25/03/2013
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Top tips for stress free family camping

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1. Make sure the trip begins as a family holiday long before the car gets packed. Sorting out the details before telling the family where you are all heading misses a great opportunity to have fun together while you all decide where to go and pick a campsite.

2. As well as helping to pick, sort and pack the camping gear, encourage your children to take some responsibility for their own stuff. Let them pack their own bags – but check them later on the quiet. Try not to ban electronic games and MP3 players but make the holiday so much fun that they don’t take centre stage.

3. Try not to get overburdened with piles of pants and socks. Campsites usually have washing machines and a few days’ worth of mud and sweat never hurt anybody. You don’t need to abandon standards, but a little flexibility goes a long way in avoiding squabbles.

4. Pack an emergency supply of clothing for the almost inevitable accidents. Some warm stuff will be appreciated in the evenings. Pull together a basic first aid kit with plenty of plasters, antiseptic cream, insect repellent, sunscreen and aftersun lotion for good measure.

5. ‘Pitch up and pitch in’ is a sound motto for camping families. If you make setting up camp into a game rather than a chore you can all share the fun. There is no law that lays down deadlines for organising your pitch. Take your time, involve the kids and have a few laughs.

6. Although the outdoor life may be the main focus of the holiday, it is tiring to be on the go all the time. Pack a variety of favourite toys and games with a few surprises to liven things up. Sometimes, a football, tennis ball and a frisbee can take on the character of a leisure centre.

7. For smaller children, familiar bedtime snuggle toys are comforting, whilst torches and glow sticks help to keep scary monsters at bay through the night. All ages love to use binoculars - particularly when there’s interesting wildlife to look at rather than a neighbour’s garden.

8. Make nature integral to the experience. Buy a wildlife book and try to identify any unusual birds, insects and flowers. For more ideas, log onto the BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ website, which has a dedicated section on introducing wildlife to the family holiday.

9. Keep a varied selection of snacks and drinks handy. Hopefully, the children will be burning up energy all day and waiting for mealtimes can be sooooo boring.

10. Capture memories and share the fun – photos can help to keep a great holiday vivid for ages. Remember that your best moment of the holiday may well be radically different to those of your children – or your partner. Try not to be precious about your camera or buy a cheap digital and let young children have a go themselves.

11. Avoid huddling in the tent in the rain (it will, you know) by researching and planning wet weather alternatives in advance. Try to avoid a ‘this will do on a rainy day’ approach and conjure up places and activities that are worthwhile in themselves. I have yet to meet a family with young children who all enjoyed visiting churches and country houses.

12. Try to avoid long trips on holiday – few children enjoy sitting in a car for hours when they could be playing. Keep excursions fairly local to your site.

13. Walks can be exciting but few young children can manage, let alone enjoy, challenging walks day after day - especially in the hills. Far better to plan short walks combined with, say, fishing with nets. Plan a longer walk together as an expedition with plenty of breaks and treats.

14. Let teenagers suggest a few activities that interest them and avoid saddling them with siblingsitting duties throughout the holiday. It is soooo unfair, when their new friends are tearing around the site having fun.

15. Without abdicating your duties of care as parents, let teenagers off the leash to make new friends and allow them to give the family outing to the beach a miss. Cash for a pizza on-site with their new friends gives everybody a break. Cut them some slack and consider extending curfews.

For some more camping guides and tips, click here.

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