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CAMPING WITH A TODDLER – TOP TIPS 

We’ve now spent a total of 12 months (on and off or we wouldn’t have a job!) with our toddler in our campervan.  Some of the time I wished we’d stayed home.  Some of the time I had to admit the way we travelled ‘before’ had to change.  It was tough but when we made a few changes to our camping itinerary and travelling style everyone was happier and we had a much more relaxed time, by the end we’d created a way of living that was sustainable long term (if only we were so lucky!)  Here are a few things we learnt:   

The easy bits… 

  • Always have a pack of baby wipes in the van, even if your toddler is toilet trained.  There will always be accidents, better to be prepared!   
  • As per the above, always keep a spare set of bed sheets in your van with you.   
  • This next camping hack is completely wasteful and goes against everything I believe in, but you only need to utilise it for the shortest time until the ‘learning and accidents’ stage has passed, and it has saved me A LOT of stress when on the road.  Before you leave on your trip, make a visit to the cheapest shop you can think of that sells kids clothes (it was Kmart for me) and purchase the cheapest bulk pack of undies.  I got them for 70cents a pair.  At that price a ‘big’ accident meant the undies went straight in the bin and I saved myself some messy washing. 
  • Have a stash of healthy ‘ready’ foods on hand for when you won’t be able to make dinner by ‘dinner time’ or will be going to a pub or restaurant and don’t know if they’ll offer anything for your little one.   As an example, we always have at least a couple of tins of baked beans, tuna, an avocado, wholegrain crackers and peanut butter on hand.   
  • If you are as unlucky as us and have a toddler who hates car travel, you’ll find road tripping distances in Australia a nightmare too.  I’ve also got a slight problem with utilising our ipad as babysitter so had to come up with another idea – music.  If we played ‘her’ music, she was much more likely to sit there happily for an hour than if we played ‘our music’.  How lovely, a road trip listing to the Hokey Pokey on repeat for an hour.  Enter the best purchase we’ve made in a long time: A pair of children’s Bluetooth JBL headphones.  These are so wonderful I could write a blog on the headphones alone.  No cord, safety volume feature, comfy, great sound, LONG life (I rarely charge them) not that expensive ($50).  You can play your child’s music on your phone and YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIST TO IT.  Bonus: try calling grandparents and friends and letting your little one have a ‘private’ chat = another hour gone. 

 The bits that you might not want to do but make life easier for everyone if you do 

  • This one’s pretty obvious but you may be tempted to push it, don’t bother.  Travel short distances at a time (1.5 hours?) punctuated by 30 minute playground breaks.   
  • Google maps is great.  You can open your map, show your location and then just type in ‘playground’ and they will show up on the map.  You can even see ‘ratings’ and photos if there are any, plus walking or driving directions.   
  • As we all know, toddlers are creatures of routine and familiarity and these things make them feel happy and comfortable.  Sesame Street didn’t play the same episode at the same time for one week as it’s primary marketing activity for no reason at all.  Sleep in a different location every night and your toddler’s likely to feel (and act) a little unsettled.  For this reason, we’d suggest planning to stay longer in each place than you usually would, and try to avoid staying anywhere for just one night.   
  • This one was discovered in Europe where there are more attractive ‘big cities’ that I’d traditionally loved to have visited, but it’s similarly true in Australia (1 night in Newcastle was stressful and disappointing after a few blissful weeks in tiny coastal towns).  With a toddler (and I say this with gritted teeth) sometimes it’s better to avoid cities altogether.  Cities mean it’s harder to get a carpark, there’s sometimes traffic, the campground might be out of the city meaning you have to work out ways with public transport or walking to get into the actual city centre.  At the end of the day, what do WE want to do in a city anyway?  I’ll tell you what.  We want to go shopping (or at least window shopping!), see the sights and go out for coffee, dinner, drinks.  Let’s be honest – none of these things are particularly toddler friendly.  Better to save that Sydney stopover to a weekend away WITHOUT the kids. Enjoying the Campground playground Family fun Camping in bad weather can still be fun

CAMPING WITH A BABY/TODDLER – THE NECESSITIES

Thinking of campervanning with a newborn, baby or toddler? Below we detail the main things to keep in mind before you set off!

