Camping is an inexpensive way to entertain a growing family. If you enjoy camping, you should try it with your children. Camping is a great option for a family holiday because it gives family members a chance to do things together without a lot of electronics. Ireland has many beautiful areas that are perfect for your family to spend some time together to enjoy the fresh air and lovely scenery. Regardless of what the weather is like, you can visit some interesting local attractions. Perhaps you have already spent a lot of time exploring options in motorhomes or campervans. Below are some valuable suggestions that will help you get the most out of your family's outdoor holiday. You will get ideas on choosing the appropriate motorhome, how to pack for your trip, and more. Not only will you have a good time on the road, but your children will grow to love the camping adventure like you. Here are some of the best ideas for travelling in a campervan with kids!
Think about the last time you took your children on a holiday. Your kids might have tried to take along all of their favourite toys. If you had to take a flight, perhaps you tried to convince your kids to pack only one suitcase with their essentials, only to have them complain that they had to leave their favourite stuffed toy behind. Then you had your own challenge of trying to keep your kids entertained with very few toys because you were not able to take along very many. Add to this the chaos of running through the airport with your kids in tow, going through security checks, and all of the other hassles. Would it not be nice to avoid all of this for your next family holiday?
Travelling in a motorhome solves many of these problems. There is plenty of space for your children to take along their favourite playthings. You can pack along all of the essentials, plus additional things that are "nice to have" for comfort or entertainment. You include things like board games, movies for the DVD player, extra blankets and snacks, and other comforts of home that you can think of. You can drive the motorhome right to the front door of your home and pack it with things you want to take along for your holiday. You can even take along your bikes! If you have a baby or a toddler, they usually require extra gear. It would be no problem in a motorhome because you can pack all of their extra things like a stroller, baby tub, portable playpen or crib, and more. The motorhome can accommodate quite a few things, so you can maximise the space inside. It can truly be your family's home away from home. Also, kids love campervans and camping holidays.
Although you can pack a lot into a camper van, the vehicle still has limited storage. Kids can get carried away with piling in all of their toys without thinking whether they will actually play with them on the camping trip. Therefore, help your kids pack mindfully. Give them some guidelines. It's great to bring along extra things to make the travel more comfortable, but they should pack only things that they really are going to use.
Packing for a long camping holiday can be fun but also quite challenging. Make a list of what the essential items should be. In terms of clothing, you need to be prepared for all weather conditions because weather can be unpredictable. A raincoat is essential. Walking boots and wellies should be brought too. Think of clothing that can be worn in all weather, that you can layer when the weather turns chilly.
Leggings can warn on their own or layered beneath a pair of pants when it is cold. If the campsite has laundry facilities, you do not have to pack that much because you can just wash the clothes you brought along. Just remember to pack a clothing line and washing tablets if there are facilities to wash your clothes. One tip for keeping clothing organised is to use packing pods. For example, if you need to find a pair of shorts for your child, you would just go to the packing pod for shorts and pants and not have to rummage through the entire suitcase to find them.
A lot of roads in Europe are narrow. So, navigating a big campervan into certain cities or towns can be challenging. With that said, however, you do need to choose a campervan with the appropriate bed configuration because your children need to be comfortable sleeping in it. Therefore, you will need to devote some time to researching camper van sizes and options to find one that best fits your family's needs. Here are some points to consider:
- Some campervans have double beds while others may have one fixed double bed and a table that can be converted into a double bed at night. Some bigger campervans have these options plus a bunk bed. This is suitable for larger families.
- Keep in mind that younger kids usually need to sleep earlier than older family members. Therefore, when considering where everyone will sleep, the configuration has to be flexible so you can put the younger children to bed first and not risk waking them when the older members of the family go to bed later. Also, think about whether converting the campervans dining table into a bed every night would be a hassle. You might grow weary of it if you plan to go on a long camping trip. For shorter trips, you might not mind this conversion every night because it will allow you to go with a smaller vehicle.
- Consider other amenities. Some motorhomes have a toilet in the vehicle. This is very convenient when you are on the road because if any of your kids, or even you, needs the facilities, you do not have to spend time driving around to look for one. Also, if you on a campsite at night, and your kids need to go, they can use the toilet in the vehicle instead of going out in the dark to use the public toilets on the campground. Another amenity to consider is a refrigerator. It would be convenient to store the foods that you plan to cook at the campsite.
Do you want air conditioning or heating in the vehicle? That can make the environment more comfortable when the weather is hot or cold. What about an awning that comes out from the side of the motorhome for times when you and your family just want to sit outside and relax under the sun? These are just a few other amenities that motorhomes can come with. They do add extra cost, so see if the extra comforts are worth the expense.
