5 Secrets to Surviving Your First Family Camping Trip

kids in front of the tent

Over the past six or so years I have developed a bit of a thing for luxury travel. I did my fair share of camping when my husband and I first got married (think no running water and digging your own toilet!), and I am now overcompensating with five-star resorts and hotels with swim up bars.


I was happy with my new holiday style and thought I’d said goodbye to camping for good, so when two sets of family friends recently suggested a camping holiday together, let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic.

Clearly outnumbered, I resigned myself to a weekend of camping. With six kids under five and two pregnant women (goodbye wine and brie cheese hour), what wasn’t there to look forward to?!

In reality, and despite my initial negativity, it was actually fabulous fun and I learned a few tricks of the trade. So, here you have it, my no-fail guide to surviving your first camping trip with kids.

1. Choose a site with power. Looking back, I think my biggest downfall in my early camping years was choosing to stay at places with no facilities. Yes, it’s lovely to be in the great outdoors with not another soul in sight, but it’s less lovely to pee in a hole in the middle of the night. We camped at a pretty swish campground this time around. Not only did it have running water and real toilets, it had hot showers, a water play area for kids, pools, a games room and a cooking area with fridges. There were even feature tiles in the shower. Seriously! At the very least, I would go for a campground with powered sites. It really made life so much easier. Particularly when my kids wanted lights on at random hours.

2. Get a tent with (at least) two rooms. We made the mistake of camping in a tent with only one room. It was a large room, and I figured given the boys both end up in our bed most nights it would be fine. I was wrong. If you aren’t used to all sleeping together in one room at home, then buy or borrow a tent that has more than one sleeping area. Even better if it has a separate area for you to throw all your bags and other bits. I’ve found that being able to separate the kids and have my own space is essential for my sanity. It’s also good if you have both kids in the tent and one needs a nap. Trying to quietly play UNO with a 4-year-old next to a sleeping baby is fraught with danger.

3. Bring scissors, plastic bags, rubber bands and baby wipes. Don’t ask questions. Just bring them. Don’t have a baby? Never mind, bring the baby wipes anyway. Trust me, you’ll use all of these things, probably more than once. Oh and bring a dust pan and broom. Even better if you have one of those fancy mini vac things.

4. Pack lightly. Tents are small spaces and I definitely overpacked. When we go again I’ll only pack a small amount of clothing and keep some of it in the car, swapping it over midway through the trip. In reality we lived in our swimmers for 95 percent of the day and then threw on some shorts and a jumper when it got cool in the evening. Don’t bother with toys. We brought bikes, some cards and a colouring in book and that kept them occupied for hours every day. One of the best things about camping was enjoying the outdoors and making up our own fun.

This is an example of way too much stuff for 3 days camping (food and bedding not even included!)

This is an example of way too much stuff for 3 days of camping (food and bedding not even included!)

5. Take photos. It was only after we returned home that I realised I’d really not taken many photos of our first family camping adventure. Those are the sorts of photos that you end up treasuring years down the track and I’m sad I missed them. Next time I’ll be whipping the camera out at every opportunity. At least it did mean that I was fully present with the kids and in on the action the whole time.

It turns out camping with kids isn’t so bad after all. Actually, it was pretty great!

Have you taken the family camping? Would you do it again?