Golden Rules for Camping with Children
Camping can be a great family holiday option - it’s inexpensive, you’re at one with nature and the kids will love the excitement of sleeping out under the stars. However being stuck in a tent in the middle of a howling gale with a child in the throes of a stomach bug could quickly take the edge off the fun. Although you can’t control the weather or illness, there are a few top tips you can follow to increase the probability of a great holiday under canvas.
To make sure your trip is more holiday hit than holiday from hell, check out the following tips courtesy of mumsnet.com - the country's busiest parenting website.
Consider a trial run before committing to a week of camping. Pop the tent up in the back garden or opt for a weekend break close to home. This gives you the chance to see how the kids sleep and decide what equipment you really need to buy.
Take time deciding where to go. If it’s your first camping trip then perhaps don’t stray too far away from home. When you have decided on the area you want to visit then ask yourself what you want from the campsite - somewhere with lots of facilities - and probably lots of other families - or something less organised. Do you want to go back to nature and cook over a campfire or would you rather skip the boy-scout stuff and toddle off to the site's diner? Sites with facilities like swimming pools may be rowdier but will also provide playmates for slightly older children and offer entertainment on your doorstop.
Check out mumsnet.com/reviews/travel/uk-campsites to see Mumsnetters campsite reviews.
Choose camping clobber with care. Camping with children will involve a whole roof rack full of equipment. To get your packing down to the essentials check out tips from seasoned campers - mumsnet.com/pdf/camping-packing-checklist.pdf
The most important purchase is your tent. Make sure you buy the best one your budget will allow - remember this is your home for a week so something prone to leaking won’t be a hit! Take time choosing something that meets your needs - how big should it be? Do you want the option for separate rooms? Do you want to be able to stand up in it? Do you want a bit of living space inside it or is it just somewhere to sleep? How many people does it need to sleep (always cater for one extra so that you you have plenty of room)? Also remember that what you lie on can also make the difference between sleeping in paradise or purgatory, so forget thin thermarests and opt for good quality blow up mattresses or campbeds.
Think about meals in advance. A good tip is to turn up with a picnic for the first night so there is no need to cook. Disposable BBQs are a good option and it is also a great idea to bring some good quality non stick saucepans / frying pans for using on the camping stove, as these are easier to use and clean than basic camping equipment.
Keeping perishable foods cool is another issue. There are coolboxes that work off car batteries (but beware of getting so into the idea that you drain the battery and can't actually drive home when the holiday's over) and the mains. And lots of campsite wardens will re-freeze your cool packs if you ask. Take more icepacks than you think you'll need, as you can have some freezing and some in use.
Finally, to take the pressure off mum, factor in some meals out or takeaways!
Keeping warm and dry are essential to a good camping holiday! Take lots of bedding, fleeces, warm PJs and hot water bottles. Good waterproofs are an essential - even if it isn't raining, they're useful for early mornings when the grass around your tent is still wet with dew.
Most seasoned campers impose a no-shoes-in-tent rule to prevent living quarters getting covered in muddy bits of grass. And you need to assume the worst and take plenty of dry clothes and lots of plastic bags for wet and muddy clothing. Remember, though, that it's your holiday, not an endurance test, so, if it rains solidly for days and the campsite is a miserable swamp, there's no shame in bailing out early and going home - or to a nearby B&B, which will probably feel like the height of warm, dry luxury!
Cleaning your little darlings - Most campsites have shower blocks, but toddlers (and some older children) are notoriously shower-phobic, so alternatives are the shower block sink, going swimming a lot, washing them in an inflatable dinghy or small paddling pool next to your tent, making a bath out of a large plastic packing box or alternatively, stand young children in a washing-up bowl and sponge 'em down. Fill it from the shower block, or use water from a standpipe with boiling water added from your kettle.
Toilet issues...! Factor in different food and routines on top of lack of privacy and primitive toilets, and it can upset everyone's digestion, children's included. Encourage your children to drink frequently, especially if they're tearing about the site all day, because dehyration can cause / exacerbate constipation. Also make sure everyone has done a wee before they zippered in for the night - unzippering and trekking to toilet blocks is a pain. As are sodden sleeping bags at 4am. A bucket with a lid is a handy standby!