When you own a tent, adventure awaits at the drop of a hat. Simply round up the kids, fill the car with petrol and head off on your way.
And while some places in the UK turn a blind eye to ‘wild camping’ (that is, pitching up along beaches and fields whether they are official campsites or not), there is such a thing as too much open space when you’re camping with the family!
To get the wonder and exhilaration of the great outdoors — with the added comfort of nearby showers, toilets and maybe even a coffee hut — family-friendly campsites are the way to go. Wondering if a family camping holiday is right for you? Here’s everything you need to know about sleeping under canvas with the kids...
On a camping trip, you have to slow down. You and the kids can put down your devices and get close to nature. Build fires on the beach, fly kites, stargaze, tackle hiking trails, watch the sun go down over the fields… Camping gives kids (and grownups) a wonderful sense of freedom.
What’s more, camping is typically a cheap way to holiday — offering a really affordable breath of fresh air for the whole family.
Camping can be a good test of patience and resolve. A week, or weekend, in a tent often means putting up with little hardships you wouldn’t experience in other holiday accommodation.
You pitch up. You battle the elements. And everything — getting a drink of water, cooking a tin of beans, having a shower — takes a lot longer than it would back home.
But that’s what makes camping so special for many families. Facing a healthy dose of adversity together as a unit, you’ll make memories you’ll never forget.
There are loads of great reasons to camp as a family. If you love the beach, then there’s few things more enjoyable than a seaside camping trip — wake up, swim, BBQ, swim, BBQ, sleep, repeat! Equally, families who enjoy walking, cycling, bird watching, or any other outdoor pursuit will love the close contact with the natural world.
You don’t need to own your own tent to go camping. Many campsites across the UK and Europe also offer other (slightly more rainproof) forms of accommodation, too:
Tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from little 2-man varieties up to huge family tents with different compartments. You can buy your own, or rent them from specialist retailers.
A campervan or caravan gives you more protection from the elements than a tent. It might also have handy facilities like a sink, built in gas stove and even a toilet. Again, some families own their own for regular camping trips, but you can also rent campervans and caravans if you want or need to.
If you’d rather skip the tent-pitching stage of a camping holiday, opt for a static tent. These are standard tents that sit pre-pitched and ready for you to arrive — some even come equipped with electricity!
Camping is very weather-dependent. Sheltering in a tent that’s being whipped by the wind and rain is nobody’s idea of a good time.
Late spring or summer is the best bet if you’re planning a family camping holiday in the UK — but be prepared for midges if you’re camping near water. In parts of Europe, the weather in early spring and autumn is ideal for camping: dry, but not too hot.
Campsites dot the map throughout the UK and Europe. You’ll find campsites on farmland, in forests and next to remote beaches. There are even options within easy distance of towns and cities.
Some are extremely basic — essentially a field with a block of toilets. Others boast play areas, swimming pools and scheduled activities for the kids.
If your budget is tight and you don’t mind going without your creature comforts, a camping holiday is as cheap as it gets. You can find campsites that charge as little as £15 per night for a family of four.
If you’re travelling abroad or picking a campsite with lots of facilities, however, prices will be higher. And remember to factor in the cost of your food and camping kit.
Camping allows the whole family to slow down and switch off. Kids get to explore nature and learn practical skills, and everybody gets to spend some quality, screen-free time together.
Without a doubt, you’ll need to pack all of the camping basics. If you’re staying in a tent, you’ll need sleeping bags, sleeping mats, torches, food and drink, cooking utensils (including pots and pans), towels and toiletries. For campervan trips, you can leave the tent and sleeping mats at home.
Then consider how much space you have left for added extras. Camping chairs and a camping stove can make your holiday more comfortable. And footballs, bikes and kites will help kids to make the most of the great outdoors.
Toddlers love nothing more than being free to run around a field! And it’s possible to buy specially-designed baby and toddler camping kit, like mini sleeping bags. But if you’re still at a stage where you need lots of baby equipment, fitting it all into a tent might be tricky.
When it comes to teenagers, a lot depends on what yours are into. Some parents will struggle to separate their teens from their creature comforts, but if yours are into outdoor adventuring then you may have better luck!
Kids somewhere in the middle of toddlerhood and teenagerdom probably get the most from a family camping holiday. They love the freedom that comes with camping and don’t need any special kit.
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