Camping with Kids – Our top tips for surviving a campervan holiday

Camping with Kids – Our top tips for surviving a campervan holiday

We have always enjoyed camping. Lets face it it is an affordable option when you have a growing family…. and the kids just love it.  There are some wonderful places to visit in the UK, and we love the fresh air, family time, and the chance to visit the local attractions – whatever the weather.  There is something special about sitting on a deck chair and just chatting – escaping the technology that surrounds us all at home. Our kiddies love our campervan, they still enjoy the novelty of camping holidays but with the added benefit of having all of our essential items with us at all times.

We have had our van for just over three years now. Mr S purchased a panel van, and came home with hopes and dreams of making it into our family camper van. I have fond memories of taking a baby ‘M’ on our first ever camping trip to Abersoch,  with a mattress on the floor to sleep on, makeshift curtains and a large plastic storage box with a few basics in.  Three years on after a lot of saving, we slowly converted the van to a camper van. There are still a couple of things left to do, a wardrobe being one of them.. but I have learned alot along the way, learning to adapt our packing and choosing our trips wisely – depending on the stage of our camper conversion.

It sounds idyllic doesn’t it? The travelling.. ‘wandering’ and adventures that campervan living brings. In reality we have also experienced long journeys stuck on the motorway, tired kids, dodgy campsites, and wet belongings whilst unpacking the van to prepare the beds in torrential rain 🙂 Oh yes – we have experienced the good and the bad, and therefore I wanted to share with you our little tips that we have picked up along the way to make for a stress free and happy family camping trip that you would happily experience again.

Minimal Packing

Okay this is really hard to write for someone that has take 8 pairs of different flip-flops on a holiday. But when you have a camper van, limited storage and three kids – you have to really plan your packing. Pack raincoats, wellies and walking shoes, warm jumpers, Shorts that you can wear if it is warm, and wear leggings or tights underneath if its cool.  dungarees that can be turned up if its warm – I think you have got the jist of it now. Do you really need those five pairs of shoes, and bikes if you can hire them on site?  I always take some washing tablets, and a mini washing line, safe in the knowledge that I can pack half of what I think I might need – and can throw a wash on if you run out of clothes.

Research before you travel

Research your sites to ensure that they have good facilities for kids.  We have found some really wonderful camping sites, with local shops, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, play parks, indoor games rooms and family bathrooms all on site. It really does make for a pleasant stay if you have good amenities and the sites are safe and well equipped for kids to run around and play.

Find a site that has local attractions on foot

There is nothing worse than finally setting up camp, strategically hanging the bunting flags on the awning (yes those flags are what I consider an essential item!) Carefully placing the vintage tea lights around the van, and then finding you have to pack up and move the campervan every day for trips, visit to the beach, visits to the shops, or a visit to the local town for a coffee. We quickly learned to research our campsites beforehand to make sure that we had a few nearby options where we didn’t have to pack everything up and move the campervan on a daily basis.

Pack a pop up tent

I am sure you are wondering why we possibly need a pop up tent when we have a campervan….? We have always taken one and stored items that are bulky and that we don’t need to use everyday. We use a  pop up tent that is quick to put up and put down, to keep things out of the way and store items such as the children’s car seats, pushchairs, and the outdoor toys like scooters, bats and balls and outdoor chairs..

Pack an Ikea blue bag / plastic flexi -bucket

We never go camping without the trusty blue bag and the large plastic storage bucket. The blue bag is really useful for taking laundry to the laundrette, or storing muddy wellies and wet clothes separately. We have found that our large storage bucket is great for carrying essential items to the beach, storing all the outdoor toys, and it doubles up as a baby bath – perfect!

Be Flexible 

We have come to realise that camping involves leaving any established routine back at home.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t  find a new morning and bedtime routine during your trip. Last year we took a wonderful road trip to Scotland which involved many a late night stop off on a secluded shore or beach and the kids loved it. It didn’t mean that we didn’t develop a different bed time routine of last minute trips to the shower block to save those night time toilet visits, and reading our usual bedtime story by lantern cuddled up in our camper van. Be flexible and relax and embrace the newfound freedom that camping brings.  Binning the usual routines for a week or so isn’t the end of the world, and the late night evenings watching the children run around without a care in the world makes for some very special memories.


Pack a small activity box

We try to pack a shared activitiy box with a few essential items in. Travel games, colouring books and activity books, crayons, reading books and baby rattles. It is always good to have a few things for those mornings when it is raining outside, or those cold evenings when the kiddies are feeling a little tired and lazy.  We have found the activity box is great to occupy the children during those long journeys. We are lucky enough to have a DVD player in the back of the campervan, and have also found packing a DVD or two can be invaluable for those long journeys.

