Are you considering taking your family on a camping trip? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place to find out more about doing this!
We have lots of simple and fun family camping hacks with kids that we’d like to share with you.
As well as discussing ideas for exploring the natural world with your children, we will go through the nuts and bolts of planning and preparing a successful family camping trip.
Let’s get started…
Where Do I Start Before A Family Camping Trip?
We’re going to focus on campsite camping with a car, which is the easiest way to go camping as a family. You don’t need to worry about packing everything into backpacks, and you’ll have plenty of space to take as much as you need.
However, it also applies to the family taking with kids wild hiking without a car.
What are your first steps when planning your trip? These are our suggestions.
Talk to friends & family.
Do you have friends or family who enjoy camping? Be sure to pick their brains about what they’ve done. Do they have any tips about your local area? Do they have any opinions on which campsites are family-friendly? Find out as much as you can from those you trust who already have camping experience.
Choose the right campsite.
If you are new to camping, it is a good idea to choose a fully equipped campsite with showers for washing and plenty of clean drinking water available. Perhaps your family would enjoy having access to a playground or sports activities? Look into the facilities that are available at different campsites, and choose what suits you best.
Involve everyone in your family in the conversation!
What do your children enjoy? Do they want to be able to play sports or are they happy exploring a woodland? Talk about your trip together.
Make your initial camping trips close to home.
This will give you a sense of security in knowing that home is not far away. Avoiding a long and tiring drive means that you and your family will arrive at the campsite with plenty of energy. If you realize that you’ve forgotten something, you know that you can always pop home.
Keep your first camping trips short.
Don’t make your first camping trip as a family a week in the wilderness! Ease yourself into camping and see how your children respond by taking a short trip or one or two nights.
How to Prepare For Your Family Camping Trip?
Check the weather.
As your trip comes closer, make sure that you check the weather forecast. If storms or very cold weather are forecasts, consider postponing your trip.
Plan and shop for your meals before you go.
One-pot meals and simple recipes are the best choices. See our article here for extensive campsite food ideas.
Have fun doing a trial run at home!
If you want to be sure that you have everything you need for a successful camping trip, why not test out your kit at home? Set up your tent in your backyard, or at a local park if you don’t have outdoor space of your own.
If your camping equipment is new, this is a chance to test it out and be sure that everyone is comfortable and will sleep well. Make this test run light-hearted and fun and you’ll have your children excited to go on the real camping trip!
Try out some outdoor activities as a family before your trip.
What about visiting a nature center or taking a short hike together before you go camping? Get your kids acclimatized to being in nature and they will adapt quickly to camping.
Include some creature comforts.
Do you value having chairs to sit on? If so, pack some folding chairs. Or perhaps you just can’t survive without your favourite coffee beans? Allow yourself to take whatever treats you need, and ask your family if they have any special requests too! Camping is also holiday time, and there is no need to be strict with yourself!
Make a checklist.
Don’t make your packing a spontaneous affair, especially if you are a novice camper! Write out a checklist of everything you need to pack and follow your list carefully so nothing is left behind.
Have clearly labeled boxes with clothes, bedding, food and games separated out. Save yourself a lot of stress by being organized when you pack up your car to go to the campsite. Keep essentials like snacks and water easily accessible when you set off.
Family Camping Essentials Checklist
✔ Sleeping bags or bedding
✔ Sleeping mats or inflatable mattresses
✔ Bedtime comforts (favourite blankets or stuffed toys)
✔ Headlamps & flashlights
✔ Insect repellent
✔ Rain gear
✔ Plenty of clothing (they will get muddy!)
✔ Sun cream & sun hats
✔ First aid kit
✔ Hand sanitizer and baby wipes
✔ A selection of toys and games
✔ Basic kitchen equipment & food
✔ Lots of snacks
These are only camping essentials that you must bring. If you need the ultimate family camping checklist, check here. We have included everything you’ll need for your first family camping trip.
Camping Trip is Ready: Go With The Flow!
Your children will inevitably be influenced by your approach to the trip.
If you have a good attitude and maintain an upbeat manner even when things are a little chaotic, it’ll make all the difference.
Relax and go with the flow – this is the best camping with kids hack of all!
Let yourself be carried along with the excitement of doing something unusual together, and be sure to share your enthusiasm with your family! Watching your children get a taste of the freedom and wildness that nature brings is a real privilege.
