There’s nothing quite like the gentle pitter patter of rain on canvas when you’re tucked up all snug in a sleeping bag. This thought stays with you for a few seconds, but then you suddenly realise you really need to pee and the loo block is a good 100 yards away, your children are hungry, and you can’t find your shoes. Or waterproof. Sound familiar? Well, my top tips can’t stop the call of nature but hopefully they’ll make your family camping experience a bit easier!
So… top tips in no particular order:
1. It might sound obvious, but a decent sized tent in whichyou can stand up, and have room to be reasonably organised is top of the list. It’s quite an investment so if you’re a camping novice and not sure you’re going to like it, try and borrow someone’s first, or get a second hand one on ebay.
2. Glow sticks are fantastic. Approx £1 for a pack of 10, they’re the sort that you bend, and they glow nicely for a good 12 hours or so. Peg them onto the liner of your inner tent – they are a good incentive forgetting into bed and provide a reassuring glow at night, a cheap and easy substitute for a nightlight, if your children wake in the night.
3. To make cooking easier, prepare meals in advance, freeze in rectangular plastic boxes, remove and bag up once frozen, and stack them in your cool box. They stay cold enough to carry you through a long weekend.
4. A pitch with an electrical hookup is a great asset. We leave a low energy camping light on all night, and it makes such a difference if the children wake up and need a wee.
5. Don’t bother buying specifically child sized sleeping bags– just get the adult size, mummy type bag, twist round under the feet and tuck in. Your child will be just as snug and you’ll save spending a fortune on something that would get quickly outgrown.
6. Remembering what to take and packing it has never been so easy since we kept a list on a spreadsheet on the PC and update it each year we go, as needs change. It’s taken all the stress out of it, I can leave my husband to the packing, knowing he can’t forget anything!
7. Relax with the bedtime routine – it’s what camping’s all about. The children love the open air, the social aspect of camping and playing with other children nearby, and just being able to run around. They’ll probably end up going to bed far later than they would on a normal holiday, but relax and go with it – it’s part of the experience and hopefully (but not always!) means that they might just sleep that bit longer in the morning.
8. We take a potty even for our 4 year old. If she needs a wee in the middle of the night there’s no way I’m going out to the loo block! Just make sure you decant the contents into something else or move into an area that is totally out of the way and can’t be tripped over in the morning!
9. When our children were babies, we took a pop up minipaddling pool as a good way to cool off and also doubled up as a bath. Many campsites have baby baths and excellent facilities for children, but this is a good alternative if facilities are basic.
10. Although you might think toys are surplus to requirements on holiday, a few toys are really good if the children wake up really early and you want to keep them occupied in the tent.
11. Readybeds are brilliant! They also add to the novelty factor at bedtime.
2. Take lots of different reusable bags – they are brilliant for being organised. We bag up all the stuff we need first thing in the morning (warm fleece, toiletry bag, etc) as well as bags for beach, bags for bedtime gear. If everything’s separate and bagged up, it makes life a lot easier.
13. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, crocs come into their own when camping. Trust me on this
14. Tell your children about the exciting night time noises that they might hear – crickets, owls, etc. Not only does this add to theirexcitement, it prepares them for the unfamiliar environment.
15. Last but not least, prepare for all eventualities weather wise. Our week in France earlier this year started with 3 days of downpours, temperatures in single digits, then suddenly it all changed to the high twenties and glorious sunshine. Wellies and waterproofs proved just asessential as the suncream and swimsuits!
Can’t wait to get started? Check out Childfriendly’s list of campsites, with reviews from experienced parents – and enjoy!