I’ll admit it: when our friends told us to take the kids camping, I thought they were mad.
Parenting three small children is hard enough at home, never mind trying to get them to sleep in a flimsy canvas structure in a field with no fridge or toilet across the hall.
But the more Facebook photos I saw of cosy family groups toasting marshmallows under the stars, the more I started to think it could be okay. So we bought a tent – and spent a small fortune on camping gear – booked a pitch and started to plan.
After asking for recommendations, we booked Humblebee Farm, a camping and glamping site nestled in the Yorkshire Wolds, close to Scarborough and Filey.
It’s a working farm, so has plenty of adorable animals for the kids to coo over, as well as walks, nature trails and a sports field to burn off their energy.
The journey took just under two hours from Halifax, the car crammed to the rafters with bits and bobs for every eventuality (What if it rains? Will it be boiling hot? Will we freeze at night? What if someone gets ill?).
Check in was smooth, and we drove past the yurts, wigwams and bell tents to our pitch, which was next to several large fields filled with sheep. A few families had already set up, and a few boys cycled over to introduce themselves to our kids. Friendships established, they ran off to play football while we pitched the tent.
My husband had looked at videos of how to put it up – good job as I didn’t have a clue – and it didn’t take us too long to get it sorted, then we made a brew, cooked pasta and sauce on the camping stove, and settled down on our camping chairs, at one with nature and dying to toast some marshmallows.
I won’t lie, it was obviously hard work with three kids aged six, three and one. By the time we left on Sunday, we had tired, filthy children and a mountain of laundry the height of a giraffe. But, BUT, we had the BEST weekend ever! There’s something so calming about waking up to the sound of ducks quacking and sheep baaing in the field, seeing your kids’ excited smiles as they open their eyes, realise where they are and run outside in their jammies to play with their new friends, and spending the entire day outdoors.
Everything tastes better cooked on a bbq (bacon I’m looking at you) and my 14-month-old adored toddling around the fields, making animal sounds at the sheep and playing with the camping gear. There were some gorgeous ducklings on the pond for my youngest to admire, and my oldest was elated to help feed Larry the lamb with a bottle. We didn’t do any star gazing as it was light until late, but we did toast lots of s’mores, enjoy a nature trail (which took a lot longer that it was supposed to) and make memories to cherish forever.
Camping can be difficult with babies, but I think it helped that our toddler doesn’t really have a routine. When she was tired she didn’t need to lie down in a cot, she was happy to be scooped up in a sling and nap while we walked. We also co sleep at home, so I shared a double airbed with her and she was comfortable and toasty warm. My friends swear by travel cots when camping though, and warm sleep sacks to keep the chill off.
Humblebee Farm offers lots of glamping options with yurts, bell tents and wigwarms furnished with creature comforts – and they sure looked tempting when we were pitching up and taking everything down again – but whichever option you choose, you can’t go wrong taking the kids away for a breath of fresh air.
We aren’t expert campers by any means, but here is what made it easier for us, and what we will definitely improve on for next time:
Quiz your camper friends, and join a camping Facebook group. I had SO many questions: which stove should we buy? Do we need a kettle? Do we really need a separate groundsheet when one is sewn in? Should we buy a carpet? It was endless. I learned so much not just from asking questions, but from seeing the answers to other people’s.
Bring LOTS of snacks: whether for the journey or to keep the kids quiet while you’re getting set up, they are worth their weight in gold when everyone starts complaining of hunger.
Fill a flask with hot water before you set off, so you can have a brew while you put the tent up. Boil more than you need every time while you’re away, then keep the extra in the flask. This mama needed her caffeine!
White noise can save the day! Campsites are noisy places at times, everyone is sat outside eating dinner and playing games, making it hard to get a baby to sleep. Then suddenly it’s super quiet and every time you unzip the tent it wakes them up. We didn’t have white noise but I wish we had, it would have made our evenings much more sociable.
Snack catchers are great for keeping baby and toddler snacks safe. Our 14-month-old toddled all over the field with a bowl of raisins, dropping them with every step. A snack catcher with a lid would have been perfect for her.
Take a potty – bowels are creatures of habit and some kids struggle to do their business away from home. That sometimes culminates in an “I NEED TO GO NOOOOOW!” moment and if it’s not convenient to take them, a potty could save the day.
Following on from the potty conversation, a good supply of fruit can keep everyone regular. We took berries and grapes but they sweated in the heat. The bananas stored well and next time I would take apples and small oranges too, as they wouldn’t bruise or squash as easily.
Camping chairs are great, but camping sofas are wonderful for snuggling up on. Our kids loved sitting together for meals.
Pack a powerbank for charging your phone. We didn’t have phone signal and loved switching off for the weekend, but still used it as a camera and both of our phones died on the last day.
Think about how you will organise your stuff. We didn’t use our living area much, and it was a good job since it was so full of bags and mess! You can get collapsable storage units and kitchen units too.
Don’t forget plastic bags for dirty laundry and rubbish. We bought swing bin liners and they worked brilliantly.
Night times can be cold! We were really lucky and had gorgeous, hot days, but my word the nights were chilly. Bed socks really helped with this, as did onesies for the kids. Next time I’ll take one for myself too, and hot water bottles.
Lie a plastic-backed blanket underneath an airbed to keep the chill off. We didn’t do this, but I hear it works a treat!
Take a washing up bowl. you can carry all your washing up in it and it will stop you dropping half your cutlery on the walk to the kitchen! We learned this the hard way.
If you want a cooked breakfast the next morning, transport the meat frozen. It will defrost overnight, just in time for breakfast
Head torches are great for night time trips to the loo. We bought the kids one each and they loved running about in them.
Think about children’s sleeping arrangements in advance. Do you need a travel cot? Will your baby sleep in it? We had two bedrooms in our tent so my husband took the older two in one, and I slept with the youngest in the other. We managed with two double airbeds and a single, a sleeping bag for each of them (and blow up pillows) and a duvet for me and the toddler to share.
Bring a sling: Baby Mumbler wanted to walk wherever possible but the baby carrier made naps a breeze. We also went for a drive when the bigger kids looked like they needed a sleep too.
Bring a few outdoor toys: Children entertain themselves outdoors, but we brought a football and a few other outdoor toys and they were heavily played with. Another family brought an I Spy list and the kids joined up to hunt things down and tick them off.
Get the kids involved in putting up the tent. We let ours play while we did the hard work, but the family next to us had theirs helping to shake the material out, etc
Invest in an ice box: We didn’t have one so had to buy fresh milk every day and there was a lot of waste. We didn’t really have room in our car for one, but with hindsight, it would have been useful.