10 tips for successful camping with kids
Camping with kids can be one of life’s simple pleasures. Whether it’s in camping grounds with 5 star facilities or out in the bush with the bare essentials, camping trips have the potential to provide lifelong memories for your whole family. Camping can be as complicated as you like, but like most things simpler often means more successful.
1. Set up in daylight
Depending on the whim of your little fellow travellers, setting up can be a breeze or a nightmare. Best not to risk a nightmare in the dark. Stopping earlier in the day lessens the chance of anyone being frazzled and cranky, you can see what pole goes where and if you’re setting up on an ants’ nest. All good things.
2. Use a packing list
There is nothing worse that arriving at your destination, only to find that you’ve left something at home. Trust me, I know. Perhaps not such a disaster if you’re able to pop to the shops and buy whatever it is (like 5 pillows at Target …), but a real spoiler if you can’t. More serious is leaving medications and emergency supplies at home. Make a packing list and use it. Seriously. If you like, you can use mine.
3. Keep food simple
Kids (not to mention adults) will be ravenous from all that camping fun. They’ll want lots of food and they’ll want it now. Simple food with simple preparation is likely to be appreciated just as much as a meal that’s been slaved over. Save yourself the effort of lavish meals and go enjoy your camping trip. An added bonus is less stuff and minimal cleanup.
Our kids would happily eat sausages every day. I need a bit more variety, so I along with our basic BBQ repertoire, I use a Dreampot. Nice’n'easy.
4. Be warm
Even on a summer camping trip it can get pretty chilly at night. Make sure the kids are well rugged up for bed (you too, for that matter) so everyone gets a good night’s sleep. That way, you can all bounce out of bed ready for the coming day’s fun.
I always pack thermals for everyone. Even my husband has started wearing them to bed, although he’d be awfully embarrassed if he knew I was telling you! We use sleeping bags rated for 0 degrees even though we rarely go anywhere that cold. On warmer nights we just keep them unzipped at the bottom.
5. Get kids involved
Kids love the anticipation of a camping trip. At least younger ones do. I can’t vouch for teenagers and I suspect there might be some coercion required there. But letting the kids help with the planning stages is a great way to get them involved and excited. Don’t let it stop there! Even the youngest can help with some aspect of the setup once at your destination. Our kids used to be in charge of handing out tent pegs initially. The oldest has progressed to being an invaluable part of our setup team.
Not only does involving them give them a sense of achievement, but it gives them something to do at those times when you are otherwise occupied.
6. Decide what facilities you need
There’s an eternal debate about what real camping is. The diehards would have you believe you that out bush with no amenities, no electricity with only the sights and sound of nature keeping you company is the only way to go. My preference is for a flushing toilet. At least.
The point is needs are personal. What suits one family might be unthinkable for you. Decide what facilities and amenities you need; or at least the very minimum that would make an enjoyable holiday. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not doing it right. The important thing is getting out there with your family.
7. Torches for everyone!
Torches are very handy for midnight treks to the loo. Or when your little one loses their favourite doll at 3am. They are also great fun for night walks, spotting wildlife that would be hiding during the day. It’s amazing how excited the kids get at the sight of a possum. (It was only the kids. Really. I wasn’t excited at all and I did not take 45 photos of the little guy …) Spotlight tiggy is a perennial favourite too. Everything seems so much more exciting at night!
This is the eternal knowledge seeker coming out in me, but I reckon a camping trip is a perfect opportunity for a bit of informal learning. Note I said informal. A bit of a chat about where you’re going might lead to a discussion on the states of Australia. Your night time walk might lead to some questions about constellations. Guess the distance games brush up on maths skills. It just takes a little cunning and ingenuity and before those kids know it, they’re learnin’.
On the family front, it’s an opportunity to learn about each other without the distractions and busyness of daily life.
9. Keep toys to a minimum
Kids are amazing at making up games and inventing toys when given the chance. Giving them the freedom to do just that without toys from home helps develop creativity and independence. The might even learn something without even trying.
That goes for grown up toys, too. Leaving behind computers, mobile phones and whatever other gadgets usually demand mum’s and dad’s attention makes more time for family.
10. Relax and enjoy
I think that one’s self explanatory! Some holidays are purely put your feet up and do nothing more than put a worm on a hook. Some are for sightseeing. Remember that you are on holiday. Don’t go crazy trying to see and do everything in an unrealistic timeframe. You’ll pay the price with cranky kids (and likely cranky adults, too).
Relax and go home refreshed. The whole family will be asking to go camping again before you know it.
I’ve learned so many tricks and tips just by chatting with fellow campers. Their cleverness amazes me. What are your tips for successful camping with kids?