Sad to swag: The best hacks for camping with young kids

Kinderling News & Features

As much as we’d like to think camping with kids is all fairy lights and ghost stories, the reality is making a good experience for everyone requires you to be prepared.

Here are some suggestions we’ve plucked from experienced campers that will have you wanting smores!

1. Getting there

  • Don’t go anywhere with bull ants!
  • Try to camp for free – Wiki Camps can help. Use the money you save on a day tour somewhere new or having an indulgent café breakfast.
  • Be flexible; you need to have a plan but be willing to drop it at any moment!
  • Plan your stops along the way; take a picnic rug and let your children run around. Playgrounds are a great option for kids who can climb everywhere.
  • Arrival time is key to a successful trip. Avoid driving at witching hour and if you must drive after 5pm, make sure everyone is fed and already in PJs before you get into the car and set off.

2. Setting Up

  • When it comes to a tent, you need as much space as you can afford so think big!
  • Be safety aware. Sure, your tent has a zipper on it but kids can work that out pretty quickly if they want to. Make sure the area around your tent is safe, and provide torches for night time.
  • There’s so much that goes into the set-up, so keep the kids entertained. Assign older kids tasks like rolling out mats and sleeping bags; bring Play Doh and colouring-in for younger kids so you can get your jobs done; and a portacot helps keep smaller babies and toddlers stationary and not running rampant while you’re packing, unpacking or cooking.
  • A gazebo or tarpaulin keeps rain off communal outdoor areas.
  • An inflatable pool with foam mat squares underneath does the trick for entertainment too. Plus, you’ve got a bath tub for bigger kids!
  • A flexitub doubles as a baby bath and a bucket to wash dishes.
  • A spare small tent doubles as storage space for necessary toys, plus as a playroom.
  • Chuck in a hanging shoe organiser to hang from the tent roof to store nappies, wipes, cloths, bibs, creams, a torch, and anything else you need!

3. Meal  times and food preparation for everyone (including the baby!) 

  • Pack a snack box of dried fruit and savoury biscuits for those times the kids are genuinely hungry between meals.
  • Foster an ‘eat what you’ve got’ attitude with everyone and make sure everyone understands that if you run out of something - there's no alternatives.
  • Hand wipes will be a lifesaver for EVERYTHING.
  • Take double of everything including nappies, food, wipes and clothes
  •  Bottle feeding can be difficult to navigate so bring an electric kettle if you have power, or a thermos flask for hot water to make up bottles in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t forget a comfy camp chair for breastfeeding. And enough camp chairs for the rest of the fam too!

4. Boredom busters

  • Baby carriers are indispensable for walks.
  • Audio books. These are perfect on the road, plus before bedtime. Kinderling has a whole bunch for free download in our app!
  • Bring a pack of paints. You don’t have to bring paper with it, just pick up stones to decorate.
  • A tablet is a bit of a necessary evil … great for entertaining in those mad moments! Download a bunch of educational apps before you leave.

5. Remember: don't sweat the small stuff

  • Embrace the great outdoors and remember that this is an adventure for everyone! Forget shower and bath time for a couple of nights, it won't kill anyone. Ditto using a slightly dirty knife to spread peanut butter for a week. Just go with the flow.
  • And be prepared for noise, tents are not sound-proof! So, if the kids are getting loud, everyone on site will hear it. And if other people are rowdy, then you’ll definitely hear them too.