If you are itching to take a family holiday but not sure where to go, why not plan a camping trip getaway?

Children of all ages love to go camping. It ignites their sense of adventure and inspires their curiosity, engaging them with the great outdoors and experiencing more of what the world can offer.

Furthermore, as a parent of a bright youngster, you can easily turn a camping trip into a grand learning opportunity. You can teach your children about the plants and animals of the wilderness, how to cook food over an open fire, and look for constellations on a clear night.

Camping trips have other advantages too, of course. Chief among these is the fact that camping trips are an inexpensive but immensely enjoyable way to spend a holiday. Renting a campsite at a campground is far less expensive than reserving a hotel room, and making your own meals will surely be less expensive than visiting restaurants while you are away.

If you are new to camping and not sure where to start,  Just try a few of these 4 tips for planning the perfect camping trip.

1. Do a test run in your backyard

If your family has never been camping before, you don’t want to wait until halfway through your first night to find out that your children do not enjoy the experience.

One of the best ways to see whether your children will take to camping is to try it for the first time right in your backyard, close to the comforts of home.

Set your tent up towards the back of your yard, turn off all the lights in your home, and commit to “roughing it” for the night. You could even borrow a fire pit from a friend if you do not have one. This will give you a first-hand glimpse of whether your children love or hate the idea of camping, and will give them a chance to warm up to the idea well before you leave.

2. Keep it simple

It can be easy to pack far more than you actually need on a camping trip. Before you know it, what started as a few duffel bags and a grill can turn into wondering why you can’t see out of the back window of your car!

The easiest way to keep control of your packing is to plan out what you intend to do, and then make a list of all the items that you truly need. When it comes to camping, less is (usually) more.

Part of the appeal of camping is spending time together without the distractions of everyday life, and your favourite memories will be those made during simple activities such as telling stories around a campfire (always check campground rules that fires are allowed first!).

Your children will love the adventure of “roughing it.” For longer stays you may feel that you need amenities such as a full-service camping stove or a coffee maker. However, if you can get by with grilling over the open fire and boiling water for instant coffee, you can claim back valuable time setting up and taking down your campsite.

When you make your packing list, be sure to take into account your plans for your trip and, if your destination is an official campground, any amenities that it offers. Consider the following questions:

  • Will you be camping in a camper, or in a tent? If you take the camper, then you probably don’t need to take any sleeping pads. If you will be staying in a tent, then you can probably leave most of your dishes and cooking utensils at home.
  • Does the campsite supply camping grills? If so, you can probably get by with bringing your grill accessories (like a scraper to clean off the surface) but don’t need to bring your entire assembly. Just don’t forget to check whether the grills require coals or propane!
  • Is the campsite located near a river or a lake? If so, is there a place that rents out life jackets, kayaks, or other water accessories? If you are travelling with limited car space, an inexpensive rental option could allow you to bring other games or an extra pop-up awning that you would not have otherwise been able to bring.

These questions and others will help to identify what you truly need to bring with you on your trip.

3. Plan for pests

Mosquitoes and other tiny, pesky bugs can be an annoying factor in an otherwise perfect camping trip.

Constantly swatting away bugs or doctoring red, itchy bug bites could turn your little angel into a cranky monster. However, there are plenty of ways to keep your campsite reasonably clear of mosquitoes.

The smoke from your campfire will help to clear the air of mosquitoes and gnats. Start making your fire before dusk, and let it smoulder gently until you are ready to begin making dinner or s’mores.

Bring mosquito bracelets for the whole family to wear. Unlike bug spray, which carries a strong (and sometimes unpleasant) smell, these unobtrusive bracelets repel the tiny pests without making you feel as though you need to shower afterwards.

You could make your own delicious-smelling bug spray by blending essential oils in a small spray bottle. Essential oils are distilled directly from plants, and can be used as all-natural solutions for a variety of purposes. Many oils are effective insect repellants, and when used in combination can provide powerful protection from mosquitoes and ticks:

  • Cedarwood,
  • Lemongrass,
  • Lavender,
  • Juniper,
  • Eucalyptus,
  • Citronella, and
  • Peppermint oils all have strong insect repellant properties.

Simply combine approximately 100 drops of any combination of these oils (based on your scent preference) with:

  • 2 tablespoons of witch hazel,
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and
  • ½ tablespoon of vodka in a spray bottle and spray at will!

Any of these tips will help to keep airborne pests at bay. However, just in case, it is always a good idea to bring anti-itch cream or post-bite lotion too.

4. Pack your cooler efficiently

There are plenty of dried and canned foods designed specifically for backpacking and camping in situations where bringing a cooler along is not practical. However the odds are good that you will want to bring fresh foods (such as hot dogs, chicken, cheese, or fruit) to eat during your stay.

If so, keeping your food cold and fresh is critical to the success of your camping endeavours.

The best way to keep your food fresh is to pre-cool your cooler for several hours before loading it up with food, and to make sure that the food you store inside is refrigerated in advance as well.

Otherwise you will risk sacrificing valuable chill to cooling the ice chest and food before you’ve even left. For longer trips you could even freeze food intended for the second half of the trip, which will both keep the food fresh and help to keep your other items cold. You should also use ice blocks instead of cubed ice, as the block will stay frozen longer than smaller cubes.

Last, but certainly not least, the quality of your cooler is key. Check the seals of the ice chest in advance to be sure that it will keep its contents cold. If you plan to purchase a new cooler, then be sure to consider all of the characteristics of a quality cooler prior to purchasing.

Finally, a few final words of wisdom before you embark on your camping adventure:

  • Remember to pack for both warm days and chilly nights. After spending the afternoon in warm weather the evening chill will feel colder than usual, especially without the walls of your home to block the wind. Bring sweatshirts and pants to wear after the sun goes down.
  • Plan to arrive at the campsite well before dark to allow ample time to set up your tent, chairs, and belongings before the sun goes down.
  • Don’t forget to pack “little essentials” such as scissors, duct tape, nail clippers, toilet paper, a flashlight, and garbage bags. You should also consider bringing a length of rope to dry wet clothes in case one – or all – of you gets unexpectedly wet.

If you follow these simple trips, your camping trip is sure to be a success. Happy adventuring!