The weather
Sure, we went camping in winter BEFORE but NOW? If it’s cold once the sun goes down we can’t just escape into the van to continue on the party/board game playing/reading/watch a movie. Such a small space means lights inside must be kept off once babies asleep (7pm!) This means cold weather camping nights are solely to be enjoyed by the fire. Still enjoyable but don’t forget to bring the firewood or you’ll be up for a very early night indeed!

240 volt power
We would never have been caught dead in a caravan park, and paying for power?! HA! WHAT FOR?! I’ll tell you what for:
Being able to heat up milk or snacks easily using the microwave in our van as opposed to getting out the cooker/pot/cooking utensils to heat up half a cupful of food that will most likely not get eaten anyway…

Your neighbours
Not much has changed here, I am well knows to be VERY paranoid about where we park and who our neighbours are. I know nothing can ruin an evening more than loud/drunk/late parrying within earshot. So what’s changed, I am even MORE paranoid about who we park next to as I know it’s not just MY sleep that will be effected when we woken up at 1am by drunk teenagers.

LWB vs SWB
OK we couldn’t afford a LWB, but MAN how that 30cm would have changed our life in that first year. 30cm?! That’s right, the difference between a LWB and SWB – the difference between being able to fit a porta cot in your van and not being able to. Sure we made do by creating a safe sleeping space for baby in the pop top roof bed but (see point above) how we miss the possibility of being able to pull down the roof of a nighttime to avoid outside noise and make the most of Ronny’s wonderful insulation job…

A bottle off wine
To celebrate what a great job you’ve done when said baby/toddler is finally asleep!

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HELP! I’M CAMPING AND THE WEATHER IS BAD FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE

We’ve been stuck more than a few times with only a week or two of cherished holiday time, a campervan and BAD WEATHER.

So what to do when your stuck camping and the weather is bad? Will you stay or will you go? As weather predictions are often wrong and I’m sure you chose your current destination for some great reasons, you might want to stick it out a few days before you make the decision to bail for good and head somewhere dryer/warmer.

Our advice for sticking it out:

  • Did you bring some boardgames and a deck of cards with you? If not, go and buy some pronto!
  • Do you have a good book with you? I hope so!
  • How many bottles of red wine did you bring? Go and buy some more!
  • Do you feel like an antipasto platter for dinner with your wine? It will go down very well…and doesn’t require any cooking or washing dishes. A few different types of cheeses, cold cuts, dips and nice bread are just what the doctor ordered in this weather.
  • If you have an ipad, tablet or laptop with you then you really do have entertainment on tap for at least a couple of days in the form of unwatched movies and TV shows.
  • (If it’s possible) drive out of the camp spot and get the paper plus go for a coffee or lunch somewhere in a café or pub close by each day (prevents cabin fever).
  • Check out a map and see if there are any interesting towns or cities within an hour or two’s drive and somewhere nearby to camp. Towns and cities offer LOTS more to do during wet weather than your free camping national park experience.
  • Similarly, have a look if there are any wineries in the region – always a lot of fun.
  • Make a nice bonfire if it’s not raining all the time and toast some marshmallows. Trust me this is almost better than campervanning in warm weather!

Our advice for bailing:

  • Our first instincts when you’re camping and the weather is bad are always to just drive as far North from where we are as possible to escape any COLD we are trying to get away from. But think again before you use this tactic as it often rains more the further north you go, and that ain’t no fun at all. You might also only have a few days and don’t want to waste too much time driving further away from home.

A last thought to leave you with, you’re still in Australia…the weather isn’t really THAT bad…

camping in bad weather

If you have any tips on camping in bad weather please comment below!

For more camping related blogs visit http://achtungcamper.com.au/blog/