My Top Tips for First Time Camping with Kids

Kellie Kearney

June 8, 2021

First Time Camping with Kids family tent

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Camping with your family is one of the best ways to reconnect with nature without the distractions of everyday life. It’s a wonderful experience that I believe everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. But there are some essentials that are good to know about for your first time camping with kids – I learned some of them the hard way!

Planning Your First Time Camping with Kids?

Heading off on your first camping trip can be rather daunting. There is a lot to learn! However, if you’re new to the camping buzz and want to make the most of your upcoming adventure, I have put together some of my top tips to help first-time campers get the most out of their trip.

“The Higher, the Dryer”

family camping in tent

The last thing you want or need on your first trip is to find yourself swimming in a sea of water. When purchasing your family tent, ensure it has a built-in groundsheet to prevent leaks. Also, invest in a tent with a hydrostatic head with a minimum of 3000 – anything less and you are asking for trouble. “The higher the dryer” is what they say.

Size Up

If camping is something you want to do long term, it’s probably best you size up for the tent from the get-go. By doing this, you will have an extra room or two, and also leave space for growing kids.

Many experienced campers advise buying a tent with a large porch for added comfort.

Have Your Say

Don’t miss the chance to have your say! We’re looking for parents to get involved and give their feedback on all aspects of family life.

Choose Your First Camping Location Wisely

For your first trip, keep it simple. Don’t add unnecessary stress by travelling cross-country for the sake of it. Instead, keep it local or within an easy drive of home.

Your first trip will be a huge learning curve, and you don’t want to be exhausted putting up your tent for the first time after a long journey.

Choose a Campsite with Extras

lough key campsite

Choose a campsite with flat land, showers, toilet facilities and, for added comfort, an electrical hook up. Remember, you will need a mains lead if you want to use electricity. I recommend buying one with an extra-long cable and damp-proof sockets.

Do a Trial Run at Home

Before heading off on your trip, practice setting up your tent and, of course, packing it away. It will take some of the first-timer stress away and will ensure your tent has no defects.

You will need a mallet or a hammer to secure your tents and guy ropes, and it might be wise to invest in some heavy-duty tent pegs. The ones that come with tents tend to be rather flimsy and don’t last.

Necessary Items

Aside from the basics – a tent, beds and sleeping bags – I highly recommend you bring foiled picnic blankets to lay under your blow up or camp beds to minimise the cold creeping in, especially at night.

Other essentials include

  • Hanging lights and torches
  • Bug repellent
  • A tent repair kit
  • A first aid kit (download our first aid kit checklist to ensure you have the essentials)


Preparation is essential for a family trip – download our FREE family camping checklist, in association with Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, to get your trip off to a great start!

free family camping checklist

Join the Camping Community

As with all things in life, camping has a little community and, if I’m honest, it’s one of my favourites!

For the best camping tips, tricks and advice, join Camping with Kids Ireland and Tent Camping with Kids Ireland on Facebook, or go searching for one near to you.


First Time Camping with Kids unpacking car

If you’re reading this and it’s your first trip, this article may seem very overwhelming – you do need lots of bits and bobs. If possible, try to borrow things from  friends or family, e.g. camp chairs, fold-out tables, a mini-fridge and even a portable gas cooker or BBQ.

Then, when you know camping is for you and your family, you can invest in what you need.

Top tip: Winter is the best time to buy when most shops reduce their prices because it’s out of season.

Pack for All Eventualities

That means sun cream and swimsuits to puddle boots and rainwear – you can never be too prepared!

Keep the kids busy outdoors with bubbles, a hula hoop, their bikes or scooter, a skipping rope, sidewalk chalk, a football, a kite and other fun items.

For rainy days, have some easily transportable board games, packs of cards, books and colouring materials to hand, and maybe a movie or two downloaded on a tablet or iPad ahead of your trip.

Plan Your Meals

Campfire-Cheesy-Garlic-Potatoes for easy camping meals - Mykidstime

Some families like to eat out while camping, others like to go old school and cook their own. That doesn’t need to mean spooning beans out of a tin, but you can have great fun cooking outdoors and making delicious meals with minimal effort using a portable gas cooker or a BBQ.

Before you go, plan your meals and you can then bring any essential ingredients or do some prep before leaving home.

Before You Head Off…

  • Prepare as much as you can before you leave, from chopping veggies to prepping meals.
  • Make scrambled eggs and pancakes and store them in a container with a secure lid.
  • Use a lunch box with dividers for your tea, coffee and sugar.
  • Use empty TicTac containers for spices, salt and pepper.
  • Pack instant soup, noodles and cereal bars for super quick and easy snack options.
  • Consider bringing your slow cooker or air fryer. I haven’t done it myself, but I know many who have.
  • Ensure any cans have a pull ring (or remember to pack a can opener) – and don’t forget the bottle opener.
  • Pack a basin, tea towel and washing up liquid to clean your dishes in the campers’ kitchen after meals.
  • Bring lots of snacks and treats for the kids. They’re on holiday after all, and it will save you a fortune if they discover there’s a little shop on site.
  • Have the local fish and chip shop’s number to hand!

Other Tips for First Time Camping with Kids

  • Bring lots of socks. Bring double the amount you think you will need, trust me!
  • Flip flops and hooded towels are super handy for the shower.
  • Add some nighttime fun with glow sticks and bring the ingredients to make S’mores.
  • If you don’t have a portable fridge, freeze water bottles and use them in a giant picnic bag to help keep food fresh.
  • Bring an old bucket or potty in case of emergencies. There is nothing worse than trekking through a campsite to the toilets at silly o’clock with little kids.
  • Use a shoe organiser to store stuff.
  • Connect with nature and make the most of the great outdoors. Organise nature walks, scavenger hunts and look up local forests and parks and explore the area as much as you can.
  • Are you bringing a baby or toddler? Use a couple of windbreakers to make an enclosed area in front of your tent – this way, they can’t escape.
  • Pre-download movies on an iPad or tablet in case of torrential rain – you’ll thank me later.
  • Prepare fire starters for free using cardboard toilet paper holders and fill them with lint from your dryer.
  • Bring a dustpan and brush for your tent. You will be surprised how much dirt and grass the kids drag in with them.
  • If camping with babies or toddlers, bring a Grobag to keep them warm at night. With all their wriggling, blankets never stay put.
  • Keep your clothes in the boot of your car. In the event of bad weather, you will always have dry clothes to keep you warm and bring a couple of extra blankets.
  • Make sure you store your tent properly afterwards as improper storage can lead to mould growing on your tent or damage it. After making a considerable investment, that is the last thing you will want. Ensure your tent is completely dry before packing it away and store it loosely in a cool, dry place.

And last but not least, have fun and HAPPY CAMPING!

Top Tips for Your First Time Camping with Kids - Mykidstime

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Published On: June 8th, 2021 / Categories: Travel, Travel mobile / Last Updated: September 9th, 2021 / Tags: /

About the Author: Kellie Kearney

Award-winning blogger Kellie Kearney is a mammy of six. Kellie spends her days bribing her kids, counting to three and making memories, whatever the weather, finding free or cheapish family-friendly days out just so they will sleep through the night! (She also hosts a series ‘Adventures of Eire’ over on her award-winning parenting blog

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