Camping with Children and Family Friends – What to know before you go.

December 21, 2020

Summer camping in Aotearoa, when done right, can be a ton of fun. It creates great memories for children and is one of the best ways to spend time together as a family or with family friends. 

For the last four years, my husband and I have joined some of our closest friends on a week-long camping trip to the crystal-clear shores of Whananaki, on a DOC campsite. It is beach camping at its best, and we camp pretty comfortably with a couple of BBQs, pantry units, stove tops, a fairly equipped kitchen and even the kitchen sink! You could say we go glamping...of sorts. 

In the years we have done this, we have seen our friends come to camp pregnant, with a newborn and eventually see them grow year by year, with their children learning to crawl walk and talk from one year to the next. Being together in such close quarters with candid children, we have seen most of it (we think!)— the good, the great, and the reality of children. We have seen beautiful family moments of building sandcastles (which we have been a part of), snorkelling in the shallows for fish, flexi bin baths and bedtime stories in their tents. 

8 Tips when Camping with Children

From what I have experienced looking from the outside and spending time with our friends’ children, here are some things I have found helpful to note. You might find this useful for your next camping trip:  

  1. You don’t need all the toys— nature is children’s best playground when you’re camping. The water, sand, grass, trees, rocks, shells, and little water creatures are all excellent opportunities for discovery and exploration. But pack some books, craft supplies and board games in case you encounter rainy days. Check out our previous post about what Papatūānuku has to offer for play. 

  2. If you’re camping with family friends, try not to have a large group and make sure you and your children all get along. We’ve found 5 families (2-3 children per family) is a sweet spot, if you need an indication. 

  3. Good beds are important if you’re camping for more than just a couple of nights. We used airbeds in the past but this year, we upgraded to a double stretcher so we didn’t have to reinflate the bed every two days. 

  4. Plan a couple of experiences for the children but allow for plenty of free play because that’s when curiosity and discovery happens. 

  5. Don’t pack glassware, make sure your camping gear isn’t fragile. If you’re camping for more than a couple of nights, take a portable BBQ— you won’t regret it. Also invest in a good chilly bin because one of these will keep your frozen food solid for the better part of a week if packed well. For a few more camping essentials, Kidspot has you covered with some great tips.  

  6. If you’re camping with an infant or toddler, bring a stroller— really helpful for nap times when you can wheel them around the campgrounds till they go to sleep. A baby carrier or a front pack is also a good alternative to keep them close and build that sense of security in an unknown place.  

  7. If you’re tenting, be sure to use a tent that has plenty of headroom when you stand. Crouching around in a tent is not fun in the middle of the night when your child needs you. When children are really young, you’ll want to be in the same tent with them so something that has partitions is helpful. You might decide they could sleep in a pup tent a little later on and use that extra space you now have in your tent for a wet-weather activities room. 

  8. Make outdoor dining fun! All your meals need not come from a tin or a packet. You can have well-balanced and nutritional meals while camping. How? Frozen meals are the answer— make them the week before you go camping to allow them to freeze nicely. And when you get to camp, all you have to do is defrost your meal of choice and add veggies fresh off the grill or salads. Further, if all the families are having the same thing for dinner, you’ll cut down on prep time, which means more time around the dinner table👍🏽 Pro tip: meals that freeze well include nachos, curry, and mac n’ cheese. 

If you’re camping and tramping, you’ll want to pack a little lighter than you would if you were to drive to a spot. Tots to Teens provide some practical help in this area. But however you do it, remember, this is meant to be fun and adventure filled. So arm yourself with a good knowledge of the basics and the above tips, then add a few little extras but don’t go overboard. Start by picking a campsite of your choice DOC sites are a helpful starting point. Then, figure out what’s there to do and pack accordingly. Throw in a couple of comfort items or a few things that might help your children with familiarity and settling, get the family excited and get on the road 

Finally here’s a shout out to our friends who have prepared us over the years, painting a great picture of camping with familyThe only difference between us and them to date is that my husband and I have been the only ones without children...but all that is about to change very soon. 😉 

Happy camping this Summer and noho ora mai! 



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