Before we had kids, camping was an easy, often organised at the last minute if the sun was shining, kind of way to spend a weekend. Now, however, that we are Camping with Toddlers, military-style planning is required to make our breaks as fun and stress free as possible.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way….
1. The Tent Matters
Sizing up makes for a more comfortable experience, especially on rainy days. When there were 2 of us, we had a 4 man tent. With 4 of us, we went for a 6 man and now we’re a family of 5, we’ve just upgraded to an 8 man. The extra space is invaluable for the amount clothes/toys/food you need to take when camping with toddlers.
Also to consider when choosing a tent; how easy is it to pitch? And making sure it is pitched with the outer first (learned that one from experience! Inner first + British weather = stressful)
Consider an air tent for very quick pitching times. We have a Berghaus Air 8, which was very good value for money but if we’d had a bigger budget, the quality is definitely better on the Vangos. There is nothing wrong with the Berghaus, it just feels flimsier and the zips etc aren’t as strong as the Vangos we’ve had in the past.
2. Choose your site wisely when Camping with Toddlers
There are as many camp sites as there are types of family. If you’re the kind of family that wants entertainment in the evening, then a field in the middle of nowhere won’t be for you. If you’re looking for a peaceful break, then obviously the opposite applies. Check reviews about the facilities; there are few things worse than filthy toilets with a newly toilet trained toddler. Most sites are well looked after and some have specific family bathrooms.
Other things to consider: do you want electric hook up? Is there a play area? Can you take a gazebo? Do they allow camp fires?
Our top 3 sites to date…
Kielder (dark sky amazing for star gazing)
Brompton on Swale (with lovely stream for paddling)
The Quiet Site, Ullswater (beautiful location)
Mini Travellers also love Blackmore Camping and Caravan Site
3. Packing lists when Camping with Toddlers
I am not ashamed to say that I love lists and my camping list is one of my favourites, so much so that it’s laminated and kept with our camping kit. Did I mention that organisation is key?
First things first; you will need a tent, airbeds and sleeping bags/bedding. I usually take extra fleece blankets too, to layer up if it gets chilly overnight. Onesies are ideal for sleeping in.
For clothes, take spares of everything. Your kids will get wet and muddy. That’s part of the fun. But it’s only fun with dry, warm clothes to change into! I find that keeping each person’s clothes in a separate plastic box makes it easier to keep the tent organised and means the kids are able to find their own jumpers when needed. Don’t forget a big bag for dirty washing. Being the UK, we have been known to have hail and burning sunshine in the same weekend, so take clothes and hats suitable for both, plus suncream.
Wellies are necessary when camping with toddlers. Even if it’s not forecast for rain, the grass is usually wet in the morning and they are very easy to slip on for getting to the toilet block at 3am if required!
If you’re planning to cook at the tent, gas stoves are great. Pans, cutlery, plates, bin bags, washing up bowl, washing up liquid, scourer, tea towel, kitchen roll, antibacterial wipes. We take A LOT of snacks. Camping is hungry work! We usually take a small BBQ too and cook enough meat to have some the next morning for breakfast with beans. Marshmallows for the BBQ or campfire are, of course, non negotiable.
Anti insect wipes/spray and citronella candles are useful, especially if you’re camping in a particularly rural area.
My boys would be very cross if we got to a campsite without a football, frisbee, boules, rounders set and cricket set, plus bikes if there are good trails nearby.
4. Have fun and relax
It all sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But sitting around a BBQ with friends in a beautiful place, with the kids happily running around and climbing trees is worth it. I’m glad we are spending these times camping with toddlers; making memories of weekends under canvas together, exploring some amazing places and having adventures that you just can’t replicate at home or in a hotel.