Camping is an activity that every family should try, even if it is only once. Whether you want to go to the bush in a tent or in a caravan in a caravan park, you will never regret getting out and making memories with your family. To make it easier for you get to away with kids, I have created this ultimate guide for camping with kids to help prepare you for your next adventure.
Pick a Child-Friendly Location
The most important thing is to making camping fun is planning, though it does pay to be flexible as well. First, make sure you research the area you wish to visit very well before making a booking. We find that reading some recent reviews on the area are a great way to get an idea on how the area currently is. Lots of places will require a booking and sometimes a small deposit to keep a site for you.
Check the Weather
Before you head off, it is a good idea to check the weather situation for the location you are looking at going. By ringing the information centres, you will be able to attain local knowledge on what the weather is looking like. Nothing could be worse than heading away for a fun adventure and spending most of the trip stuck in a tent or van due to bad weather.
There is nothing worse than relaxing at your campsite and then the rain starts to fall. Sitting out of the rain can get boring quite quickly, so you will need some ways to entertain the kids. These could include books, board cards, cards, colouring pages and activities such as: Camping Printable Pack, Camping Journal and Camping Activity Pack. Toys such as small cars, puzzles and lego can be fun, but you will need to be careful as the small pieces can easily get lost or get caught underfoot.
Check Your Gear
Before you leave it is a good idea to check your gear, making sure everything is clean and in good working order. Checking things like an air mattress for leaks and that gas bottles have gas in them. Also remember to check things that use batteries like lamps and torches and see if the batteries will need to be charged or changed. Make sure all your cooking gear is clean and you have all your attachments, like your tent pegs and a rubber mallet.
Packing for your Camping Trip
The best way to prepare is to make sure you pack all that you will need. When we had a tent, stored all our camping gear in plastic containers in the shed. This made it easier to pack when it came time to pack the car. It also provides storage for when you are at your camping spot.
Another good idea is for everyone to have a special bag or spot for their own things such as clothes, shoes and books. This way, if the kids need something like a jumper or a book to read, they don’t have to go through everything making a mess to find it.
If you are taking electronic devices with you such as iPads and hand held games, make sure they are all fully charged before leaving for your adventure.
Take a look at this Camping Checklist. It offers some valuable guidance on what you will need to pack.
Getting to your Campsite
After packing all your clothes, supplies and camping equipment, and hoping in the car, it is inevitable you will here the phrase: “Are we there yet?” This is a very familiar phrase that needs to be addressed, so make sure that you have some fun activities lined up for the car trip. Some ideas include listening to music or audio books, playing games such as I-Spy, and this Transport Travelling Pack is great for keeping kids occupied. Frequently stopping for short stops also helps break up a trip as well. Let the kids stretch their legs before hopping back in the car for the next leg of the trip.
Also, make sure you are giving yourself enough time to arrive and set up during daylight hours. It is never fun turning up at a place in the dark with hungry kids trying to set up camp.
Setting Up Camp
Once reaching your destination, you will need to set up camp. By now, your kids will probably just want to run around and explore their new surroundings, but by gently explaining to them that everyone needs to pitch in and help set up first will go a long way. Give them small, simple tasks as setting up the chairs, helping unload the car, making them feel important to be part of the set up.
Before setting up, check the level of your site, looking for the most flat, clean area to set up. Remove any objects like sticks or rocks that will cause uncomfortable lumps in your tent floor. Look up and check the surrounding trees and overhanging branches for signs of weakness.
While setting up camp, it is also a good idea to explain to your children some basic camp courtesy and safety rules. Some basic rules are:
- Don’t walk or run through people’s campsites, you go around them.
- Be quiet in the mornings as not every gets up early.
- It is not polite to impose upon other campers when they are eating – return to your own family at mealtime.
- Keep the facilities clean.
Hygiene and First Aid
Hygiene is particularly important when camping. Children are spending more time outside playing, many amenities can get dirty very quickly, allowing germs to breed. You may want to take things such as hand sanitizer and wipes for keeping clean. First aid is very important. Make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit and an information book on how to use it properly as you never know what you might find in the bush.
Also, check for fire bans in the area you are staying and if you do have a fire, make sure that you completely put it out every night before turning in. It would be a good idea to teach your kids about fire safety as well.
When you are out in the bush, you don’t need a big five-course meal every night. Also, the bigger the meal, the harder the clean-up. Easy, one-pot meals are the go. It is even better if you plan ahead and pre-cut vegetables or salads before you leave, sealing them in airtight containers ready for your trip. Meals that can be eaten with just a fork are great for kids who are camping. Make sure you are prepared with some fun but quality snacks, especially if you plan to go hiking as you will need to keep your body well nourished.
Protecting your Food and Rubbish
When out in the bush, it is essential to protect your food and rubbish from the local wildlife. Ideally, you should keep your food in tightly sealed containers and high off the ground. When in a tent, we locked our food and rubbish in the back of the car overnight. When in the van, the food is inside and the rubbish sits in the back of the car.
If possible, empty your rubbish into a trash can on a regular basis. At some nationals parks, you are required to take all your rubbish with you, so if you go on a day trip where you think there will be a bin, take it with you and dispose of it when you can.
In the past, many people have tied washing lines around trees in the area, but this may cause considerable damage to the trees and in many places it is no longer allowed. Many places now provide lines for you to dry your washing, though it is better to be prepared and take a foldable clothes airer with you. Also remember, some washing powders are bad for the environment as well, so check the ingredients before you go and make sure you are doing the right thing for wildlife and for you.
Keeping the Campsite Clean
By picking up rubbish laying around your site when you see it, it is easy to keep the campsite clean, but keeping the tent clean is another story. With kids around, it is impossible to keep sand and dirt out of the tent. You could try:
- placing a shallow tray of water near the door and a towel on the inside of the tent, for a quick wash before walking inside
- keeping a mat outside for brushing off feet and a dustpan brush inside for sweeping up messes as they occur
- Never wear shoes in the tent. We made a decision that the tent was going to be a ‘shoe free’ area. Shoes can carry lots of mud and dirt around with them and by keeping them outside, the mud and dirt stayed out too. Also, if you wear snadshoes on sandy ground, they will need to be emptied of the sand when taking off, which is always best done outside.
The most important thing is to have fun spending time with your family. This is a great time to create some amazing memories that you and children will cherish for years to come. And remember, not everything goes perfectly every single time, but, you will be able to learn from these things and be able to make your next adventure even better.
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