Our first camping trip with two small children was when my son was 6 months and my daughter was 3 and I think I just dived into it without really thinking about the consequences! It was actually a really fun trip, we went with our neighbours and they helped out with Lily whilst we set up the tent and got organised. Our second trip was when my son was 2 and my daughter was 5. I’ve now come to realise that camping with children is totally different from when we used to go on our own with our little two-man tent. Here are a few tips that we’ve found helpful:
Check out the weather forecast
With 5 day forecasts being pretty reliable these days, you can plan your trip according to the weather. If it’s forecast to rain for 4 days non-stop then it may not be the best time to go camping.
Layers, layers and more layers!
It is COLD if you are sleeping under canvas in the UK. Never underestimate how cold your little ones will get and make sure they go to bed with loads of layers on. It’s also worth investing in winter thickness sleeping bags so that you don’t need to worry about the blankets falling off.
Take a potty!
Whether you have a child that is just potty training or one that has been dry for sometime, a potty is a definite bonus if you don’t want to hike off to the toilet block with your little one in the middle of the night.
Hopefully the weather will be great and the children will be outside most of the time but if you do have bad weather and you end up spending an amount of time in the tent you will need amusements for the children. Games, Toys, cards and drawing stuff are all a good idea. Don’t forget the toys for outside too.
Choose your site carefully
We started off by thinking that we needed a site with lots going on for the children, so an indoor pool, playground, maybe a games room. After a few hectic camping trips chasing the children around from activity to activity we decided to try a very basic site without all of these amenities. After searching the web for hours we came across Treveague Farm. It still had a play area (a lovely handmade wooden fort playground) and it had a fantastic cafe that served food produced on the farm. Other than that it was basically just a few fields and a shower/toilet block. It was very small and just a short walk from the coast path. This was by far the best camping trip we have had. The children didn’t notice the lack of swimming pool or games room and made their own amusement. The result was some real, quality, family time and some very happy children (and parents). Treveague arranged a story-teller for two hours on one of our evenings there and the children sat mesmerised to the lady for two hours as she captured their imaginations with tales of dragons, princesses and magical creatures.
Our little two-man tent is now gathering dust and cobwebs in the back of the garage and we’ve invested in a decent family tent. We’ve realised after many rainy stays in Cornwall that a bigger tent is definitely better. If you have a large central area you at least have somewhere to play/eat when it’s pouring with rain outside. It’s also nice to be able to stand up straight and not leave the camp site with a stoop at the end of your stay. Check out ebay for some second-hand tents, you often see tents on Freecycle so there’s always a possibility of getting one for free!
Make sure your gas bottle is full (ours ran out during our trip and there was no-where to fill it nearby).
Plan your meals beforehand and pack accordingly. You can cook really nice meals using just a camping stove. What we tend to do is make meals beforehand that can be reheated. We’ve pre-cooked things like stews, casseroles, chillis and curries. If you want convenience then you can take tinned or packet foods. Chilled foods can be kept in your cool box or the campsite may provide a fridge – check beforehand. You can get coolboxes that are re-chilled via the cigarette lighter in your car. You can usually manage with a bulk standard coolbox for a few days though. Freeze your milk and anything else that you can before you go so that it will stay chilled for longer.
Accept that your children will be dirty from the moment you arrive!
Whatever your routine is at home, try to forget about baths before bedtime or changing their clothes on a daily basis. Children will get dirty when you camp, the dirtier they get the more fun they are having so just go with it. We always take a washing line and pegs with us. If you do get any major disasters you can at least rinse the worst off their clothes and hang on the line to dry.
Go with friends
If you can, arrange to go camping with friends or family. We recently went on a trip with good friends of ours. The children all played together and amused each other and we had other ‘grown ups’ to stay up drinking with when the children were asleep. You can’t beat sitting under a star filled sky with a nice bottle of wine whilst the children sleep a happy, fresh air induced sleep inside the tent.
Can you recommend any family friendly campsites or camping tips?