are on our way back from our Broken Bow cabin trip as I write this post. A few months ago, a group of our close friends decided to plan a Labor Day trip to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. While that may not sound very impressive, I will mention that ALL of these closest friends have children ages four and under! Our trip consisted of 4 couples and seven children ranging from ages 1 to 4. Our children usually play together throughout the year at birthday parties, gatherings, and time together in the pool. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together under one roof as a vacation.

The trip was amazing, all of the kids had a great time, and all of the adults kept their sanity for the most part. It was a blessing and a trip I hope the boys will remember as they grow older and continue their relationships with their friends. 

I thought I would share the details of our trip with others who may be interested in a cabin vacation with friends or family.

WHY BROKEN BOW? 

First off, we chose Broken Bow, Oklahoma. If you are not from Oklahoma or North Texas, you may be wondering where the heck is that? Broken Bow is about a 3-hour drive from where we live in the DFW area. It’s a beautiful wooded area, and according to Google, “It’s a gateway to Beavers Bend State Park, home to black bears, bald eagles, and pine forest trails. Broken Bow Lake has islands, beaches, boat ramps, and fish such as largemouth bass.”

My husband Demetrius and I first traveled to Broken Bow with just the two of us a bit over a year ago. With the ongoing Pandemic impacting travel, we decided to spend our 7th wedding anniversary in a cabin for a few days. We fell in love with the peace, tranquility, and calmness of the wooded forests, along with all the modern-day amenities, because, let’s be honest, I’m not really a “rough it” kind of girl, more of a “glamping” type!

The thing that impressed us most and why we thought this would be a great family trip was because of the amount of space and privacy you have between each property in the area, and we thought it would be a fun, and safe place for our children to all come together and explore nature.

CABIN SELECTIONS

The other great thing I loved about Broken Bow was the cabin selections. There were so many options of cabins that would accommodate all 15 of us under one roof comfortably, which was a significant priority.

We used VRBO to select and book our cabin. I like VRBO because of both the options and late cancellation policy, which was important amidst the ongoing Pandemic. You can use any site that you feel most comfortable booking with, but here are some criteria we put together when searching for something that would work for all of our families: 

  1. We wanted all of the couples to have their own bedroom and bathroom. This made a massive difference in the trip, as no one had to wait on a bathroom or share a bathroom with other couples. 
  2. We wanted a “bunk room” where the kids could sleep. I’m not going to lie; this turned out a bit rough as every child has their own sleep habits and preferences, some like it light, some like it dark, sound machine, no sound machine, etc. While there were wake-ups in the middle of the night, calls for mommy, and at times tears and collective protests about bedtime, by the end of the trip, all of the kids were pretty used to the bunk room and had some great bonding time. 
  3. Playground set outdoors for the kids. Broken Bow has tons of family-sized cabins with playgrounds, and we wanted this amenity on our list so that the kids could play and run around. 

Ultimately, we selected Palmetto Moon Cabin in the Hochatown area. The cabin fit all of our main criteria and provided us with the room we needed to be roommates for a few days comfortably! The cabin was 3,300 square feet with five bedrooms with king-sized beds and one bedroom with two bunk beds. It had an expansive outdoor deck that we enjoyed hanging out in, a Hot Tub, playground, fire pit, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and a gas grill. 

It was a good fit for our families, and the kids had plenty of room to run around both indoors and outdoors!

MEALS AND WHAT TO BRING

With a full-sized kitchen, we planned on preparing all of our meals at the house. If you’ve ever been to Broken Bow, then you know, there are some eateries along the Hochatown main strip, but we wanted to be self-sufficient with so many children when it came to meals. 

Most cabins in the area are fully stocked with all of the utensils you need for cooking meals, from toasters to slow cookers, pots and pans, dishes, etc. So we only needed to bring our food. 

