Camping with babies and toddlers is a really great experience. We loved our time camping over Easter with Sophie and have often taken Zak camping too. It’s a very unique type of holiday but when you are well prepared and come armed with a relaxed attitude, there really is nothing like it.
Read on for your ultimate packing guide and a toddler meal plan!
My favourite thing about camping with babies and toddlers is how freeing it all is. There are no rules other than the ones you impose (so don’t) and fresh air is the antidote to everything. I feel so much more relaxed when I get to shut off all of the screens and social media and the simple things become the best. Time seems to slow down, life rolls past at an easier and more leisurely pace – mostly determined by the natural light and in my experience, all of that fresh air makes for some very sleepy babies and toddlers so you often get a little adult time alone around the campfire.
Of course, camping with babies and toddlers, or just camping full stop does require quite a lot of preparation. There are hardcore campers who will pack a backpack and pitch a tent at the drop of a hat but I am not one of them sadly. I need my things and I’m guessing if you have Googled “camping with babies and toddlers” then you will need them too.
So before I share our top tips for having the most amazing camping trip, I’ve created the ultimate packing list for you to download – totally free of course. I searched high and low for one of these but I couldn’t find one that really worked for us as a family with the right mix of packing enough but not too much and so I decided to just go ahead and create our own based on trial, error and successes. You are very welcome.
Now that you have your list and are ready to go here are my top tips for making the most of your time in the great outdoors when camping with babies and toddlers.
Tip 1 – It’s all in the mind
Camping with babies and toddlers can be hard work but hey, guess what? Babies and toddlers ARE hard work full stop. They are also free spirited, wild at heart and fascinated by the world around them, which are qualities that sadly we often lose as we get older. Switch your thinking from over anxious parenting to a slightly more care-free style of parenting and let it go a bit. Rules, bedtimes and nagging can resume when you get home.
See the world through their eyes, slow it down (I know it’s hard) and allow your time under canvas to be as rule-free as possible. That means if you choose to spend your days in pyjama’s and wellies, don’t shower at all and could grow potatoes in your kids hair by the end of the week – it’s ok. Nobody will die and you will have had a lot more fun because you have relaxed a bit.
Tip 2 – Try to make bedtimes as comfortable as possible.
Being free spirited and carefree doesn’t have to mean being uncomfortable. I totally recommend air beds big enough for you all to cosy up on. Sleeping bags are the norm for adults and older children but if you are camping with babies and toddlers I recommend bringing their own sleeping bags (for babies) or their blankets / duvets from home. They will look, feel and smell familiar therefore bringing their own special level of comfort to the bambinos. Also I highly recommend a travel cot – they may or may not sleep in it but it’s a really safe space to put them in when you are busy setting up camp / cooking etc.
Tip 3 – Go back to basics
You might think that you need a high-flying, all adventure campsite but if you are camping with babies and toddlers I highly recommend you just stick to a campsite that does the basics really well. There are a million different resources available at the click of a Google to help you source the best basic campsites such as the Halfords camping guides online here or any number of parenting forums and advice sites. We personally adored The Quiet Site in the Lake District if you are looking for something in this area. In my experience, the bigger more action-packed sites are the noisiest at night and pretty much the opposite of what you want when its time to turn in. Babies and toddlers don’t really require all that action either.
My criteria for choosing a campsite goes like this:
- Spotless washroom and bathroom facilities
- Large flat pitches
- Small shop for the basics
- Location location location
And that is pretty much it! Try not to over complicate it.
Tip 4 – Do your research
When you are camping with babies and toddlers, it is easy to get wrapped up in the practicalities of sleeping and eating under canvas but I highly recommend that you do some prior research into the activities / day trips in the local area of your campsite. You might get there and think actually we are just going to stay on the campsite and play and relax etc but equally it might bucket with rain and then you are going to shout and swear at your other half because you’ve no internet signal and no idea where to go on a rainy day in the area.
A little bit of research with a wet weather or good weather contingency plan in your back pocket is always a good idea.
Tip 5 – Plan your meals but keep them simple
It doesn’t have to be difficult to feed people under fresh air. We have a Campingaz Party Grill, which is absolutely fantastic for cooking anything you can imagine and packs up really neatly into the car. I highly recommend one of these if you are going to camp regularly and in fact we actually use this as our BBQ at home as well so it’s definitely worth the investment.
Need some meal / recipe inspiration for cooking when camping with babies and toddlers? You can download a few of the easy and filling, toddler friendly food ideas that I use when I go camping.
Tip 6 – Know your plants
A bit of a safety tip for this one. Toddlers and mobile babies are curious little beings and when you are out and about in amongst nature, they probably will want to put everything into their mouths. It’s a really good idea in general, not just for camping, if you know the plants that are toxic or not so toxic. I think particularly when it comes to things such as berries, which look really enticing, it pays to know and understand what you are eating.
Whilst we are on safety – be sure to take a decent first aid kit, thermometer and some calpol.
Tip 7 – Start small
If this is your first time camping with babies and toddlers then start off slowly. I’d say two nights was probably the perfect amount of time and keep it relatively local. It’s an incredible experience but equally it can be very tiring and if you bite off more than you can chew, well it might leave you running for the nearest hotel and that would be a real shame. Equally, if you try sleeping under canvas and think it’s really not for you, don’t immediately give up. There are lots of other campsite options ranging from heated pods to teepees to full on glamping set ups that might suit you a little better but will afford you all of the fun and fresh air.
Like I said before, there are no rules.
However you choose to do it, camping with babies and toddlers can be so much fun so I hope that you do give it a try and that if you do, this was a really useful post.
Until next time