Summer’s the season to go outside and explore - and you aren’t limited to beaches, either.
Camping with the kids can be a fun and rewarding summertime experience. Not only is it unique, but it can also help build in your kids a stronger appreciation for our environment and landscape… if you do it right, that is.
Unless you’re an experienced camper yourself, you might find yourself falling into one of these common pitfalls or traps. And that in turn can be the difference in raising kids who love the outdoors, and a chorus of “I wanna go home!”
Whether it’s a weekend in the bush or a road trip that’ll take up the entirety of the summer holidays, a camping trip with the kids needs to be carefully planned out if you want to avoid turning them off the idea forever…
1) Tent or caravan?
There are some rivalries that are eternal: Coke vs Pepsi, Ford vs Holden, PC vs Mac… the list goes on and on.
The world of camping has its own rivalry - in particular, the debate over whether or not tent or caravans are the best way to go.
Which one’s better? Instead of coming down strongly in favour of one or the other, we’re going to take a third option and say “it depends.”
It very much depends on how old your kids are, as well as the season, and simply your personal preferences.
If you want to give your kids a more “authentic” experience, then a tent’s the way to go. Just remember that:
- Tents don’t have insulation, so they’re more sensitive to temperature drops
- It’s rougher, which can be harder on younger kids
- You lose a lot of creature comforts - not ideal for long camping trips
As a general rule, we advise only choosing a tent if your kids are older and better capable of handling the rugged experience.
If you’re going to be bringing younger kids who may not be able to handle the rougher parts of tent camping, it might be better to rent a caravan instead.
2) Pack light - don’t bring the entire toybox
You’re going camping for the weekend, not preparing for half a year in Paris - you don’t need to pack that much.
In addition to standard camping gear and essentials such as sunscreen, insect repellent, and first aid equipment, we recommend limiting the rest of your luggage so to speak to a handful of specific items.
- Ditch the pram for baby carriers - these allow you to explore more freely
- Car seats can also double as a makeshift baby chair
- A change of clothes and plenty of nappies
For slightly older kids, be sure to pack:
- A raincoat and rainy day activities like a book (in case the weather turns)
- Enough changes of clothes to make it through (kits aren’t afraid to play rough)
- A favourite toy or blanket to help them feel more comfortable away from home
Just remember to try to keep the amount of luggage to a minimum - you don’t want to be overburdened with the kids’ stuff when you turn up.
3) Have you remembered your kids’ homework?
Now, we aren’t saying that you should turn your tent or caravan into a mini classroom - you’re here to have fun, after all.
If you’re going to be spending some time away from home however (such as over the school holidays), it might be worth looking into ways of helping your kids keep up with homework.
Remember to pack light - don’t bring along heavy textbooks, as they’ll take up weight.
There’s no guarantee you’ll have reception either, so try to avoid bringing along homework that relies heavily on your internet connection (so research assignments are probably out).
Instead, focus on bringing over homework that’s:
- Light and doesn’t take up space
- Doesn’t need an internet connection to do
- Can be completed in short bursts between day activities or when chilling out at night
A good idea is to sit down with your kids and create a homework plan - be sure to ask them what they’ve been assigned, as well as what they can feasibly bring along with them.
4) Safety first
“Don’t stray off the path.”
“Stay out of tall grass.”
“If you see a snake, call an adult immediately”
Before you even set out, be sure to walk your kids through the safety rules first, especially if it’s their first time camping.
And once you turn up at the campsite, make sure you set boundaries for where they can and can’t play, as well as where they can go freely and where they’ll need to ask for permission before going.
Another thing to think about is giving them a way to stay in contact. Since there’s no guarantee that you’ll have phone reception, walkie-talkies make for a great substitute.
5) Let there be light
It’s easy to get used to having street lights everywhere. And that leads to a lot of first-time campers making this mistake.
A lot of campsites are dark, with nothing more than the stars to light things up after dark. If you and the kids want to navigate after the sun sets, that means bringing your own light with you.
It needs to be lightweight, rugged, waterproof and bright - but not too bright. Excessive lumens can annoy other campers by lighting up their tents and ruining their experience.
6) Do a test run
The last thing you want is to turn up after a several hours-long drive, only to find that you’ve overlooked something, or that you haven’t included something in your plan.
The best way to avoid this is by taking the kids on a “dry run” a couple of nights before in your backyard.
This can tell you a whole bunch of different things, like:
- How to set up the tent
- How warm your sleeping bags are
- If anything’s missing from your packing
- How the kids react to sleeping outdoors
It’s a lot to remember - however, it can save you and the kids from a major headache when the big day comes!
We also recommend making sure your car is in tip-top shape - so check the oil, fill up with fuel, and pump up the tyres.
7) Do your homework
So you’ve helped your kids come up with a homework plan - but have you done your homework?
Be sure to do your research before you head off. That means:
- Checking the forecast and any upcoming weather warnings
- Investigating local sights and attractions
- Finding out whether your campsite has amenities like showers
Finally, don’t forget to have fun!
It’s important to take a break from your routine every once in a while - and that’s exactly what camping lets you do.
Camping is fun, exhilarating, and entertaining - so make sure you go in with a positive and open mind - your kids are sure to follow suit.
Have fun and stay safe this summer.