Travelling with kids is not really what I would describe as a 'Holiday'. It's more of an opportunity to showcase my children's bad behaviour and the dysfuntionality of our family to a brand new crowd. With extra laundry. Nevertheless, the lure of stepping away from everyday routines and exploring new places is real and we like to get away from time to time.
As a family of seven living on one wage, our budget is, well, tight. Travelling by plane is out of the question. Besides the obvious cost of seven return airfares, sitting still and quietly for any length of time is impossible for my toddler and I haven't quite reached the stage on my parenting journey where I don't give AF about the people around me. So, driving it is. We also find that as there are so many of us, admission prices to go pretty much anywhere also add up really quickly so we've learnt to just say no to things like theme parks, movies, shows etc. and instead search out national parks, botanical gardens and other interesting low cost places to visit. Consequently all our holidays nowadays are camping which is loads of work both before, during and after the fact, but its always really worthwhile and I know the kids are making memories, which makes all the sand, dirt and days of laundry worth it.
Things I've learnt camping with kids....
Besides all the obvious stuff (be prepared, take toilet paper, rubbish bags, first aid, insect repellant, nurofen etc.) here are a few things I've learnt through experience...
Assign each child has their own chair, cup, bowl, torch, towel etc and make them responsible for it.
Don't skimp on lighting. We learnt the hard way that inadequate lighting makes everything (like cleaning up) really difficult so take more lighting than you think you'll need.
Take a few lightweight games. I like to keep my camp simple but taking a few extra things like bubbles, cards, board games, sparklers, a frisbee and a ball that can be pulled out unexpectedly is always handy to keep the kids entertained or if they start to fight.
Camp near water. Water provides hours of entertainment for the kids. Having the camp set up right near the water so you can watch the kids whilst doing other jobs is a bonus but not always possible.
Allow time to adjust. The first couple of times we went camping was an adjustment for all of us and there are still times I just want to pack up and go home. The more we go though, the more everyone knows what to expect so we can kind of just relax into it.
Give the kids jobs. We give the kids easy tasks like collecting kindling, removing rocks, sweeping the floor and making beds so that they are part of the experience rather than waiting around for us to do all the work in setting up, cleaning and cooking.
Don't go crazy pre-prepping food. For our very first family camping trip, I thought it was essential to have all the meals and snacks planned and prepped ready to be heated up on the fire or opened and consumed right away. I googled like a mad woman and spent a week or so cooking and freezing and packaging food. It was total overkill however, and I've since stopped doing this as I actually really enjoy the process of cooking and preparing meals outside while we are camping. Now I like to embrace the outdoors and eat simply while we camp.
Some of my best childhood memories are family camping trips. Cooking in the fire, the smell of the tent, going to sleep and waking with the sun and exploring my surroundings without distractions are memories that I treasure and I really hope to impart this love of the outdoors to my children.