If you are like me and don’t like spending a ton of time in the kitchen while on vacation, here are some tips that helped us as a group, and also some things that we learned that we could’ve done differently:

  1. Planning is critical – Preplanning your meals BEFORE getting to the cabin will help you as a group. Gain an understanding of your groups’ dietary restrictions and create a menu/meal plan that can meet the majority’s needs. 
  2. Have different families sign up for different meals and ingredients  – This will ensure the bulk of the work isn’t on one person or one family. 
  3. Prep Ahead What You Can – This is one of the things I love about staying in a rental with a kitchen! Anything you can prep ahead in advance for your meals in your own kitchen, dicing, cutting, chopping, or even freezing meals to take up like Lasagna, Enchiladas, or Spaghetti can serve a large crowd and create less stress and time in the kitchen. 
  4. Pack Plenty of Snacks for the Kids – I’m that parent that will unashamedly offer up snacks in exchange for a few minutes of quiet! Having plenty of snacks that the kids could choose from worked well for us. We dumped everything into a big basket so that the kids could have options to choose from. 
  5. Get an understanding of shared ingredients – This is one of the things that could’ve helped our group a bit. We all had designated meals, but many of them had shared ingredients. We all brought our ingredients which resulted in entirely too much food that did not get eaten, and many fresh ingredients like produce that we weren’t able to take back and ultimately we had to toss. 

ACTIVITIES

We did two different activities while in Broken Bow. One for the dads and one for the moms. We decided the easiest way to get out would be to have one group stay home with the kids while the others got out. The dads wanted to go fishing, so one of the moms arranged a complete fishing experience for them where a guide took them out, helped with their lines, and even descaled the fish they caught so that they could come home and put it on the grill. 

For the girls, we planned a trip to Girls Gone Wine Winery for a tasting. This little winery is so adorable! We had fun, and they had plenty of wine options to choose from. We paired our wine with a beautiful charcuterie board.

There are tons of activities and options in Broken Bow for children, from petting zoos to mini-golf. However, due to the ongoing Pandemic, we decided to focus on activities the kids could do at the cabin. They hiked, played games, roasted marshmallows on the fire, and did some rock and bug collecting. 

I found these cute bug collecting kits at Dollar Tree in the summer and saved them for this trip especially. The kids enjoyed putting rocks in them along with leaves, and my sweet boy Deuce found a leaf bug that we could put in his kit so that he could look at him in his magnifying glass. He was so very proud, and it really warmed my heart. 

One of the things we also asked the kids to do was collect pine cones that had fallen on the ground. Thinking ahead to fall, which was just around the corner, I had the boys pick up as many pine cones as they could fit in a grocery bag, and I can’t wait to use them in my fall and Christmas décor!

SAFETY FIRST

While exploring the beauty of nature, we also knew that by taking small children into a wooded area, we needed to ensure additional safety precautions. Here are some of the things we did and some items I recommend to enhance overall safety with young children:

1.We agreed to have at least one adult out watching the kids at one time. This included at least one adult at all times out watching the kids, and any exchange/transition of adults resulted in a verbal exchange that they were trading off.

2. We brought our baby monitors. We packed our baby monitors and set them up in the cabin. One friend had a Nanit, which worked great because we were all able to log into the same app and see all of the kids in the bunk room simultaneously. 

3. We brought hiking boots for the children (and ourselves). Broken Bow is very rocky and hilly at times. There are tons of rock and gravel walkways, including areas the children play around. We ensured all children wore hiking boots or high-top sneakers to prevent any ankle rolling or injuries. 

4. We brought tracking devices for the kids. Now, I will first share the caveat that our devices are technically not tracking devices made for children. However, they were a cost-effective and efficient way to track them for safety purposes. We purchased Tile trackers, which are often used for finding your keys or small pets. We used the “pet” settings and tied them to our kids’ shoes. The app is easy to set up, and when you press “find” on it, the tracker will beep loud enough so that you can hear where they are from the device. I loved how my boys thought it was a game when we were testing it out, and they wanted to keep running around so that I would press it. When I explained what they were for to my 4-year-old, it was so precious to overhear him tell his friend, “This is so my mommy can find me.”

Overall we had a fantastic trip and both my boys want to know when we can “go camping” again. These memories are special because even though there can be chaos and craziness with young kids and trips, these were perfect moments and new experiences for them which will last a lifetime. Whether it’s Broken Bow or any other nature destination, I highly recommend this as a trip for young children and families. 

Where do you like to travel with your family? 

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