August is here, though it doesn’t feel like it here in Yorkshire, as we’ve had plenty of rain over the last few weeks. For most families August means summer holidays. As a home educating family, we can take our holidays all year round and take advantage of lower prices and smaller crowds. But for those who have little choice but to go away during the school summer holidays, now is the time to pack up the car and go in search of sun, sea, sand, or whatever recreation the family are hungry for.
We went camping a few weeks ago, so I thought I would share some of my hints and tips for making camping with kids a better experience. We love camping, or at least, I love the idea of it, somehow the reality often doesn’t quite measure up. So I hope that by getting these thoughts down in a blog post I can be better prepared to follow my own advice in future!
Let’s start with some MUST DO tips.
1. Research your campsite. Get online. There are some great websites to help you find the perfect site, many of which allow you to search by preferred amenities as well as location. You can also talk to other parents who go camping and get their recommendations. There are Facebook groups dedicated to family camping, so check them out and ask for other people’s favourites campsites.
We’ve stayed at a few places around the UK, but only revisited a site once. Jasmine Park near Snainton, North Yorkshire, has been our destination of choice two years running. The facilities are great and the kids love it there. It’s also the ideal location for us as we love the beach and forest equally, and Jasmine Park sits right between Scarborough and Dalby Forest, with Whitby, Filey and other wonderful beaches a reasonable drive away, as well as attractions such as Flamingo Land and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
2. Figure out what to do. Do you want to spend most of your time on-site? Or use the tent as a place to bed down between outbound adventures? That will help you decide on the best campsite, but it also sets the tone for your trip. My kids love running around the campsite and finding other kids to play with, they also like having all their amenities on hand, with food and toilets just a quick dash away. But I enjoy getting off site and exploring. I also suffer with hayfever, so in the height of summer being on grass, near bushes and trees is a recipe for disaster. Getting to the beach or into a town or city suits me best. So we try to balance everyone’s needs with a combination of on-site frivolity and local exploration. Luckily the kids do love adventure too, so it’s great to get out and enjoy doing lots of fun things together. The Munchkin is particularly partial to Go Ape, which is why we love camping near Dalby Forest.
3. Be prepared! Especially in Britain, with our delightfully unpredictable weather! Pack for every kind of weather. Last summer it was tipping it down when we arrived and, knowing that we would have to get the tent up while the kids wanted to roam, I put them in their waterproofs and wellies and sent them off to explore while then-hubby and I got the tent up and unpacked the car. We then had glorious weather for several days and needed repeat applications of suncream while at the beaches. I’m a list person, so I make a packing list for all our trips and my camping lists run to two columns of a full page of A4! There’s a great resource here at Bring the Kids for those who need a hand getting started.
Remember that the nights will be colder, so take blankets as well as sleeping bags, and jumpers to throw on for midnight loo-dashes. And don’t forget the pillows! I usually do, so we end up using rolled up towels and getting up in the morning with impressions on our cheeks.
Now, what mistakes have I learned from? What should you NOT DO?
1. Don’t take too much food. Following on from my last tip on being prepared, I have historically packed way too much food to take camping. It starts with this idea that we’ll all be sat around a BBQ eating sausages for breakfast and dinner, then we have to take plenty of snacks to satisfy the bottomless pits that are my children’s stomachs. However, what always happens is we end up throwing out some meat and other fresh items that spoil in the hot tent, and bringing home three shopping bags full of snacks because we were all too busy to be snacking all day.
Lesson learned. Take nothing! Or the bare minimum, then once on site and unpacked, head to the local supermarket, or village shop and stock up on essentials that absolutely will get eaten.
2. Don’t stay too long. Last year we booked an entire week, but ended up coming home early as we were all too tired and fed up to make it to the end of the week. All families are different, so be realistic about how long is long enough for yours. 3 nights is my absolute max in a tent. What with the hayfever and “joy” (note: sarcasm) that is an airbed. Of course, I could invest in proper campbeds to make sleep more comfortable. A friend of mine has the most amazing camping gear, with enormous bell tent and campbeds (pictured at the top of this post), which looks very comfortable.
3. Don’t forget to have fun. Being on holiday with children can be deceptively stressful and camping can sometimes highlight that stress. The weather goes against you, people get tired and grumpy, you run out of something essential, you don’t get enough sleep. But hopefully these tips will help mitigate most of that. Focus on the positives. Chances are the kids will love most of it, no matter how much or little you plan to do or what you do or don’t pack. Enjoy their enjoyment, live vicariously and savour those moments away from the hum drum of normality. These are the bits you’ll look back and remember, not the day to day grind, but the fun and adventure.
I hope these camping tips help you plan the perfect camping holiday. I haven’t covered camping abroad, as we haven’t done that yet. So if you have any tips on that I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Likewise if there are any other essential camping tips that work for your family do please leave a comment.
We’re jet-set in a few months, flying off to Florida for two weeks with extended family. So I’ll be blogging about the plans and preparation for that and then a post or two afterwards about how it went, so do please hit the follow button for updates to your inbox.
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