Camping with kids - top tips for parents

Caroline Cassidy

Setting off into the great outdoors, evenings spent under the stars... camping can be an amazing experience for the whole family, and a holiday under the canvas makes for an affordable getaway in these tough financial times.

Camping with kids
Camping with kids

Pic: Getty

When you've got kids in tow though, the key phrase is 'be prepared'. As long as you are ready for everything from late night toilet visits to rainy days, then there's nothing to stop you having a great, fun family holiday.

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Here are our top tips for a successful camping trip with the kids.

What to take
Obviously your first major decision is what tent to take. As a general rule, family camping is more enjoyable with the biggest one you can afford. The helpful members of have thankfully sent in their reviews of family-sized tents, and topping the list is the Outwell Montana, which sleeps six and includes a spacious living area. Others that fared well in the reviews were the Coleman Coastline Deluxe for six, and the Gelert Horizon.

Secondly, it is definitely worth investing in airbeds (don't forget the pump) or camping beds, decent, warm sleeping bags, and extra pillows and blankets to ensure a comfortable stay.

Packing the right clothes is also essential. If you are camping in Britain, wellies and waterproofs are a must for all the family, but a good supply of clean, warm clothes is also key, as drying can be tricky if the weather turns bad. A clothes line and pegs is a good idea in the eventuality of warm, dry weather.

As far as other kit goes, it really depends on what kind of facilities your chosen campsite boasts. A folding table and camping chairs are advisable, and a cooker and kettle, with full gas bottles, is an essential unless you plan on eating out every night, along with pans (go for non-stick for ease of washing up), plastic crockery and cutlery. Some staple foods (tinned are always good so don't forget the can opener) will undoubtedly come in handy, as will water bottles, washing up liquid and a storage box so you can pack everything away when necessary.

A first aid kit is also a must for anyone travelling with kids, and be sure to include some insect bite cream and repellent, while you'd be amazed how often little extras such as buckets with lids (for those times when a late-night trip to the lavatory doesn't appeal), and a strong and sturdy torch, come in handy. Lastly, bring a few treats, toys, games, paper and pens for the children for rainy day amusements.

Cooking tips
As mentioned, unless you plan on eating out every night, you'll be cooking up a storm on a camping stove, and that's not every mum or dad's idea of fun.

Tinned foods such as chilli, curry, soup, beans and veg are ideal for a quick, warming meal and can easily be served with a generous hunk of bread. Other foods to pack are things like cheese and ham, which can be quickly made into a sandwich or cold plate, but remember to bring a coolbox. Disposable barbecues are another popular option, and more often than not, there will be a local shop, either on site or nearby at a farm or village, that can provide basics such as milk, eggs, bacon and butter.

And since your gas stove is open to the elements, a windbreak will allow you to cook without worrying about the weather.

Staying warm, drying and clean
Unlike a hotel or cottage where you can sink into a hot bath after a day out, camping doesn't offer the same luxury when it comes to getting warm. For that reason, the best solution is prevention. Waterproofs mean the whole family can still get out and about if it's wet outside, and will reduce the need for an endless supply of dry clothes, but do make sure you have plenty of clothing for everyone so that you can change into them if you do get wet. A generous supply of towels will be invaluable.

It's also best to be prepared for the odd nippier day or night, so plenty of hats, socks and fleeces should be on hand so that you don't shiver your way through the holiday.

If you're off on a weekend camping trip, you might not be too worried about bathing or showering, but during a two-week break, the chances are you're going to need the odd wash up. Most family camping sites include a shower block, but if your little ones aren't too keen, take a small paddling pool, or even a largish plastic box that you can fill with water, adding hot that you boil yourself, and wash down the children after a long day in the great outdoors.
And finally, as anyone who has invested a new tent for the occasion will tell you, one or two trial runs at putting the thing up will save you valuable time and stress when you arrive at your destination.

After that, all you need to do is sit back, enjoy your surroundings, and have fun.

What advice would you give mums and dads preparing for their first camping trip with the kids? Leave your comments below...