Top tips for camping with toddlers

Children in a camping field

Camping with kids has to be one of the best outdoor activities for children and adults alike. During the summer months, we love that it allows us to get away so much and so cheaply. If you’re thinking of taking young children camping for the first time then read on my tips for camping with toddlers. Make your next tent camping trip with young children memorable for all the right reasons.

camping with toddlers tips uk

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We love exploring the UK and enjoying family days out and camping allows us to do this more. I haven’t forgotten though how apprehensive I felt about camping with a toddler, the first and the second time around. So read on to find out how we made camping with toddlers an enjoyable experience for all and find some camping with toddlers tips.  

Preparing for tent camping with toddlers

Preparation is everything. I love a good list and a bit of research beforehand. A little bit of time spent planning your trip will make all the difference.  

#1 Buy or borrow camping gear – The first thing you’ll need to do is find yourself a tent. If you’re not sure if camping is for you then perhaps see if you can borrow a family tent and all the gear you’ll need from a friend.

If you’re looking to buy a new family tent then think about what is important to you. I think the best tent for camping with toddlers is a tunnel tent. Tunnel tents are perfect for camping with young children as all the sleeping compartments are at one end. Ours have a dived that rolls up meaning we can have one large sleeping area or two smaller ones. Our main tent is the Coleman Pinto Mountain Plus 5 XL which we love, It’s so spacious.

We also have a * Kampa Hayling 4 which is another great tent with a smaller living area, perfect for weekends away.  If you have a bigger budget, you might prefer the convenience of it as an air tent * Kampa Hayling 4 air tent.

Camping with toddlers

#2 try a night camping in your garden first – we did this and the kids loved it and slept really well so this gave us the confidence to book a trip. No one woke up too early, feeling cold etc. The only problem we had was getting the eldest to sleep as she was so excited! This has to be one of our favourite things to do outside at home

field of tents

# 3 – Find a family-friendly campsite in your chosen location – we wanted to be within a couple of hours from home for our first trip, not least because we were setting off after school on a Friday.   You can do this through a simple Google search or try a website called Pitch up.

The best facilities we’ve come across for camping with young children are at Fforest fields in mid-wales. The family bathrooms are amazing and have everything you need to make camping with a toddler easier. Find out more in my Fforest Fields campsite review

#4 Make a list of everything you will need to buy and pack – we had most of the essentials already but we needed a few extra bits. A packing list means you won’t forget something important like the tent pegs or your toddler’s teddy that they won’t sleep without. Find my answer to What do I need for camping with a toddler? here. I promise these items will make your trip easier.

#5 Pack toys and snacks for the journey within reach – you’ll need them for the journey and once you arrive on site. Find the best camping toys for kids here.

#6 Pack the tent last so it is easy to get out when you arrive – you don’t want to have to empty the car out to get to the tent that you packed first!   Don’t forget the mallet and peg bag too.

sleeping mats with kids sleeping bags in a tent

Tips for camping with toddlers

Once you arrive on site this is when the fun starts. Pitching a tent with young children around can be a little tricky, to say the least.

#7 Setting up camp – Try to keep young children occupied and insight whilst you put up your tent. Snacks might help or perhaps a favourite or new toy. You know your own children best so have a think what might keep your kids happy and in one place.

The alternative is to try and involve the kids in setting up camp. We end up doing more of the latter. Carrying the peg bag and handing out pegs is a good task for a little one and once the tent is up, my two love helping carry bits from the car to the tent.  

toddler under a tent that someone is trying to pitch

#8 Pack more clothes than you think they will need in case they get wet or dirty. Remember you’ll be outdoors more than in, whatever the weather.

Pack waterproofs and warm clothes even if the forecast is good. Camping with young children is never going to be a minimalistic experience!  

#9 Pack food they’ll enjoy – Don’t expect your cool box to keep things cold for more than about 20 hours approx. Freeze some small bottles of juice or water and plenty of ice packs and it might last this long. Some sites have freezers where you can refreeze the ice packs. Update: We’ve found one that keeps everything cold for at least 48 hours. It’s the Coleman extreme 3. Find out how much it is currently on sale for * here.  

#10 – Relax and expect bedtime to take longer than at home. I think it has been about 11 pm that the girls have both finally fallen asleep on the first night on both trips and a little earlier the second night.  

