Where to begin

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and give family camping a go. Before rushing off to spend your hard earned money on something you may not enjoy / want to repeat. Here are a few pointers to minimise expenditure whilst still being comfortable enough that you’ll want to repeat the experience:

Do you have the basics, or can you borrow them ? (See our basics camping list) For our first trip we dug out the 3 man tent I had from my younger days.

The two of us had sleeping bags. So all we needed was something for the children to sleep in and something for us all to sleep on. A kids sleeping bag was borrowed from a friend and though my son wouldn’t pick a bright pink Disney princess one it would do. My daughter was only 18 months at this point and we found a large “growbag” at home.

Now something to sleep on, you could of course opt for the ground but for most this is not going to happen, sleeping mats/beds run the gauntlet from cheap to mind boggling expensive, we opted for air beds 1 double and 1 single (see review).

You have gathered all of your bit and bobs together before you jump into the car it’s best to do a little research / planning.

Firstly pick a night when you know the weather is going to be good, no point pretending to be Bear Grylls this is supposed to be enjoyable.

Secondly pick somewhere that’s not that far from home, let’s say an hour drive max, this is an experiment to see if works for you, and being close to home means if it all goes terribly wrong you can jump in the car and leave (you’ll have to return the next day to collect your stuff but you get the drift).

Lastly look at what features campsites offer, remember on your first time out you’re going to be away for 24hrs so a laundry and pool won’t make that much difference to your experiment, good things to look for are campsites on farms or more rural places this gives you something to do without going anywhere. Look for those that allow campfires and specifically those that rent firepits, there’s something enjoyable about a real fire and kids find it fascinating if you roast some marsh mellows. Websites such as Pitchup.com and UKcampsite.com can help with this and they also have reviews by people that have stayed there, my advice is ignore the ones that moan about electrical supply and lack of TV signal these things don’t apply to you and why anyone would want to watch TV in the middle of field is beyond me.

Next on the agenda is food, what are you going to eat and drink whilst your there? Some places have small cafes that serve tea coffee etc these are great as you don’t have to take everything to make tea with you, others will do food and perhaps this is the answer. Alternatively do you fancy yourself as the king of the BBQ, then the disposable BBQ is your friend these are cheap and with a bag of salad can produce a decent meal serve it up on disposable plates with disposable cutlery you’ve solved the washing up question just be sure to take bin bags with you and dispose of your rubbish responsibly. As a side note you may have to buy a stand as most sites require BBQs to be off the ground to spare the grass underneath. Breakfast is easier cereal and fruit (old take away tubs or ice cream tubs are good for transporting and at a push can double up as bowls) This just leaves milk now if your campsite has a small shop they may sell the stuff and problem solved. If not you need a small cool bag and a “ice pack” these both can be had for very little money a quick google shows they can be had for a couple of quid each.

So the car is packed you have your reservation, you know how to get there and away you go. You next challenge is putting up the tent, this can be an amusing 20 mins whilst your being assisted by a 4 year old swinging a mallet around. My advice here is really before you set off pick a dry day and have a crack at doing it in the back garden / front room / anywhere you have the room. This ensures 2 things firstly all the bits are there and secondly you have a rough idea of what you’re doing when you get there.

Finally once the tent is up and you have somewhere to sleep and the fire is crackling away GO MAD… enjoy yourselves.