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.
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!
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.
You can also pop over and have a look at my other tips for travelling with kids ..by road.
If you are camping with kids for the first time – pop over to Pinkoddy for more tips and advice
Happy camping 🙂