A Complete Guide to Planning a Camping Trip with Kids
Break the routine and reconnect as a family by planning a camping getaway. An inexpensive adventure awaits among our earth’s natural landscapes. Our guide on how to plan a family camping trip goes through all of the nuances of camping with kids; keeping them (and yourself) entertained, what food to prepare, which type of campsite to choose, and so on. A camping trip can be a very rewarding experience for the whole family, as long as you prepare. Incidentally, by reading this guide, you’re well on your way to planning a very successful family camping trip.
5 Quick Tips for a Successful Family Camping Trip
Before we get into our complete guide on how to plan a family camping trip, here are a few quick tips that are worth knowing about:
- Do a camping test run in your back garden!
- Get your kids involved in the planning
- Bring comforts from home, such as electricity with a portable power station
- Stay dry; pack some waterproofing essentials!
- Plan some fun family-friendly camping activities!
We go through these tips and more in the guide below.
Choose the Right Campsite(s)
The main enjoyment and adventure of camping is experiencing the great outdoors, so choosing a setting that appeals the most to your family is essential. Do you want to camp in the forest, by the beach or in the mountains? (The first two options are usually the best for younger children, then you can graduate to the mountains with teens).
Campsites or Holiday Parks?
Not only do you need to consider the campsite setting, but also the type of campsite. For instance, in New Zealand, we have a range of campsites run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) that have minimal facilities but are often in secluded areas of natural beauty.
On the other hand, holiday parks offer a camping experience complete with facilities to make your family camping trip a breeze: a kitchen, children’s playground, powered sites to connect campervans to the mains electricity, etc. While holiday parks can be convenient, they come at a higher nightly rate, are typically busier, and are not always in a “natural” area.
Learn about the difference between campsites and holiday parks in The Complete Guide to Camping in New Zealand.
One Campsite or Many?
If planning a weekend trip, then one campsite is usually enough, However, New Zealand is a country of many campsites and many amazing landscapes to discover within a short drive of each other, so planning a multi-day family camping trip which involves staying in different campsites is a very plausible (and fun) way to experience camping with kids. What’s more, staying at a different campsite every night or two keeps things interesting – as long as you don’t overdo it. Plan for some relaxation time too.
Plan Some Awesome Entertainment
Planning things to do is crucial for making family camping trips fun and memorable. You want to have enough activities planned for that the kids don’t get bored, yet enough flexibility for them to enjoy their surroundings and find something about camping that is meaningful to them.
Before the trip, have a conversation with your kids to get a sense of how they’d like to spend their time and perhaps what they are looking forward to the most. Give them some agency in the trip, which is more likely to result in a more enriching experience for them, and in turn, for you too.
5 Things to Do on a Family Camping Trip
- Family-friendly walks – Do some research to see if there are any short walks nearby (here are some on the North Island and the South Island)
- Travel-friendly board or card games – Families that game together stay together! See the 20 Best Travel Board Games for ideas
- Outdoor cinema – If you need some quiet time for yourself, bring a portable projector and screen a movie on your campervan/tent! Don’t forget your portable power station (more on that below)
- Scavenger hunt – Hide treats or “painted rocks” around the campsite for your kids to find. This is particularly fun for holiday camping, like Easter or Halloween. See 8 Scary Ideas for Your Halloween Camping Trip for more ideas
- Host a puppet show (or encourage your kids to host one) – What else are tents good for?!
Of course, the selection of your campsite will determine many of the activities available. Is there a lake or beach for swimming (and is it safe)? Does the holiday park have a games room or playground? Are there any tours or attractions nearby, like the 50 Best Things to Do in New Zealand with Kids?
This is an important one! Nothing ruins a camping trip more than getting battered by the elements because you didn’t come prepared. In New Zealand, there’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad gear!
Tent or Campervan?
First and foremost, you’ll need either a good weather-sealed tent (test it before your trip – garden camping, kids?) or a campervan that fits the tribe. Tents can be purchased from any outdoor store, while campervans are available in abundance to rent (if you haven’t already got one, of course).
