Want to camp with the kids, but worried it’ll be a disaster? Bundle Beds Founder, Lucy Bartlett, answers those questions holding you back from going on a single parent camping trip.
Does the idea of camping with the kids by yourself conjure up images of children rampaging across the fields delirious with lack of sleep; juggling small humans in smelly toilets; and rainy evenings eating watery noodles?
It doesn’t have to be an exercise in endurance! One reason I created Bundle Beds was to make travelling and camping – especially with children – easier and less daunting.
Instead, choosing to camp with the kids can be a time to slow down together; a chance to drop the agendas and the to-do lists. It’s freeing to have everything you need just where you are – for a little while anyway!
Here are the worries I get asked about most – and my favourite tips to make camping solo with the kids a holiday for everyone!
In fact, my two little lads tend to sleep better – early risers at home they have been known to sleep past 8am on a camping trip!
Whilst camping is often about exploring new places, creating a familiar sleep space keeps kids feeling safe and secure at night. Bring a favourite pillow case or blanket from home – my boys have their own Bundle Beds with bumpers that they sleep on whenever they are away from home, camping or not. Consider a practice camp-out in the living room or garden with any new gear.
Using a Bluetooth speaker to play audiobooks (mine love Winnie the Pooh and The Tractor Who Wants to Fall Asleep) whilst they drift off distracts from the general campsite noise – and a blackout inner tent for ‘bedrooms’ is a non-negotiable to avoid being up before the lark.
If it makes it easier all round, consider a double mattress so you can all bed down together.
Modern tents are so much easier to set-up – even one-handed and ‘helped’ by a 5-year old. However, I still think it’s worth putting it up at least once at home before you go, even just to give you the confidence that you’ve got this! Also try to arrive early so that you’re not racing the sun, or the demands of hungry bellies.
Depending on the campsite and the age of your kids, you may need to keep them corralled whilst you focus on the set-up. In many family-orientated campsites, there’s space – visible and safe from vehicles – for kids to run off and play all together. If this isn’t an option, then I bring little bags of snacks and toys that I can chuck at each child to keep them occupied. Even a set of pavement chalks and running race challenges can do the trick. I also always have a tablet ready with a movie downloaded.
Whilst I would say this, Bundle Beds make my life easier camping with the kids alone, because there’s no pumping up of airbeds or fiddling around with bedding. Unroll them (they’re self-inflating); unzip the outer (pillow, jersey cotton sheets and duvet are attached); and they’re ready for sleep!
Keeping cosy under canvas is a number one priority, especially to ensure everyone has a great night’s sleep.
Even on the sunniest days, evenings can be chilly. As kids go from having fun to teeth chattering-ly chilled very fast, pre-empt the cold. Pop on their coat, or put them in a onesie, as soon as the sun begins to dip. For bed, I dress the boys in long sleeved PJs, with a onesie and a pair of socks over the top. If I can convince them to keep it on, I’ll also add a beanie hat.
As well as adding layers on the top of your kids sleep set-up, don’t forget to insulate from the ground and add blankets underneath – a picnic blanket with a waterproof layer is brilliant. I’d recommend ditching the double height airbeds which let the cold in from under you and opt instead for a self-inflating mattress.
Sitting and eating around an open fire is wonderful, but it’s worth having a second way to cook. A camping stove is inexpensive, easy to light-up, and a complete life saver when it’s wet, or you need a cuppa quick!
Pre-preparing food at home takes the pressure off meal-times. If you make up a family favourite the night before you leave, it can be heated up quickly on arrival day. Freeze another meal that everyone likes, perhaps a curry or some soup, to pop in the cool box. It will help keep everything cold whilst defrosting for the second night. Pack-up night is always a take-out treat of fish and chips or pizza.
Whilst you can’t control the weather, you can be prepared with waterproofs and wellies (even with the sunniest of forecasts.)
If it looks like a day of deluge, maximise your space by rolling up bedding in the tent to make room for games, colouring, and playdoh. My boys have been known to use their Bundle Beds as a soft play – thankfully the bedding is zipped into a protective outer layer so we avoid little muddy footprints!
Don’t forget the car too. Set the kids up with hot chocolates and their tablets for their very own in-car cinema.
Having a few indoor activities and places to visit in my back-pocket is always helpful. On a grey blustery day there’s nothing wrong with an afternoon at a local tourist attraction – or the nearest pub!
You really don’t need it all. Take a look at these camping gear essentials or borrow from friends and family to test out what you like. Make sure to repurpose items from home that you’ve been clearing out – an old towel makes a fantastic tent doormat and jam jars are perfect for storing camping food ingredients.
For your first adventure, make it easy and book for a couple of nights at a campsite nearby. Consider a pre-pitched tent or a glamping pod and then you won’t need to set-up and pack-down either.
At a family-focused campsite, the kids find each other very quickly. With them off playing you have a moment to sit! Plus, days spent at the campsite can be just as fun as those day-tripping – and give you time off from organisation and kid-ferrying.
I’d suggest asking for a pitch closer to the toilets and wash facilities to make life easier – and bring a trolley for loading up kids and their paraphernalia. An electric hook-up for charging devices is an essential for me. Perhaps consider a video baby monitor for a midnight dash to the loo worry-free (some friends bring a long a porta-loo to have outside the tent at night instead).