Limit Journey Times

It is easy to get swept away with the idea to keep moving… to travel…after all the campervan is a house on wheels. From past experience we try to have the ‘3 hour rule’ – no more than three hours travel on the road in one go. If the road trip is expected to last longer than three hours we stop for the night. It makes for a stress free road trip and the little ones appreciate the shorter journey times.


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Featured image – Pixabay

What are your essential tips for enjoying a family camping trip? I would love to hear your thoughts.


For more awesome tips head over to Yorkshire Tots

You can also pop over and have a look at my other tips for travelling with kids road.

If you are camping with kids for the first time – pop over to Pinkoddy for more tips and advice


Join me over on Instagram, Facebook, pinterest and Twitter.


Happy camping 🙂

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  1. April 4, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    I’ve never been camper vaning but my sister in law just got one so imagine we will go! This will be my go to if we do! #fearlessfamtrav

    • otisandus
      April 4, 2017 / 8:56 pm

      Ah thank you, we do love our camping, and we LOVE the campervan (enough to give him a name – Otis!) and I am looking forward to our first trip as a family of five. Hoping the little man enjoys it! Thanks for hosting x

  2. April 4, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    You have some great suggestions here. We do some camping here in Australia with our kids aswell and they love it.

    • otisandus
      April 4, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      It really is wonderful and the kids just seem to love it don’t they!? I bet camping is amazing in Australia with your beautiful weather! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. April 5, 2017 / 3:16 am

    Awesome blog, you have some really helpful tips and gorgeous photos. We’ve started planning a 3mth road trip around Australia (but in a caravan). I dread the limited packing part! #familytraveltips

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:28 am

      Thanks so much that is so kind of you to say. Wow 3 months in a caravan sounds amazing! what a wonderful experience!! Good luck with the packing part though 🙂 🙂

  4. April 5, 2017 / 11:37 am

    I’ve often thought about doing something like this but not actually done it! Glamping is as far as we have gotten, which the girls love! Pinned and Flipped too. thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:30 am

      Carrie you really should our little ones love it! thanks so much for hosting this lovely linky! x

  5. April 5, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    This sounds fab! I’ve never been a fan of camping (although the rest of my family love it), but I think I would enjoy a camper van. My MIL has a canal boat, which is kind of similar, and I absolutely love that! I think the three hour rule sounds very sensible! Nobody wants to travel with kids for longer than that.
    I have three big kids (15, 11 and 13), so I’m not sure we’d physically even fit into a camper van right now. Something for the future when one or two of them have left home, I think!

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:33 am

      It is something that we have wanted to do for so long, and is great fun whilst the kiddies are so little! I would love to do the canal boat, sounds so lovely! Thanks so much for stopping by x

  6. April 6, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    Some brilliant tips, thank you! We are hoping to either buy a camper van or buy a van that we can convert this year. How would you rate taking a pop up tent vs a drive away awning? We were thinking we might buy an awning. Your photos are beautiful, you really capture everything we want from a camper van and it’s great to know what to look out for and how to pack too. Thank you for linking up to #familytraveltips

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:42 am

      Wow you are looking at buying a campervan – I am a little bit excited for you!! We looked into it for so long and I am so glad we did it, you really won’t regret it! I have really enjoyed seeing it change from a van to a camper too over the three years. We had a Fiamma awning fitted which we use alongside a little pop up tent if we are just staying somewhere for a couple of nights or less, but if we stay somewhere longer than that we use the drive away awning. The drive away awning is great and a second living space – but kind of defeats the object of quickly setting up, packing up and moving on as it does take a while to put up – so we only use it if we are staying somewhere for any amount of time! Thanks so much for hosting this lovely linky. xx

  7. April 6, 2017 / 3:37 pm

    Great tips! We’ve been RVing long term but we travel with a separate caravan/RV so we have a car to go for groceries and sightseeing. Playground and a swimming pool or beach nearby are a must with kids!
    We also have a 3-hour travel rule. That’s enough for the kids and packing and settling takes time as well.

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:45 am

      Wow, I think as the kids grow up we will probably need to look for something bigger, but for now it is wonderful! three hour rule is definitely enough with little ones – especially our baby! I have just found you too on insta to follow your adventures! thanks for stopping by xx

  8. April 7, 2017 / 1:33 am

    How much fun is camping with kids? Makes travel so much more affordable too. Some great tips! #fearlessfamtrav

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:47 am

      Aah I really love it! And the kids love to run around in a field in the onesies 🙂 Even better if the weather is great! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  9. April 9, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Great tips and i LOVE your pictures! Ive always wanted to go on holiday in a campervan but im thinking we would need a motorhome or an RV with our dogs and boys! Maybe one day we will give it a go! haha #familytraveltips

    • otisandus
      April 15, 2017 / 11:49 am

      We were only saying the other day how sad we will be when we grow out of it! We have managed to squeeze five of us in there 🙂 Thanks for stopping by have a fab weekend!