Essentials to Pack for a Family Camping Trip
Some of the essentials to pack include:
- Four-seasons tent, tent pegs, mallet/hammer, tent repair kit, sleeping mats and 4-seasons sleeping bags, or
- Campervan (with all of the fixings)
- Camping stove and fuel, or
- Electric stove and portable power station
- Cooking equipment
- Coolbin or minifridge (if you have a power station)
- Wet weather clothing
- Walking shoes
- Warm layers
- Head torch
- Extra batteries
- Insect repellent
- Hand sanitiser
- First aid kit
- Power supply – see below or How to Get Electricity When Camping.
And that’s just the beginning! See our Camping Essentials Checklist for a complete list.
Portable Power Stations for Camping
Another important consideration for your family camping trip is to have an electricity source. If you’re camping in a van, you’ll need it to power any appliances, such as a fridge, electric barbeque or oven, for charging your devices, or even to power a heater on those chilly New Zealand nights. Having some of these extra comforts may also come in handy if you are tent camping.
The most versatile electricity source for camping, portable power stations are basically large power banks with multiple outlets to use for all sorts of appliances. One of our favourites is the BLUETTI EB3A or EB70 to power your devices while tent camping or the BLUETTI AC200P to power your campervan road trip. Check out the 6 Best Power Stations for Camping or scroll down to see how you can make a huge saving of BLUETTI power stations this Mother’s Day.
Plan Some Fun Food
Dinnertime is usually an event that the whole family can get involved in when camping! The novelty of cooking food over the fire or simply over the stove outside never fails to impress. Get the kids involved in collecting firewood (if your campsite allows fires) or preparing the food by putting marshmallows on sticks, for example.
Family Camping Meal Plan
- Breakfast – Campfire oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts for a protein punch that will keep them going all day!
- Lunch – Skewers over the campfire or barbecue with large vegetable and halloumi chunks
- Dinner – Tomato sauce, cheese and your favourite toppings between two tortillas, wrap in tinfoil and heat either on the campfire or unwrapped into a pan/grill. There you have it; Campfire Quesadillas!
- Dessert – Marshmallows over the campfire
- Snack – Damper bread! Prep the mixture before your trip with 1 cup of self-raising flour, 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tbs of butter, 1/2 cup of milk and a pinch of salt. Line a skewer with some dough a cook over the campfire!
For more camping meal ideas, head to The Best Camping Meals, Inc. Camping Food List.
Whatever you do, make sure you have enough snacks and meals planned to keep everyone going throughout the day. You know what they say; a hungry camper is an unhappy camper!
Finally, make your family camping trip a shared experience by sharing responsibilities. Not only does this teach valuable lessons, but kids and teens are more likely to feel much more engaged in the experience if they have a sense of achievement and responsibility.
Some chores could be gathering firewood, pitching the tent, preparing the food, collecting some water, etc. – with supervision where applicable.
This “divide and conquer” approach will more likely make everyone feel satisfied that they’re doing their part, but not feeling like they are doing more than their part.
Save on a Portable Power Station at the BLUETTI Mother’s Day Sale!
This year, BLUETTI is offering a promotion from 6 to 18 May to help make Mother’s Day extra special. Make this day memorable by giving your mom the gift of power and convenience, whether it’s by spoiling her with a relaxing camping trip along with a portable power station like the BLUETTI EB3A or EB70 to power your devices, or empowering her with a road trip while making sure you have a mobile power source with enough capacity and output with the BLUETTI AC200P!
Start planning today and save up to A$1,359! Plus, refer friends to earn rewards – you’ll earn one BLUETTI buck for every dollar they spend, and your friends will receive a 5% discount. Learn more at www.bluettipower.com.au.
More on How to Plan a Family Camping Trip
That’s it for our guide on how to plan a family camping trip, but it’s by no means the end of our camping advice! Take a look at the following guides for more planning tips!
- 10 Best Cheap Campsites on the North Island
- 10 Best Cheap Campsites on the South Island
- The Ultimate Packing List for Glamping
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.