For years now Hubby and I have been camping together for the major holidays and smaller ones too. We’ve camped in tents, then progressed to a camper trailer and a couple of years ago finally updated to a nice new caravan (Jayco Expanda to be exact). If you watch us set up now, it’s like watching Hubby and I performing a well rehearsed dance, he knows his moves and I know mine. Throughout our sequence one or the other stops to watch the kids while the other performs a solo. We have it all down pat now, ready and relaxing totally for a three week stay in about an hour.
But there is a lot of lead up to the big dance, and if I could share some wisdom, it’s all about being organised no matter how big or small your family.
Lists: Weeks before we head off, I start making lists of things we will need to take. I always make a list for the kids and myself clothes wise, and then I also have a shopping list and a miscellaneous list too (think cameras, chargers etc). When it comes to the lists, even the smallest things are written on there and not ticked off until they are in the car or the caravan.
Clothes: I’ll admit it, I used to go totally overboard! Where we camp it is literally four seasons in one day, cool in the morning, hot or cold during the day, freezing at night. We also get some wind and some rain on occasion too…. so you can see the nightmare that this presents when packing clothes! But now I’ve got it down pat. When it comes to bulky items like jumpers and jackets, I try to only pack one of each. Just remember, most of you will be at a caravan park, so make use of the washing machines. I pack for about a week when we head away for three, and I just wash mid way through the trip. Don’t pack the good stuff either, pack things that you don’t mind getting wrecked. Also, seriously, the kids will get a bit dirty, so does it really matter if they wear the same clothes twice? Make a list, undies, socks, pj’s, pants/leggings, t-shirts, singlet tops, shorts, skirts, dresses, jacket, jumper, beanie, hat, bathers, shows, thongs, nappies, wipes…. I list everything!!
Stress less: usually you will be close by to a town, if worse comes to worse and you forget something, you can always buy it.
Have a kit: I have a kit of essential items that I keep in the van and just re-stock each year. Think baby Panadol for the whole family (baby, kids and adults), thermometer, band aids (lots of them), a manicure set (including tweezers for those splinters that they’ll get), sunscreen and after sun spray, Vicks, Bonjela, hair elastics, and any other medication that you need to take!
Toiletries: can also take up a lot of room so buy travel size bottles that you can refill. I also have one big bag that I can place mine and the kids towels and clothes in before we head over… it’s a life saver as it allows you to have free hands. Also, if you have a baby, keep a plug in the bag and a non slip mat for them to sit on, as you will most probably bath them in the troughs, people usually take the plugs so it’s handy to have your own.
Food and drink: this is a personal choice, but Hubby and I don’t like to leave camp for at least the first few days, so we stock up our cupboard with lots of food and drinks, we even do a rough meal plan. We also organise what we will have for lunch and tea the day we arrive, and have that ready and easily accessible in an esky.
Arrival: think about things you want to have quick and easy access to when you first arrive and begin setting up. We have something for the kids to do, they also help with small jobs along the way, but sometimes you just need them out of your hair. Have some sunscreen handy and hats for the kids. Snacks and drinks on ice ready to go, setting up can be hard work weather it is hot or not! Also, if you have little ones, the nappy bag needs to be handy just in case!
Towels: even now in the van I always pack extra towels. I always did it when we had the camper trailer, as if it rained, it would often leak in certain places. Of course it would always rain at night, and there is nothing worse than being cold, wet and miserable when you are camping. The extra towels can be used to soak up the leaks until morning. Just throw in a couple of ratty ones just in case, hopefully you wont need them, but if you do, you’ll be glad you packed them!
Toys: we barely pack anything these days, we prefer the kids to make their own fun, which they always do!! We take a bike, a beach bucket with spades, and for the wet weather we have a couple of board games and colouring in books and pencils. Apart from that we have found even when we have taken things in the past, the kids rarely used them, they preferred to make their own fun….. and isn’t that what childhood and camping is all about!?
These are just a few tips that I can think of off the top of my head. But I guess my main piece of advice is that each time you go, you’ll learn something and be able to improve the following year. We still find ourselves making little tweaks here and there even after all these years. Most of all have fun! Let the kids have fun too, let them explore, create, imagine and get dirty!!
If you have any questions, I’d love to help! What would you like to know about camping in order to make it easier for you and your family?