It may seem like utter madness to launch yourself out of your house, away from your domestic appliances and into the middle of a field with a tiny baby in the name of holiday ‘fun’. How will it work? Will my baby be warm enough? Where will I put it down? How do I plug a baby monitor into a canvas tent? Can our sleep really get any worse?
Stop right there. Camping with a baby might be easier than you think. Keep your expectations in check, prepare well, and you’ll uncover a world of family holidays that are truly good for the soul.
Here’s what to do:
Take advantage of the first year
It may seem unfathomable when you're coping with your first baby, but they really are very portable and they sleep a lot. Obviously they don’t sleep when you actually want them to, that would be far too convenient. But they don’t need as much entertaining as a toddler, are easier to persuade on scenic walks (because they can’t voice their dissent) and are unable to launch themselves into a campfire. Having camped with children of all ages, and a husband, I can vouch for small babies as ideal holiday companions.
Take your village with you
Whether you bring your family, your friends, or your NCT crew, going in a pack makes camping with tiny ones manageable. You’ve got someone to pass the baby to, someone to help keep an eye on older kids, someone to whip you up some campfire quesadillas while you rock the baby to sleep. Fantastic holiday teamwork is easier than being at home on your own with a baby, and it’s lots of fun too.
Don’t forget the carrier
Even if you’ve enlisted numerous willing aunties desperate for cuddles, you’ll need somewhere to put the baby down eventually. A baby-portation device on a campsite is crucial, especially if the ground is too damp for wiggling about on a blanket. When night falls, surrender to the fact that you’ll probably be the person wheeling the buggy round the site or marching up and down with a sling; but there are always other parents in the same boat to give a wave to, and you can swipe a handful of crisps as you pass through your pitch. Beats standing in a dark nursery on your own any day.
Bigger tents make life easier
You can absolutely manage with a small tent, but if you’ve got the option to upgrade then do it. Camping with little people is just easier if you have a tent you can stand up in. You can bring the travel cot for starters, and there’s a bearable amount of space to hunker down in for the afternoon if the heavens open.
This is for the benefit of babies, toddlers, big kids and grown-ups too. Wear clothes that have pockets, and fill those pockets with an array of snacks for distribution as and when needed. Normal mealtimes tend to go out of the window when you’re camping, plus people (you) may be feeling crotchety if you haven’t had a great night’s sleep. Blood sugar needs to remain stable. Nobody wants a hangry camper.
If in doubt, stay close to home
If it’s your first trip, make sure you’re not too far away so it’s easy to pack up and go home if worse comes to worse. Book a break for one or two nights, see how you get on, then build up as you get more confidence. It’s worth bearing in mind that older children in particular can take a couple of nights to settle into the camping groove, so don’t let one ropey night put you off! If you can survive a couple of nights, you can probably manage more.
Pick a great site
If you’re away for a break with friends, especially if you’ve got toddlers and older children along for the trip, pick a site with lots to do either onsite or in the local area. We love Fisherground Campsite in Eskdale, which has its own miniature steam railway station, or Point Farm Campsite in Pembrokeshire which is just stone’s throw from the beautiful beach.
Still not convinced? Try glamping instead
If you’re really not on board with packing everything and the kitchen sink, a child-friendly glamping break could be a happy compromise. Get all the joy of the great outdoors with everything set up and provided for you. We’ve got some really lovely, quirky sites in beautiful locations on the Away with the Kids website – stay in anything from an eco-pod to a romantic gypsy caravan.
Feeling inspired? Wellies at the ready! Take a look at the family-friendly campsites on our website.