How to Plan a Successful Family Camping Trip {with FREE printable camping checklist}

The key to any successful planning trip is planning, especially if you are taking the kids. Why is it important to plan a camping trip? Planning your location, activities, equipment, packing and even food ahead of time means you won't forget anything and you will have everything you need to make your family camping holiday a success. Here's how to plan a successful family camping trip.

As the weather starts warming up and the end of school term draws near, families start planning their summer holiday. And for kids, camping is the ultimate adventure. If you are planning a family camping trip this summer, planning ahead and following our tips will ensure you have a safe and fun camping holiday.

Getting outdoors and close to nature puts everyone in a good mood and boosts your vitamin D levels. Follow our tips to plan a fantastic family camping trip and grab our free camping planner so you can have everything organised in advance.

What is the best way to plan a camping trip?

Follow our 7 step plan to have the most successful family camping trip ever!

1. Check Your Camping Equipment

Make sure your tent will accommodate everyone, including space to cook, store food, store your gear and give you space to move around and relax in if the weather is bad. Some families swear by hexagonal shaped tents as being ideal for giving everyone more space.

Make sure you have enough sleeping bags for everyone, and that they are the right size. Your 7 year old won't appreciate having to squeeze into a toddler-size sleeping bag. Inflatable mattresses or comfy foam pads to sleep on and some proper pillows or even a duvet will mean everyone gets a better night's sleep.

Even if you plan to cook round the campfire or over a grill every night, bring a portable camping stove too. This will mean you can boil some water for your morning coffee or heat up some milk for night-time hot chocolate more easily.

Finally, make sure you have a tent trial run in the garden before you go. Trying to put up a tent when it's raining or windy is easier if you can remember where everything goes. Take the opportunity to check you have everything you need, such as tent pegs, guy ropes, fly sheet, ground sheet and a mallet.

2. Choose Your Campsite Well

Choosing the right destination is the very first thing to do when planning your family camping trip. Where you choose depends on whether you want to rough it or have a site with 5* facilities close to local amenities and attractions.

Research your destination online and see what family camping site other campers recommend or tell people to avoid. Did you know that TripAdvisor has campsite reviews too?

You need to research the area well. What activities are available? What are the campsites like? What facilities do they offer?

Once you've decided on a campsite, book a pitch in advance, preferably on higher ground so your tent won't get waterlogged. Check again what facilities your chosen campsite offers, and also take some time to find out what is available in the local area. Where are the best beaches? What local walks are there? What other places of interest could you visit?

3. Plan Your Activities

Research what is available in the local area, taking into account the interests and the ages of your children. Put safety first. Don’t overbook yourself too much for the first trip. Try a short three-day weekend camping trip before doing a longer trip.

While being spontaneous is fine, having a plan for fun activities to do will make your trip even better. Taking into account everyone's ages and interests, start planning the activities. Some may need to be booked in advance, or you may need to take specific equipment with you.

Once you know what’s available taking your children’s ages and everyone’s likes into consideration, start planning what you’ll do there. You don’t need or want to plan every moment of the trip, but having one specific destination or activity planned for each day will give you some structure. But remember to allow plenty of time to hang out together, or to just enjoy nature.

4. Plan Your Meals

When kids are outdoors and active all day long they are going to need a LOT of food. Pack up portion size bags or boxes of snacks before you leave home so you can grab a handful of packs before you go out from your tent each morning. Trail mix, dried fruit, pretzels, Cheerios, grapes, cubes of cheese, crackers, nuts and fresh fruit are all good choices.

What about family camping food? Plan out your meals too so you can take everything you need with you. Nobody wants to spend part of their get-away-from-it-all trip in the mini-mart!

Freeze some meals like chilli or a casserole in advance then pack them in your coolbox frozen. They will help keep everything else cold and won't defrost until the next day, making a great day two dinner.

For your first night dinner, sausages cooked over the campfire, hot dog rolls, and some beans heated up on your stove is perfect. Don't forget to being marshmallows and toasting sticks or skewers too.

The rest of your trip you can rustle up some amazing things with a few cans of beans and vegetables, so get inventive.

See: What to Cook on a Self-Catering Holiday

For lunches and breakfasts you can bring plenty of things from home to eat cold or heat up quickly. Bread rolls or crackers, veggies, cheese and some spreads make easy lunches, or heat up a tin of soup. Breakfast can be croissants or pain au chocolat which can be eaten cold, or whip up some pancakes over the fire or your stove.

Make a groceries list and check everything off as you buy it, then again as you pack it. That way you won't forget a thing! Remember to add seasonings and condiments to your list otherwise everyone will be moaning about the lack of ketchup on their hotdogs!

5. Make a Checklist

While you're planning, create a family camping trip checklist for everything that you want to bring with you so that you can pack everything a lot more easily. Once you have the checklist, you can start packing for your trip, marking off the things you’ve packed.

A simple checklist will ensure that you don't forget anything vital to your camping success. Your checklist should include cooking gear such as a stove, pots and pans, barbecue grill, cooking and eating utensils, and food. Make sure you remember a can opener and bottle opener too.

Remember to bring extra layers of clothing, especially for children. Wearing lots of thin layers is a good idea as it means you can add more as needed, and whatever the weather forecast says, bring a jumper or cardigan and waterproof jacket each. Extra socks and a spare pair of shoes each will be most welcome too.

On top of cooking and clothing, you should make sure everyone has comfortable bedding, a sleep mat or inflatable mattress. A map, a first aid kit, torches with spare batteries, insect repellent, games and activities for the kids, and maybe a ball or badminton set should also be on your list.

Print out our handy free camping checklist to help with your packing:


One more tip, when you follow our family camping trip packing list, make sure you pack the things you will need first on top. You won't need the sleeping bags and the stove before you put the tent up, so make sure the tent is easily accessible.

Likewise, keep the snacks and a flask of hot water for tea and coffee at the front of the car as you will need them during the journey. You don't want to have to unpack everything just to get your picnic out because little tummies are rumbling halfway to your destination.

6. Setting Up Camp

When you reach the camp site, choose a good area to set up your tent. Ensure there are no rocks or debris underneath and, if you can, allow a play space for little kids. A bucketful of small cars, construction vehicles or dinosaurs will keep them busy for ages!

When setting a campfire, make sure it is far enough away from the tents. After you have roasted your marshmallows, sung songs, and told stories, douse the fire with a bucket of water and make sure it is fully out before you go to bed.

Finally, enjoy the entire camping experience. Sleeping under the stars, communing with nature, and relishing the time spent with family will not only bring a family closer together, but the memories of this experience will last forever.

7. Be Ready for Bad Weather

However good the forecast looks before you go, you need to make a backup plan for inclement weather. Find activities you can do locally if the rain starts, for example a local town with a cinema of indoor play area may be your salvation if the rain sets in for a few days.

You should also bring some in-tent activities for rain showers, plenty of books, puzzle magazines and a few toys. Remember a pad or two of paper and some felt tip pens or crayons too. Take a look at our guide to fun activities to do while camping for more ideas.

Planning is an essential component of a successful fun family camping trip. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a weekend or longer; planning will make everything go more smoothly. Most children love playing outside, so they’ll probably love camping and with some planned activities they will have a lot of fun, and so will you.

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