How to Keep Your Family Healthy & Hygienic When Camping?
Wear insect repellent.
This is essential for keeping biting bugs at bay. Be sure to apply it regularly throughout the day.
Be aware of the sun.
Being outdoors all day is not the norm for most of us. Camping means being exposed to the sun for long hours, so be sure to have sun cream and hats at the ready.
Talk about safety.
When you arrive at the campsite, set guidelines for your kids. Talk about keeping a sensible distance from any fire that you make, and establish areas that are out of bounds. Consider giving your child a whistle to wear round their necks in case they get lost.
Point out hazards.
Encourage your children to observe their environment, watching out for ants nests, brambles or stinging nettles.
Don’t worry about too much dirt!
The outdoors is all about muddy exploration. Take a light-hearted approach to dirt and accept it is part of the fun! Clean your child’s hands before mealtimes and bedtime, but otherwise, don’t be concerned.
Tips For Bathing When Camping with Kids
If you find yourself at a campsite without bath or shower facilities, you’ll need to find other ways to keep your family clean.
Bring a portable shower.
There are plenty of portable camping showers available to buy. These use a bladder filled with water and suspended from a tree branch or similar to create a basic shower.
Fill a plastic tub with hot water.
Heat some water and pour it into a large plastic tub. Younger children will enjoy bathing directly in the tub, and adults can give themselves a simple sponge down to stay hygienic.
Take a dip in a river or lake.
Although it is best not to use soap or shampoo in a clean water source for environmental reasons, you can certainly take a refreshing dip! If you are lucky enough to be camping near water, this is a great option.
Use hand sanitizer and baby wipes regularly.
Maintaining clean hands throughout the day is a simple way in which you and your family can prevent the spread of harmful germs whilst camping.
How to Dress Your Children When Camping?
Dress the kids in plenty of layers.
Camping means adjusting to changing outdoor temperatures, and layers are a great way of making sure your kids are always comfortable.
Be prepared for cool nights.
The temperatures can drop dramatically as the sun goes down, even during the summer. Have hats and gloves for the whole family.
Pack more clothes than you would normally need.
Being outdoors inevitably means getting messy and muddy. Bring additional changes of clothes so that you are prepared for this.
Have waterproofs at the ready.
Being outdoors can mean walking or playing in the rain. Make sure your children have full coverage waterproofs.
Don’t forget those wellies!
Waterproof boots are great for splashing about in puddles, and will keep your kids dry and comfy in muddy conditions too.
Be prepared for the sun.
A sunhat is an essential item for your children to wear when outdoors for long periods of time.
Tips on Food & Drink For Family Camping
Kids tend to be more active when camping, and this means it is more important than ever to stay hydrated. Keep an eye on how much your children are drinking, and make sure there is plenty of clean drinking water available or everyone.
Lots of exploration means hungry tummies, so make sure you go prepared with plenty of quick snacks. Trail mix, dried fruit, bananas or rice cakes with nut butter are a few high energy snacks that require little effort.
Keep your menus simple.
Avoid elaborate and complicated meals, and stick to recipes that are easy for you to prepare. We’ve written about campsite cooking in detail, so check it out if you’d like some ideas about what to cook!
Involve the children in mealtime preparations.
Campfire meals should be an opportunity for sharing, so let your children prepare the s’mores or wrap up potatoes for roasting in the fire.
Hints & Tips For Satisfying Sleep When Camping
This is an important factor when it comes to enjoying your trip! Being well-rested helps everyone to stay in a positive mood. So what can you do to ensure you get a good night’s sleep?
For Mum & Dad
Wear earplugs and an eye mask.
A tent lets in plenty of morning sunlight, so if you want to sleep past dawn, an eye mask will help. Choose a material that feels good on your skin, like silk. Earplugs are also a great help for blocking out campsite noises.
Don’t share sleeping mats or mattresses.
Make sure that everyone has their own surface to sleep on, so that you won’t be woken whenever someone else moves.
Use bedding that makes you feel comfortable.
If you don’t enjoy sleeping bags, bring your favourite bedding from home.
Bring additional blankets.
Even in the summer, nighttime temperatures can be cool. Have extra blankets to ensure you all stay warm.
For the Children
Choose peaceful campsite.
Camp away from main roads, campsite entrances and other areas that are likely to be noisy. Some children struggle to sleep in noisy places, so pick a camping spot that is peaceful.
