Camping with children: Tips for a family holiday with a camper van

A family holiday doesn't have to take you far away to be a unique experience: For many children, travelling in a motorhome and then going camping is a real adventure. With the right planning and equipment, camping with a child is guaranteed to be a highlight. To ensure that your camping experience becomes an unforgettable one, we have collected the most important tips and information about camping holidays with children.

Why is camping ideal for families?

From the thoroughly organised package holiday to the flexible camping holiday, all family trips have a few things in common: lots of preparation, lots of packing, often a long journey and, of course, the relief of finally getting there. However, when compared with hotels or holiday flats, camping has some clear advantages:

You are more flexible when camping:

Pack your bags, load up your motorhome and off you go! On a camping holiday, you decide how you want to spend your holiday and at what pace you want to travel - both on the road and when planning your day. Which region do you want to visit? Which campsite has the best activities for children? What do you want to do during the day? You decide freely and without constraint.

Camping is cosy:

When you arrive, you can take a rest right away and don't have to make the long journey to the hotel or holiday flat or settle into a strange hotel room. From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave; you'll always have everything you need at your fingertips. You feel at home in a camper and it’s easier to keep to your usual routines, which is important for small children.

You'll never be bored:

For children, there is plenty to explore at a campsite and plenty of space to run around. The experience is rounded off by leisure activities on and around the campsite, which you can discover together. These could be adventure playgrounds, hiking trails, beaches, or animal parks, for example.

If you plan to split your holiday between different locations or campsites, you shouldn’t change locations too often. A stay of several days at a child-friendly campsite allows children to settle and make friends.

Camping is pure nature:

Depending on where you go camping, you can experience nature in a whole new way. Especially for families living in the city, being close to nature is a great change of pace and helps you forget the stress of everyday life. For children, time in nature is precious – they can let off steam and get to know and understand the natural environment a little better.
Tip: On camping holidays, children are likely to go on adventures and get a little dirty. It's best not to pack their finest clothes.

Camping holidays are cheaper:

When it comes to family holidays, costs also play a role. Compared to a holiday home or a room in a resort, staying at a campsite is cheaper. Depending on the region and season, the costs differ slightly, of course, but they are much cheaper than all-inclusive holidays with the whole family. However, fuel and food should not be forgotten when calculating costs.

To enjoy camping with children, you don't necessarily have to buy a motorhome or caravan. After all, the costs of a new vehicle can be high. Renting is a good idea, especially if you are new to camping and just want to try it out. All you need is the essentials for the little ones (e.g. child seat or booster seat).

How do you recognise a child-friendly campsite?

To ensure that your camping holiday is enjoyable for the whole family, it is best to visit a campsite that is suitable for children. You can be sure that your children will enjoy their holiday and that other campers won't feel disturbed by the extra noises from playing children.

Camping sites for children: facilities and offers

Campsites for children offer a variety of activities and the entire layout of the campsite will be more friendly for families and children. Read on to find out which facilities a child-friendly campsite should have:

Camping with children
  • The campsite should be spacious, with enough open areas for safe playing.

  • There should be a family bathroom on the site with low washbasins, children's toilets, and baby changing facilities.

  • Shopping facilities should be available close to the campsite that sells baby items.

  • A child-friendly campsite should offer playgrounds, children's entertainment, and/or recreation buildings for playing in bad weather.

  • Snack bars or restaurants should offer children meals. They should have play areas or something to do for the kids and baby high chairs available.

Tip: If possible, look for a campsite that offers sufficient shade. Children shouldn’t be constantly in the blazing sun; additional sun protection is essential. It is also easier to fall asleep at night if the motorhome is not too hot.

Safe campsites for children

A campsite for children should have various safety features to ensure that nothing happens to the little ones while they are playing and romping around:

  • The site must be securely fenced off.

  • Playgrounds and play areas should be easily visible so that parents can keep an eye on their children.

  • The paths should be well laid out. On larger playgrounds, site plans and signposts should be marked with picture maps to give an overview.

  • There shouldn’t be any busy roads too close.

  • At night, the campsite should be well lit.

  • Possible danger areas (e.g. ponds, pits, etc.) should be fenced.

  • If the campsite is located by a lake or the sea, access to the water should be fenced. This also applies to pools and swimming pools.

  • First aid equipment should be available along with an emergency medical service.

  • The reception is staffed all day. During closing times, staff should be reachable by phone.

  • Emergency plans with important telephone numbers and numbers of the local doctors should be clearly visible.

Campsite for children: sisters splash around together in a lake.

A safer alternative is car-free campsites, where driving on the site is only allowed on arrival and departure. This allows children to play safely on-site.

Camping with children: Leisure activities at the campsite

The number of leisure activities available at child-friendly campsites can vary from site to site. It's up to you whether you're looking for a campsite where your children can run around freely, or whether you want entertainment programmes or even supervision.

Varied leisure activities around the campsite

To make sure the little ones don't get bored, there should be various leisure activities on the campsite and in the vicinity. Look out for the following activities and attractions:

  • Age-appropriate playgrounds, such as playgrounds and slides for younger children and adventure playgrounds for older children.

  • Bathing facilities, e.g. bathing lakes with shallow entrances or alternatively, adventure pools.

  • Climbing forests.

  • Adventure and nature trails.

  • Children's museums with interactive exhibitions or hands-on activities.

  • Workshops for children, e.g. dance or painting classes.

  • Animal parks, aquariums, or petting zoos.

  • Bike or boat rentals.

  • Sports fields, e.g. for football or volleyball.

Tips for planning each day when camping with children

Parents usually crave relaxation on holiday, while children tend to want the opposite. To find the perfect balance for your holiday, you can use the following tips as a guide:

  • Look for age-appropriate activities. While the little ones can play in a slide park or on a water playground, older children might have more fun letting off steam in a ropes course, boating, or on the sports field.

  • If you have children of different ages or with very different interests, the campsite environment should have something for everyone.

  • Don't plan too many activities each day. One or two activities a day are enough for young and old to enjoy their time together.

  • Don't let rainy days spoil your mood by finding suitable indoor activities as alternatives. These can be indoor games as well as indoor attractions.

Larger campsites usually offer a more extensive activity programme and more leisure activities, but they are also more confusing. At a smaller campsite, you can keep a closer eye on your children, but the leisure activities are often more limited and may require more day trips to keep them occupied.

Summary: Camping with children made easy

Taking a break from daily life in the fresh air, making new friends, sleeping in a camper van - for children of all ages, camping holidays are a unique experience and a true adventure. For families who long for a holiday close to nature, to be more flexible, and looking for a change from more expensive and crowded holiday resorts, camping is just the thing. To make sure everyone feels at home, you should look for a child-friendly campsite with exciting leisure activities. As campsites are becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination, it's a good idea to start looking early and book a place. That way, your next camping trip is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.