#11 Have some ideas for entertaining the kids on hand. Both outdoor activities for kids (find 100 here) and indoor ones in case of rain.

toddler asleep in sleeping bag

#12 Pack flip flops for the showers (they’re not always the cleanest places). Take two bags that you can hang from hooks in the showers for keeping your shoes, towels and clean and dirty clothes off the wet floor.  

#13 Another bath time tip for young children is take a * Flexi tub that you can use as a bath. Simply standing it in the shower to fill with water and bath your toddler or even baby in it. In my experience toddlers don’t enjoy showers. This makes it stress-free.

#14 Pack the potty. If you are potty training this is a must but even with slightly older children, a potty in the tent saves night time walks to the toilet blocks.

Tent with sleeping bags laid out

Have you been camping with toddlers or young children? have you got any great tips to share? Perhaps glamping is more your thing, it’s certainly on my list.  

Where to next?

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Camping with a toddler pin

26 thoughts on “Top tips for camping with toddlers

  1. Su {Ethan & Evelyn} says:

    These are great list! I remembered out first time camping as a four. OMG! The kids are just too high with energy to go to sleep. It took like forever!! lol! Thank you for sharing and hope you’ll continue to enjoy camping for many years to come! 🙂 xx

  2. Cassie - Gorgeous George’s Mama says:

    The items sound fabulous and make the experience more enjoyable but dirty showers and sleeping with my pillow up against the tent wall where a spider could crawl down onto my face ain’t selling it to me lol.

    I’d love to say I’ve done it but I think I might have to try glamping first lol.

    Great post though and fab pics.

  3. Jemma says:

    Right so I read this on the way to camping and realised I have forgotten flip flops!! Great list! And some helpful tips thank you!

  4. Joanna says:

    We went camping earlier in the summer and I forgot flip flops! Top of my list when we go again in August.x

  5. Kim - The Blog Genie says:

    I’d love to take my daughter camping – she would love it. But hubby’s not a fan. Looks like you have had some great fun camping. If ever I manage to persuade hubby I’ll definitely be back to this post

  6. Fiona Cambouropoulos says:

    You are looking like seasoned campers now with some great kit to make life easy for yourselves. I must say even as a non camper the idea of this beautiful summer weather outdoors is appealing. I do think the night in the garden is a great tip, such a safe way to try outdoor sleeping with the comfort of home in reach. Now if we can just keep the summer sun going I’m sure you will have many more camping trips this summer.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

  7. Laura says:

    We’re thinking about taking our toddler camping for a couple of days next month. I’ve been a bit worried about it, so I’ll follow your tips and hopefully it’ll all go smoothly! #CountryKids

  8. Mummy Melton says:

    I love your list, it totally makes sense. I’m not brave enough to try yet with our 2 though, staying in a hotel was traumatic enough! Hope you take them when they’re older though as I enjoyed camping when I was younger #countrykids

  9. Merlinda Little says:

    We used to go camping when my son is younger so I agree with the tips! Your post made me miss camping a lot. #countrykids

  10. terri says:

    We love camping but made some basic mistakes the first tie we went such as taking no light/torch at all. You can imagine how fun that was with a 2 year old in the middle of the night! I wish we had seen this list back then.

  11. Keitha says:

    Wonderful tips! We love camping. I remember when my son was little, we felt that a wagon was a camping essential. We could load the ice chest and gear when heading to the lake or load it with the fishing gear and then put my son in it when he became too tired to walk. #countrykids

  12. The Queen of Collage says:

    I’ve experiences of camping which now make me want to try out glamping instead. I think trying out the tent before you leave home is a great one and understanding that sleep patterns may be altered due to excitement and the sun setting worth keeping in mind. #CountryKids

  13. Martin says:

    Some awesome advice here. We will be going camping when my new born is a little older nd we can afford. Big enough tent! I ill save this post til then!

  14. Kyle says:

    Hi! This list is great, thanks for posting. What did you guys do for sleeping bags? Did you buy adult one’s for your children or children sized ones?

    • Claire says:

      We started with the gro-bags they slept in at home with a blanket on top until they out grew them. Then we purchased kids sleeping bags (ones suitable for camping not the character ones you see sometimes that are designed to be used in houses). Have you seen my next post on what to pack for camping with a toddler?

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