Bring a battery-powered noise maker.
For those who are particularly sensitive to outside noise, bring a noise maker or even something to play some soothing music on.
Pack a favourite bedtime toy.
For younger children, have their favorite bedtime toy or blanket as a familiar comfort.
Begin winding down at least an hour before bedtime.
Encourage a camping routine that becomes calmer towards bedtimes, so that your children will begin to wind down naturally.
Read a soothing bedtime story.
Bring a favourite story book to read at bedtime and send them to sleep gently.
Air out the tent before bedtime.
Open the tent doors and leave just the mesh inner closed so plenty of fresh air can flow. It is never easy to sleep in stale air, and this is especially true when camping in the summer.
Get the best bedding you can find.
Make sure that your kids are used to sleeping in their sleeping bags and are cosy and comfy in them. If they don’t like sleeping in a sleeping bag, bring bedding from home that they feel at ease with.
Stick to your usual routine as far as possible.
This is especially important with young kids. Follow the same bedtime routines to ensure better sleep all round.
Fun Activities for Exploring Nature with Kids Together
Your camping trip is a perfect opportunity for learning about nature first hand. Make plenty of time and space for unstructured outdoor play, where your child’s imagination can run free and wild! Being in an outdoor environment also offers opportunities for hands-on learning. What activities can you do together to make the most of this? Here are a few of our best ideas.
Let your kids take part in campsite chores.
Children love gathering and collecting, so let them help with collecting wood for the fire, or hammering in tent pegs. The more you allow them to take part, the more their confidence and sense of achievement will grow.
Nature scavenger hunt.
Create a list of items in nature that your children have to hunt for. This could be simple things like finding a caterpillar, a pine cone, a round stone and a green stick.
Make a leaf collage.
How many different coloured leaves can your children collect? Try making a big collage with these leaves on the ground, or you can use glue to make smaller pictures on pieces of paper.
Build a natural den.
Can your children make a shelter using fallen branches and leaves? Encourage them to build their own hiding places with natural materials.
Tell stories around the campfire.
What did you enjoy most about your day? Ask your children to describe their adventures! Alternatively, maybe you have a favourite bedtime book you’d like to read out loud, or a ghost story you want to tell!
Make a nature journal.
Write about your special discoveries! Draw the plants and animals that you have found in your own notebook.
Create painted stone pets.
Find a round stone that you can paint. Turn it into your very own brightly coloured pet, insect or monster!
Simple Ideas To To Keep Your Kids Entertained
Bringing a small selection of simple toys suitable for the outdoors will keep younger children active and content. Choose toys that can handle rough treatment and are suitable for being played with in the dirt.
● Frisbees, bats & balls.
● Buckets & spades.
● Pots & jars for nature collections.
● Notebooks, paints & coloured pencils.
● Plastic containers for messy water play.
Additional Hints & Tips For Older Children & Teens
Older teens will appreciate having some independence, as well as taking the opportunity to work on their own outdoor skills. Here are some ideas to ensure that they have a good time too.
Solo tent sleeping.
Why not allow your teens to have their own space? Let them enjoy some independence by setting up their own tent and having control over their own space.
Chef for a day.
Try challenging your older teenager to be the family’s chef for the day. Allow them to be fully engaged in your camping trip by giving them a little extra responsibility.
Make the most of any activities available at your campsite, such as kayaking, tennis or swimming.
Enjoy being able to make longer walks with older children. Let your teens choose a trail and be in charge of the map.
At the end of a long day of physical activity, board games are a great way to gather everyone together.
Perhaps your teen enjoys playing the guitar? Invite them to play as you sit around the campfire.
Nature identification books.
This is an opportunity for your teen to learn about their environment. Books on plant identification or different types of insects can encourage curiosity and engagement with the natural world.
If you are looking for hints and tips specific to camping with babies and toddlers, please read our in-depth article here.
Are You Ready to Take Your Kids For Fun Family Camping Trips?
As you can see, a family camping holiday is filled with creative possibilities. Once you understand the basics, you begin to see that camping is not so complicated after all.
We hope that this guide leaves you feeling confident and ready to embark on a camping trip with your family. With every new camping trip, you will find there is more to discover.
You should now be ready to plan and organise your trip without any hesitation. Happy travels for you and your family!
Share with your friends if these family camping hacks have left you feeling well prepared.
Or comment below if you have any ideas of your own to add to our family camping hacks!