I have done my fair share of camping (notably with a 2year old while 6 months pregnant), but for this section, I felt I'd be better handing you over to my well-travelled friend Sarah B.
Camping & Caravanning
The idea of camping or caravanning with little ones can be a little daunting to begin with and the thought of literally packing everything including the kitchen sink is not at all necessary. The best advice is preparation, by making lists of everything that you think you will need and by adding to it over a period of time leading up to your trip, you will be sure not to forget anything.
The list will then be your base point to work from as you will definitely not need everything! For example, kitchen roll and tissues are essentially the same thing, but you can use kitchen towel for both spills and noses, so drop the tissues. Pack light and efficiently using one item for a multiple of tasks.
When looking for a campsite you will find that they vary on what services they can offer. You will be surprised to know that some even offer a family bathroom with a bath for those infants are either too small for a shower, or too scared of one and are used to home comforts. The majority of sites will have basic facilities such has a shower block with toilets, sinks, hairdryer points and of course showers with hot water! If you want added luxury there are also campsites which have further facilities to keep the older children entertained such as games rooms, play parks, swimming pools and TV rooms. If you don’t like the idea of cooking your own food on the BBQ, campsites offer take-away style food or there is always a local pub nearby so you won’t go hungry.
When setting up camp, it is always good to get the little ones set up first with either their own little tent or chairs to sit in while they watch you struggle to get the tent erected. Although these days most modern tents are quite easy to assemble and you will be ready in no time. If your tent has the added luxury of different rooms, get organised and unpacked. Sleeping arrangements and sleeping bags rolled out and ready to go. There is nothing worse than the sun going down and sorting out your places to sleep by torch light. Make the children aware of the dangers of guide ropes, gas cookers and electric hook up cables if applicable. While camping can be a very enjoyable experience for children it does not come without its dangers. Please remember not to leave any gas related items inside your tent or caravan switched on while you sleep, unless in a caravan with correct ventilation or carbon monoxide detectors installed.
Rain can put a dampener on your trip, especially if it is as wet inside as it is out. Again be organised, leave soaking wet shoes, or wellies outside of the main living areas of the tent as clearing up muddy footprints with grass clippings can be a nightmare. Same with caravanning, most caravans have their own ‘wet locker’ to stow such items, or even just left outside in an awning if you have one is better than tracking through on your carpets.
Visiting the shower blocks is a must in flip flops for several reasons, the main one being that you will get your shoes wet and the other being hygiene. The shower blocks are usually maintained to a very high standard but you never know and keeping your shoes on at all times just makes good sense. Your flip flops will dry and you will not have to worry about where you are standing. Another tip would be to have a wash bag that is preferably plastic and see-through. When putting down your wash bag to brush your teeth etc, you often find that there is never a dry patch and keeping a soggy bag in the tent or caravan is not ideal. The plastic bag can be easily wiped dry and taken into a shower without worry of it getting wet.
Washing up stations are usually provided at most campsites, which comprise of s sink and drainer. If you’re lucky you may find that there are washing/dryer facilities and even the odd ironing board! For the novice camper it is easy to forget to pack a washing up cloth, tea towel, washing up liquid and the all-important container in which to transport your items to and from the washing up station. I find that a collapsible plastic crate is ideal in that it folds flat for transportation and storage and then expands when required for carrying. This area will only be applicable of course as long as you don’t forget to pack your plates and utensils!
For the younger ones, here’s an idea for eating if your child is still in a highchair, there are some good strap on seats available complete with removable tray. These are usually used at home fixed to a normal sized chair, giving your little one its own seat at the table, but can be used as a standalone product and put on the floor of a tent. They can now sit up unaided and have their own tray to eat from.
Have you remembered to pack:
Sleeping bags / pillows - although duvets on an inflatable mattress works just as well
PJs – even if you don’t normally bother, walking to the toilet block in the night is best done covered up
Torch or lamp
Cooking stove / Gas burner – don’t forget to check your gas canister has some in it
Lighter / matches
Pots / Pans
Plates / Utensils – including can opener, sharp knife, bottle opener and chopping board
Washing up stuff – cloth, liquid, tea towel, carrying box
Old towel – this would be for wiping down the tent when it’s time to pack up, often it will be covered with dew or rain, so best to have an old towel or two to dry it before putting it away in its bag
Disposable mack – pack-a-macks are great to just have in case there is a down poor, you can get great disposable ones, one size fits all, they take up less room
Rubber mallet for pitching your tent
Cool box & ice blocks – note most camping sites have a facility to re-freeze blocks for you
Toys – bat and balls are great, note some sites do not allow the riding of bikes onsite so check first
Extra layer – always remember an extra thick jumper and maybe a pair of thick socks as it can get cold at night (even during a heatwave)
First aid kit
.....and finally a sence of humour!