These handy tips will make your family camping trip easier…
Despite strong winds (thanks Storm Francis) and the very unpredictable British weather, we have just survived our first family camping trip. I had my doubts, but I actually really enjoyed myself, and more importantly my 21 month old loved it!
I feel I must point out that we did cheat slightly in the sense that we were “glamping” and not “camping.” We were staying in a bell tent kitted out with beds, pillows and a warm duvet and had our own portaloo next door to our tent. But you have to start somewhere and I feel having these little luxuries eased us nicely into our first family camping experience, especially since we didn’t know how things would pan out with a toddler.
After having returned with smiles on our faces and happy memories to treasure, I wanted to share some tips that we learned during our stay through observation and through talking to fellow campmates, that will make camping with a toddler even more successful the second time round (and hopefully the first-time round, if this is your first family camping trip).
1. Check your pitch location
We didn’t know the location of our tent until the day before arrival and by this time it was too late to change as the campsite was fully booked. We were located next to the campsite’s outdoor bar, which would have been perfect had we not had our little boy with us. However, because the music from the bar didn’t finish until 11pm we had a very over excited toddler that didn’t want to go to bed because there was too much fun going on outside. And we couldn’t blame him as we wanted to be out there enjoying said music too and not inside the tent trying to get him to sleep! My advice would be to request a pitch that is in a quiet section of the campsite. Also make sure you ask about the on-site amenities (shower block, toilets, shop etc.) and how close to them you are.
2. Have a packing strategy
Organising your camping supplies before you go makes all the difference when you arrive at the campsite. Buy some see-through plastic boxes and label them with your essential items, such as kitchen supplies, toys, food and snacks and bed and bathtime. Then when you need something you can see what’s in the box and you can locate it straight away. Very handy when you have a hungry toddler screaming at you for chocolate!
3. Waterproof clothing is essential
My son loves to jump in puddles, play in the mud, eat mud and basically get as dirty as possible! So if you’re toddler is anything like mine, wet weather clothing is essential. Must-have items are puddle suits / rain suits, wellies, a spare pair of shoes and extra socks (at least three pairs extra). I found the key to dressing a toddler is layers, which can be easily added or removed. During our trip it was raining one minute and glorious sunshine the next, so layering was everything!
4. Buy a baby sleeping bag
Baby sleeping bags (also known as grobags), are a must-have when camping. They keep your little one cosy and snug on cold nights but are also brilliant in hot weather. They are available in a range of togs from 0.5 tog (for very warm weather) to 3.5 tog, which are warmly padded and suitable for temperatures below 18 degrees. You can also buy ones with detachable sleeves.
5. Pack plenty of snacks
If you are camping with a toddler, snacks are essential. Crackers, granola bars, pre-cut fruit (cut at home before we left) and rice cakes are all easy to transport and make a great distraction if you are trying to persuade your toddler into their pram, or from jumping in yet another puddle. I’d also highly recommend buying a pocket snack highchair. Our friends kindly lent us theirs. They are lightweight, compact and come with different seat height positions and a snack tray that can also be removed. It made lunch and dinner so much easier as he couldn’t escape!
6. Remember kitchen essentials
If you need to warm your toddler’s milk make sure you pack a travel stove and kettle. Some campsites have an on-site kitchen where you can heat food and milk, but some don’t so make sure you check before you travel. We also took with us a collapsible washing up bowl, folding picnic table and bottles of water. Also add a cool box to your packing list. They are ideal for storing your toddler’s milk, spread, fruit and snacks.
7. Clean hands regularly
Because of Covid-19 the more you can do to make your trip as safe as possible the better, so make sure you pack hand sanitiser, liquid soap and baby wipes. We filled a washing up bowl outside of our tent for hand washing and cleaning teeth.
8. Take toys
We took some of Jack’s favourite toys with us, which were invaluable for when it rained and we had to take cover. A few toy cars and some of his favourite books kept him entertained and we also took his favourite cuddly toy to make bedtime more familiar.
9. Buy a gazebo
We saw lots of families with gazebos and will definitely be purchasing one for our next trip. They are great for storing your camping chairs, stove, water and wellies and it means you don’t have to pile all of your belongings into your tent, giving you a lot more space. They also offer protection from the rain, and sun on hot summer days.
10. Make a list and check it twice!
I made a packing list before we left and I am so glad I did. Baby brain is definitely a thing post pregnancy too! Make sure to include all the essentials your toddler needs, such as nappies, nappy sacks, wipes, changing mat, sippy cup and comfort blanket. Also pack a first aid kid, just in case, including plasters, antiseptic, infant paracetamol and nappy rash cream. Piriton is also good to have to, for insect bites or any other irritants.
My last extra bonus tip is to HAVE FUN and embrace the outdoors. Also accept that, especially on the first night, your toddler may not stick to their usual bedtime routine. So make sure you pack extra coffee too!