Let's start off with a confession...before kids came along we had no interest in camping. We had done it a couple of times and it was ok but we knew we preferred other types of trips (like five star city breaks).
But since kids have come along we have quickly grown to really enjoy family camping trips. It wasn't love at first sight but now we can't wait to get outdoors and spend some quality time with the kids.
While it may sound cliched camping provides a great opportunity to connect with your kids, as once your tent and gear is setup you really have very little to do except enjoy the surroundings and each others company...or sometimes not, after all this is still family travel and we don't want to give you false expectations. Kids can still be a real pain in the proverbial and we all know the surroundings make very little difference to their behaviour and they can just as easily be a pain in a five star hotel or muddy campsite.
But, when it is a muddy campsite filled with other kids you will be a lot more relaxed with it than you would have been in that five star hotel.
Plus, kids love being outside. It just seems to inspire their imaginations and sense of play and our recommendations as parents is just to go for it with them and that is just how to get started with Family Camping. Just go for it. Or like they say over at Nike "just do it".
To get started with Family Camping just go for it
Now saying just go for it is easy for me to do. After all we've done it. But I know the questions running through your head as we had the same ones. Just how do we get started, what equipment do I need and do I have to go out and buy an expensive tent, where should we go?
Don't worry, I have an answer to these questions and if you have a family camping question we haven't answered here on in our other camping posts then drop us an email or better still drop a question to us and the Travelbetter community over on our Facebook page or Instagram Account.
So let's begin...
The quick answer to this is no, you don't have to buy lots of camping gear and a tent to get started.
The slightly longer answer to this question is that you really shouldn't go out and buy lots of equipment or a tent straight away as you may hate camping and while it might take you a few goes to really like camping, like it took us, you don't want to spend out on lots of camping gear if it just doesn't work out for you. So what can you do.
The first place to start is friends and family. Go and speak to others and see what kit you can borrow. In fact if you know someone who really loves camping there is a good chance they have more than one tent and would be happy for you to borrow one and few other bits of equipment. This is a great place to start and you may even want to arrange your first camping trip with these guys so they can show you how it is done. Just be warned that they may be perfect campers and don't let it put you off (more on this later).
Another option is to look at Glamping. Glamping stands for Glamorous Camping and developed out of people offering five star-esq outdoor accomoation such as a rigid tent with a champagne fridge and hot tub. However, nowadays it has come to really just mean your accomodation e.g. tent and equipment will be provided for you at the site. This can range from a simple tent with camping stove to the five star option mentioned earlier. Either way it is a good way to test out camping without buying new equipment.
An example of a luxury Glamping Pod, this one can be foudn in North Hamptonshire in the UK
Glamping can also provide great opportunities to stay in some more unique accomodation such as a Tippee, a Gypsy Caravan and Sarafi Tent. Have a look at our Top Glamping Locations for more examples.
In conclusion, to get started with family camping you don't need to buy lots of camping gear and an expensive tent. However, when you are ready to start building up your camping gear be sure to check out our Camping Gear guide
The quick answer to where to go for your first family camping trip is Just down the road and for only a night or two.
The whole point is about trying, and hopefully enjoying, the camping experience. So it really doesn't matter too much where or how far you go. Especially as you may have a car loaded with camping gear.
Look for campsites within a thirty minute to one hour drive from where you live. This way if you hate it, get washed out or have some difficult problems to overcome as first time campers you can just get in your car and drive home.
Once you enjoy and get more confident with camping then you can start going further afield and using it as a lower cost form of accomodation to visit places. For example Alton Towers has a few great camping options near by and France has a ton of great locations.
The best way to find campsites near to where you live is to use Google Maps. Just go on to your home address and select the search nearby option then enter campsites or glamping depending on what you are looking for. Failing this try Booking.com, that's right you can now find a pitch over on booking.com and have the usual perks that come with using this great service. (Disclosure - we are an affiliate of booking.com). Another great option is Campsited.com who have a huge list of camp sites to choose from.
Just take it one step at a time and do the two actions above. Once it is booked then go. Hopefuly, it hasn't cost you a lot of money and therefore if it goes wrong or you have to come home it is no big loss and you've tried it. But if you found you enjoyed it then great, rock on to your next trip. All we would say is that it takes time to find your feet with camping but once you do you will start to love it so it may take more than one trip. As always we say learn as you go with each trip and put what you have learned into practice next time so you can Travel Better with each trip.
Now you've got the bug for family camping you are going to want to start to get your own camping gear.
While this sounds simple there is a bewildering array of choice for camping gear on the market with some of it essential, some useful, so just fun and so just plain useless. So where do you start...
With our essential family camping gear guide.
We've developed, and are continually tweaking, this list to get you started with camping. In teh article we list the most useful and essential camping gear and also what to consider when making these purchases. For example we explain why your height is something to consider when buying the all important family tent and why you want small bedrooms and large living space. Check it out to find out more.
We love gadgets, especially multi-purpose ones and camping provides us, and you, the chance to indulge in many, many, gadgets to make things easier, more fun or just plain cool. Take a look at the Travelbetter Amazon Shop for some great examples of super cool camping gadgets.
Sometimes, when you are camping or indeed on any trip you find that you have a fogotten a few things just like Travelbetter Dad did on a camping trip with Travelbetter Boy. However, this didn't stop them having a great time and finding some unique ways to overcome the gaps left by the missing items. Have a look at what Travelbetter Dad forgot and how he got around the issues.
Food and drink can enhance, make or even break a trip and camping is no exception so take a look at our camping food and drink posts to find just what you need.
To, hopefully, inspire you to try family camping or just provide some ideas of where to go have a look at these camping stories from the Travelbetter team and others.
Here is a quick list of things to consider when looking for a family campsite:
For more details on the above list have a look at this post on how to pick the perfect family campsite.
Use the following resources to find a great family campsite: