This post is for you if you’ve ever considered a family camping holiday but need a bit of reassurance! We’ve been camping with kids since my daughter was about 3 and it’s been some of the most memorable holidays we’ve had. They can be super cheap holidays too which is why we first started camping.
Here’s some of my best tips for having a really fun family camping trip:
Top tips for camping with kids
Being prepared is everything
- Get the best tent you can for your needs. I always like to have one I can stand up in, but that isn’t too big that it tempts me to fill it! You can see my guide to the best family tents here.
- If you can, practice putting your tent up before you go on holiday. If you don’t have a garden big enough, take it to a large field or a friend’s garden and have a practice run. Getting the tent up can be really stressful so having done it at least once before will help.
- Have a trial run and camp out in the garden!
- Make a list of everything that you’ll need to take with you, print it out and use it! Here’s a printable checklist for family camping that should give you a good start.
- Research the area you plan to go to and have a plan for getting groceries in and for the first night’s meal.
- If you’re really nervous, plan to go somewhere not too far from home. That way if you all hate it, or if you forget something, you can pop back.
- When you get back from camping look at your camping checklist. What did you not need? What did you wish you’d had? Update your list now, save it as a file somewhere and it will be ready for when you head off again.
Choosing the best campsites for kids
Choosing a family friendly campsite is really worthwhile. We’ve been to campsites before that were really regimented and they didn’t suit us and our family.
- Think about the type of place you want to be. Is it just a field with a tap, or do you want play parks, entertainment and swimming pools?
- Check out UK Campsite for a directory of child friendly campsites to go in the UK (they also cover parts of Europe too now)
- Decide if you want to be walking distance to amenities and shops, or if you’re ok with driving to these.
- Read reviews of campsites (you’ll get these on the link above) and take note of how families talk about the place.
- If you’ve energetic kids who want to play ball games, then choose somewhere with a dedicated field for that if you can. Fretting about kids kicking balls in to neighbours tents isn’t fun!
- Some campsites charge per tent and some charge per person. If you’re a large family then bear this in mind and go with what works best.
What to bring when camping with children
- Being comfortable at night can make or break the trip and help kids sleep well when camping. Be sure to have warm sleeping bags, comfortable mats and some layers. It can get really cold at night, even in the summer. We normally even bring some warm hats to have on if it’s really bad.
- Make sure you have enough food for at least the first night if you need it. Our go to food was always some pasta and tomato sauce with a sponge and some custard for afterwards. I don’t know what it is about camping but we always needed a dessert!
- It’s easy to get sucked in to all the gadgets at the camping shop. Most important is being comfortable at night. Then make sure you have something to sit on in the day, so some camping chairs are good. Something to cook on and plates and cups are also essentials. A good torch, a first aid kit and plenty of waterproofs should do you as a bare minimum. Remember you can always add more to your camping outfit once you know you enjoy it. Having too much stuff can make it all seem a bit like too much work!
- Outdoor toys are well worth bringing as they’ll not only keep your kids busy but might encourage them in making friends on the campsite. Having some ideas for campsite games is also worth thinking about in advance.
- If your kids have a comfort toy or blanket I’d also consider taking these as well. Perhaps have a rule that they stay safe in the tent bedroom and they’ll be there should your kid need a bit of down time and less chance of the precious item being lost!
Keeping everyone happy
- Get kids involved – having them collect water or help to peg the tent out makes them feel useful.
- If you can, bring some outdoor toys. A ball, a kite, or even their bike can give them something to do. When my kids were older we liked bringing circus toys like juggling balls and poi.
- Be prepared for very early mornings! Having something like some colouring books, or just a show to watch on your iPad can keep kids happy and quieter until the rest of the campsite wakes up.
- Encourage kids to find nature now that you’re out in it most of the day. Go on a bug hunt or have a quiet walk in the early hours of the morning listening to the bird song.
Embracing the weather
It’s likely to rain, be windy, have thunderstorms, have a heat wave or all of the above when camping. Embrace it and you’ll have a great time!
- Packing for all weather is hard. Go for layers of clothes and make sure you have waterproofs.
- All in one rain suits are excellent for small kids to keep them dry. Wellies are pretty much essential too. Having a rain suit and wellies means you can let them go off and find puddles to their hearts content and not worry about their clothes becoming too wet.
- When the kids get their clothes muddy and soaked, and they will, just hang them to dry if you can and let them wear them again. It won’t matter that they are slightly dirty and it will be less stressful than worrying you’re going to run out of clothes.
- Having a tent with a living area can mean the difference between an awful trip and a fun one. I always recommend getting a large enough tent that can seat you all inside for eating and playing if the weather is really bad.
- A small UV shelter or tarp can be a good thing to pack if the weather is looking really warm and you’ll want shade. You won’t want to be in the main tent when the sun is shining!
Camping with toddlers
Toddler camping can come with it’s own challenges. Here’s some tips specific for the camping with young children:
- If you can, go slightly out of the high season. It will make the campsites much less busy but with still a good chance of good weather. You’ll probably find other families with toddlers too and less bigger kids.
- If your child is toilet training then bring a potty for in the night so as to avoid the long walk to the toilet block. It can also help in the day time if they aren’t going to be able to hold it enough to get to the main toilets. You can get camping toilets as well which might be worth thinking about, but I always think they are a it bulky.
- Bring plenty of easily dried clothes. You’ll go through a lot!
- Baby wipes will be your friend. Just don’t expect your toddler to be looking clean very often and you’ll be fine!
- Teach them early on about the dangers of the cooking equipment, especially if it’s in easy reach. If you can, get a partner to be in charge of the kids while you cook, or the other way round. If this isn’t possible, choose easy and quick meal ideas!
- Get a toddler sleeping bag. If you go for bigger sleeping bags there will be more air inside and that’s what gets kids cold. We tried ready beds when mine were little as we already owned them, but they aren’t very warm and needed more layers. I’d go for proper camping sleeping bags if you can.
Camping with a baby
If you’re thinking about camping with babies, you’re not mad! If you love the outdoors or just want a cheap break away, why not bring the baby along too.
- Again temperature at night might be an issue so make sure you’re prepared with enough to keep baby warm or cool as the case may be.
- Having a uv shelter or tent is a must in really hot weather.
- Have a plan for when your little one wakes in the night. Even if they always sleep through at home, it might not be the case in a tent. Make sure you have a bottle handy if appropriate.
- Don’t be afraid to have a nap along side your kids!
I have more tips for taking a baby camping here
I hope you like these camping tips for families – any to add? Enjoy your trip!