A family camping trip can be a wonderful thing: it’s a chance to have some proper old-school, off-grid adventures and to reconnect with each other without the distractions of school/work/life in general. We camp with our three kids every year – by the seaside, at music festivals, in the glorious Lakes and Yorkshire Dales – and we’ve just about worked out the formula for a successful trip. Here are our top tips for an enjoyable adventure under canvas that should stop you from having to google the nearest hotel in the middle of the night. You’ll also find our recommendations for five family-friendly campsites fairly near York, if you’re brave enough to give it a go but don’t want to go too far.
Location, location, location
For a simple way to holiday, camping has become complicated: are you a wild camper or a fair-weather glamper? Would you prefer a pod, yurt, hobbit-hide or good old-fashioned tent? You might have romantic visions of wild camping on a Scottish beach without any facilities, but your kids may have other ideas, so choose your location carefully. Our family’s essentials: proximity to great things to do, space to play, decent shower block and, ideally, access to decent coffee (the exhausted parents’ vice of choice). Wet weather options are vital too (here are our top things to do in York on a rainy day, for example).
Make a list and check it twice
Forget something essential (sleeping bags/tent/coats for everyone) and you’ll be heading home before you’ve even got started. Make a list of everything you need and tick things off as you pack them. Unless they are older and/or sensible, this isn’t the time to let the kids do their own packing. Don’t forget cards, balls and other games. New tent? Try putting it up at home first, rather than in front of an amused audience at the campsite.
Embrace the creature comforts
This isn’t the time to channel your inner Bear Grylls, and no-one will thank you for being a hero. You’re meant to be on holiday! And holidays are much better when everyone’s slept well, so borrow/buy decent airbeds, bring the kids’ pillows and take a cuddly toy for little ones. Tents with blackout compartments are a game-changer and might prevent everyone from being awake at the crack of dawn. There’s not a lot to do at 5am on a campsite, trust us.
But keep the real creatures at arm’s length
The car’s fully packed, the kids are strapped in, the roof rack’s fit to burst but you’ve got a nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten the insect repellent. It’s taken several hours to get to this point and all you want to do is shut the front door and get on the road. Don’t. Plasters, sunscreen, anti-histamines: you think you’ll manage without them but you’ll be kicking yourself when you’re having to hunt down a pharmacy to sort a nasty insect bite. Get out of the car and chuck in all the first aid bits and bobs you don’t think you’ll need – you’ll thank us for it when you do.
Shun the screens for the green
Our children are no strangers to the screen, but our camping holidays are a screen-free zone. Let them be ‘bored’. Within five minutes they’ll be running wild, making up games and making friends. It’s what the Swallows and Amazons would have done and it’s how summer adventures are made.
Three family-friendly places to camp in Yorkshire
Catgill Campsite, Bolton Abbey
Named one of Britain’s top five campsites by The Telegraph, this family-run campsite is perfectly placed for a weekend (or longer) in the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve stayed before and we loved it because it’s friendly, it has brilliant views and it’s close to some of our favourite places. It’s a great spot for walking at Bolton Abbey, eating at Billy Bob’s Parlour and climbing to your heart’s content at Brimham Rocks. Tents and VW campervans welcome, and glamping also available. Coffee and croissants are available to buy in the morning – sold! Catgillcampsite.co.uk
The Hideaway @ Baxby Manor
A very popular site with Yorkshire families, The Hideaway @ Baxby Manor is just a few miles from Thirsk and Easingwold. Take your own tent or take advantage of the various glamping options, with ecopods, treehouses and even a hobbit house. It’s a chilled out place to a hang out, and the fact that it’s family-run and respects the environment is even better. Thehideawayatbaxbymanor.co.uk
Humble Bee Farm
A pebble’s throw from our top spots on the Yorkshire coast – Scarborough, Hunmanby Gap, Bridlington and Filey – Humble Bee Farm is a very popular choice with families. While many choose to stay in one of the many glamping options, including yurts and wigwams, there’s also a handful of tent pitches. There’s a children’s play area, nature trails, animals, a football pitch and great facilities. It’s no wonder that it won the Little Vikings Award for Best Camping & Glamping 2020. Humblebeefarm.co.uk