With the summer holidays finally upon us, why not take the family on a camping trip? Well my response used to be ‘because I've got a spirited two year old who never sleeps and frankly I can't imagine anything worse’ but after a wet, yet wonderful weekend; I'm fully converted.
Our first family camping trip!
So, for any fellow first timers out there, here are my new rules for camping with children.
1. If you can afford it, go for the extras.
We'd initially only booked a tent pitch for our first weekend away, but as the days passed and our spider-ridden tent was no closer to making it out of the shed, we began to question our choice. After raiding the savings we upgraded to a bell tent with bedding provided.
We were over the moon when we arrived at our accommodation - it was basically a hotel room without the sink! I know plenty of people who love putting up tents and really roughing it (and believe me, we've done our share of muddy festivals in the past), but for a first, family camping holiday it was a good compromise for us.
2. Rethink your packing.
Considering we (and most parents we know) end up with two suitcases for even a simple night away, packing was always going to be an issue. Don't just go by the website, make sure to email or phone the campsite before you pack to see what is already provided. We packed toilet roll and soap which we didn't need, but no tea towels or kitchen roll which we desperately needed. We took paper plates and bowls to avoid washing up, but actually they ended up being too flimsy for our needs.
Our daughter wasn't at all interested in her favourite cuddly toys or books, but a box of cheap farm animals and some building blocks were great for communal play. We arrived with three balls and left with one, we've no idea where they ended up! Kicking and catching was the most popular activity.
With clothes, we needed half the pyjamas and double the day time clothes to account for the mud and general mess.
We took plenty of snacks but could have done with some more substantial food as our plan to go out for lunch didn't quite come to pass.
3. Research the local area.
While a lot of children might be content to stay on site, we have an early riser and it's a long day to fill in one place when you've been awake since 5am. A quick google beforehand showed us that we were camped right next to a gorgeous fisheries, with a café open from 7.30am and a play area with animals to feed.
We also booked a local pub for Sunday lunch as a nice treat on our departure day. It was heaven not to have to do any cooking or washing up while trudging across a field and there was a little play area for the kids to stretch their legs before the long drive home.
4. Relax your rules.
As parents, particularly of younger children, you can't escape from the advice about rules and routines. But just because your child has their favourite story and is tucked in bed in their usual way, there is no chance they are going to sleep at 7.30pm when they can hear the rest of the campsite laughing and playing.
Watching the sunset
Our two year old came to bed at 10pm on both nights with no harm done. She loved watching the sunset with her Daddy and watching the sky turn dark.
We also relaxed our rules about food and allowed her ice cream at the café, toasted marshmallows at the BBQ and whatever cake or chocolate was being passed around.
At home, we’re fairly strict on hygiene, but on this trip we deteriorated from hand washing, to wet wipes, to ‘oh she's eating food off the barn floor again’ with ease.
5. Travel with friends.
Who better to come on a child friendly camping trip than a load of other families with children? We were lucky, there were four families in our group so we had loads of support with communal cooking, toy sharing, gazebo putter-upping and general child watching. Plus, the most important part - watching your child become friends with your best mate’s children is wonderful to see.
We stayed at Woodhall Farm in Worcester, you can check out the website here.