CAMPING WITH KIDS

My husband and I were both lucky enough to grow up camping as kids, and funnily enough we both spent our time camping at the same campground but we didn’t know each other at the time. My Dad used to take my sister and I there over the summer holidays, he passed away when I was 11 years old, and because of this, and the amazing memories both my husband and I have from camping, the campground we visit holds a special place in both our hearts. Now being able to take our own kids there and hopefully give them the same sort of memories makes me really happy.

The camp ground we visit is on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand and is a farm that is set along two surf beaches and an estuary. The campground is fully self-sufficient with only cold water showers and ‘long drops’ for toilets, so it is a true kiwi camping experience!

We started camping back there together in 2013 and have been going ever since. The year before last we bought ourselves a larger tent for Christmas and this year we bought an extension for it to fit our growing family. We use a Kathmandu Retreat 320 6 person tent with the Compass Hub that we can attach to it. This was the first time we have used the hub and it was amazing! It gave us so much extra room and area to relax. 

We have been camping with kids 3 times now and this time we had a 2 month old baby in tow which made for an interesting experience!

Neve had a school visit in the morning on the day that we left (oh my god, my baby is growing way too quickly) so we left a bit later then we would have liked. We arrived just before 5pm and had to quickly set up camp before it got dark. It’s a different experience setting up camp with a baby strapped to you and two kids running around! However we managed to get everything up and sorted before dark. We were about to cook dinner and then realised that we hadn’t brought any form of lighter for our gas cooker! So it was peanut butter and jam sammies for dinner, no one complained.

We had 5 nights up there and it was beautiful. It is always so nice to have time spent with the family away from all the distractions of the world. No phone service where we stay so it was lovely.

We went camping this time at the beginning of New Zealand’s autumn, and on the weekend that our daylight savings finished. So the weather was still beautiful and sunny during the day but the temperature really dropped at night. 

If I could share any wisdom for a camping trip with kids/baby – these would be my top tips:

  • If you haven’t set your tent up before, try a dummy run and put it up together in a park or backyard if you have enough room, so that you aren’t befuddled when you get to the real thing!
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to set up in the afternoon, and before it gets dark.
  • Have a simple meal ready for your first meal so that you can set up and then relax with something convenient to eat.
  • Lots of snacks and fruit for the kids – they seem more hungry when on holiday!
  • Games – our kids really like the games Operation, Twister, memory card games, and the adults like monopoly, scrabble and cards to while away the time. 
  • Lots of colouring in books and pens. 
  • Books for reading. 
  • We also bought a portable DVD player so that if the weather packed in or just if some down time was needed a DVD could be put on for the girls and they could have an hour or so of quiet time – and so could Mum and Dad!
  • Comfortable sleeping arrangements – we used blow up beds this time with sleeping bags and the girls loved them. 
  • Pack appropriately for the weather and make sure you have plenty of warm sleeping gear, as if they are cold, the kids won’t sleep! 
  • A little night light, we bought a cheapie from Kmart. 
  • Torches for kids, they love using them when it gets dark. 
  • A potty – depending on the toilet situation at your campground, a potty is a good idea if toilets aren’t close or if they are long drops (depending on the age of your kids as well).
  • Mosquito spray and calamine lotion in case of bites!
  • Fly spray. 
  • Lots of sun protection, NZ sun is brutal so our kids are in hats, sun cream, rash tops, beach cover ups, sunglasses and under beach umbrellas.
  • When packing make up a list for each family member, then probably halve what you have written down! You don’t need anywhere near as much as you think you need. We camp at a beach and our kids end up living in their togs and basically wear the same clothes on repeat… I need to take my own advise on this one! 
  • Let them pitch in on chores like washing dishes, sweeping the tent, hanging out washing etc – and if you make it a race it all seems to get done a lot quicker!
  • Bring along solar showers so you can fill a plastic tub up with warm water for the kids to bath – sooner or later wipes won’t cut it! 
  • Plastic tubs that you can put your dirty washing in so you don’t have to sort through washing when you get home. 
  • Unpack what you can when set up so you don’t have to dig through suitcases etc all the time – we have camping cupboards from The Warehouse that we put clothes in and a Kathmandu double cupboard that we put food in. 
  • A beach trolley for lugging things back and forth to the beach (we bought a cheap one from Kmart last summer, but I have also seen them at Kathmandu and online at Mocka). 
  • Lots of wipes for cleaning hands and faces. 
  • A bucket set up to clean dirty little feet before going in the tent from the beach. 
  • Foaming hand soap to wash sticky little hands.
  • If you have a routine, try to stick to it if you can, although we are more relaxed on holiday we do try to stick to the night routine of dinner (we all eat together), bath (or a wash down when camping), teeth then bed and reading some books. 
  • Don’t forget some marshmallows to make s’mores with!