  10. April 16, 2017 / 8:44 am

    I love all of your tips, such great advice. We also try to break up the drive if travelling a long way, especially with a toddler. Also, I second the IKEA bag, they’re the most useful things ever! I would love a van, but it’s a bit beyond us at the moment so we’ll have to stick to our tent! We’re heading off tomorrow and I’m getting very excited reading all of these camping posts. Thanks so much for linking up to #adventurecalling

    • otisandus
      April 16, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      Thanks so much for hosting this lovely linky. You have such a lovely inspiring blog – it is so important to get outdoors. Enjoy your camping trip and I hope the weather is kind (what do they say – ‘there is no such thing as bad weather just a bad choice of clothing!’ 🙂 Have a great time !

  11. April 16, 2017 / 12:04 pm

    These are great tips, thank you. All this reading about going camping has made me really want to go again! As a child I think the activity box you say about is essential- I would also say marshmallows and hot chocolate!

  12. April 18, 2017 / 4:38 pm

    Fantastic tips, I love this post! We are just back from our first camper van trip as a family of six, and we all absolutely loved it! We’re now wondering whether it’d be wise to get our own camper, and if we do, which one… Inspiring stuff!

  13. April 18, 2017 / 7:48 pm

    Love this… would love to know some of the camp sites you recommend 👍

  14. April 19, 2017 / 4:45 pm

    I’m very jealous of your converted van. We are currently looking for a transporter although we haven’t quite decided whether or not we want it as just the van or we want to convert it. Loads of good tips here. We often take a small pop up tent when we take the kids to festivals to put the festival wagon and other gear away quickly as you say. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling I hope you can again.

  15. April 26, 2017 / 8:34 am

    I loved this post. We had a campervan before our boy was born and I have really fond memories of the adventures we had.

    And the pop up tent tip is brilliant!

  16. May 5, 2017 / 7:00 pm

    It seems like you had an amazing experience camping. Great tips and excellent van!

  17. May 18, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    Do you really need those 5 pairs of shoes? YES! I say, make the kids take one outfit that they can turn inside out every other day and since when did my husband need anything other than 1 t-shirt, a jumper and some jeans? Seriously though, great list. We are only occasionally camper van travellers, but you seem to hit every important piece of advice.

    My one other piece of advice would be to pack a washing line or rope that can be used for line, for silly woodland crafts, etc. It seems like you always need to hang up towels/wet shirts/swimming costumes and I get tired of seeing them draped all over the inside of the Airstream!

  18. May 19, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    we have been on campervan trips since 2011 and we love it!! First without kids and now with a two. Our lesson is also to watch the driving times, sometimes it takes ages to drive what you think it’s a short distance, like last year in Norway. This year we are going to Slovenia in our recently bought second-hand caravan. Let’s see how we manage to get there

  19. May 19, 2017 / 11:48 pm

    This is such a great way of traveling with small kids! We never had a camper van when our son was small and now that is is grown up it seems kind of late to get one. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  20. May 20, 2017 / 6:24 am

    Love your space saving travel tip on taking a small pop up tent for all those extra bulky items.

  21. May 20, 2017 / 8:38 am

    Love the idea of late night visits to the beach with the kids. Camping somehow changes their routine completely without any of the usual associated problems I find, must be all that fresh air! #theweeklypostcard

  22. May 20, 2017 / 11:28 am

    Great tips! I used to love camping as a kid! We went all the time and the best recommendation is really finding things to see and do within walking distance! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • otisandus
      May 27, 2017 / 6:26 pm

      It is definitely good to find places within walking distance…camping isn’t for everyone but we do love it with the little ones xx

  23. May 24, 2017 / 2:31 am

    Great tips and insights. Took us back to the days of camping with our kids in their younger days. We did take a pop-up tent also. Somehow the kids always found that more fun to be in than the camper! Fun times. Thanks for sharing them on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • otisandus
      May 27, 2017 / 6:09 pm

      Aw that is so true, my eldest spends hours in the tent colouring! Campers are definitely fab for the little ones! They love it 🙂 Thanks for stopping by x

  24. Naomi
    October 8, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    I have just discovered your blog and subscribed. We have just moved from a caravan to a motorhome – we have 3 young kids and will be looking for tips! Especially any good tips for winter camping if you do that! thanks

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