A well thought out family camping trip can be the stuff dreams are made of. Now that campsites are starting to open again, there’s plenty to look forward to. There’s countryside to explore, eating al fresco, sleeping under canvas, waking with the larks, nothing spells adventure more to kids and adults alike. It’s easy to be put off by fear of bad sleep or the indecisive weather, but with some decent planning, it can be a truly magical and fun way to enjoy some quality family time.
All you need to do is…
1. Find the perfect spot
2. Equip yourself with the right gear.
3. Pack the right clothes.
Get all of these three things ‘right’ and you’re in for a treat.
The Right Location
There are an abundance of campsites across the British Isles and the continent to suit every budget and taste, as well as plenty of websites, books and magazines with detailed information about each.
Choose from all singing, all dancing campsites with dedicated kids clubs, onsite entertainment and babysitters to no frills farm camping where the kids can help out with animals. There are also sites by the sea, on the forest floor, places with mountain biking, surfboarding or hill-walking and climbing.
• Campsites that allow you to park next to the pitch are great if you have smaller kids and a car packed full of clobber.
• If your four-legged friend is joining the trip, make sure the site is dog-friendly (this is also worth checking if you don’t like dogs).
• Choose a site and pitch with dedicated electrical points if you need them.
• If you are taking younger and older kids, check there are nearby activities to keep everyone happy.
The Right Gear
There are two golden rules here. One, pick the right tent and two, pitch it before you go.
Family tents with a communal eating/play/chill out space away from the sleeping area are better if you are looking to spend a lot of time on site. And tents with room to stand. In an ideal world choose something one man up from what you need. The extra breathing space is always welcome. Those with smaller kids might opt for a big single room to sleep in whereas a two bedroom layout is much better for older kids in need of privacy.
Collapsible gazebos (if you have space) are a great extension for protection from the sun or rain. Pitching before you go is a must – you can check all the parts are correct and present, and more importantly familiarise with the tent. It’s even worth doing this if you have used the tent before. It’s surprising how much you can forget from one summer to the next, however you can always rely on our handy guide on how to pitch a family tent if you’re struggling. A bit of elevation goes a long way. Invest in some air beds or roll mats. Even on a warm summers night the ground can feel cold and damp. Pack extra blankets, as well as sleeping bags and camping pillows, they’re nice to get snuggly under when you sit out at night.
The Right Clothes
When it comes to packing, it’s much easier if everyone has a dedicated bag. And in that bag you pack for four seasons in a day. Be sure to take swimming gear and wellies, a thick warm jumper and a waterproof jacket, shorts, trousers and plenty of t-shirts.
The morning dew is very beautiful, but it is damp, flip-flops are invaluable for the early dash to the showers and loos. If you are operating (very wisely) a no-shoe policy in the tent, take slippers or socks to leave by the door.
• Pack a dirty laundry bag.
• Avoid taking lots of whites.
• Plastic bags are great for wet shoes in the car.
• A large umbrella is handy for sun and rain protection.
• Don’t worry about eclectic outfits – everyone is in the same boat.
• Use a washtub or box to keep footballs, frisbees, cards, board games together.
• Do a bit of BBQ menu research before you go. Meal times together are a great bonding exercise and can also be super tasty.
• And finally, if you have a small baby, make sure you take a box or something to bathe them in.