The perks of being married to a sparky, Toby’s solar set up gives us lighting as well as charging capabilities for batteries and can blow up the air mattresses

Some meal ideas that we find easy when camping are bolognese sauce over penne pasta, sausages and onion in bread, sausages and potatoes with some veg, steak (we call this meal Whananaki steak and it’s what my Dad used to make which was steak cut up and marinated in soya sauce, honey and garlic) we serve it with some pre-cooked rice packets and broccoli.  A bottle of teriyaki sauce over cooked chicken with some egg noodles and veg. Ham and cheese sammies, chip and vegemite sammies, bacon and egg sammies, any kind of sammie really! Spag and cheese toasties, hamburgers, noodles with a can of tuna stirred through… all easy to put together with limited cooking facilities. 

This was our first time camping with a wee baby. He was just over 2 months old (before him the youngest was 11 months old that we had camped with). He is actually at a really good age for this sort of holiday as he isn’t moving around, doesn’t need food other then the boob, and doesn’t take up much room! We use the Phil and Teds Traveller Travel Cot (we have been using the same one since our first baby), it is really handy as it packs away really small, is super easy to put together and doesn’t take up too much room. It also has a little cover you can use to keep mosquitos from going on your baby, and you can also use it as a sort of play pen during the day. So for Connor all we needed to take was his travel cot and his bouncer. We also packed our baby bjorn and boba wrap which are a must for us for walks and also because he doesn’t really like being put down on his own. Having him in the wrap also meant that I could help put the tent together and take down and he was happy while that was all being done. 

Connor taking a little nap in his travel cot.

Connor slept amazingly up at the beach, he ended up waking most nights only once which was lovely! The sound of the waves breaking must have been lovely and soothing for him. 

We have had a really busy start to the year with a new baby born in January and then the girls birthdays are in February and March. Neve starts school at the end of April and our lives just seem to be ever changing and pretty chaotic for the girls with early morning starts at daycare and a new baby brother in the house, and my attention has been on Connor a lot lately. So I was craving some time away from it all with my favourite people, a spur of the moment holiday and unplugging from the rat race is just what we all needed. 

It was beautiful waking up in the morning on our first day there, the sun was rising and the girls were up to see it. 

We spent the time away just relaxing, taking beach walks, collecting shells which is Neve’s favourite thing to do, going to the beach and just doing nothing much at all really!  Spending time together as a family without the distractions of the real world, and you can’t choose a better holiday to do this then a true blue kiwi camping trip! 

Camping is my favourite type of holiday. I find that as a parent I have more time to spend enjoying my kids, I say ‘no’ a lot less, I’m not distracted by my phone, or chores, or anything else. It also brings our girls closer as they use their imaginations and play a lot more with each other. I can’t wait for Connor to grow older and to see him running around there with his sisters.

We are pretty stoked with our little camping set up at the moment and I can see us being very happy in our tent over the coming years and making lots of amazing memories. We try to buy something for our camping set up every Christmas, and we think this year we might invest in a gas fridge… that’s next on our wish list!

I am all for fancy resort holidays and going overseas, but to me personally, my favourite holiday is setting up camp by the ocean, stripping back the days to simpler times and reconnecting with my family. I would suggest that every family gives it a go!!! 

xox 

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Auckland, NZ