In general, a motorhome that is 7 metres (23 feet) long that has a double bed near the front above the cabin and a bunk bed at the back of the vehicle is big enough for a small family. People from the United States might consider this small, but in Europe, this size is actually quite large. This allows kids to have their own beds to sleep on. For a bit of privacy, you can use a curtain to separate the bunk bed area from the other parts of the van's cabin.
No matter what kind of holiday you intend to take with your children on, it is necessary that you plan ahead. It does not have to be a complex plan. You just need to have a basic framework so you will not forget any essential steps when the time comes. You can easily get distracted by kids, but if you have a plan written down, you can always review your list to make sure that you have covered every step in your plan.
When planning for a camping trip, one of the first things you should do is to figure out which campsite you want to stay at. Campsites have come a long way since the days of roughing it out. Today, they are full of modern amenities for the family. Many are equipped with swimming pools and playground activities. When researching online on these campsites, look at the photos and read reviews. See what previous visitors say about the site's facilities, pricing, amenities, activities, atmosphere, and more. If you plan to do some outdoor cooking, does the campsite have a barbecue or fire pit?
If you have a dog, camping is a great way to have your dog join you on your campervan holidays. You will need to find campsites that allow dogs. Your children will love to have their pet along on their van life adventure.
Find out what people say about the noise level of the campsite. Some sites that are closer to the main roads might have noise from traffic. Some places are more serene and quiet. It depends on what you want your family to experience. Once you find a place, then book early. This is especially true if your destination is a popular one. The earlier you book, the better chance you will have it for the dates you desire. Never wait until you arrive to get a site because you will be disappointed if nothing is available.
Other things that you should plan for, like what to take along and what kind of activities your family will do, can be done after you have secured a campsite for your campervan holidays. Have a look at our favourite campsites in Ireland here.
Depending on where your destination is, your kids might spend a long stretch of time on the road in the campervan. It is worth repeating that kids get bored easily. If they are not engaged in an activity, they will complain and ask you every five minutes, "Are we there yet?" The truth of the matter is that driving through Europe in a campervan will take a lot of time. Adults might be fascinated by the things they see along the way. However, for kids, they need more than just look at the scenery. Before you leave for the campervan trip, it would be a good idea to get your family together and go over the route, day by day. The older kids will have a chance to prepare themselves mentally for what to expect each day on the road. They can see how long each segment of the trip is and how many hours they can expect to be in the vehicle.
- Always have snacks and beverages readily available. They should be easily accessible in the campervan. Younger kids often start complaining when they are hungry. Bringing along some of their favourite snacks will smooth over these complaints. Avoid giving them too many snacks at one time because if they eat too much, they can get car sick. Pack small portions. If they have a favourite snack, like chocolates, save those for later. If you give them the best snacks first, they might not be satisfied with anything else. Also, keep in mind when you might need to take them to the toilet after you give them something to eat and drink. Plan ahead so you will not be caught off guard by their need to go.
- Modern campervans are equipped with plugs for charging devices. Make sure to bring the appropriate chargers and wires for the devices. It would be helpful to download in advance any audiobooks or music that your kids wish to listen to, and to keep devices fully charged as much as possible. Sometimes cellular service is not reliable on the road. So it is best not to rely on cell service to download any new books or music. Play different types of music, or allow each child a turn to play his favourite playlist. Music is great fun on a van life experience.
- Plan a collection of distractions to keep young children occupied during a long car ride. Young kids tend to do well in a car ride during the first 30 minutes. After that, their patience wane and they become restless. This is when you take out a distraction. It can be a CD with your child's favourite songs. You can take out a travel game like "Travel Bingo" or "I Spy." Showing them a movie on a DVD player is also a good way to keep them occupied for a couple of hours, but save that until you feel like they absolutely need it.
- Give them something tangible to look forward to. For example, if the holiday parks have a swimming pool, and you plan to arrive early enough, tell the kids that you will take them for a swim after you get there. If it is a hot day, tell them that you will reward them with ice cream from the store.
- If the drive is particularly long, divide the road trip into two-hour segments. That's about the maximum length of time that you can expect any child to tolerate staying seated. Plan to take a break after a couple of hours of driving where everyone can come out of the vehicle to stretch and walk around.
- When you get back in, consider changing the seating arrangement to add something different to the drive. Do this only if everyone agrees to it. Do not make your child change his seat if he does not want to. If you are not the adult who is driving, you can sit with your child to play a game or read a story with them.
For any road trip through Europe, you will have many destinations. As you make your itinerary, it is important that you do not forget about what your kids are interested in. It is easy to get lost in planning to see things that adults like, but those are not necessarily what kids like. Therefore, you have to modify your expectations to take into account the interests and ages of your family members.
