It’s great to get away from it all, enjoying time together as a family without the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But managing the kids in an unfamiliar environment without the comforts of home can be a real challenge.
Bundling the family into the SUV and heading off into the remote Outback is not the best way to get started. Test the waters with a weekend of “glamping”. Try camping at a caravan park with all the amenities before you tackle remote campsites. Rent or borrow equipment before buying. Some useful tips to ensure the family camping trip is fun for everyone.
The romance of the open road is hard to deny. Once you’ve had a taste for it, it can be insatiable. Especially when you’re in the throes of the very intense life stage of parenting small children (or bigger children, or any children, for that matter). The allure of the great family getaway is strong, and by all accounts, an incredibly enriching one.
For a young family, the ultimate family camping escape is full of possibilities. It will bring your family together in a deeper, more connected way. It will provide learning opportunities for your children that would never be available in the classroom or the home. The fresh air and outdoor lifestyle will improve your health and wellbeing, and research shows it will also improve your sleep cycle and your happiness levels.
But if you are serious about it, it is not something to take lightly. Throwing a few camping items into the family SUV and heading off into the sunset is not the ideal way to start. So resist the temptation of taking to open road, and take some time to prepare and plan it.
The Back Yard Camp Out
If you’ve never camped before, your first port of call should be the back yard camp out. It is a particularly good idea for families with very small children, as it will get them used to night time noises that they wouldn’t otherwise hear, tucked up in their beds at home. Possums creep around at night, they rustle bushes and trees and have a rather alarming growl. There are also crickets, cats, foxes, and birds all with the own call of the wild at varying times of the night. A sleep out in the back yard is good way to introduce the kids to the noises of the night, in an environment where they feel safe.
But more than this, camping is so exciting when you’re a kid and that first night sleeping in a tent can sometimes result in more shenanigans than sleep. So spending that first night in the backyard means the excitement of the first night in a tent isn’t when you’re exhausted after a day of travelling and setting up camp.
It will also ensure that when you do head off to a camp ground or caravan park for the first time, you’ll know how to put your tent up. Fantasies of being set up and perched in your camp chair with your beverage of choice, enjoying the sunset, have been shattered time and time again when four hours after your arrival, you are still working out which pole goes in which corner. The smartest campers will always do a dry run at home.
Build Up Your Camping Experience
When you first start out choose a long weekend in the Summer. A short break in good weather is a great way to start. With each camping trip the whole family will become more familiar with the process, and you’ll get more confident with each trip. Extend your number of days away first, then think about going somewhere a bit more remote.
Once you are comfortable with the process, plan a short trip in cooler weather. Don’t just go camping in the summer – be prepared for the weather to turn cold or wet, then when it does (because it always will) it won’t ruin your trip – you’ll be completely prepared.
Camping Gear – Tent, Trailer or Van?
Work out what you’ll sleep in. If you’re going on an extended road trip, consider all your options. Think about hiring a camper trailer for a long weekend, then hire a camper van or caravan. These three alternatives will cater to all budgets – so consider how much cash you’ve got and take it from there.
When buying smaller ticket items, like sleeping bags and camp chairs, always go for the adult version for all members of the family. Small kid’s camp chairs aren’t big enough to be used at the table and they will grow out of it within a few years. The same applies to children’s sleeping bags – it’s just not a worthwhile investment if you have to upgrade a couple of years later.
A tent is a low cost, easy solution for sleeping quarters. There are tents of all shapes and sizes to suit all budgets. If you think you’ll opt for something a bit more sturdy (such as a camper trailer or van), buy a cheaper tent that will get you started and keep you going while you assess which alternative is better for you. A pop up tent should also be considered as it is quick to set up (literally minutes) and guy ropes are already attached and just need to be pushed into the ground. If it’s a quick stop, it’s a great option. They are also being made with sturdier materials these days, so are a viable option for a big family trip.
A camper trailer is more sturdy than a tent, and has more room. The biggest positive for a camper trailer is it comes with a proper bed off the ground, for the grown ups. So if you want an authentic camping experience, but don’t want to risk a good night’s sleep, a trailer is good, affordable option.
A camper van or caravan provide the comfortable bed, but also come with a fitted kitchen and cupboard space. You can still have the whole camping experience with a van, but you have a few more comforts at your disposal. Wet or cold weather is less of an issue with these alternatives, but you will pay more for the privilege.
You will also need to consider your vehicle. An SUV is ideal as it offers all the features of a comfortable family car for when you are home, but is comfortable for long drives, is spacious enough to fit luggage and people in without feeling like sardines. It has all the modern conveniences of technology, such as connectivity capabilities for your devices, dual zone climate control, touch screen multimedia and sat nav capabilities.
An SUV will also have the ground clearance and engine capacity to handle off-road requirements if you’re feeling adventurous and want to get off the beaten track. Having a car that you can take off-road means you’ll be able to experience the true wilderness that the Australian landscape has to offer.
It may have towing capabilities, roof racks for surf boards, snow boards or other leisure equipment. Your car’s comfort, capabilities and accessories are equally important as what you choose to sleep in while on your big trip.
What To Pack
First time campers should remember to pack warm clothes, even in summer. Depending on where you are, Australian weather can be a bit unpredictable so take at least one to two sets of warm clothes, including plenty of socks. Make sure you bring thongs for the showers and a plastic tub to carry your clothes and towel to the shower in – this will also keep them dry from overspray in the cubical. Don’t forget the little things that will make all the difference to your trip – the sunscreen, matches and the fly spray!
While You’re Away
Planning is a key component to a successful family escape. Know where you want to go, set a loose itinerary, but allow some flexibility. You never know what or who you will encounter on the road so plan to stay a little longer, or leave a little earlier – depending on what you find.
Factor in down-time. It is essential for every member of the family if you are going to remain happy and relaxed. A long day on the road, then time spent setting up should follow with a free day. Leaving time to explore, or just sit and contemplate is often when the magic happens.
When you are setting off to see specific sites or attractions, ensure you include something in each day that will appeal to each member of the family – that way, everyone is happy.
There is nothing quite like the anticipation of a family trip that you know will change your outlook on life and enrich your family’s experience of being together. But planning is essential and will make or break your experience. Work up to the big trip with weekends away and mini-escapes. Research your sleeping quarters, and ensure your vehicle meets all your needs. If you cover these bases you’ll be well on your way to a life-changing family escape.
Hyundai’s SUVs are as capable off-road as they are stylish and comfortable on road. With AWD, turbo diesel engines and luxurious features like panorama glass roof, heated front seats, reverse camera, Sat Nav and an electric boot, the only question is, are you a 5-seat Tucson or 7-seat Santa Fe family?