› Family camping tips

Our life-saving family camping tips

After starting our trip around Australia, we realised we needed some family camping tips keep us sane and the kids happy. It’s incredible how a few little things can make a big difference!

Here are the top five ideas that worked for us. Please share your suggestions too, I’d love to add them.

Our very last night family camping around Oz!Our last night on the road...still smiling after 15 months!

1.       Eat before you set up

There is nothing worse than being hungry when you’re setting up. Little hiccups that shouldn’t be stressful suddenly become mountains…then arguments are not far away. I always got caught out on days when we didn’t have to go far, and we’d plan to arrive at camp before lunch. Then things wouldn’t work out as planned – suddenly it would be 2pm and everyone would be starving and grumpy.

So now I pack lunch (or plenty of snacks) regardless of the distance. You could also buy food on the road, but you risk finding no where to eat. Check that you’ll be passing a town and that the shops will be open. Many country towns shut down on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.

2.       Rest in the middle of day

James was only three when we left, and still having daytime sleeps. As soon as we hit the road, he stopped and by 4pm, he was ratty. A month into the trip we decided we would re-introduce ‘rest’ time for an hour (or so) on most days.

We would give the kids their own separate space (one on each bed). They would choose a few toys or books to play quietly with during rest time. We would let them know when it was half way, and when they had 10 minutes to go. Some days, if we were all a bit tired, we would lay down with them for a sleep too!

Of all these family camping tips, this one was our saviour. It gave us all some time to ourselves, ready for the afternoon. It also kept the kids out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. The result = happier kids and happier parents.

3.       Give your kids some responsibility

Setting up and packing up camp becomes part of everyday life. You’ll get it down to a fine art. Meanwhile, the kids either get in the way or want to distract you every minute or two.

My family camping tip here is…include the kids in the process. Even though our children were young, we realised there were jobs they could help with, especially with a little instruction. After a while, the kids became responsible for a handful of tasks they could do mostly on their own.  

It gave them a great sense of achievement and really helped us with the workload. Here are some of the things they did:

  • Winding the camper stabilisers up and down.
  • Spreading out and folding up our outdoor ground cloth.
  • Unpacking items from the camper e.g. bikes, buckets etc.
  • Setting up / packing up our camp table and their camp chairs.

4.       Use libraries and playgrounds

On driving days, we would often stop in towns for our rest breaks. We would find a playground and let the kids run riot while we did our errands, checked emails and made calls. The kids usually had heaps of time to play, so they had a chance to really explore. We sometimes joked that we were doing a tour of Australia’s playgrounds!

We also loved visiting local libraries to ‘kill’ time reading books or playing games. They were good places to catch up on computer work, or to ‘hang’ around out of the sun for a while. In Cairns, I remember spending about three hours in the library while we waited for our car to be serviced. It was the perfect solution!

5.       Keep bedtime and other routines

While it seems simple, it’s easy to overlook this valuable family camping tip – particularly when the sun dictates so much of your day. We found just keeping the usual dinner, bath, bed routine was important – even if the times were slightly earlier or later. Rest time also helped maintain a sense of order. If you home-school, try to make it at a regular time so everyone knows what to expect when.

Of course, you are on holiday so I would use the 80/20 rule. As long as you stick with basic routines 80% of the time, you’ll be right.

What else?

Those are my top five family camping tips. For more specifics, take a look at my ideas for:

I'm sure you'll come up with even more. Let me know and I'd love to add them to the site.

› Family camping tips

What keeps you sane and the kids happy when you're camping?

I'd love to know your best family camping tips too. Do you have a special tip that never fails? Please share your tip(s) here, and I'll create a new web page dedicated to your favourites.

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Best family camping tips from other visitors

Take a look at what other Trip around Oz visitors have to say. They've shared their top family camping tips here.

Got Early Birds? Try this great family camping tip...

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We have three children who are all early risers (around 6am is average). This can be tricky when you're in a shared camp ground as it's not always appropriate …

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