Destinations need to fit your family members, and that includes your kids. For a road trip in a campervan, major cities along the way will probably not work because they are usually not close to any campsites, costs are more expensive, and they have attractions that are more for the grown-up tourists. For example, big cities are full of museums and art galleries, which most adults enjoy. However, most kids find those boring. They would not like walking around in a museum. Therefore, keep this in mind as you plan your visit to a destination. You need to find attractions designed for your kids' age group that would be fun for them. If you look hard enough, you will find plenty of activities that are fun for the whole family. Our 5 day Irish road trip plan is sure to keep everyone happy.
Kids get bored quickly. One of the most effective tips in camping with kids is to involve them as much as possible. That means when you arrive at the campsite, get them involved with setting up. Tasks can be simple things like filling up the water containers, setting out camping chairs and other things that you will be using, and more. Take this time to teach them some basic things about camping, like what they should do and should not do. Don't forget to go over basic safety procedures, which are important. Basically, keep them busy.
For older children, you can send them out on errands at the campsite. For example, in the morning, have them go to the campsite bakery and get some bread if it is within easy walking distance. If you are camping in France, you can get croissants. If the bakery is close enough, you can give them money for the purchase. In doing so, you are telling them that you trust them with an important responsibility. Kids like that confidence, and they will respond well to it.
All too often, kids bring along their devices on your campervan holidays and spend all day playing with them in a hotel. However, on a family camping trip, electricity will not be so accessible. Devices might be helpful in staving off boredom on a long drive, but when you arrive at the campsite, this is a perfect time to redirect their attention to things that do not require a device. Go on a hiking adventure and look for interesting insects and plants. You can bring along a guidebook that tells you about various vegetation and insects. See if they can spot birds and other wildlife. Taking them on a hike allows them to stretch and exercise. This is a lot better than seeing them sit around staring at a device.
Kids naturally are full of energy. In an outdoor environment like a campsite, it is the perfect environment for them to burn off some of that energy and use it in a safe and healthy way. You can design activities that require them to use that energy. For instance, how about letting them build a tree hut using the sticks that they find among the trees and an extra blanket? It can become their own little fort. Or, send them on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things that they can easily find in nature in the immediate area (so they would not venture too far). Describe things like "a flower," "something round," etc. Visit the likes of Tayto Park or Muckross House in Kerry.
You can also bring along simple sporting equipment, like a ball or a badminton set. In the evening, the family can play board games by the campfire. You can provide quiet activities like colouring books, word searches, drawing activities, and more.
Preparing dinner can involve the kids as well. Give them some easy tasks that they can handle, like washing fruits and vegetables, or setting out the utensils for the family. After dinner, have them help in cleaning up too, based on what they can do, and as long as they can stay at your campsite. An evening camping favourite is to toast marshmallows. Show them how to hold a marshmallow skewer and help them toast the marshmallows.
After a long day of fun activities, your family is ready for bed. You should have already figured out the sleeping spots for each child. Make sure the sleeping areas are safe and cosy for the children. Here are some things to consider.
Blackout blinds: If you are on a campervan holiday during the middle of summer, keep in mind that the sun can rise very early, around 4.45 am, during the peak of summer. The sun could shine through the campervan windows and wake up your children too early. Therefore, consider putting up blackout blinds on the campervan windows. Look for blinds that have a silver screen on one side because when the sun is high, the silver side of the blackout blinds can reflect sunlight and heat and keep the interior of the campervan cool.
Safety net: If you plan to have small children sleep in the roof area, you need to put in a child safety net. The net stretches from one side of the roof across to the other. This blocks the big gap above the driver and passenger seats. The net will prevent your child from slipping into the gap while he sleeps. This is a good addition for older children too, if they tend to move around a lot in their sleep.
You might not think you need one, but a pop-up tent can actually be quite useful. You can set it up to store outdoor toys, sports equipment, bikes, car seats, and things that you might not use every day on the campsite. These can be set aside in the tent so they won't be in your way.
If your campervan rental holiday is more of a road trip, it is understandable that you would want to keep moving so you can see more things. However, moving to a new campsite everyday can be taxing on kids. Consider staying in just a couple of places and spending more time in each place. For kids, this is actually better because they will have more stability. Give your kids a chance to explore an area at their own pace so they will not feel like they are rushed. They will enjoy the experience more.
Lastly, the most useful tip of all:
You can plan for months and still realise that you left something behind that you should have taken along. Try not to let this ruin your campervan holiday. Instead of stressing over it, be flexible and try to relax. Enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Kids are often surprisingly resilient. If they are not able to keep their sleep and wake routines on this motorhome holiday, that will not be detrimental to them. Let them play into the night and sleep late. In the end, you will have irreplaceable memories of this wonderful experience.