I camped a lot with my dad when I was younger and Anthony and I have a lot of experience camping at festivals so we were fairly confident that we would be OK taking Willow on her first camping trip. She loves being outdoors so we decided to go for a couple of nights and if she didn’t like it or settle after the first night then we could head home.
We decided to go over the August bank holiday which meant that many camp sites were already booked up. We eventually found a very basic campsite in the Lake District which had toilets and showers but nothing fancy. After years of camping at festivals with neither of those amenities, it didn’t faze us to be honest.
So what did we take? Nearly the entire contents of the house (or it felt like it). Aside from the usual stuff we had Willow’s camping chair, her booster seat with tray for her to eat on, an extra quilt because we were worried she would be cold (she wasn’t), various books, toys and teddies, a big bag of clothes and spare clothes (which we needed), enough snacks to feed an army (also needed) and nine episodes of Justin’s House loaded onto the iPad (you know, just in case…) The car was packed up to the rafters – we could only just see Willow in her car seat.
When we got to the campsite and chose where to pitch our tent (after a slightly, shall we say, heated debate) Willow was pawing to get out of the car. As soon as I got her out she made a bid for freedom and legged it across the field, face planting into a puddle of mud straight away. Queue first change of clothes and putting her in her puddle suit. Lesson one, if you are quick enough put the puddle suit on straight away.
Lesson two came when we realised we had to work out a way to put up the tent, which is a two man job, and keep an eye on her. It simply couldn’t be done as the moment I let go of her she was legging off again or trying to get in the neighbour’s tent. At exactly the same time the tent pole that Anthony had carefully clipped into place would spring free and make him very cross. The only answer was to strap her into her car seat and administer snacks, which she protested very loudly at, while we got on with putting up the tent. Once it was up we set about unloading the gear and getting her books and toys out to make her feel at home. She just took it all in her stride.
I did have a moment where I thought the other campers would hate us as she doesn’t do anything calmly. She runs everywhere and shouts everything. Luckily there was a family camped near us with a child a similar age to Willow so we found solace in each other, laughing that it would be our kids keeping the rest of the site awake. Safety in parenting numbers – love it!
A very long night
I’m not going to lie, it was hard work. We had to have eyes in the back of our heads. She just wanted to explore everything including sheep poo and the nearby stream. Although we really enjoyed ourselves it was very tiring too. After a little explore in the nearby town (and a cheeky half a larger) and a BBQ tea we built a little camp fire with logs bought from the campsite farmhouse. She was mesmerised by it. It was lovely to sit snuggled up with her in a blanket just watching the flames while she babbled away or sang to us.
With all the excitement she didn’t go to sleep until nearly 10pm that night but when she finally went down, we tucked her into the sleeping bag and put the extra quilt on her so she was snug. I checked on her 15 minutes later and she was sweating poor thing (we’d put a long sleeve vest and socks on underneath her sleep suit) so I took the quilt off and she was like a little hot water bottle between us all night. Lesson three; check on them regularly to make sure they aren’t too hot or cold.
I’d like to say that we all got a good night’s sleep. Not so. The air mattress we were all sleeping on must have had a puncture because it deflated during the night and we ended up sleeping on the floor. Willow still slept well but Anthony and I were stiff as a board and knackered when we woke up. Nothing a couple of strong coffees and a hearty cooked camping breakfast couldn’t fix though. Needless to say one of our first missions that day was to buy a new air bed! Lesson four – always check your mattress before you set out.
Double the baby wipes!
Because the facilities on the campsite were so basic we decided not to take Willow to the showers because it would have been too cold for her. Lesson five – no matter how many baby wipes you think you need on a camping trip, double it. We gave her a thorough wet wipe wash each morning and were also constantly wiping up spilled snacks or mud traipsed into the tent on her wellies. Lesson six – just accept the mess. There is no way you can keep everywhere spotless with a muddy toddler in tow. I honestly didn’t mind. I like to go a bit feral when I’m camping and we always encourage her to explore wherever she is. A mucky baba is a happy baba in my experience.
We massively enjoyed our camping trip, as did Willow so will have no hesitation going again. There was no phone signal or internet service where we were which was quite refreshing. It was nice to put our phones away and keep our heads clear and get on with making memories.
My only regret is leaving it so late in the year to do it. It’s getting a bit cold now (for me, not just Willow!) so it will be next year before we get to go again. Lesson seven – if you’re thinking about going camping with your little ones, don’t put it off. Yes it’s a bit full on, yes, something will inevitably go wrong, no, you will not be sat there relaxing watching the world go by but if you don’t try you will never know. Just go for it!
What ever iTunes…
I nearly forgot to mention lesson eight. If you are going to load the iPad up with annoying children’s shows, make sure you have actually downloaded them. I thought I had but turns out I had only paid for them and there as another step in the process (queue much eye rolling from Anthony). Luckily we didn’t have to call on Justin’s services. If we had I think that would have been the point we headed home or checked into the nearest hotel with Wi-Fi.
Have you got any camping stories – good or bad? Any tips to share for making family camping slightly easier? I’d love to hear from you.