Enjoying a holiday in the great outdoors can prove challenging when the entire family is in tow, but with a little forward planning and consideration for the different personalities involved, it can be a fantastic alternative to a standard hotel jaunt.
We’ve compiled some invaluable tips for ensuring that your first family camping trip won’t be your last.
- Let everyone help choose the site
Sitting down as a family and scrolling through a few site options will let everybody speak up and make their preferences known, and could prevent disappointment on arrival. Don’t forget that children of different ages have varying priorities and that one site will rarely suit all, so compromises will be essential.
If you want to ease the family into camping gently, look for a site with facilities including running water and showers, and don’t forget to look at attractions within easy reach. You won’t want to stay on the site all day long, so you need to be able to reach points of interest.
- Be like the Scouts
Preparation is key and that all starts with researching where to buy your equipment.
When you know where you are going to shop, it’s time to think about everything you’ll need. Balancing preparation for all scenarios by packing as lightly as possible is an art, but we suggest making the following your top priorities:
- A comprehensive first aid kit, including insect repellent, burn gel, calamine lotion, sunscreen and anti-allergy medication
- Torches, plus extra batteries
- Wet-weather clothing
- A proper family tent, not a low-cost festival option
- A cooler for food
- A full cooking set-up, including extra gas canisters, cutlery and the frequently forgotten essential…a can opener!
- Comfortable bedding
- Bottled water
There are a lot of good local outdoor shops as well as national chains, so take a look at some customer reviews. Blacks Outdoor reviews offer some great insights into all types of equipment with some great advice. Be sure to shop around!
- Plan for worst-case weather scenarios
Camping is fun until the weather turns nasty, so you need to be ready. Start by making sure that the tent(s) you take are fully equipped with waterproof groundsheets and rain flysheets. It’s also a good idea to erect your tent on top of an extra tarp (folded to match the floor plan), as this will keep any ground moisture away from you. If the rain starts pouring, make sure everybody sleeps in the middle of their tent, to avoid touching the condensation on the walls – once wet, sleeping bags are hard to dry out! Leaving the tent a little unzipped will also help to reduce the amount of moisture inside.
If you’re dealing with gale-force winds, always check that your guy ropes are firmly tethered and that your pegs are pushed hard into the ground. Remember, the tighter everything is pulled, the less flapping you’ll encounter.
- Make mealtimes more fun
One of the most fun elements of a family camping trip is the chance to cook outdoors but try to mix it up a bit. Beans on toast will work for one meal, but nobody wants tinned goods three times a day. You could get some freeze-dried meals as a novelty experience, while also bringing along ingredients for everybody’s favourites.
Pasta and rice are easy to cook on a camping stove, as are staples such as boiled eggs and soup. Don’t forget to bring along a good selection of easy-to-eat snacks and some sweet treats as well. Marshmallows might sound like a cliché, but nobody will say no to a few perfectly toasted mouthfuls.
- Give everyone a job
If you want the whole family to buy into the idea of a camping trip, you need to give everybody their own area of responsibility. This will help them to feel important and involved, so even your youngest children should be given a role. Whether it’s ‘keeper of the snacks’, ‘chief dog walker’ or ‘guy rope checker’, a specific job will add some focus and, hopefully, help to prevent arguments that stem from boredom or frustration.
- Think about your furry companions
Finally, don’t forget to think ahead if you are planning to take a dog with you on your family camping trip. While the site you’ve chosen may well accept animals, what about the other nearby points of interest? There’s no point camping close to a beach if dogs aren’t allowed on it, and you can’t leave a dog behind on the campsite while you go off and explore.
These tips will help you to plan and enjoy a family camping holiday, but remember that it’s an adventurous spirit and good humour in the face of bad weather that will make any tent-based trip a getaway to remember – for all the right reasons.